What to do with the picky eater

Dear Chris,

How do you deal with a picky eater? 9 years old? Are any of your kids picky eaters?

It’s a constant battle in our house.

Weary Mom in the Food War

Step out of the battle.

I am a picky eater. There I admit it.

I have always been a picky eater. When I was a kid my mother would frequently make meals that I wouldn’t finish. She would make me sit there from dinner time until bedtime staring at the plate before she would wrap it up and put it into the refrigerator. Then it would come out for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and breakfast the food cold, congealed, and still unappetizing. Imagine that. It would go on for a couple of days sometimes. It was a test of wills, a stand off in which neither of us ever won anything.

There was not a single time that I ate the food. And certain foods still make me gag involuntarily in a way I am willing to bet would not have happened had I been allowed to have my own say in what went into my body.

I wrote this blog post two years ago about being a picky eater.

Then this past weekend I was at a party. My friend was raving about this pork stuff she had cooking in her crockpot that you make sandwiches with. She wanted me to have one. She lifted the lid of her crockpot and I have never in my life seen something that looked more revolting to me. I could not believe she was going to put that stuff that looked and smelled like vomit on a roll and want me to eat it.

I am 35 years old and I could not control myself. As she scooped it out, I gagged.

Really, I don’t know where my son gets it from

In my defense I was pregnant. I could probably control the gagging a little more nowadays. Maybe.

And so when I hear people talking about their picky kids and employing similar techniques I can’t help but cringe, and wonder what exactly the message is that you want to be sending your children.

I have one child who will eat everything, a couple who eat most things, a couple who are on the pickier side, and one who must photosynthesize, so great is his pickiness.

I hear people also say that they want their children to be polite when they are at other people’s houses and not shun the food. That they are raising them to have a broader appetite. To me all those things are seperate.

To me the bigger issue isn’t whether or not my children eat a particular food, it is their manners, being kind, and being respectful. Likewise I treat them with respect and do not try and force them to eat things they don’t like by threatening them or manipulating them. I

I do not cook alternate meals. What I make for dinner is what is for dinner. Usually there is something that everyone likes in a given meal. If I know that someone, I am thinking of one child in particular, won’t be happy, I make sure there is an abundance of bread and butter on the table.

Desserts are not rewards. No food is better than any other food. If there is a dessert planned for a given night, everyone has it no matter if they ate or didn’t eat. We don’t often have dessert as I think the kids snack enough on junk food during the day.

What do you do when you spend so much time preparing a meal and your child(ren) refuse to eat it?

I get annoyed. Of course I do I am human. But I try to address with them the reason that I am angry, which has nothing to do with them actually eating the food. The reason I get mad is that I have spent my time preparing a delicious and nutrious meal and they are being rude and unappreciative of my hard work. That is the crux of the issue. At least take a small taste. At the very least don’t make gagging noises. At least be respectful enough of my feelings to make an effort at being nice.

What if they go to someone elses home and don’t like the food that is served?

When you are a guest somewhere you are expected to be polite. You never ever complain that you don’t like what your host is serving. If the food is served to you on the plate, you are expected to eat what you like, not make a big deal about not eating the rest, and if you are asked say, “Everything was delicious. I am just not very hungry tonight.” I like to role play with my children and give them appropriate answers so that they aren’t caught off guard and end up blurting out, “It was all gross and disgusting!”

Likewise I hate it when people come to my house and their child refuses to eat anything that there is and it turns into this whole power struggle between the child and parents. With the child refusing to eat the food that is out, the parents threatening that they will not get desserts, the parents finally bargaining if they just eat x number of bites they can have a dessert.

Don’t ask the hostess to prepare a special meal for your child (barring of course any allergies which is not what I am talking about, but thought I would throw it in there before someone else brings it up). Letting your child fill up on bread and desserts one night isn’t going to kill them. Really, it isn’t. And all of you will probably have a lot more fun. And isn’t that what is important in the larger picture?

Wow, glad I got that off my chest. Can you tell it is a pet peeve of mine. One of the many unfortunately.

You can not force your children to do anything. The sooner in your parenting journey you realize it, the better.

Tips for making meal time more enjoyable:

1)Let the children help in chosing the meals. If they can read, let them look through a cookbook to pick something out. They are much more likely to be excited about something new if they chose it and helped prepare it themself. And they may just surprise you with their choices.

2) Think outside the box. Serve things your children like as a side dish while you introduce a new food. Fruit salad, bread with butter, penne with grated parmesean cheese are all side diushes my children will gladly eat.

3) Remember that kid friendly food does not have to be prepackaged garbage. Whoever invented Lunchables, pizza pockets, and the like as the standard for kid friendly food should be shot. (Okay not really shot, maybe slapped a few times?)

4) Instead of offering junk food snacking in the afternoon before dinner, limit it to healthy things, cheese squares, fruit, dried fruit, peanut butter on crackers. At least you know then if they don’t eat their dinner they have filled up on thinsg that are good for them.

5) If you have sons, realize that there will come an age when they are growing so fast they will eat anything. My oldest son is approaching this stage now and while on one hand I am so happy to see him eat everything that isn’t nailed down, on the other hand I am horrified at the thought of five more boys eating everything that isn’t nailed down. I may take up permanent residence in Stop & Shop.

6) Keep the big picture in mind. Mealtimes are as much about fueling your soul as it is about fueling your bodies.

68 Responses to “What to do with the picky eater”

  1. Sarcastic Journalist Says:


    As an adult, I am picky. It was even worse as a child. I still, to this day, do not like seafood. I do not need you to tell me “just to take a bite.”

    Do people really think that is okay? Oh, wait! Now, at 26.5 years old, I will start LIKING fish! You were right! Thank you for making it for me.

    I hate it when people make such a big deal out of meals and kids. If they like everything, great. If not, well, be quiet and wait for the rest of us to finish.

    As you can bet, I don’t try to force my daughter to eat things she dosen’t like. In my eyes, we’re all different and I wouldn’t want someone trying to “trick” me, either.

  2. Notes from the Trenches » Family meal time Says:

    [...] I am a picky eater. There I admit it. [...]

  3. Katheryn Ostler Says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m not a picky eater by any means, but my 2-year-old is. Actually, picky is an understatement. What makes it even more difficult is that he has many allergies. ‘ve never been one to force, but I have resorted to bribing. Your post has helped me to realize I might need to calm down a bit with the whole eating thing. BTW, I also hate it when people tell me just to let him go, that he’ll eat when he’s hungry. I tried that once and he went for almost three whole days with only eating an apple. Ahhhhh.

  4. Jamie Says:

    Thank you for helping me realize it’s OK for my 4-year-old to eat nothing but string cheese and bread for dinner. The thing that drives me nuts is that she eats a more balanced meal for lunch at daycare, but I think that has to do with “peer pressure!”

