The No-Thank-You Bite: Get Your Picky Eater To Love Food

As parents who have suffered with weight issues, we wanted to do our best to educate our daughter Abigail about a healthy eating lifestyle as she grew up. When she was born, we were just starting to understand and learn how to eat better ourselves, so we knew we needed some help with passing that information to our daughter – even we weren’t experts yet. This is where the No-Thank-You Bite comes in – a great solution for picky eaters! It was a great choice for us because we have had wonderful successes with it. I hear others saying they’ve tried similar ideas and did not see the same success. But, I believe we were successful because of the program’s basic concepts and even more importantly the implementation and execution which are crucial components for success.

Most palettes these days are destroyed by processed foods with all the sugar, salt and chemicals in them that when a picky eater tries something natural, whole, or unprocessed, it doesn’t taste good. Does this mean whole foods taste bad? Not at all, quite the contrary in my opinion. For someone who used to live on fast food, these days if I happen to find myself in a drive thru I do not enjoy it! Over the years I have been able to rehabilitate my palette, and that is what the “No-Thank-You Bite” is all about. Like any big change it takes time to adapt, and it should never be a bad experience. When you start tasting all that nature has to offer and you start seeing the positive changes a more nutritious diet makes, you too will wonder how you lived on all the crap for so long! Trust me!

The “No-Thank-You Bite” is pretty simple, if there is something new or different in front of you, try it once. In the case of food, you must take a “No-Thank-You Bite”. We never treated this as negative, yes it was a rule but we never referred to it as such with our daughter Abigail, it’s just what we do.

Here are a few important parts to how I think the “No-Thank-You Bite” has worked for our family, and picky eaters alike.

1) Once a “No-Thank-You Bite” is taken it is NOT required that you have any more if you choose not to.

This is most important! If there is a negative to this practice, you will get resistance and it will not work. Even if your picky eater says they like it but they choose not to have any more, honor that choice – every time! If you honor their choice, then the next time you ask them to take their “No-Thank-you Bite” they will not put up as much of a fight, they will keep an open mind, and not worry about how to get out of eating it by telling you they don’t like it. We’re looking for an honest response. Trust is everything with this process and if they trust that you follow through on what you say, then you will be amazed at the openness and honesty you may receive. This honesty can even help you tailor the foods you might have them try next.

It’s important to note, that this is not an overnight change – it will take time and lots of bites so prepare yourself for that. In the beginning my daughter would turn up her nose and give us a hard time. We know there were times she told us she didn’t like it even when we could see that she did and we were a little sparing in how often we had her do it. 6 years later and she WANTS to take her “No-Thank-You Bite”, she WANTS to experience new and different things because it has become a common practice for her. She eats better than most adults I know and has developed some wonderful food habits at an early age that will help keep her healthy and strong for the rest of her life.

2) No “I told you so’s” 

Whatever their reaction, it’s their reaction. There is no right or wrong, there is nothing to prove, there is no correct answer. It is simply to try it, to experience it and to remember that experience. That’s all! The change comes with the process and you have to let the process work to see the change. Keep the negatives out and this is something that your picky eater won’t sigh and roll their eyes at every time. When they start purposefully asking for something you never thought they would eat, then you can do a silent happy dance in your brain and celebrate your success while feeling proud of their choices.

3) If the same thing is served again another day, it doesn’t matter if you did not like it the last time, you must take another “No-Thank-You Bite”. 

The whole purpose of the “No-Thank-You Bite” is to slowly train and expand a person’s palette. Some people say, “that will never work with my child” but it is my belief that this process will work with ANY person. I invite you to prove me wrong but you must follow the steps and give it the time to work. My daughter HATED asparagus the first time she had it (like some picky eaters), after about the sixth time she didn’t hate it but she didn’t like it either. After the tenth time, we gave her the option of roasted asparagus off a menu as a side and she chose the asparagus over french fries. I call that a win! Now it’s her favorite vegetable and even better than that she loves most vegetables! These days at 8 years old she’ll ask for raw broccoli, carrots and mushrooms to munch on for a snack and she rarely dips it in anything. These days she turns her nose up at all the dead food she comes across, not the “healthy” stuff. She has learned to appreciate good whole foods and her more experienced palette allows her to enjoy it.

Now, use your good judgement here, just forcing boiled until its limp asparagus down a child’s throat a dozen times does not mean they will start liking it. Prepare it differently, have it with different foods, try it cold on a salad, try it roasted, try it tempura style, just keep trying it different ways and eventually they may warm to the flavor. I don’t care who you are, you may say no way your kid will EVER like that but we’re training the palette with a lot of different flavors and eventually they just might – even a picky eater. Think about it, what are you currently feeding your children? What are their palettes being trained to like now? Why do you think different cultures eat different foods, this is completely a learned thing. You won’t find many American food companies selling bugs on a stick, but in some parts of the world they are like candy. Just remember, it takes patience. It took us at least two years to see results but they have been well worth the effort in the long run!

4) Join in!

If you are making your child follow this rule, you need to follow the rule as well. Seven years ago I HATED seafood, wouldn’t touch it with a 10ft pole! Maybe if you paid me to eat it, I would, but no way was I ordering it for myself. When we started the “No-Thank-You Bite,” we said we would do it as well and now I enjoy seafood. I love a good sushi meal and actually order it on purpose now, and not just the cooked stuff – I’ve tried some pretty creative rolls. I cook fish at home now, just the other night I made a Parmesan Herb Roasted Cod and loved it! My daughter is as thrilled with this change in me as I am with the changes in her so she sees the success and she sees us doing it with her and that makes it so much easier! Plus, you get the added benefit of expanding your own palette for the better.

5) Working with the little ones.

As a photographer who regularly works with children, I learned very early on that you simply cannot tell a child to do something you want, nor can you ask them and you cannot trick them, you need to guide them. Distract them and redirect them. They need to feel as if it was their idea in the first place and that they are doing something that will get your attention and your praise. As people we very rarely want to do the things we HAVE to do but don’t want to. Kids are people too, and if we treat them as people, and not just as kids, we will have greater success in educating them. Far too often I see this and other concepts fail due to execution so I hope that you may learn a few things that worked really well for us for you to put into practice in your home.


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