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The picky eater: how do you deal?

The picky eater: how do you deal?

By Alice Bradley

People often ask me what Henry’s eating these days, and in response I typically let out a series of high-pitched shrieks. Because oh, my friends. Oh, dear. It’s not good.

This is a topic I have avoided bringing up because it tends to elicit strong opinions. Either I’m a helicopter parent for fretting overly about my son’s dairy-only diet, or I’m guilty of near-criminal neglect for not shoveling more nutrients into him, or I’m too indulgent for failing to take away the few foods he will eat and force him to consume the foods he won’t.

In other words, too often judgment is heaped on the parent whose child will eat only three foods. (Okay, probably more like six. And yes, that’s fewer than what he used to eat, back when I first publicly bemoaned his teeny-tiny food repertoire.) Many many people who have never lived with the child who presents these food challenges seem to know exactly what’s best for the child, and they’re sure that if they had been the one in charge, they would have fixed that kid right up.

So in other words, advice isn’t what we need. We’ve tried everything there is to try. We tried to buckle down and only feed him what we were all eating, but that resulted in one screaming match after another, and after a while all the pleasure of dinnertime was destroyed. Then we brought him to a feeding clinic ,where they determined that he was, well, a picky eater (duh). They provided us with a routine to follow every day—a “game” in which we would gradually get him accustomed to new foods, little by little. They insisted it would work, so even though he hated it, we played on—every night, week after week, month after dreadful month, I lured him to the dining room table and “played” this “game” with him. Then came the day when the game progressed to actually eating the new food—and he put his head to the table and pretended to sleep. Next night, it was the same thing. And the next, and the next. What could I do? He had figured out the power of civil disobedience. I packed the awful game away and never called the feeding clinic again.

After that, I read every book by nutritionist Ellyn Satter there is to read, and then I actually spoke with Ellyn—who is lovely, by the way, and if she came here to live with me I am sure she would solve all our problems like that. She agreed that Henry was a difficult case, but in the end, she essentially told me to stay the course. Keep offering him new foods, keep watching him turn them down. Eventually he would outgrow this.

A story in last year’s New York Times backed up Ellyn Satter’s assertions. Picky eating is a genetic trait, according to the story. If you or your husband were picky, there’s a good chance your kid will be, as well. (For the record, neither Scott nor I were picky in the least. And yet.) And it’s a phase, says the Times. A phase. Oh, how I want to believe that.

Still, though, I wonder. I wonder if these habits don’t become ingrained for life. At the feeding clinic they seemed to think so, but then, they’re sort of supposed to say that. If everyone outgrew pickiness, there would be no reason for the clinic’s sadistic games. And I do know plenty of grown-ups who outgrew their limited palates; on the other hand, I know several adults who didn’t, including one young woman whose diet is almost as disturbing as her grayish pallor and listlessness. Her face haunts my dreams.

Our pediatrician insists that we leave it alone—Henry’s not losing weight, after all, and what he eats is in fact fairly nutritious. But we’re not comforted by this. We don’t want our son to greet the idea of new food with terror and anguish. His new-food aversion seems to have reached the level of a phobia, and I’m not so sure that fear like this can simply go away.

Your turn, my readers. Do you have a picky eater in your house? A seriously resistant eater, such as my own? Do you give them their favorites, to keep the peace—or do you forge ahead with new and strange foods, peace be damned?

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • suburbancorrespondent

    September 5, 2008 at 10:08 am

    This is where having lots of kids makes things easier on the parent. I don’t have time/mental capacity to remember who likes what and which food makes which child cry. We just serve what we serve and someone (always) cries about it. And we ignore it. Eat, don’t eat, whatever. They’re all still alive. It’s not worth focusing overmuch on – just perpetuates the problem. And no matter what, when they grow up, they’ll blame you.

  • Amy in StL

    September 5, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Suburban’s comment reminds me of how my mom grew up. She was a picky eater who grew up in a family of 6 kids. Everyone had to clean their plate or face that same food for the next meal. I have to say that despite the trauma I’m sure she thought it caused, she’s the least picky eater I know.
    Oh and my boyfriend has a nephew who only eats sugary cereal and pizza. And he’s 8.

  • Stacey

    September 5, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I was a picky eater & even though you will never get them to admit it, my parents are picky eaters too. The only veggies they agree on are canned green beans and corn on the cob. I can’t stand canned green beans. I’ve always assumed my kids’ pickiness was just my food karma, but if it is genetic then I can blame my parents! 🙂
    I just keep offering different foods & insisting on just one bite. What I make for dinner is what is for dinner, or nothing. But I take their tastes into account. I’ll make spaghetti, which they love, the night after a roasted chicken, which they don’t view as food (only in nugget form is chicken considered food). Sometimes they surprise me and not just taste it but like it. I’m hoping it is just a phase by mine lasted 26 years and mom’s is still going strong after 68.

  • molly

    September 5, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Oh, yes. Yes and yes. M is almost 6 and has gone from mac and cheese and PBJ to actually eating scrambled eggs, tofu (although she doesn’t like it much) and pretty much any veggie as long as it’s plain or steamed.
    But she still has a panic attack at the mention of maybe trying any kind of bean. And she now has an excuse for no meat ever passing her lips – she’s a vegetarian.
    I can’t complain too much. She eats very healthy, balanced meals. No white bread, junky snacks, or straight juice. It’s just kind of boring and monotonous.
    And I get the whole judgement thing too. I feel bad when we are with friends and I let my kid get away with just eating what she wants while the other kids are told to eat something of everything. I just don’t want to turn it into a battle.

  • Marnie

    September 5, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    As a kid, I once went weeks insisting that I would only eat PB sandwiches (no jelly – i hated jelly). My mom freaked and actually took me to the doctor who, once mom confirmed that I was indeed eating each and every PB, said “Let it go. She’ll get tired of it eventually.”
    Fast-forward 30 years, I now have a 7-yo selective eater. She would try anything until she was 2 1/2, and then it was like a switch was flipped.
    To answer the most frequent comments from those who don’t actally know my child: !) We do encourage her to try what we’re having, 2) she *would* rather starve herself than give in to my demands so 3)I’m not willing to create an eating disorder out of this particular control issue, and 4) no it’s not a big deal for me to make a PB&J (or frozen waffle or quesadilla) since I know she’ll actually eat it all. In fact, we just spent a couple weeks in Europe, and she ate wonderfully. Even though she stuck to the kinds of foods she liked, they’re still different when you’re in a different country. And don’t we all try to stick to the things we know we like when we’re in a strange place?
    She wants fruit for her snacks and dessert, loves dairy, gets plenty of protein. So what if she doesn’t want to try every new thing and eat exactly what we’re eating. I’m far more adventurous with food now than my friends who weren’t picky eaters. I grew out of it, so will she.