  5. Andria Says:

    Thank you for such an interesting post. I have a ten year old son that has always been on the picky side. I’ve always required that he eat a little bit of whatever is for dinner, even if he doesn’t like it, for several reasons. The biggest one has nothing to do with control and more to do with teaching him that sometimes we have to do things that we really don’t want to. That’s part of becoming an adult, learning to do those things anyway. I never intentionally fixed things that I know he doesn’t like, and I always allow him to eat more of the things that he does than whatever it is that he doesn’t.

    I’m going to have to do some thinking about this approach now, you’ve really brought up some very good points.

    Thank you for making me think.

  6. Angela Says:

    I’m a picky eater, and when I was in the 4th or 5th grade, my mom finally said, “Fine! If you don’t want to eat what we’re having, you can make yourself something else!” I did, and continued to any time I didn’t want what the rest of the family was having. There were a lot less fights, and I learned how to cook. Also, as picky as I am, the doctors have never found anything wrong with me. :)

    ps. At 20, I’m not going to take a bite of ground meat (which I hate) and suddenly love it. Please. leave. me. alone.

  7. Rebecca Says:

    This is a great column! Could you please do one on your “rules” and policies about junk food? My daughter (almost 4) eats pretty well but I feel like I can never figure out how to deal with sweets and salty snacks. too much is bad, too little makes it taboo and desirable. I’m so confused!

  8. Nicki Says:

    This is great Chris. Frankly I’m pretty sick of reading about large families where all the children “learn” to just eat everything and not complain and no one is picky. I KNEW it was a myth! Of our six kids, they are all over the board. One will eat anything - as long as it is from the sea - and isn’t a fish. One will not eat meat. One will eat meat as long as it is not sausage or hamburger. One will not eat vegetables. One will eat vegetables as long as they are not cooked. We take your same approach. We do also allow the picky kid to make the All Famous PB&J. It eases my own guilt and makes dinner planning easier :-P He’d survive either way, I know. And we also stress manners and I’m somewhat shocked (haha) to see that it is actually working!

  9. Kate Says:

    “And certain foods still make me gag involuntarily in a way I am willing to bet would not have happened had I been allowed to have my own say in what went into my body.”

    Certain foods make me gag involuntarily and I wasn’t even forced to eat anything. I think some people must just be born that way, and people who aren’t can’t understand. Eggs, for instance; scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, whatever, I can’t even think about them without wanting to vomit!

  10. Amah Says:

    I’m traveling from site to site with you!! Wanted to say that at our house mealtimes are probably the most “interesting” times of the day. With the quantity and consistancy in the number of children being different often, we have “staples” that are available for every meal. Rice, pasta of some sort (not necessarily a sauce either), peanut butter (and a spoon), cooked and raw veggies, bread & butter are examples of my “staples”. We have our MEAL -whatever I’ve fixed. Whoever is old enough for “people food” must try 1 teaspoon (or the equivalent) of the main course, then they are free to “fill up” on whatever else is on the table. Afternoon snacks are of the healthier sort so I’m not to worried about the basics - just eat enough to keep you full until breakfast. I’ve noticed that the kids will generally eat whatever Papa and I eat - and neither of us are picky eaters - so after a few days of “filling up” on the same stuff - they usually get tired of it and are willing to eat the “good stuff”.

    Since I have newer children most of the time - I use desert as a bribe. I also use m&m’s as rewards. Not good parenting - but a new child has to accept me as a parent figure before “parenting” can start.

    Since using this method of “feeding the troops” I’ve been really suprised by the number of kids that will actually eat sweet potatoes, salad, broiled fish, etc. Since they know that there is only a dab on thier plate - they don’t seem to be terrified of having to eat a huge amount of something they don’t like.

    BUT, I’ve had kids that announce (usually very loudly) that they require a certain food or will not eat ANYTHING that is on the table. In those instances, it is early to bed and NOTHING else will be offered until breakfast. I’ve had to use this only a few times - most of “my” kids are more than willing to eat more than they need of anything they can get.

    So, if there are leftovers - send ‘em my way - someone will eat them LOL

  11. Jennifer Says:

    I hate that pork crock pot thing. It made my house stink so badly, my husband and I just threw it away. And I agree - as adults we don’t eat anything we don’t want to - why should it be different for the kids (provided their diet is balanced, of course) My husband is always trying to force my daughter to eat syrup and sausage- WHY?

  12. Kristen Says:

    I’ve made the mistake of bribing my kids with dessert. Unfortunately (for all of us, I think), it has worked so many times that it’s become some crazy dysfunctional routine. They don’t eat, they whine, they fuss, I bribe them, they eat. I definitely didn’t intend to manipulate them into eating. It started during a time when I was afraid my son was truly not taking in enough calories (yes, I realize now that’s a crock…). Anyway, I think I follow all of your other tips…but the bribing with dessert has to stop, I guess.

  13. carrien Says:

    My kids have low blood sugar problems, so eating really is something I have to be vigilant about or the meltdowns are intense and never ending. But they are smart and understand my explanations. In our house if there is a dessert offered, you may only eat as much dessert as you have consumed protein, and they know that the protein helps their bodies to deal with the sugar better without an insulin spike and that’s why we have that rule. MOmmy eats by the same rules, because I have the same problem. They know they won’t ever get candy, except on rare occasions after a big meal. The way they understand it at their young ages is that sugar makes them feel sick, which it does, so they get the correlation. BUt I think even if they weren’t so sugar sensitive they would still understand why I let them have lots of some things and only little bits of others because I give them an explanation that is true and acceptable.

    MY problem is that sometimes I have to be way more vigilant than I want at the table to make sure they eat enough to keep going. Which I hate, but C’est la vie.
    I wish I could do it your way, it sounds so simple.
    I like the focus on manners, we have been working on this, but I really enjoyed the way you put it, esp. working hard to make dinner.

    They are also not allowed to say they don’t like something if they have never tried it before, so they must have one taste before leaving the table.

  14. Ella Says:

    My children aren’t overly picky but I like your suggestions not to use dessert as a bribe and also how to politely explain they don’t want to eat something at someone else’s house.

    I really enjoy your site. It feels like having a big sister who knows all the answers!

  15. Stephanie Says:

    We do pretty much the same thing with one addition. If something you (the child) do not like is for dinner you do not have to eat it. If asked just say ‘no thank you’ or ‘I’ll pass’. But if a bad comment is made then you have to take a serving and eat it OR give up something like video/ computer time. The punishment isn’t for not liking the food but for the comment. We have had younger ones happily chewing away until a comment was made and then immediate spewing out. It doesn’t take long to remember to just hush your mouth and pass the food around.

