How One Parent's Food Rebranding Tactic is Helping to Satisfy a Picky Eater (and It's Pretty Genius)

Who knew that renaming chicken parmesan "spaghetti chicken nuggets with cheese" could have such a positive effect.

Creativity, thinking on your toes, and sometimes, a little trickery: three qualities that often define successful parenting. And recently, one mom tapped into those skills simultaneously to get her kids to eat certain foods—and the idea went way better than expected.

An image of a child eating pasta.
Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

"Today I learned that by rebranding chicken parmesan as 'spaghetti chicken nuggets with cheese,' the likelihood that my kids will eat it increases at least 5,000%," tweeted the mom, who posts under the username @gfishandnuggets on Twitter.

Feeding Littles, an online resource that helps caregivers navigate infant and toddler eating, recently picked up the idea. The brand screenshotted the Tweet and posted it to its Instagram feed that boasts more than 1.2 million followers.

"Sometimes it's all about the presentation," the caption read. "What are the funny names you have for food in your house?"

The post has accumulated more than 800 comments in two days, many of which come from other caregivers who were hungry to dish on their own favorite food "rebrands."

A few of them were a tad cheesy—no pun intended.

"My child will NOT eat macaroni ... but she'll eat cheesy noodles," one person said. "My son won't eat pizza, but he will eat grilled cheese, so pizza has become 'fancy grilled cheese.' He eats it no problem," said another.

Another person's kids had no problem with eating pizza. Eggs, on the other hand, are apparently an entirely different story. "Omelets are 'egg pizza' in our house. Cut it in triangles with a pizza cutter, and voila, it's a hit!" the poster said.

And here's one for people who need help convincing their kids to stay hydrated this summer: "Our girls don't love drinking water but LOVE 'water popsicles' (water with crushed ice that they eat with a spoon,'" someone commented.

One commenter provided a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale to parents—some of these rebrands stick, even decades later when people are old enough to know better.

"My parents called pork tenderloin 'the good chicken' for YEARS so my brother would eat it. He still asks for 'the good chicken,' and he's 32," the person said.

Hey, whatever it take to get your kids to eat certain foods. If you're stressing about your child's picky eating and "food rebrands" aren't your (or their) jam, here are a few other expert-backed tips to try:

  • Compare the food you're serving to one you know your kid likes. For example, if you're having apples as a snack, tell them, "They're sweet, just like peanut butter."
  • Refrain from "punishments." Statements like, "You can't get up until you eat your vegetables" or "No dessert unless you finish your carrots" start a power struggle that can only exacerbate picky eating. Simply ask your child if they would like some of the food they aren't eating.
  • Give them an option to say, "No thanks." it allows your child to check in with their body and builds a foundation for intuitive eating.
  • Table discussions about your child's eating. If you're co-parenting and you and the other parent disagree on your child's eating habits, steer clear of discussing it in front of them. Set aside a time later to go over the issue so your child doesn't associate food with pressure or fighting parents.
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