  • RookieMom Whitney

    September 5, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I have one picky eater and one brave and endless eater. I empathize with my picky boy. I can tell that he is upset by certain textures and the thought of two foods being mixed together. I was very picky myself and I outgrew it. I think peer pressure is a key piece of this and as he starts going to other people’s houses for meals, or maybe when he gets to the dining hall in college, he will figure it out.
    Agree with Molly that I don’t want food to be a battle zone. When I ask him to try something and then he holds it near his lips and looks stressed out and then says, “I don’t want to.” I say ok. There are so many other battles to fight. And, even our picky American kids have rich and varied diets compared to the rice and beans of developing countries. If they are growing, then you have to let it go. Meal time will never be a fun family event if there is always a stress about who’s eating what.

  • Anne

    September 5, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    We just keep trying – I don’t make something new/extreme every day, but when I do make it I want her to at least try it (the “rule” I heard to lay on kids was three bites; one for their stomach to try, one for their mouth to try, and one for the brain to decide if they like it 🙂 ) She’s pretty good about it, and I do try to respect the things that she seriously hates – I figure if I’m allowed to have opinions about what I like or not, so is she. So I don’t make her eat beans if she doesn’t make me eat bananas and that works out very well.

  • Issa

    September 5, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I have a cousin who was a picky eater. She’d be eating cheese sandwiches at Thanksgiving. She literally ate 5 foods for years. My aunt and uncle tried everything to no avail.
    When she went to college, she was willing to try certain new things and last year she actually had a plate full of Thanksgiving food on thanksgiving.
    I say, let it go. He’ll live and you’ll all be happier if you just accept how he is and know that one day he’ll maybe want to try what everyone else enjoys.

  • monica

    September 5, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    My mother was a VERY picky eater. She remembers eating bread and butter, potatoes, and milk for most dinners. She grew up on a farm and since there were always bread and potatoes and milk from the cow–well, she didn’t starve. She was never forced to eat other foods (my gram probably didn’t have the energy since she was milking cows and all) and did eventually ‘grow’ out of it. Somewhere in her mid-twenties to thirties she decided pasta sauce was yummy (hello pizza!) and could eat grilled cheese and a slew of vegetables that were previously off limits. So, anyway, a long-winded way of saying she probably was very Henry-like at one point and is one case of getting over it on her own time and of her own choosing. Good luck with both Henry’s eating more foods and being able to relax about it all.

  • Becky

    September 5, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    We made a decision when our first child was a toddler that we simply didn’t want to fight about food–that having the dinner table be a battleground or just a tense experience would undo all the good of having dinner together.
    So now that kid is 7, and she’ll eat most anything that isn’t just unapologetically a brussel sprout. And our toddler loves his dairy and bananas. I keep putting food in front of him. Sometimes he accidentally tries it. But at least he’ll have strong bones!

  • Jonah Lisa

    September 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I was picky, husband was not. I grew out of it and so did my sister. My son is so-so. I find best success when I put the new thing in front of him and then just ignore it. I don’t ask him to eat it but he watches us eat it and will often break down and try a bite by the end of the meal. This is with new stuff that I actually KNOW he will like the taste of. Of course, there are certain things I just know he won’t like, like broccoli rabe and I don’t expect him to eat. Still, I use the technique with those things as well, just without any expectation.
    I also find that peer pressure works and he has tried several new things when he’s had meals with friends and cousins a little older than him. If they eat something, he will try it. Again, not pushing or making deals, just sticking it on the plate and not saying a word.
    That’s what has worked for us.

  • julia

    September 5, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Not a parent but I have a brother who is 24 and has been a very picky eater for 21 years. There are a handful of foods he will eat, and only two that have been added since he began college. My parents took him in once when he was around eight and the doctor said he was fine when compared to malnutritioned children, but I still worry about his long-term health. He’s definitely the skinniest/shortest of the brothers in the family, often cold/tired and prone to bloody noses. I think my parents continue to believe what they wish to be true.
    Whether more fighting/coercion/bribing would’ve changed anything, I don’t know. He’s a really smart, quirky guy and I love him, but when 90% of your calories over the course of 10 years come from the same five foods (peanut butter (one brand only), white bread, oatmeal, milk, and bananas), can you really be healthy?
    Just to say that not all kids grow out of it. My parents are still waiting for my brother to. And he’s dating, graduated from college, and living on his own in a new city, all of which were milestones they said would change things.

  • Holly

    September 5, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    My son was pickiest around age two, and every year since (he’s almost 6) it’s gotten a little bit better. There are now about 12 or 15 regular meals that he’ll eat, plus snack foods. Recently he’s been trying more things. Just one bite, usually, but it’s something.
    For us, what is least stressful is best. I’m still a short order cook, but our lives are easier if he eats. I’d rather that he gets the calories that he needs and frankly, he’s more pleasant when he’s not incredibly hungry. I give him a multi vitamin every day and hope it fills in the gaps.

  • kim

    September 5, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    So apparently, the consensus is that he might grow out of it, or he might not. I can agree with that. To Alice and to Julia of the picky brother, I have a younger brother who ate pb&j or cereal for dinner almost every night through middle school, unless we were having pizza, in which case he would lift the cheese, wipe off all traces of offending sauce, and replace the cheese. I didn’t care, I got his crusts 🙂
    Sometime during high school, he added chicken patty sandwiches with lettuce, mayo, and cheese. When he was college-aged, he lived with several other guys, and we went to their house thinking we’d see a fridge filled with beer. instead we saw like six gallons of milk, initialed with Sharpies, and every cupboard was crammed with cereal. Regression.
    Finally, when he hit 30, he got married, and his wife loves to try out gourmet recipes. Suddenly, you’d think he invented this whole gourmet thing. And now they have a son, who will be 5 in a couple of months. Poetic justice dictates that this son should be a picky eater, and my girls should not. Well, there ain’t no justice.
    The other night, my mom was asking almost-5 Ben what he wanted on his plate for dinner, and he wasn’t answering. I said “Ben, if you don’t answer, we’re putting on what WE think you should have… like SPINACH!”
    My mom asked him again what he’d like, and he said “Oh, I’ll just have the spinach.”
    Turns out spinach is his favorite, and Mom didn’t have any. Oops.
    And I get the 9-year-old who takes one look at the dinner table, and if I’ve failed to provide instant mashed potatoes (the only thing that will induce her to eat peas) or “those good rolls,” has finally learned to get up and make her own peanut butter sandwich. 21 years to go…

  • Bethany Zabrosky

    September 5, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    My son is picky. And he is a professional whiner. But he’s also an “eat to live” kind of kid. (My daughter? “Live to eat.”) So on the advice of a friend we went the same direction many of the other parents mentioned. What he gets is what he gets. I will sometimes modify what I am making to his likes (noodles and butter only, no sauce on his spaghetti.) If we have something and he tries it and likes it, he does not get a “free pass” if/when we have it again. And if he doesn’t try the food before determining he doesn’t like it, then that is all he gets. Sometimes in the morning, I hear his stomach before he wakes me up.
    If he has a bad attitude and is whining or complaining, he goes to his room. He can wait till we are done with dinner before he comes back downstairs. We don’t want his bad attitude to ruin dinner for the rest of us.
    I will “short order cook” things on nights we have things I know he won’t eat. But as time has moved on, I see his tastes expanding. I am thankful because I thought he was going to grow up on cereal and quesadillas only.