  16. Colin Says:

    I hope you don’t mind a guy piping in here. Maybe it’s because I am a guy, but it concerns me that some folks think kids should eat or not eat anything they want at the dinner table. While I don’t think it’s helpful to “force” a kid to eat something, it seems to me that there needs some rules or ideals around eating that we need to instill in our kids so they will grow up healthy and happy. I do believe that kids need to understand the idea of being polite when someone has slaved over a hot stove for them, especially when it comes to being a guest in another home, but I don’t think guilt is a good motivator in the home either. Rather, two other things concern me more.

    The first was mentioned by Andria: children need to understand that life is not all about having what you want when you want it. When my kids complain they don’t like something (whether it’s eating certain foods or cleaning their bedrooms), I remind them that liking something has nothing to do with what we do most of our lives. Instead, the happiest people in the world are those that are willing to things they don’t like so they can get something they do like eventually (like a paycheck).

    Second, just like anything else in life, eating is not just for pleasure. It’s for health and well-being. While brussel sprouts don’t taste great for most people, they are healthy nonetheless and worth eating even it you don’t enjoy it.

    Third, people who learn to tolerate or even enjoy variety, can appreciate life better, whether it’s about food, social relationships, work, politics, religion, etc.. Eating a variety of foods, even though you don’t like some of them, is mental preparation for good relationships and educational experiences in the future.

    I guess my general point is that eating is not somehow different than everything else in our lives. Doing chores, finishing homework, being nice to all the kids in the class, eating healthy food–it’s all the same.

    I came from a family with 10 children, and remember doing all the complaining that my kids do today. While I have favorite foods, there is nothing that I won’t eat if it serves some good purpose. I don’t force my kids to eat everything on their plates, but they do get some of everything and it they want to have more of the things they like, they need to (substantially) eat the healthy things that they have imagined they don’t like. I don’t save their food it they don’t eat it, but they aren’t allowed to help themselves to less healthy alternatives either.

    Anyway, I just came across this interesting blog and had to get that off my chest.


    PS. I do most of the cooking in our family (though I am not a stay-at-home dad).

  17. chris Says:

    Wow Colin, where do I begin ! On some of the points I just have to respectfully disagree.

    children need to understand that life is not all about having what you want when you want it. When my kids complain they don’t like something (whether it’s eating certain foods or cleaning their bedrooms), I remind them that liking something has nothing to do with what we do most of our lives. Instead, the happiest people in the world are those that are willing to things they don’t like so they can get something they do like eventually (like a paycheck).

    I would hop that my children are self aware enough to do something that they DO like and enjoy for a living. I think life would be very sad indeed if we were miserable everyday and only hanging on for the carrot at the end of the week.

    I just don’t see how cleaning your room, or being polite equates to eating food you don’t like. As long as over a period of time they are eating healthy, who cares.

    Second, just like anything else in life, eating is not just for pleasure. It’s for health and well-being. While brussel sprouts don’t taste great for most people, they are healthy nonetheless and worth eating even it you don’t enjoy it.

    Yuck. I hate brussel sprouts. Why would it be worth my eating them if I found them completely distasteful? I have a couple of children who like them as well as my husband. But the rest of us politely decline to eat them. There are plenty of other vegetables to eat.

    Third, people who learn to tolerate or even enjoy variety, can appreciate life better, whether it’s about food, social relationships, work, politics, religion, etc.. Eating a variety of foods, even though you don’t like some of them, is mental preparation for good relationships and educational experiences in the future.

    See while I agree with you that it is important to teach children to appreciate diversity in life, I fail to see how making meal time a battle of wills accomplishes that. My primary focus as a parent is to teach my children respect, empathy, and love for themselves and others. People who feel all those things naturally appreciate diversity because they aren’t threatened by it.

    And making your children eat things they don’t like is disrespectful to them. Teaching them to ignore their body cues that they are full is setting them up for issues surrounding eating. I do not want food to be an emotionally charged thing for my kids. More than anything else I do not want my daughter to end up with an eating disorder.

    So while I appreciate your comment and the time it took to thoughtfully compose it, I must disagree with you.

  18. Liz in Australia Says:

    “You can not force your children to do anything. The sooner in your parenting journey you realize it, the better.”

    Awesome advice, Chris. Eldest daughter (now 9) was probably four or five before I figured this out regarding food. She is still very discriminating about what she eats, whereas my husband, myself and my 18month old daughter will eat practically anything. Since we all love vegetarian food and she practically lives on meat, we do make compromises so that we all get what we want most of the time.

    I eat a lot more meat dishes than I would do solely on my own inclinations, but we also get to eat a lot of our favourite vegetarian dishes. We do buffet style meals a few times a week, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes on the table (I have a lot of freezer space and always cook much more than we need for one meal, so I have no problem with cooking multiple things for one meal, it never goes to waste). And we have a couple of nights where the rest of us eat vegetarian/vegan, but we try to time it so that she’s sleeping over at her grandparents’ or a friend’s place that night. If she’s at home, I make her something separate. Usually only simple, and I keep a stack of single serves of her favourites in the freezer so it mostly doesn’t involve any extra cooking.

    The major problem she has with vegetables and beans are textural, and I have her permission to disguise food she doesn’t like in stuff I know she eats. My food processor is my friend! She loves tomato-based pasta sauce, and I can hide just about anything in pasta sauce so long as it isn’t green *g* If I’m really worried about it, I focus on offering lots of healthy snacks and make sure she’s taking her vitamin tablets regularly.

    I am an ex-bulimic and compulsive eater: although my mother mostly catered to my likes and dislikes as a kid, there were enough power struggles around food and control that I am really focused on not inflicting them on my kids.

  19. Lisa Says:

    Drat, that is the exact same advice they give in a book called “How to Get Your Kid to Eat- but not too much” Too bad you didn’t write this stuff down sooner, Chris, and sell it! Anyway, it’s excellent advice. I have just 3 kids, but they are never forced to eat or even try anything and I never use dessert for a reward and all 3 will eat anything (although that could be the curse of my genes). Thank god they have their father’s metabolism! Great post.

  20. rachel Says:

    thanks for this. it’s interesting to see the other side of the story. We still have some power struggles here about food, and it isn’t fun. We never do it at other people’s houses, though.

    obviously, we deal with allergies, so there’s that fun in there.

    but my kids *need* protein. as in, if they don’t get enough protein they are people I do not want to be with. Since locking them in closets is frowned upon, they need to eat the protein part of the meal. If I know that they strongly dislike something (and honestly, they aren’t that picky), then I let them have something like a hot dog or lunch meat that doesn’t require any work.

    I need to think on your idea about dessert. One of my kids is the *slowest* eater in creation, so dessert is a motivator for her to finish in a reasonable amount of time.

