This food worksheet that you can download or print in this blog post was a huge help for feeding my picky eater toddler son. Read the blog post for instructions for how to use the (free!) worksheet and grab the worksheet at the bottom of this post.
If you've got a picky eater on your hands who only eats a few foods, it can be such a struggle thinking of meals for them. It might seem simple: they only eat mac 'n cheese, so give them mac 'n cheese! But in reality you will not serve only mac n cheese to your kid, and it might seem impossible trying to figure out their next meal.
So I put together this Picky Eater Food Worksheet that I use for my 2 year old son. I got this idea from his occupational therapist / feeding therapist who asked me to list a few foods that my son eats, doesn't eat, and used to eat. (By the way, if you're curious about feeding therapy for picky eaters, you can read about our experience and how much it has helped us.)
Listing the foods for the therapist really helped me get organized in my head, so I decided to write them all down. I also added another category: "sometimes eats."
It can be so easy to feel helpless and alone when you've got a severely picky eater kid. Writing the foods down and making a plan definitely helps me feel armed to tackle this picky eating. I love lists! Who's with me??
So let me walk you through this picky eater food worksheet and how to use it. You can find the printable worksheet at the end of this blog post, but make sure to read all the tips below before you go look for the worksheet!
How to fill out the Picky Eater Food Worksheet:
Print the worksheet, and start writing down all the foods that your child eats in the following categories:
- Preferred foods: these are foods that your child will eat most of the time (50% or more) when presented with the foods. It's OK if they sometimes don't want those foods, but if they usually eat them, put the food in this column.
- Sometimes eats: these are foods that your child will eat less than half of the time when presented with the foods.
- Used to eat: these are foods that your child used to eat at some point in his or her life, but refuses to eat them now.
- Never eats: these are foods that your child has never eaten. Either they refuse to try them altogether, or they spit them out after trying the food.
Here is what our worksheet looks like, although I keep thinking of foods I need to add to it:
Look for food patterns:
You might notice some patterns in the foods that your child likes or dislikes. Does he prefer crunchy or crispy foods, such as cheerios, crackers, puffs? Super soft foods like banana and avocado? Pureed food only? Does she spit out gritty textured foods like oatmeal, grits, or breading from chicken nuggets?
If you do notice a pattern of foods your child likes, you can try to think of similar foods to offer your child. If you notice textures that your child dislikes, you can try to think of ways to modify the textures to turn the food into something they might be willing to try. For example, my son doesn't like mushy foods. So the few times we've gotten him to eat bananas they were not super ripe, they were more on the green side. My son spits our mashed potatoes, but we're working on getting him to eat that by smashing french fries and roasted potatoes to get him used to the softer texture. (Read more about using French Fries as a sort of "gateway food" for picky eaters).
If you don't notice a pattern, that's OK too.
By the way, if you think your child can benefit from sensory play to help with their picky eating, check out 52 weeks of Sensory. It’s a year's worth of sensory activities I created with a focus on picky eaters. Join me for lots of fun sensory play! Learn more.
How to use the Picky Eater Worksheet:
Try to offer your child foods from the last 3 categories daily. Serve those foods next to the preferred foods. Offer just a tiny bit of a food from the "Never Eats" or "Used to Eat" category, so you don't overwhelm your child. And always make sure to serve a preferred food, so your child eats something at every meal.
It's OK if you are not able to do this at every meal. It is exhausting preparing food that you know your child is not going to eat. Trust me, I'm right there with you going through it all every day. But try to do your best. Expose your child to all the foods regularly several times a week. Keep this list handy when planning your meals and going grocery shopping.
Update the worksheet regularly:
Every few months update the worksheet if there are new foods that you've offered, or if some foods have moved to a different category. Don't get too frustrated if some foods move into the "Used to eat" category. It happens. It's normal.
But hopefully several weeks or months from now, you'll slowly be adding new foods to the "Sometimes Eats" and "Preferred Foods" columns. Or even better: you might not feel the need to use the worksheet anymore! That will be a huge milestone, being able to plan meals for your picky eater without having to refer to a worksheet for ideas.
Download the worksheet here
→ If you found this worksheet helpful, then you might also be interested in getting my FREE guide for getting picky toddlers to eat! Simply provide your email address here and I will email it to you right away!
Was this post helpful? Maybe these other posts will be helpful as well:
- Feeding Therapy for Picky Eating - our experience and how it helped us
- 3 Easy Sensory Tricks to Get Your Toddler to Eats
- 13 Hidden Vegetable Toddler-Approved Recipes for Picky Eaters
- 11 Hidden Vegetable Breakfast Recipes
- How to Make High Calorie Baby Food
- Ideal Schedule for a Two Year Old
- The Most Annoying Things to Say to a Mom of a Picky Eater
- When to Test Your Baby for Food Allergies
- 7 Reasons to Let Your Picky Eater Eat French Fries