  • alice


    September 6, 2008 at 5:15 am

    If my son said, “Oh, I’ll just have the spinach,” I think I would actually die.
    The point so many of you have made about not making dinner a battleground is exactly what I think. Some kids can be induced to just try a bite, but Henry can’t. I literally think he cannot. I have seen him *want* to try, and then lose it from the stress. Are we being “indulgent” because we don’t want him to panic at the thought of dinner?

    • Ashley

      August 27, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      So often I find myself worried that my daughter is not getting enough vitamins and nutreants…. She is 5y and 4m old and she is 46″ tall and 60lbs solid muscle so how much can I complain really??? But she just started school this week and I find myself worried because when she has lunch at school she doesn’t like what they are having most days and the things she will eat I can’t heat up in the a.m. and expect it to still be edible by lunch time…. Kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one… Not sure what to do….

  • Fairly Odd Mother

    September 6, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Not sure if this’ll make you feel better but I didn’t eat a vegetable other than corn for the first 18 years of my life. Nor would I touch cheese unless it was in Mac-n-cheese or grilled cheese (and even that was iffy). Often, breakfast in high school was a large slice of chocolate cake.
    Several (many, many) years later, I type this as a (somewhat) vegetarian who belongs to a CSA for vegetables and someone who loves, loves, loves cheese, the stinkier the better. And, I no longer eat chocolate cake for breakfast.
    He may still turn out to be an adventurous eater.

  • veronica

    September 6, 2008 at 11:40 am

    My DD is 3 1/2 has some severe sensory issues when it comes to eating, she has had a surgical feeding tube for medical reasons since 2005 for nutrition and med’s–she too is in a feeding clinic, but the approach is much different than what you described with the game. It’s a modified Kay Toomey Program SOS. I’ve read Ellen’s book, but unfortunately since my DD’s considered a medically fragile case we can’t follow her principles and strategies for eating. But that being said we struggle daily, she’s drawn to the dairy foods and crunchy foods–no others. Now they’ve determined she has food intolerances to dairy so we are slowly trying to wean her off dairy and move over to other options with soy but WOW it’s so hard. I know it’s also difficult to deal with the good intentions of those that give us all the advice.

  • kate

    September 6, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I was a picky eater and in some ways, I still am, especially at home. But traveling to and then living in France and being with people who weren’t picky and didn’t understand my pickiness and me being embarrassed about it all the time finally suckered me into being more open to new foods. My daughter is increasingly picky which I find increasingly disturbing though she will still eat almost any fruit you put in front of her, thank goodness. I guess what I’m really saying (because this is a topic I’ve thought about a lot) embarrassment works. I certainly don’t mean you should humiliate Henry. I just mean that some day, if he is in a situation like I found myself in, he’ll open up, especially if you all aren’t around to put up with or explain the pickiness. Ship him off to live with my in-laws. He’ll be eating rognons and soggy chard in no time.

  • Sharon

    September 6, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I made one thing for dinner when my kids were younger, and my youngest is now 20. If they didn’t want to eat, fine. There was always PB&J or a bowl of cereal later. My middle child was the pickiest eater of the three, and now at age 26 he is a wonderful cook and will try anything. The early tendancy was not hereditary – my husband and I eat a varied diet and are not picky eaters. If Henry is not losing weight and there are foods he will eat, I don’t think you are being indulgent to want dinnertime to be pleasant. His health is not in danger, and it’s important to be able to gather at mealtime for social, as well as nutritional, sustenance. When any of my children come to visit, they want family to gather at mealtime – to talk, catch up, and share what’s been going on.

  • Holly

    September 7, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Sharon, you put that beautifully. Social sustenance is just as important as nutritional at mealtime. I can’t help but hope that seeing dinnertime as pleasant, and watching others enjoy a variety of foods at the table, might help my son open up to more foods later in life. And I agree that it’s not indulgent to want to create that kind of foundation.

  • Sheryl

    September 7, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I have a picky eater (although one food that he likes is broccoli, go figure). When I serve dinner he already doesn’t like it the minute I put it in front of him.
    But to tell you the truth, it doesn’t really bother me that much. I wish he would try things before he decides he doesn’t like them, but that’s not something I have any control over. I encourage him (sometimes beg and cajole) him to try a bite or two, and once in a blue moon he tastes something one of his un-picky sisters recommend. It’s not worth a power struggle though. If there’s absolutely nothing he feels he can stomach, I do let him make a piece of toast. Mostly I just serve a lot of broccoli.
    If Henry won’t or “can’t” try a bite, honestly I really wouldn’t worry about it. No point in ruining your own dinner, ya know?

  • Deardre

    September 8, 2008 at 2:36 am

    My son ate like a foodie until he turned 3, and then he just decided that he didn’t like anything! So frusterating! He is 6 now, and the rule at our house is that he try something new each day (spice, fruit, drink, dinner item, etc.), take 3 bites of that item, and then try it on 3 separate occasions before he can decide that he doesn’t like it.
    We keep a foods we like/foods we don’t like chart, and he makes a little mark each time he tries something. That way, he feels like he is in control of the food he is trying, which will avoid any negative feeling toward food or eating disorders down the road.
    Also, it helps when he is involved in cooking/preparing our food!