  21. Erin Says:

    I’ve always been a picky eater. Its an on going joke with my friends since I always order the same things whenever I go to a resturant and at home when I cook its normally the same five or six things (that is also influenced by my lack of money and cooking ability). Growing up my dad varried strategies trying to get me to eat something sometimes I had to sit at the table until I was finished, if I wanted anything later to eat it would be dinner, no dessert and once I was old enough I was allowed to cook my own dinner. My brother’s picky eating however was what really bothered my dad since he changes what he likes and doesn’t like on a daily basis. So one day my dad would cook something and my brother would devour it and ask for seconds then next week when my dad made the sucessful dish again my brother would refuse to touch it.

  22. Mary O Says:

    I love your parenting style. I am trying to remember all of these things for when my son (now 8 months) gets older and we have to deal with these issues.

  23. sarah Says:

    Thank you. It took me years of tearful dinners and food battles to figure out that it just isn’t worth it. My husband has been slow to learn this lesson. One time I made a dinner that she had begged me to make. When it was finished she wouldn’t touch it. I was so mad. I made her sit there until diner time and then I warmed it up for her breakfast. We laugh about it now but I wish I had just lightened up a bit.

  24. Wendy Says:

    Thanks I needed this to slap some sense into me.

    When my daughter started eating table foods or solids, I never worried if she cleaned her plate. It helped that she ate anything you put in front of her. At around 2 yrs old, she wanted more control over her food and this is when we started to have trouble.

    I should understand because there are many things that I dont like, even though my husband wants me to try them all. I dont know if it makes you feel better, but I almost lost it at a Sushi restaurant with some of the stuff my husband was eating. I put a menu in front of his plate it was so bad.

    I have fallen into the trap of saying eat x number of bites and you are finished or have dessert. I have even said, “If you are not hungry for dinner, then you are not hungry for dessert.”. I have now learned the error of my ways and will resume not worrying about her eating. As they always tell you, children will never starve themselves.

    Thanks for the help with this parenting stuff.

  25. Meredith Says:

    I had to laugh when reading about your growing boys. My “baby” brother ended up being a six foot three, 210 pound high school student. A rule in our house was that after you finished a meal and asked to be excused, you had to take your dishes to the sink. My mom used to describe this boy by saying that the only reason he took his dishes to the sink was because he could stop by the fridge on his way back to the table. I can’t imagine what your fridge will look like in the midst of all five at home during those growth spurts!

  26. Chris Says:

    I grew up the pickiest eater there ever was. I honestly don’t know how my mother survived. Now as an adult, there is nothing I won’t eat. Well, almost anything. I won’t eat exotic meat… which includes deer. Yuck.

    Anyway, my first son eats anything and everything. The kid takes broccoli and cucumbers to school in his lunch. My second has been picky from the start. He would gag on banana baby food. I was practically pulling my hair out trying to force him to eat stuff like his brother. Finally, my mom brought me to my senses. She said “Did I ever force you to eat something you didn’t like?” I said no. She said “Well don’t force him. He will come around when he is good and ready. When he is hungry he will eat. In time, he will learn by your example, not by you forcing food down his throat.”

    I can’t tell you how right she was. He is four now, still on the picky side, but has come such a long way.

  27. Karen Says:

    I like your thoughts. As the mother of 8 I long ago gave up on trying to make anyone eat anything. My oldest daughter is 19 and will eat most vegetables and other healthy things. My oldest son is 18 and will not eat most veggies (will eat iceberg lettuce, no leafy greens!) is still amazingly picky. Seems to live off of junk food (that I do not buy!) We are constantly amazed that he does not get scurvy! He eats tons, but only what he likes. I just wanted to warn you, your picky ones might stay picky! (and still eat you out of house and home and you will have to find really good hiding places for chocolate chips, and anything else you don’t want to disappear before you need it!)

    Thanks for the fun advice. You always give me something to smile about.

  28. Jan Says:

    We’ve been fortunate in that we had one not at all picky first and all three boys were chubby breastfed chunks’o'baby. There wasn’t that same fear about eating that we saw in friends with skinnier kids. (Now the two older ones are both perfectly on for weight — one looks skinnier than the other, he was the pickier one too).

    Our general rule was a taste — and that “teaspoonful” is probably a generous helping compared to some of these tastes and washing it down with milk was allowed. If there were something that was known to be truly hated (no gagging seen around here, but that level) then it was a pass after that first taste. There was always the option of PB toast.

    I have to reiterate though the whole HEALTHY SNACK thing. I’ve seen a friend’s child snack his way through a morning (juice, goldfish, etc.) then not want to eat lunch (surprise!) much to his parents’ dismay and then manage to have cookies and another sweet drink as a follow-up to the non-lunch. That, I just don’t get. Of course, unhungry kids filled up on basically empty calories aren’t even going to be interested in eating a meal. ate the table. in a chair.

    My son, on the other hand, adores those visits, LOL. He’ll eat all the goodies and then all the yummylicious aimed at picky eater actual lunch and then head into desserts as well. It’s like a visit to Willy Wonka for him.

  29. parent hacks Says:

    Another (smart) mom’s take on how to deal with picky eaters…

    I love Chris’s practical parenting blog In the Trenches of Motherhood. One of her commenters described her as “the big sister who knows all the answers.” Now she’s talking about what to do with the picky eater (which I can’t…

  30. Sue Says:

    Yes, yes, yes to the post! I had a very picky second child who was also extremely strong-willed. It never occurred to me to get into battles with him over what he ate or didn’t eat, but once or twice other people tried it (and he won every time. He would starve rather than eat something he didn’t like, even at the age of about three).

    He came up with his own solution when he was six: he learned to cook, so that if he didn’t like anything I had made, or felt hungry at another time, he could make himself something to eat. He was perfectly reasonable about it, acknowledging that I didn’t want to make extra food just because he was fussy! To start with, it was just simple things like scrambled eggs on toast. By the time he was 14 he could cook a full Sunday roast/trimmings/roast potatoes/veggies single-handed. At 18 he makes terrific curries and naan bread which are slightly different each time.

    So it turned out to be a great blessing, as he now does all the cooking two or three days per week. And since I didn’t ever expend a lot of energy trying to persuade him to eat stuff he didn’t like, he started trying more things a he got older and is now far less picky than he was as a small child.

    For the record, he was never rude when we went to other people’s houses. He just asked for small portions, made a show of eating them (while actually eating bread or whatever he did like). Oh, and as a small child he insisted he had two stomachs…. so that sometimes his main course stomach would be quite full, while there was still plenty of room in his dessert stomach! He was so matter-of-fact about this that some of his stricter elderly relatives almost seemed to believe him…

  31. Thorny Says:

    I came here from your other blog, Chris, and I’m so glad I did.

