The Six Types of Picky Eaters (and How to Help Them Enjoy Food!)

We've all encountered them - those family members or friends who seem to live on a diet of chicken nuggets, pizza, and fries. As frustrating as picky eating can be, it's actually quite common. Here are 6 common types of picky eaters and some tips for expanding their culinary horizons.

The Six Types of Picky Eaters


The Texture Phobe - This type of picky eater is turned off by certain textures in food, whether it's chunky sauces, fibrous veggies, or mixed consistencies on their plate. 

What to do about it: 

Start by identifying which specific textures elicit the most discomfort - is it chunky bits, fibrous strands, mixed consistencies on the fork? Then prepare new foods in a completely smooth puree, removing all semblance of the offending elements. You can even use an immersion blender right at the table to “smoothify” dishes as you introduce them.

Gradually, add just the tiniest specks of texture over multiple exposures. Think grated or finely diced veggies mixed into pasta sauce or hummus rather than obvious chunks. As tolerance builds, slowly increase these specks in size. It’s crucial to go at the child’s pace without pressure so the experience remains positive.

Pairing new purees with beloved dips or sauces can also mask unwanted textures. Try sneaking pureed butternut squash into mac and cheese or zucchini into marinara. Experiment with fun presentations as well - think veggie “popsicles” on sticks or fruit “gems” set in yogurt.


The Smell-Averse - Strong aromas can be a major turn off for these picky eaters. The scent of cooking broccoli or fish may see their plates pushed away before their first bite. Catering to sensitive sniffers requires subtlety and separation of smells.

What to do about it: 

When introducing new foods to smell snobs, choose mild flavors without intense aromas like garlic or onions. Cook new items briefly and in a separate pan from usual fare to contain their scent. Presenting new foods separately from the main meal also helps prevent any off-putting wafting.

Herbs with soft scents like basil, cilantro and mint can ease smell snobs into bolder flavors. Try infusing olive oil or butter with a single fresh herb, then tossing pasta or veggies in it. Over time, you can increase the herb ratio or add another complementary one.


3. The "I Want What I Want" Eater - This type of picky eater insists on eating the same few safe foods and resists all others.

What to do about it: 

Start by establishing a routine where you provide exposure to new foods without pressure or forced bites. At least one weekly meal should feature a small portion or condiment of something different. Make it fun by letting kids pick the new item or serve it creatively.

Lead by example - try new foods yourself with positivity and enthusiasm. Kids often follow our lead in what's "yummy." Praise any little tastes they take without over-focusing on finishing plates. Remind them new foods take time to like.


4. The Neophobic - This picky eater fears trying anything new or unfamiliar, so stick with classic dishes they already know when cooking.

What to do about it: 

Keep mealtimes low-key and positive. Before serving anything different, do a "smell and see" activity where they observe the new food's appearance, texture and aroma from a distance without pressure to taste. This reduces surprises.

Gradually introduce variety by blending tiny amounts of new ingredients into dishes they love. Puree spinach into mac and cheese, add shredded carrots to spaghetti sauce. Frame it as an experiment and keep the changes subtle over multiple exposures.

Presenting new foods as play can help anxious eaters feel in control. Turn veggies into silly faces, serve "ants on a log", or make edible necklaces. Keeping it lighthearted takes the pressure off and makes trying new bites more appealing.


5. The Sensory Sensitivity Eater - Loud textures, strong flavors, and bright colors can be overstimulating for this type of picky eater.

What to do about it: 

Create a peaceful dining environment with soft lighting and minimal distractions. Serve smaller portions on plain plates in moderate contrasting colors to avoid visual stimulation.

Focus on dishes with balanced mixtures of textures—purees paired with crunchy bits, for example. Aim for mild and blended flavors without jarring contrasts. Homemade may be best to regulate ingredients.

Let kids help prepare soothing snacks like yogurt parfaits or edamame hummus dip to feel ownership. Involving their senses can make new foods more appealing.

Break meals into bite-sized courses with short breaks in between. This prevents sensory overload while building tolerance in gradual exposure.


6. The Anxiety or Autism-Related Eater - For picky eaters where underlying neurological factors influence eating habits, extra care and expertise is key.

What to do about it: 

Consultation with an occupational therapist, nutritionist or pediatrician experienced in these issues will help determine the best approach tailored to the individual.

Visual schedules or social stories can prepare autistic kids for mealtime changes by explaining what to expect in a format they understand. 

Consistency, minimal surprises and clear routines help reduce anxiety.

Address sensory seeking or avoidance behaviors through regulated exposure using favorite toys or activities as positive reinforcement. A sensory diet may be recommended to meet sensory needs.

Focus first on accepting a range of safe foods before expanding variety. Small changes made together based on professional guidance and the child's lead will feel most secure.

Expanding a picky eater's culinary horizons takes time and repetition. But with the right approach, even the most reluctant of tasters can learn to embrace new flavors. The keys are going slowly, keeping introductions positive and low pressure, and focusing on taste over nutrition at first. 

With continuous, casual exposure blended into familiar foods, picky palates will gradually acclimate.

It's also important to lead by example - involve picky kids in meal prep so they feel ownership. And don't forget, pickiness is developmentally normal to some degree. 

With patience and the strategies discussed, you can help your little foodie get more adventurous in the kitchen.