  • Danielle

    September 8, 2008 at 4:41 am

    I am now the proud mommy of 4 picky eaters. But there is hope! I have a new tactic that seems to be working. It’s called, “Give Them What They Want and Eventually They’ll Get Sick Of It”. 🙂 My oldest for the longest time lived on a diet of peanut butter toast and chicken nuggets. He’s now 7, and yesterday ASKED for jam on his toast! And today as he watched me pack his peanut butter sandwiches in his lunch, and spaghetti in Daddy’s lunch, and ASKED me if he could have spaghetti in his lunch sometime too!
    I figure, if they eat one kind of meat, one kind of fruit or veggie, one kind of cereal and one kind of dairy, and they’re not losing weight, you’re alright. Sometimes I used that kids milk with extra vitamins, but all my kids are healthy, even though they’re picky. The DO grow out of it! 🙂

  • kym b

    September 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Pretty much ditto what SuburbanCorrespondent said. If you have multiple kids, you just don’t worry about it so much.
    I have 3 ages 7, 5 and 3. The 7yo is mildly picky by my standards, but considering she will eat any meat, fruit or veggie out there is not picky by most “kid” standards. My 5yo, he is just like his dad and will eat anything I put in front of him declaring what a good cooker I am. Love that boy. Then my 3yo is probably the most picky and would prefer PB&J for all three meals. She tries things for the most part and will eat when she is hungry. Some days she loves brocolli, other days she won’t touch it. We can’t keep up. They all get the same things to eat and they eat what they want. No one is ever made to finish their dinner, but then, we don’t eat dessert so there is nothing to “make” them finish for.
    I doubt you are too “indulgent”, Alice. Having read your blog for quite a while, it is clear how much you love Henry. Hopefully, he will outgrow it as seems the consensus. Some do, some don’t. You said that the things he eats are nutritious so that is great. As long as the 6 things he will eat aren’t just hot dogs, french fries, ding dongs, pringles, snickers bars and anything from a McDonalds drive-thru, you are golden.

  • Emily

    September 8, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I don’t have children, but I’ll tell you how my parents got my brother and I to eat. They loaded up our plates, and then we HAD to eat it. No discussion, no negotiation. We seriously had to sit at the dining table until we finished. Period. The only problem I had with that system is that they always gave me more than I could eat, so it was sort of stressful. Around 8:00 each night, my mother would announce that the kitchen was closed, and we weren’t allowed to open the fridge. (Wow, that makes my parents sound like food nazis…). I guess it worked because I’m not a picky eater (though I’m not the world’s biggest okra fan). All I can say is, good luck!

  • Astrogirl

    September 8, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Oh, dearie me. We too have a picky eater. He eats, probably, a bit more than most of the picky kids mentioned by the commenters. My biggest complaints with him are that 1: he eats only 4-5 veggies, and 2: he won’t try ANYTHING new. Meal planning gets a bit dull ’round here after a while. Our tactics are thus:
    He does not have to eat at dinner, but he has to stay at the dinner table until we are done.
    He has to take one bite of a new food, but can spit it out if he doesn’t like it.
    We do not make a special meal for him; if he doesn’t like what we make (and I make sure I make at least one item he likes at every meal; usually it’s all things he likes) then he just won’t eat.
    The thing with my kid is, he’s so DAMN STUBBORN (I know, how unusual!). We’ll serve him a food we KNOW he loves (like lasagna), and he’ll INSIST he hates it. WTF is that???
    We have taken to trying some games with him to get him to eat; one game is to tell him that daddy is going to eat his food ’cause it’s just so yummy, unless he can eat it first! Oh my god DADDY IS GOING TO EAT IT better hurry up and eat it kid! That works some of the time. We also try the “this is grownup food, you shouldn’t eat it”, which works sometimes too. And sometimes it’s just plain bribery – thankfully there are some fruits he loves so we can bribe him with berries or oranges. But no judgement – we each try what we can; and I think Henry will grow out of it. I really do. I really do think that the trick is to just keep having new foods available at meals; maybe not at every one, and not to force him to try it, but your good example and his curiosity will lead him to it eventually. 🙂

  • Tammy

    September 8, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Don’t fret. I was an insanely picky eater. My mom didn’t make a big deal out of it (probably because I was kid #3 and the only finicky one, so she knew my pickiness was nothing she was doing wrong). I outgrew it in stages, and now I’m actually a pretty adventurous food lover.
    Henry’s food issues will pass. Or they won’t, and he’ll just be one of those picky grown-ups. Either way, it won’t be the end of the world.

  • Mrs F with 4

    September 8, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Number 2 son was born picky, and stayed picky… and, a little like Henry could NOT be induced to try new foods, not even one bite. He would turn white, panic and gag – and I certainly didn’t force him. I’ve always continued to casually offer him new, or old foods. Sometimes he’d take a bite, mostly not. He would usually try it if we grew it…. but only once.
    Recently though (he’s nearly five), I thought I’d try something new, and with the (advance) co-operation of the greengrocer at the market, she asked him if he’d like to pick something to try. He picked a lychee (!). And yes, he did try it, and ate it, and it stayed down…. So each week, he’s expanding his repertoire (doesn’t always LIKE what he picks, but he *tries* it). I certainly don’t think it’s a cure, just a new tactic for me.
    I’m not prepared to make mealtimes an ordeal for any of us though – but he doesn’t get to eat junk either!
    The other three sprats eat anything that stays still long enough, and neither his father nor I are particularly fussy. Except with Brussel Sprouts – the Devil’s Cabbage.

  • Carrie

    September 8, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    I have 4 children and they have all been picky eaters. The oldest two started to grow out of it when they were introduced to school lunches. There are still some meals that they won’t eat and my rule is that if you don’t want we’re having for dinner, then have some cereal. My #3 eats cereal, cheese pizza, mac & cheese and toast. Most of the time when he asks “What’s for dinner?” and I tell him, he then says, “But what am I having for dinner?” I make sure he has his vitamins and then I really try not to stress about it. It’s worth not having the fight so that we can all sit down together for meals.

  • Feather Nester

    September 8, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I was picky and grew out of it. Now I’ll eat anything except fish/seafood, and I have tried that over and over and over through years and years and WANT to like it and just don’t, so there you go.
    My husband was picky and has not grown out of it. His pickiness has improved, but it’s still what I think is severe, especially for an adult. He’ll eat salad greens and raw spinach, but no other vegetable. He’ll eat bananas and kiwis, but no other fruit. He’ll eat any meat, any cheese. Any bread products must be white. I don’t know how he doesn’t have scurvy.
    But he’ll try anything, and he’ll usually eat veggies if I cut them up so small that he physically can’t remove them from the dish. So I think his attitude is actually good and hopefully will rub off on my daughter. She’s only 10 months old, so too soon to tell how picky she’ll be.
    Good luck with Henry! I’m sure it’ll turn out fine.

  • dayna

    September 8, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    We have 4 kids so honestly, it’s just different. The best advice I’ve ever taken was that you have to measure what your child eats in a week versus what he eats in a day. There are meal where one or three children decide they hate what we’re having so they eat the plain rice and a glass of milk, or the bread and applesauce. We have one kid who abhors anything hot or spicy and one who thrives on both… some days appeal to one, some to the other. I honestly think the trick is not fretting too much about it and going with the old fashioned “they’ll eat when they’re hungry”. But if we’d stuck with having one kid, I’m sure I’d be counting his legumes, so. Listen not to me, probably.