    My twin boys 2 years old now, and are hitting that weird stage where they’re growing and energetic, but they seem to exist on half an apple and a cup of milk per day! Most days I manage to let it be, but oooh, some days it’s not easy.

    I wanted to think you for the idea of letting kids look through cookbooks. One of my boys is really into books anyway, and seems to especially enjoy looking at people’s cookbooks (some friends of ours keep their cookbook shelf well within The Toddler Zone, so every time we visit, I’m worried B is going to shred their copy of Thai Cooking Made Easy or something - grin!). I’d never thought to actually sit down and let him look at a cookbook though, and maybe see if there was something he might be interested in /eating/. I’ll definitely be giving that a try!

    And I can’t agree with you more about picky eating. My kids will eat anything - so long as it’s fruit or a dairy product. Or salty and crunchy (sigh!), but we try to keep those to a minimum. At 2 years old they still steadfastly refuse to eat meat, no matter how often we offer it. My dad one time made a comment, comparing me to my stepsister, about how “at least I’m not raising them to be vegetarian.” I laughed and told him, “No, they’re doing that part just fine on their own!”

  32. meredith Says:

    I really like your way of thinking. I try and get my kids to taste but don’t force them. I need to do the role model work for when they are in other people’s homes. That’s a great idea. I have started cooking with my girls, and that has really been helping in their wanting to try new foods.

  33. Brigitte Says:

    Just reading everyone’s comments makes me feel better - I’ve got a 22-mo. skinny minnie (no idea where she got THAT from) so I’m always worrying about her not eating. Her diet is about 50/50 between junk and good stuff, when she does eat. Just knowing other people are in the same boat, I’ll try not to let it consume my thoughts so much.

  34. Lori Says:

    Good advice for all as usual! On the growing boys with always empty tummies issue, I have found that a bowl of cold cereal or a PB&J work will to tide them over to meal times.

  35. maria Says:

    I agree w/you on the manners. My MIL is very sensitive and I’d watched her make food an issue w/my niece who’s much older than my own kids. So - I usually give a lecture to my kids about being polite and absolutely do not say I DON”T LIKE THIS. So - last year, darling MIL serves lamb curry for Thanksgiving - (please - she claims she raised 4 children - who serves lamb curry for TG) But, I served it to the kids figuring they must try it. My poor 6 yr old - he sat there quietly looking miserable - he was starving but the food looked too funny. I don’t know if he tried it but he was trying so hard to be polite and when MIL noticed it she got so mad - My husband finally made him a ham sandwich and I told him later how proud I was of him for his good manners - MIL could learn a thing or two from him.

    Funny addendum -a few weeks later I made a chicken w/Trader Joe’s curry sauce -the kids wolfed it down - I didn’t get the irony til later.

  36. Kari Says:

    I also have a “skinny-minnie” at 11 months and it is a constant struggle to come up with things for her to eat that will be fattening enough without being too junk food-ish and that she will actually eat. She loves peas, but nobody ever got fat eating peas, right? Anyway, I appreciate your post and will definitely keep this advice in mind as we move into the toddler years.

  37. Mama T. Says:

    Well, I do believe I was one of the folks that emailed this question to Chris and after reading her post, I realize that the heart of the matter in my situation is the rudeness part involved with my 9 year old step-daughter. I just got sick and tired of having her come up to the stove while I was cooking or sitting down at the table and saying things like, “Ewww, that looks so gross!” or “Disgusting” or “ick” and anything else along those lines. So, for the longest time, I was afraid to make anything for dinner outside of the 3 things that she would eat and just got sick of it. I just started making what we normally ate and when she was with us, tossed in a favorite in between for her. My policy now is, “I only make one dinner. Eat if you want to or don’t. I’m not a short order cook.”

    Our second issue is that she won’t eat and then a half hour later wants popcorn or chips or something else junky since she’s now hungry. So usually, we tell her no, that she at least has to have something healthy.

    We’ve tried the kids cookbook approach and everytime she picks out a recipe and we make it together, she ends up deciding she won’t like it even before a bite is taken. So, it gets a bit frustrating.

  38. Duane Says:

    My perspective is rather similar to Colin’s, as I also grew up in a household of 10 children. None of us were picky eaters primarily because there were two options (literally) on the table:

    1) eat what is for dinner
    2) don’t eat what is for dinner

    There were a few times that it seemed cruel, but generally it was possible to negotiate down the portions of what I didn’t like in favor of what I did like. I don’t recall ever having a contest of wills because my parents were confident that I wouldn’t starve if I objected strongly enough to opt for hunger that evening.

    I’ve witnessed children (my own is still in infancy) analyze food as if it were a crime scene — inquiring about every spec that resembles a vegetable or seasoning — and frankly I have little sympathy. It boggles my mind to think that a flake of oregano in pasta sauce can evoke such protest. It seems more melodrama than substance, which leads me to think many of the food battles are really not about food. It appears that the child has a distrust or suspicion about meals which can probably be improved by involving them in meal preparation.

  39. liz Says:

    What Andria said. Muffin Man is a pretty adventurous eater, but he doesn’t eat enough to keep a small-sized gnat alive. I think I’m going to offer his favorite choices more often and cut it out with the bribing.

  40. Christina Says:

    I also refuse to be a short order cook and always provide bread and butter with new dinners in case someone doesn’t really like it so they won’t go to bed hungry. Three kids with 3 different personalities, some eat better at breakfast while others eat awesome dinners after picking all day, it just depends. My dh has tried negotiating which gets him nowhere and I just don’t see the point; if the kid is hungry s/he’ll eat, or eat more at the next meal. I also have happy helpers who help mix or stir, that has always helped have happier meals.

  41. liz Says:

    I come from a family of very picky eaters and married into a family of non-picky eaters. If you have never been a picky eater, you will never understand what it is like. For me, it was more of a texture thing than a taste thing. If there are any sensory integration issues in your family, then it is cruel to make a child force down food. The gagging and choking can induce lifelong eating disorders. I still have some food issues at the age of 45. If you make me drink a glass of milk I will throw up right there although I can have it on cereal. And cereal, I can’t eat it from the bottom of the box because the crumbs make me gag.

    I have never forced my children to eat anything and they have a pretty reasonable diet now as teenagers — too much fast food because they have open campus for lunch but at home they will choose to eat stuff like yogurt and salad. They were very picky little kids though. My mother-in-law and her sister have always been in a little competition to see which of their grandchildren were better eaters. She always “lost” the competition but now the cousins are obese and my children are very slim, fit and athletic so I wouldn’t call that “losing”. She also “lost” the potty-training competition too, as my boys both waited til they were 3 1/2 to use the potty, but they both use the potty just fine now too.

