Being a parent is one of the best joys in life—but when it comes to mealtime—it can be downright hard. Heck, I am a registered dietitian, which makes me feel even more pressured to pretend that my child always eats 100% of the beautifully photographed broccoli in their snack pack featured on Instagram. Let’s face it, that is not the case most of the time.
We know that proper nutrition is vital for our little ones to grow and thrive but, for those of us with vegetable skeptics, it’s a constant struggle. In fact, nearly 90% of children aren’t meeting the daily recommendations of 2 1/2 cups of veggies and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit daily. Over the years, I’ve tried to find fun ways to incorporate vegetables into mealtime and have been pleasantly surprised with the outcomes.
In this article, I want to share one of my favorite games to play with my picky eaters to get them to try new fruits and vegetables.
Introducing… Picky Eater Bingo! (Okay, bingo-ish)
The Story Behind Picky Eater Bingo
One day, I was sitting at the dinner table and noticed my two boys ate everything on their plate—except their vegetables. I knew it happened frequently, but something inside me really started feeling guilt with this particular meal.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom and always took extra steps to make everything fun for me—-including mealtime. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a picky eater. I attribute this to my mom finding fun ways to introduce nutritious foods to me from the very beginning.
As I’m sure most of you can relate, my mind is constantly in overdrive. Between keeping the house up, working, getting the kids ready for school, and trying to cook, life is BUSY. I will admit pretty much everything I do is, excuse my language, but half-assed.
I struggle to take the time to slow down and enjoy those memories and make literally everything fun the way it was when I was a kid. This is when I decided I would start making small changes, and the first thing I wanted to tackle was getting my kiddos to eat better.
My oldest son was really into bingo at the time, so I thought using a bingo game to get the kids to try more vegetables would be a hit.
Playing Picky Eater Bingo
The next day, I made homemade picky eater bingo cards using copy paper and took a good look in my refrigerator and pantry. I replaced the normal numbers on a bingo card with the names of fruits and vegetables I had around the house.
When I picked my son up from school, I told him we would play a game during dinner. He looked at me like he totally knew something was going on. “But mom, we never play games at dinner,” I remember it like it was yesterday.
As we got home, I set out the fruits and vegetables on the cards to go with my main dish. I told them that the square would get crossed off for each food they tried on the bingo card. Whoever got a black out card at the end got a prize.
Of course, they both had a chance to get Bingo and a reward because—this was a game we needed two winners at! Basically, the only thing that would result in a loss is if one of the boys refused to eat one of the foods I put out. My youngest was the first to get a blackout, which encouraged my older one, which is much pickier, to get a prize, too!
In the end, both of them admitted the vegetables were not as bad as they imagined. Over time, we made a point to play the game each week. I ended up creating a blank printable and filling it in each week with whatever new items we decided to try.
They really enjoy looking forward to our game each week. It also helped that I included them and helped them pick out some of the new fruits and vegetables to try.
Foods For Picky Eater Bingo
I don’t include as many spaces as a traditional bingo card to avoid it getting out of hand with too much food everywhere. I also try to choose seasonal produce because it’s cheaper and tastier.
Lastly, I try to balance out foods that I know they will probably like with some I know they typically wouldn’t try.
Here are some of the foods we’ve tried out with picky eater bingo:
- Star fruit
- Yucca root
- Kale chips
- Bell peppers
- Pepino melon
- Green beans
- Grape tomatoes
Most of the time, we try the foods raw, so I don’t have to waste food and money preparing tons of produce. Keep in mind, you can always fill spaces with other items such as meat, eggs, seafood, grains, etc!
For prizes, I usually order a big grab bag off of amazon or pick up some toys at the local dollar store. Never anything too much, but it’s enough for an extra happy during the week and something for them to look forward to.
Getting your picky eater to eat fruits and vegetables can be difficult. Even though it makes us frustrated and upset, expressing this in front of our kids often only makes matters worse. One thing we all are aware of is that our kids love games.
Although it may take extra prepping, it could be the breakthrough you need to get your little one to venture away from typical nuggets and fries.
My kids still aren’t sold on most vegetables. However, I can say with 100% confidence, they wouldn’t be as open to trying more foods had it not been for me playing games and making meals fun.
The best reward I got was looking at my oldest eating dinner without turning his nose up or saying “ew!” to the vegetables on his plate.
Picky eater bingo is definitely a game that’s here to stay in our household of picky eaters! If you’re struggling with a picky eater and cannot find a resolution, consider letting your child see a pediatric nutritionist to help develop better mealtime habits.