  • BethanyWD

    September 8, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    I agree with the general “I don’t want fight about food” group. For us, that doesn’t mean they get whatever they want, whenever the want; we are just sensitive to what my 5 year old son (the more picky) likes. I don’t confess to that he is very picky, but not very adventurous. We don’t play the “clean plate club”, and they don’t have to have 3 bites of something, one piece of that, etc. I prepare a meal for the four of us (I also have a 3 year old who will eat most anything), prepare the plates (usually a protein/pasta, fruit, and veggie) and that’s what they have to choose from. No fights, if they don’t want to eat something in particular or at all, they don’t. (The one caveat, if they aren’t eating and won’t sit at the table, they have to go to their room – I don’t want them to interrupt the family time. Thankfully, this really isn’t an issue.) HOWEVER, before they get a snack (or dessert, if we’re having it), they need to eat a decent amount of dinner. If they don’t eat any of their dinner, it sits at the table if they are hungry later. I will not reheat it. It only took my stubborn daughter a few times of a cold meal to realize this wasn’t the way to go. Also, we don’t argue, beg, or raise our voices.
    I do agree that this will pass – although that is obviously not much consolation now. Thanks for sharing your story with us – there is always something to learn from other parents.

  • Liz

    September 8, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Mine isn’t terribly picky by kid standards, which is to say she prefers her food mildly bland and without any kind of sauce (unless ketchup counts – the more the better, there!) but at least she’s willing to try things, and sometimes she likes them.
    We don’t make a big deal of it. I fill the plates in the kitchen with what I think are reasonable portions for each person, and she can either clean her plate and then have dessert, or she can pick and choose what she wants and not have dessert. We encourage her to try at least one bite of anything she’s dubious about, but we don’t push it that hard. She’s got a HUGE sweet-tooth, so she usually manages to choke whatever it is down in order to get that ice cream… but sometimes she decides dessert just isn’t worth it. I try to work with her when I can — I don’t make her put sauce on her spaghetti, I let her have ketchup for her fish and pork chops, and even offer alternate preparations (I prefer broccoli and carrots steamed, but she’ll only eat them raw, with dip — which is close enough to “what everyone else is eating” that I let it slide).
    I have no advice to offer you for Henry, alas, having no experience with that extreme sort of pickiness. But if he’s growing and gaining weight and he has plenty of energy when he’s playing and is performing reasonably in school, then I don’t think I’d worry.

  • Robin

    September 8, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    My husband and I were both very picky eaters as children and we both had parents that made a moderately big deal of this pickyness. You know how as a child you SWEAR you will never do to your children at least one or two things that your parents did to you? Well, making me eat things I didn’t like was one of those things I swore I wouldn’t do. I will not claim to have been unwavering in this vow, but I do remember just how awful it is to come to the table, night after night and be faced with the what, for an adult, would be like dining on the set of Fear Factor. My husband and I have been studiously laid back about food preferences. If the boys try it and don’t like it, end of discussion.
    I will not claim a causal connection here, but Garrett and Weston, while not adventurous eaters, are able to go to a restaurant and eat a pretty good variety of stuff. They eat shrimp, curry, and lamb, all things neither my husband or I would have touched as a child. They eat cheese and pizza, and Garrett eats raw tomatoes. I would not have touched those with a ten-foot pole. I don’t claim to hold the magic bullet, but maybe try to get Henry to JUST taste things. If he doesn’t like them then he can move on with no further discussion. If you never discuss what he is or isn’t eating with him or anyone else again, he’ll probably better off for it.
    It’s tough though, isn’t it? You want your kiddo to be healthy. As long as he isn’t wasting away, try to take a deep breath and enjoy the process of eating a meal together rather than making the focus on what is or isn’t going down his throat. You’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked, right? Now just try, not trying.

  • Snappymom

    September 8, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Oh, my. I have a very picky eater, and it’s driving me insane. If we are having something he doesn’t like, he will insist he isn’t hungry. I KNOW he has to be. His refusal to eat makes me nervous, it makes me WORRY. Why won’t he eat anything? won’t he STARVE?? What should I DO? I’m at a loss. We have a two-bite rule. Two bites of everything, hungry or not. And when taking those two bites, he acts like I’ve prepared something VERY VERY disgusting, or maybe even poisonous. I have been assured by everyone that he will not starve to death, and I have heard his little feet in the middle of the night when he sneaks into the kitchen for a peanut butter sandwich.

  • Sophie

    September 9, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I have an 8 year old who ate darn near everything until he was about 3, and then became picky to the point of really only wanting cheese or toast or eggs or milk. (At least breakfast was easy!) But I have come to think of him as particular rather than picky. He thinks it is a crime against humanity to mix foods up, so something like a lasagna is absolutely out…but over time he has come to eat most of the components of lasagna on their own. He hates condiments of all sorts, ketchup included…but I don’t think he’ll suffer from not eating mayo! There have certainly been times when I was extremely frustrated and cajoled him to try things (he didn’t), and I have gotten by turns very bored with a limited menu or very irritated with having to fix at least one thing he’d eat when I was already fixing two versions of something else…because I am vegetarian and my husband is not. (So I guess I’m picky, too, in my own way?)
    I only have two things that I KNOW I did right, and offer them to you: I never made a HUGE deal out of what he ate, and I never caved and gave him junk just because I wanted him to have some calories. Being hungry because you refused dinner is not a good reason to have a chocolate chip cookie. I am also fortunate to have a scientific-minded son; when he was about 4 I explained to him exactly why he was having such an uncomfortable time going to the bathroom–not enough fiber. I taught him what foods had fiber in them, and over time he found a few he was willing to eat now and again.
    All the best to you. As with everything in parenting, this too shall resolve itself, either as something you’ve learned to adapt to or as a phase that he moves beyond. And then there will be something else to make you crazy with worry or frustration! 🙂 Persevere.

  • Sophie, Inzaburbs

    September 9, 2008 at 1:04 am

    I was a terribly picky eater. Once, aged 4, I survived for two weeks on nothing but canned beans and bananas (or so the story goes). I just grew out of it, and by my 20s I could eat anything.
    I do ask my picky eater to *try* what is on his plate. I am convinced that just having the exposure to the new foods is the key to broadening the range of things you can eat.
    However I will never *force* him to eat something he doesn’t like – this is because I remember the horror of being a picky eater myself.
    Imagine someone putting a plate of vomit in front of you. Then asking you to eat it. You can’t can you? As I remember it, that is exactly what being a picky eater is like.