  42. Sonia (DDM) Says:

    I gag, to this day, if I see a photo of a chicken or turkey pot pie. I had an evil step father who forced me to eat them almost every night of the week. If I didn’t eat it, I went into the corner until bedtime and it was waiting for me on the breakfast table cold. He was the male Joan Crawford.

    I was blessed with a child that has significant sensory issues. He can see a plate of spaghetti 6 tables away in a restaurant and gag until he vomits. Dangly foods = barf. Stringy foods = barf. It is REALLY difficult to feed him. He has subsisted on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a year. And now he’s starting to gag over those too. We haven’t had much luck re-introducing foods that he used to eat to make them ‘new again’, as he remembers and gags anew. I worry all the time that he’s not getting enough food. But I try really hard to not make it a battle. His gagging over foods won’t ever be because I forced him to eat something he hates. It’s one of those awful childhood memories of mine that I refuse to instill in my own child. My step father taught me everything I ever needed to know about how NOT to parent.

    Thanks for this post!

  43. AmyS Says:

    My daughter is not that picky but our issue is eating a balanced meal of things she likes! Last night we had grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and rolls, all of which she likes but all she wanted to eat was the roll (gets this from me!) so after one we cut off the rolls and told her she had to eat some chicken and veggies. Once she took a bite of the chicken she told Daddy it was “yummy” (he grilled) and then to get her to eat the veggies he challenged her to “race” him — who can finish a piece first — and she finished all the veggies on her plate. Breakfast is a similar problem, she always says she isn’t hungry but if I make something “for Mommy”, sit next to her and offer to share, she will happily eat. I worry that we are messing with her ability to stop eating when she feels full but knowing what she is like when she hasn’t eaten, we do it anyway. After low-blood-sugar induced bouts of tears/tantrums are quelled by getting some food into her, we talk about how not eating when we are hungry can make us cranky so it is important to pay attention to what our bodies are asking for but I don’t know that she is getting it (she’s 3.5 yrs). Any suggestions?

  44. hedra Says:

    I highly recommend a feeding clinic trip for Sonia’s child with sensory issues … having had a child drop foods after every negative experience, and then start restricting volume, to where he was slipping down the growth chart, sooner is better than later. I learned a lot of how to handle the issue from the pros - Most of which is exactly what Chris said, with specific tweaks for the child-with-serious-health-or-sensory-issues. Oh, and we blew it a lot trying to fix it ourselves (made it worse by trying to make it better). Professional guidance was critical. If reflux or sensory issues or trauma (a choking incident, dental problems, etc.) are playing a possible role, it is worth talking to a pro, IME. Doing the approaches here likely won’t hurt, but they will not make things improve if there’s something more to it. We also had to do sensory therapy, specific non-food reward systems, instill a motivation to eat where all internal motivation had been erased.

    I do bring backup food to family events for our oldest - I know he ‘cannot bear’ most food offerings, and I decline to make him go hungry, as well as declining to make it ‘grandma’s problem’. We keep it simple and plain, and he is required to be polite even about the foods he isn’t eating. I don’t let any of the kids manipulate the grandma’s into putting in extra effort over the food issues (our second has different issues, though not pickiness), but for family dinners (like thanksgiving and birthdays), letting the picky child go hungry seems unkind. For friends houses, peers birthday parties, and the like, either he can ‘deal’ for the duration (usually not that long), or the other parents know his food history and offer to include one or two things he eats anyway, and that are simple to offer (like carrot sticks). (I try to keep them from changing the offerings entirely - catering to my child’s needs is not their job, and may make things worse for some other child.)

  45. hedra Says:

    Amy, if you can get her started without specifying the end point or pace (not race to eat ALL, but get started eating any), you probably won’t set up over-eating or poor self-limiting. I have one twin who likes to eat what’s on my plate/bowl, and will ‘get started’ that way, and then I excuse myself from under her (she starts from my lap) by ‘having to get something from the kitchen’, put some of my food on her plate/bowl, put her in her chair, and off she continues with the cool mommy food.

    When my second is very hungry, he won’t start eating because his tummy hurts, so we start him with something to drink. Then he can get going. If there’s something they’ll binge on as a habit, but that I want to include for another child, I may ‘forget it’ in the kitchen until they get going on the rest. OOPS, forgot the applesauce! Though I rarely bother to do that, unless there’s a specific pattern I’m REALLY concerned about. Mostly I think ‘average diet over a week not a meal’ and offer something else the next day.

  46. InterstellarLass Says:

    Like you, I make one thing for dinner. My kids have the option of eating it or not. Nine times out of ten, they’ll go to their room, start something, then decide that they are hungry enough to come give it a try. And “ohmygodidon’tbelieveit” they ocassionally find something they actually LIKE. Other times, they take at least a bite (my requirement) to try it. If they don’t like it, eat what they want from the plate, and that’s enough. I used to fight it. It made it bad for me and them. Then I learned.

    One of their favorites? Turkey tacos. I’ll have to post the story some time of the Taco Day.

  47. Mom101 Says:

    This is just so reasonable and filled with common sense - you’d almost think you had a little experience with kids or something.

    As a picky eater and former VERY picky eater, I remember my mom would make dinnner and we could eat what she made, or make a bagel. That was it. We ate a lot of bagels. We are none worse for the wear over it.

    Thank you for this. I know I’ll have your advice in my head for years to come.

  48. Cellobella Says:

    Great advice.

    And it is important to remember that tastes (sometimes) do change. You would not have caught me eating capsicum (I think you American types call them red peppers?) and I still won’t eat a green one if faced with a choice. But I do like red and yellow ones and started liking them at age 27.

    Still don’t like peas much but will eat them if in front of me. In my earlier, wilder days I would vomit them up on principle - which I agree is somewhat extreme.

    Finally I saw a documentary once from the Prince Alfred Hosptial in UK (I think) where they showed families where the kids had ONLY eaten chocolate biscuits (and in another case jam sandwiches) for years. They looked pretty healthy to me.

    I make my kids do the tasting thing in the hope that they won’t go 27 years without enjoying the crunchy sweetness of capsicums!

  49. dcrmom Says:

    THANK YOU! I am so sick of seeing my friends battle with their kids about food. I love how you separate the rudeness issue from eating unappetizing food. I love your philosophy. It’s basically the way I do things with my 3, and it just makes so much sense, but people insist on getting so hung up on food. GAH!!!

  50. Chrissie Says:

    Great response! I enjoyed reading a different perspective, because I’ve only seen the finish-everything-on-your-plate-or-no-dessert method. My question though is, what would you do if your child ate no dinner, yet still ate dessert? Every night. Even dinner they normally love.

