You’re not the first parent who’s wondered how to get an extreme picky eater or a picky eater with autism to eat more fruit.
Fruit, with all of its variability, is not often a favorite food of very picky kids.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. When you consider a child’s sensory food needs, you can easily find healthy fruits that they will actually like.
The Best Fruits for Picky Eaters
You can always try fresh fruits. Even if your child doesn’t eat them the first time, continue to offer. Kids need multiple exposures before learning to eat new foods. Experiment with different preparations and presentations. You might want to try these fun food cutters which create easy-to-eat and fun bite size pieces.
Picky eaters with sensory food aversions tend to love the complex texture of frozen fruits. My favorites are bananas and mango, but anything goes. Make your own or buy prepared. The nutritional value of fresh and frozen fruit is exactly the same (frozen might even have more nutrients sometimes!), so don’t worry that it’s less healthy just because it comes from a bag. Serve them cold, straight from the freezer.
Freeze dried fruits are another great option for kids who struggle with texture. They’re more dry and crunchy so the texture is less intense. They’re great for crunch-lovers. You can often find freeze dried fruit at bulk stores. Trader Joe’s has a nice selection as does Nuts.com.
Dried fruits are great for sensory-seekers. Dried fruit tends to taste sweeter than fresh fruit and is chewy. Picky eaters love it because the texture is less variable than fresh fruit and it’s easier to pick up (no wet or sticky hands!). Dried fruit does tend to have more calories than fresh fruit, but it’s a great introduction to fresh. I like to start food chains with dried fruit.
Kids who dislike textures and prefer soft or smooth foods might like pureed fruits. Think applesauce or make some of your own purees at home.
Similar to pureed fruits, smoothies are a great option for picky eaters. Add in a preferred milk or yogurt base or just serve fruit. I like using a creamy fruit like banana or avocado. Mix fruits together or serve just one so a child can learn to like the flavor. Smoothies make great homemade popsicles, which is also a creative way to get your picky eater eating more fruits.
In juice or syrup
Fruit prepared in juice or syrup, like diced pears or peaches, can be great for picky eaters who prefer softer or sweeter fruits. You can discard the syrup to avoid adding extra sugar to your child’s diet. Fruit like this is a great starting point for very picky eaters because the fruit is softer (so easier to eat) and there tends to be less variability in terms of texture and look.
Skewers are a fun way to make fresh fruit more appealing. Invite your child to help using a dull skewer. Their involvement can make them more inclined to eat.
If your child doesn’t like fresh fruit, it doesn’t mean they’ll never learn to like it. There are simple ways you can present fruit to make it more appealing to a picky eater.
Consider your child’s sensory needs and identify one type of fruit that you can offer this week.