  • tamara

    September 9, 2008 at 1:48 am

    I’ll probably just echoing others here in saying…he’ll grow out of it, and even if he doesn’t he’ll can still figure out a way to eat healthy etc. Peer modeling/pressure at school can really help. My child’s ability to try new foods skyrocketed (figuratively) after a year of kindergarten and eating with his peers at lunch.
    My personal add is that folks who say they don’t bend to their kid’s wills…don’t have extremely picky eaters.
    Personal experience: I’m mom of a VERY picky eater (yes, he really did starve himself, yes we’ve been to many feeding clinics, and yes, he even had to get a g-tube for a couple of years… but things have gotten much better). Age six now, and he sometimes even eats things that are on my plate.

  • carrien (she laughs at the days)

    September 9, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Eat it or go to bed.
    That’s how it works in our house. They have to try one bite of everything when they first start turning up their nose at strange things, around the 2-3 age group. But after they have tasted it, if they don’t like it they can go to bed hungry. Simple. And is you feel the need to scream and carry on about the injustices you are forced to suffer, you can do it in you bed room where the rest of us enjoying our dinner don’t have to listen to you.
    And, if we happen to be having dessert, which doesn’t happen all that often, you won’t be getting any unless you have eaten the healthy food on your plate first. You don’t eat treats on an empty stomach, and you certainly don’t eat them in place of of real food. About 5 hours ago I got a 4 year old to down a whole bowl of Tom Ka Gai for teh first time. Even though she didn’t think she liked it very much because the flavors where strange to her. Ah, the power of dessert. And no I don’t think I’m causing them any eating disorders by making dessert “A reward food for eating regular food” Everyone like dessert better. It is more unhealthy to be taught that you can eat sweets whenever you want to, in my opinion, than to be taught that you only eat sweets at certain times and in certain situations that encourage self control and awareness of your consumption.
    Call me old fashioned but I don’t think desert is what’s making America obese. I think it’s sugar in every other context but the family meal that might be to blame.
    But I’m also old fashioned on other things like expecting my children to obey and speak respectfully to me and to each other. Whether they are having a bad day or not. I assume they are actually capable of exercising self control, even at the dinner table. MY grandma would be proud.

  • canadacole

    September 9, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I have a super picky eater. She was great until she was about 2 and then she just stopped trying new things and refused to eat many of the things she previously enjoyed. We, too have tried everything. She doesn’t eat any fruits or vegetables, and that worries us. At one point, on the advise of my mother, we told her she couldn’t eat anything until she ate some fruit or a vegetable. She lasted 3 1/2 days and then I broke and let her have a sandwich. Yes, she will gladly starve rather than eat something she doesn’t want to. We no longer force the issue. We offer healthy foods at each meal and she can take it or leave it. Her pediatrician points out that she’s growing fine, she’s at a healthy weight, and she almost never gets sick and suggests we stop worrying. HA! You never stop worrying. But I’ve stopped taking advice and am hoping that she will, indeed, outgrow it.

  • Ariella

    September 9, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I don’t have kids and was not a picky eater, so this comment isn’t exactly topical to the discussion. But I did (and will) eat anything you put in front of me. My husband will not eat: tomatoes, mushrooms, tofu, asparagus, beets, raw onions, prunes, stinky cheeses, ANY fish (including sushi), and a multitude of other things. Unsurprisingly, all of his food dislikes are exactly the same dislikes as his mother’s.
    This drives me out of my mind insane… before we were together, I ate salmon 2-3x week, now I barely eat it at all because I refuse to cook meals for two people (he cooks too, btw).
    So when I see these discussions, even though you’re all talking about your kids, I am glad I’m not alone. I hope to God our kids are like me and not him, though, because I have no idea how I would deal with a kid who required me to make a separate meal (even if only a PBJ sandwich) every time.

  • Dana

    September 9, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I was and am a picky eater. My son, who is now 18 was also a picky eater. No veggies, nothing red, no pasta, noe red meat. no hamburgerunless it was in a taco blah get the drift. I too, took him to the doctor over and over and was told not to worry about it. He was growing, thriving even!
    And now, NOW just when I have resigned myself that this child will never eat anything but the same three meals over and over again, he decides he’s going to branch out! He’s tried new things here and there before and we’ve been able to add to his repertoire but nothing prepared me for him to eat lettuce! and pasta with alfredo sauce! and anything BBQ’d! or ribs! The list is endless now!
    So, keep your head up, don’t stress and when you stop, he’ll start trying things. Slowly. Ever so slowly. But it will happen.

  • Caroline

    September 9, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I have one picky eater, one not-as-picky-but-if-my-picky-older-sister-turns-up-her-nose-at-it-so-will-I eater.
    My picky eater was the baby that ate everything. My friends were always comparing their babies to her, saying “why doesn’t MY baby eat like yours?” and I was so proud and sure that I knew how to raise a “good eater”. Then she turned 6, and suddenly nothing was good anymore. Her previous favorites were no longer appealing. I’m still confused as to what happened, but I do my darnedest not to get worked up about it.
    My younger son was a very odd eater. He was mostly agreeable, and would try foods, but the textures didn’t agree with him, and up they’d come. We used to joke that he had a food selector in his stomach and he would only barf up the food he didn’t like. He’d be eating corn, mashed potatoes, chicken, etc, and seem to be enjoying it, but then suddenly UP would come the mashed pototoes only. REJECTED! No corn, no chicken, just mashed potatoes.
    Now he’s four, and when his sister makes a face, so does he. But, I can usually encourage him to consider trying things and he’s glad when he does. He actually asked ME if he could try my lox on an everything bagel the other day, and then he wouldn’t give it back. He’s going to be my sushi partner one day, I just know!

  • Jennifer

    September 9, 2008 at 9:07 am

    No picky eater here but so many of my girlfriends have them and I do not know what I’d do. It stresses ME out when they are over for a meal. Just wanted to send my sympathy.

  • Marcie

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I remember my five year old nephew eating bread and ketchup at christmas dinner. He’s now 20 and eats everything. Henry will outgrow it, as hard as I’m sure it is to deal with.