  51. hedra Says:

    Chrissie: I know this was likely directed at Chris, but I’ll ask: For how long? No dinner, yes dessert, for how long? Kids go on food jags that can last days or even weeks. And also, how old is the child in question?

    What we did with the brief wander through ‘I’ll eat dessert because I know it is coming but decline dinner’ was to stop having dessert as a standard (nobody got any) for a few days, and tehn randomly include or don’t include dessert after that. It didn’t kill anyone else to not have dessert, it isn’t like dessert has to happen every night. I just made it clear that tonight, we’re not having dessert, any of us. Period.

    It only takes a few days (if that) to get the point across that dinner is for DINNER, and is not just an optional prerequisite before sweets, which are an absolute. Keeping dessert as optional (sometimes we just don’t have TIME for dessert if we are going to get to bed on time, or out the door on time), but dinner as the only ‘always’ thing, seems to have shifted the ‘I’ll just hang out until dessert comes’ thing quite quickly. We let the kids eat until they’re done, they get down, when everyone is done, if we’re doing dessert, it comes out, and the kids come back to the table. No dessert until everyone is done, and no ‘of course we’re having dessert’ as a general rule. That way there’s no reason to become suddenly too full to finish (because they spotted dessert), either. There’s ALWAYS room for a little dessert, it seems. And when they’ve eaten well but not over-eaten, they have reasonable eyes for dessert, too (smaller portions requested).

    High feedback foods are called that for a reason - they’ve got a high reward. I love a good salad, but give me an even choice between salad and chocolate, and chocolate is likely to win. I choose more wisely because I’m older and wiser. A child won’t. I quietly and calmly removed the option for a bit not to punish, but to just allow the kids to get back to not thinking ‘dinner or dessert?’ as two options, but just ‘dinner’ and then ‘ooh, goodie, dessert, TOO?’ as a followup sometimes.

    I’ll add what the feeding clinic said to us repeatedly: CALORIES ARE FIRST. If you can only get your child to consume chocolate shakes, then give them chocolate shakes. Calories come first. THEN, you work on giving them the basis and understanding, rituals, rules, culture, motivation, and self-control to eat well and ‘properly’. But all of that takes time. Years. Heck, most college students are barely getting a grip on it. I don’t expect my kids to have the internal process for it at 8 years old, yet.

  52. Chrissie Says:

    Hey, thank you Hedra! I appreciate your response :) My son is 4 1/2, and he’s a bit of a picky eater. I have to say he’s much like me, he likes to snack instead of eating regular meals. Our general schedule of meals is breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, dessert (sometimes), and a small snack before bed. His snacks are pretty small: a banana, a handful of cheerios or goldfish crackers, a cheese stick. We don’t always have dessert, but snack is pretty much guaranteed, so your suggestion of stopping that for a few days might work. Even when he’s starving, he doesn’t eat a whole lot, so maybe he’s just not very hungry at dinner. Even though there is always room for dessert ;D

  53. badgermama Says:

    I so agree with you Chris! It’s often the height of rudeness for adults to obsess… loudly… intrusively… on what a kid is eating. Whether it is their kid or not! It’s a crazy power struggle.

    I think the adults who obsess reveal a lot about their own issues and hangups.

  54. wookie Says:

    I have a thumb rule regarding people concerned about nutrition. I only have two, but one is a very good eater for variety and the other would prefer to subsist on bread and spagetti squash.

    This guideline got me through a bad bout of depression where I was having trouble being functional enough to meet my families needs and the thought of having to figure out what to make for dinner/lunch/breakfast was crippling my brain.

    Any meal needs to have 3 food groups, any snack should have two. So apples, cheese and crackers are a meal, where just cheese and crackers are a snack. Milk, cereal and a couple of orange slices are a meal. This can work well if you’re trying to make sure even the picky eaters are getting some nutrition… like Chris mentions, noodles with parmesan are a simple side that most picky eaters will take, add a glass of juice or some carrot sticks and you’ve covered three groups, protien, carbs, fruits and veggies.

  55. Nic in Australia Says:

    Do any of you worry about the lack of nutritional balance in your picky child’s diet?

    I have - after 3 years of battling with my daughter and trying every trick in the book at dinner time - decided to respect her eating wishes on the whole and so I have just given her sausages every night for dinner for the past year as this is what she will eat quickly, painlessly and usually without bribery. She usually has to eat 2 pieces of lettuce, one cherry tomatoe and a couple of shavings of carrot - this has taken extreme cajoling until it has finally become habit for her and she even asks for it for dinner.

    However, apart from the guilt factor in the fact that I don’t make her varied gourmet meals every night, I worry about her unbalanced diet. What do other mums do? Do you think a 4 year old is too young to understand why nutrition and health is important?

  56. hedra Says:

    If you’re really worried about the nutrition, try the mypyramid tracker (mypyramid.gov - but do it in off-hours, the server gets loaded) or talk to a pediatric nutritionist. Basically, why worry if it is possible to *know*? When I’m just worried, I react to the worry, not the facts. I push, or limit, because of fear, not knowledge. When I get the knowledge, I can act more reasonably and calmly. I’m a fan of ‘finding out’ because I am a better parent when I know, instead of wonder. Same for ‘does my child need speech therapy?’ and ‘is this going to be a school I’m comfortable sendind my child to?’ - I have to investigate. I may not have absolute answers, but the closer I get to ‘knowing’ the less I worry, and the less I worry, the better and saner my choices.

    I think a 4 year old is old enough to start learning to ‘eat a rainbow’ (my mom’s approach with the grandkids). But really understanding it? Not until 5, or 6, or older. (My mom let the kids pick a colored ‘pony’ bead matched to every color of food they ate at her house, and every full spectrum set they strung would get them a special bead to add. At 3 and 4, and even 5 and 6 that works. They get ‘I need a green thing to eat so I can put green on my necklace’. They don’t get ‘balanced nutrition means good health’ yet.)

    Chrissie: The other thing we did for the ’snacker’ behavior was to move dinner time to when they were hungriest. Yep, dinner for the 4-5 year olds is earlier than everyone else’s. They’re hungry at an earlier hour, and usually by dinner their appetite is already shutting down. Five PM was do-able. I fed the oldest the minute we got in the door from school. He joined us *again* for ‘the usual dinner’, at which he snacked on some of the things we were eating. He joined us for the culture, but for food, he needed his meal time sooner, so instead of ’snack at 5, dinner at 7′ it was ‘dinner at 5, snack at 7′. As he got older, we moved it back. I can’t control his appetite cycle. I can control dinner time. I move dinner time! :)

  57. Mom of All Seasons Says:

    When ever I get tempted to force an issue with food I remember a friend’s story about peas.