  • Anonymous

    September 9, 2008 at 10:32 am

    As a former picky eater (nothing but PB&J for one entire year, blessings upon my mother, for I was #5 of 8 kids. Now I eat anchovies and the stinkiest of cheeses.) I say unto you: stress not.
    I’m a biologist, and I believe down to my toes that this stuff is two parts biology, and one part power struggle. Does it strike anyone but me that the age at which pickiness kicks in is really consistent? Right around two or three. Just about the time that, were we still living out on the savanna and foraging, literally living hand to mouth, a kid would be beginning to move around somewhat independently and starting to find food himself. Under those circumstances, the kid who put any old thing in his mouth, was the kid most likely to accidentally eat something toxic or poisonous. Children are more susceptible to toxins than adults, because their livers and kidneys aren’t fully developed yet. A small bite of poisonous mushroom that might only make an adult sick could kill a small child. The kids who only ate familiar foods, who only ate bland foods, were the kids who lived to grow up and make babies who shared their genes for food suspicion. Once you are fully grown, and your detoxifying organs are up and running, you can afford to try stuff that might make you sick, which is consistent with the many stories here that go “I wouldn’t eat anything, and now I do.”
    So it makes complete sense to me that small children would begin to reject new foods, spicy foods, even foods they used to eat if the taste is strong. If you think about it this way, Henry’s behavior makes complete sense. (What’s weird is the kid who will eat anything; but that kid is here because the adventurous — or should we turn the tables and call them “reckless”? — eaters have been largely shielded from food risk for a bunch of generations now.) The stuff he will and won’t eat has nothing to do with you.
    Except in that you make it have something to do with you.’Cause this is also the age at which a child notices: Hey, Wait Just One Minute. I Don’t Seem To Control Things Here. Except that he does, absolutely, control what he swallows. Or doesn’t swallow.
    Thus, I am in the camp that says: why force him? If he’s healthy, the stuff he does eat is not junk food, and you are not driving yourself into the ground making everyone a made-to-order meal, who does it hurt to leave the sauce off his pasta? Peace is good. Laughter at the dinner table is precious. When he turns down something delicious, just say,”Excellent! More for me!”

  • Fream

    September 9, 2008 at 10:59 am

    My daughter, Kara, is only eight months, so we’re not having food battles yet, but I was an extremely picky eater as a kid and still am as an adult, though I will branch out on occasion. I can remember sitting at the dinner table for hours after dinner because I wasn’t allowed to leave without finishing my plate. Once my mother forced me to eat a spoonful of eggs and I threw them right up. She stopped forcing me after that.
    Because I know first-hand just how stressful it can be to have new foods forced upon you (even to this day!), I have already told my husband that we will not be doing that to our children. Personally, I’m more apt to try something when people are less focused on the contents of my plate, so I will extend that same courtesy to my kids.
    It sounds like you are doing a great job, Alice!

  • ~annie

    September 9, 2008 at 11:09 am

    If the limited food he’s eating is nutritious and he’s healthy don’t sweat it. My mother swears I “never” ate. But here I am – almost 46 old and pretty healthy! My daughter started out eating everything BUT the most popular “kid-fare.” Now at 17 it’s the reverse. I think she’ll survive.

  • erni

    September 9, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I haven’t read anyone yet mentioning getting the children involved with food preparation or talking about where it all comes from.
    Kids need to help out making dinner, with hands on experience touching the foods and watching how they are cooked, even if it’s just running a tomato under water for very young kids.
    Get them to grow some vegetables, in a pot if you don’t have garden, take them out to farms, join one of those small organic hippie farms where they take the kids around and show them where it all comes from.
    Even if they still refuse to eat it, it gives them the knowledge for when they are older and on their own of how to find and prepare healthy foods.

  • Jen

    September 9, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Here’s the thing about forcing him to eat things he doesn’t want to–dinner becomes stressful, mealtimes become stressful (I mean for him, though I’m sure for you, too), and the association of that meal and the stress will stick with him, I promise you. I was a picky eater–an earlier commenter said something about the stress on her son’s face when he tried to eat something, and that’s how it was and still is for me (I’m 32 years old). I eat better than I used to, I’m more willing to try new things, but dinner is still agonizing for me when I have to eat a real meal with meat and vegetables. I still gag sometimes, not because it tastes bad–it’s usually after I’ve eaten about half of whatever very good meal my husband has made–but more because of the mental associations I still have about having to eat things I didn’t want to when I was little. My parents weren’t horrible, but they were both of the “clean your plate” school and my mother, who eats everything, was pretty adamant about me eating things I knew I hated (usually because of textures). I still have issues with food and am overweight, partly because I can’t get over the mental blocks I built up for so long. I say let him be; as long as he’s healthy, active, and not losing weight, he’s probably fine.

  • Jamie

    September 9, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I was/am a picky eater. My parents tried everything, from ‘just one bite’ to ‘you eat what is on the plate or you don’t eat anything’, but apparently I was willing to starve rather than eat something I didn’t want to. I completely agree that some kids just cannot be made to eat certain foods – I would become physically ill (likely from the stress/anxiety).
    It does get better. I won’t say I am the most adventurous eater out there, but my range of foods expanded every year. The very idea of the taste/texture/smell of some foods is still abhorrent, but for the most part I am willing to try things and find myself liking a surprising number of the foods I hated the most.
    It all works out in the end, I swear!

  • Becky

    September 9, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    My kids aren’t picky eaters, but I have a friend with a few. She lets them make a list of foods they absolutely will not eat (I think it can include about 5 things). She will never make them eat those foods. But, if a food is not on that list, they must try it. She says it helps them feel they have some control over what they are eating, but she also has some control too. Good luck with Henry.

  • JD

    September 9, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Yeah, he’s a picky eater. It’s your cross to bear and will be his, too, as he gets older and as someone above noted, you’re not around to make excuses for him (or separate meals!) But….so what? He’s a wonderfully verbal and sociable kid and this is just his quirk. Maddening, yes, but things could definitely be worse. And if there is one thing I’ve learned in these many years of half-assed mothering, virtually ALL kids are weird in one way or another. The so-called “normal” ones? Few and very far between. At the end of the day, tuck him in and know that you have the best kid for you.I know you know this. You’re very lucky.

  • Amy

    September 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Wow – have I ever been there! My son is similar and my reactions have been similar including visiting an “Ellyn Satter” trained therapist and reading everything she’s ever written. I have given up the “fight” about what to eat. I offer him healthy choices and I don’t stop him from indulging himself occassionally as we all like to do. My son does like fruit so I try to make sure that he is offered fruit with every meal.
    We had such a horrible struggle going on at one time that I was not sleeping and quite distraught over it and I realized that the struggle was going to turn him into a neurotic little person when it came to food. Eating became a nightmare for my little guy. We do have discussions about trying new things and healthy eating/lifestyles and my dh and I hope that we are guiding by example too by eating well, exercising and eating ice cream sundaes if we feel like it!
    When it comes to health, my son couldn’t be healthier! We are very fortunate to have a low incidence of illness for both of our children. Good luck to you and your family – you’re not alone!