    Her father was an eating enforcer. One night she (5) was not to get down from the table without eating her peas. She loathes peas. She shoved peas up her nose in an effort to hide peas. They became lodged in her nasal passages. Mother (a nurse) wisely developed a well-timed migraine and send father with daughter to the ER. Father was allowed to explain to Dr. how peas became lodged in daughter’s nose, why peas became lodged in daughter’s nose and watch as peas were delicately (and disgustingly) removed from daughter’s nose. Daughter was never asked to eat peas again.

  58. Anie Says:

    I wasn’t really a picky eater as a kid. I just didn’t like meat. My Mother and her boyfriend knew this. And they would constantly serve steak-ums. Except my plate would only have that and nothing else. I would be bribed, threatened, and ignored. They’d leave me sitting there for hours. I was nice and polite about it at first. I’d try a bite or two and not like it and move on around the plate. I was told how rude I was for this behavior. Eventually my Mom stopped making them. I suppose she finally realized that none of her children liked them.

    A few years later she dated a man who liked to cook. He’d cook steak and I would politely decline the steak before he even finished cooking. Why? Because steak is expensive. Again, I was told how rude I was. Nevermind that I’d have all the brocoli and potatoes in the world. Years later she got the point and started making me “ham steaks”. I never asked her to, but the fact that she would go out of her way to cook something different for me convinced me it was worth eating them. Whenever they were eating a meat I wouldn’t I was presented with a ham steak. I can’t stand the things now.

    I just know when I have kids it’s going to be mroe along the lines of what you do with your kids. My niece eats everything in sight. I’m just waiting for Mel to have Ian. I’m willing to bet Ian is going to be one of those “wont eat anything” sorts.

  59. Jenifer Says:

    Hi Chris!
    I LOVE your blogs, and completely agree with what you wrote here (and your response to Colin).
    I often tell parents (I am a child psychologist) that you do not have control over any other human (control is 100%), what you have is influence (somewhere between 0 and 99%). This is particularly true about eating (you can’t even force a one day old newborn to eat if they don’t want to!). So don’t try. But you can reinforce spending time at the dinner table. Make a certain (reasonable) amount of time that everyone spends together at the table for dinner. There fore the focus is on spending time together, talking about the day, and not on how much food is eaten. As long as they are sitting there, often they will eat. We also have a rule that you should try to taste everything, and very much praise for trying it (but if they won’t that is OK). There is always cereal if you don’t like anything.

    that is all I would add to your wonderful advice!!!!

  60. Brigitte Says:

    Ooh, Anie, STEAK-UMMMs!?

    They congeal in a particularly disgusting way once they get cold, my stomach is turning for your childhood experience (and I actually like the horrid things, if they’re still hot . . . let’s not think about that congealing action in my arteries).

  61. Sylvia Lowe Says:

    My daughter refuses to eat most food with fiber (fruit, veggies) She’s had some uncomfortable middle of the night visits to the bathroom due to constipation. We’ve then discussed the importance of eating new foods. By the next morning, of course, she’s reneged on her commitment to try something new. Occasionally we give her fiber cookies to help. Any other suggestions?
    Also, while I am still trying to give to tastes of new foods, my husband will get impatient and say something like “Why bother, she won’t try it.” Should I keep trying? She does occasionally try.

  62. Katherine Says:

    Sylvia, I’m coming at this a bit late, but hopefully you see it. I’m your daughter at age 30, and I still can’t eat fruit or veggies. Try adding Benefiber to her food. It really truly has no taste, and it fixes the digestive problems.

    As far as trying to give tastes of new foods, I’d say if you’re “giving” tastes, great. If you’re bribing or cajoling or forcing, it’s probably not worth it. I did end up trying a lot of foods as a young adult that I couldn’t stand as a child, and several of them made their way into my diet, but it wasn’t because someone forced me to try them. Imagine if someone tried to get you to take “just a taste” of, say, laundry detergent, or mud. That’s how it always felt to me.

  63. del4yo Says:

    Chris, I completely agree with you but on one thing…not only the teenage boys are hungry, but the teenage girls too! I was kept off food when I was a teenager, for fear of overweight. My mom kept telling me not to eat this or that…in the end I stopped growing when I was 13…to begin growing again (2 inches) when I was in college. Freaky!

    So please, let the teenage girls have food too!

  64. Suzanne Says:

    Not sure if you’re familiar with this book, but you should be!
    “The Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman, my boys - one kind of picky, the other super picky love it.

  65. jm Says:

    This is seriously the most practical, awesome parenting advice that I’ve heard ever.

    I was a picky eater. I liked five things: meat, potatoes, blue cheese dressing, spaghetti with no sauce, cheese. I ate variations on most of those five things during my entire childhood.

    I grew into vegetables. I don’t think I let a mushroom pass my lips until I was in my twenties. Now? All the veggies I thought I hated? Love them. Sweet potatoes, new green peas, brocolli, onions, bring ‘em on! (Well, except for lima beans, brussel sprouts and green beans.)

    When I was allowed to develop a taste for things at my own pace, I began to enjoy food more. The few things I remember being forced to eat (before I won that battle of wills), I still hate. I still cannot eat green beans for this very reason. Ditto hard boiled eggs.

    Excellent advice.

    (BTW, I once dated a man with 6 brothers. He told me that his mom had them fill up on baked potatoes before serving them anything else. Baked potatoes with chili or cheese or chipped beef or smothered with anything that she could find. And she made stews a lot. They were all very close in age so I’m sure they were in the “eating anything not nailed down stage” pretty much at the same time. His mom was an extremely cool lady.)

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  67. Stephanie Says:

    I’m curious if anyone is dealing with what I call a truly picky eater, where the child has limited their intake to only a couple things? Out ten yr old has taken the same cold lunch to school, everyday, since 1st grade: 2 bun tops. It started at 5 months, after I stopped nursing. He drank 10 oz less formula than the average baby and never finished a jar of baby food (after 3 days I’d throw the jar out). He dropped a breadstick when he touched it, spit out a noodle, and never tried to eat food off our plates. He consumes no meat, will eat peanut butter toast, plain bun tops (not the bottoms - he won’t even try one) and plain bread, but he would never try p. butter on plain bread. Anyway, in the last few weeks we’ve attempted another integration of “trying foods”. this is the first time it’s been a success. Note, a “success” is trying one very small bite without gagging. He’s always seemed to have such a fear of other foods. You can see the fear when he’s made to try a new one. Both my husband and I are picky eaters, esp. as children. But we were not picky to this degree. I always feel like I’m in another world when others say they’re fed up with their picky eaters and then list 3-5 normal foods their kids will eat. I’m looking for others going through a similar struggle to introduce anything close to a “normal” diet for their child. Thanks for anything you could offer.

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