  • Lisa

    September 9, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Oh Henry, I think you are missing a bosom buddy in my son…..who does not eat anything than about 6 pre approved foods, which are subject to change every few months just to keep me guessing. I have been told to try the feeding clinic as well, but thought surely they couldn’t fix it for me, unless they come over every meal time and deal with the agony of watching him refuse to eat.
    We’ve tried serving only whatever we’re eating, which he just refuses (after a loud protest demanding his current favorites) and then won’t eat until the next meal. And then I have tried feeding him his favorites until he’s sick of them…didn’t work, tried not caring (or putting up a show that I didn’t care) about what he eats, didn’t work either….who knows. Hang in there, it has to get better!:)

  • Louise

    September 9, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    I don’t think this would work with every child but it has worked like a dream with my 4yo daughter. We are making an alphabet collage of all the new foods she tries. Day one, I got out lots of craft materials and arranged them all on the table along with an apricot. I asked if she wanted to try it and she said no so I started to pack everything away. “Wait mummy, wait.” It was a real struggle for her, she didn’t want to try something new but she desperately wanted to do the art project. I think one of the things that made a difference though was that she wasn’t struggling with me for a change, I just sat quietly and waited for her to decide. She tried a tiny bite and then we made a big red A and she drew a picture of the apricot.
    Day two we glued the label off a tin of baked beans on to the chart and day three she took it to her Nanna and Grandad’s and painted some blobby yellow custard on.
    There are only two rules, it has to be something she’s never tried before and I try really hard to only give her things I think she’ll like. It’s been getting easier and easier and she’s been getting braver and braver. A few days ago at a birthday party she held up some cucumber and said “If I try this can we put it on my chart?” and took a bite. I had tears in my eyes!

  • Lindsey

    September 9, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I have two kids and neither is a picky eater. I’m not lording this over you–just want to say that some of our good friends have VERY picky eaters, and we don’t judge. The only thing we say about it to each other in private is, “Wow, that would suck. They’re doing a good job maintaining their sanity.” Probably, that’s what most mothers are thinking about you, too. And you are doing a good job!

  • H

    September 9, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Wow – you went to a food clinic? You’re braver than I am.
    We put new foods in front of our 3 1/2-yr old boy at dinner, but I usually also put something on his plate that I know he’ll eat. If he ignores the new food, we ignore him. If he eats the new food, we ignore him. He’s actually got a pretty good diet, there just aren’t a lot of variables. He recently added pasta back in, which is thrilling for us.
    I’ve made him my kitchen assistant lately. We made banana bread the other day, and he understood what all the ingredients were, helped me mix them together, and was excited to have some when it came out of the oven.
    So I don’t know. We try different things on different days, according to our own frustration level and willingness to “play the game.” I think it helps that he eats lunch at day care, where there’s no pressure from Mom and he gets to evaluate his lunch against the other kids’ lunches. Maybe eating lunch at school will slowly help Henry?

  • Anonymous

    September 9, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    i know 2 seriously picky eaters, and these are their stories (totally channeling law and order here):
    my brother was really picky and called every vegetable “grass”, then he grew up and ended up a vegan, so there’s hope for Henry.
    but on the other hand there is my grandmother, who in her 70’s still refuses to eat mayonnaise, onions, mushrooms, etc etc, she eats a lot of other things so it is no like she is malnourished.

  • Stacey S

    September 9, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I have used cash. One night at a restaurant in a quiet but desperate moment, I offered my 6 yr old son all the cash in my purse if he would just try some ketchup. He dipped the very tip of one of his fingers in some we put on his plate and tried an almost microscopic portion. He would eat no more but seemed fairly untroubled by the experience. I had about fifteen dollars. He bought 2 foam swords, one red and one yellow, to play Star Wars with. Monetary incentive has only worked this one time so far. Most of the time I don’t sweat his diet. He eats dairy and fruit and has a good multivitamin just about every day. He is also healthy and happy. I have started encouraging him to choose “something healthy for his body” and giving him a couple of choices of foods he likes that are also healthy. He seems to be catching on to this idea and is getting really good at determining healthy foods versus not so healthy.

  • Sophie

    September 9, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Yes, we had the feeding therapist, we “played” the “games”, we did “just one bite”, “eat or go to bed”, “cook! And then eat what you cook!”, “let’s go buy food and eat it!”, “just lick/smell/touch/look at it”, cajoled, bribed, threatened, shamed, ignored, gave in, rinse, repeat. Nobody — nobody — has suggested anything that we haven’t tried. Currently we operate under a system that combines Satter’s approach of providing the healthy meal that he chooses how much and indeed whether he will eat (answer: none, and not) and giving him food from his limited repertoire. My husband is more bothered about it than I am at this point, but I don’t really take that on because (a) he isn’t here for most meals and (b) the effect on my younger son is so negative that I’m choosing not to jeopardize the one good eater we have. What started as sensory/low muscle tone issues have become more complex and phobic as he’s aged (he’s almost 6), and if anyone thinks they can “fix” my kid without damaging him psychologically (further!) you are more than welcome to come and have a go — I’ll even pay your bus fare. I’m not joking.

  • Heidi

    September 9, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    My oldest is 12 – almost 13. He has “progressed” to include cheese in his diet only in the last year or so, and only hidden in a chicken quesadilla with (heaven forbid) nothing else inside. Mac and cheese? No way. Pasta? Nope. Eggs? Hot dogs? Pizza? Whatever other kids usually scarf down? Not my boy. Meat? Ok, as long as it’s plain. OJ? Fruit of some sort? Uh uh. Oh, a bag of pre-shredded carrots? Sure! But a baby carrot? No. A baby carrot hand shredded before him and looking exactly like it came from the bag? Not on your life. Bread, bagels, pretzels and more bread – yup, we have a winner there. Lots of carbs going in but not much else.
    I should state that I have two “normal” eaters, thank God, that keep me sane. Oh, and I hate – no, loathe – the dinner hour.
    I’ve been told the same things from the pediatrician, (“Well, he is gaining weight and growing as he should…” yeah, but can you tell if his arteries are clogged yet from all that beef??), as well as other people (“He’ll grow out of it”) but truth-be-told, I highly doubt it. My older brother was and still is a picky eater – and he’s 50 years old! He eats steak, corn and not a whole lot else. His diabetes didn’t show up until age 24. I look at my son and I can see where he’s headed.
    Food has become such an issue that I’ve backed off a bit; I don’t want this issue to define him any longer. I guess I’m just praying that the teenage years and the hunger that should accompany them will finally force my son to ‘branch out’ and try foods he’s so effectively snubbed in the past.

  • Kirsten in Toledo

    September 9, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Well, I have a picky eater. And now I have another one–although he’s more of a copy-cat eater. O, my 5 year old, has only recently gotten over gagging if a banana was near her, or, actually if any fruit was offered to her that wasn’t freeze dried or a raisin. We’ve only recently had some breakthroughs with “pink” and “blue” yogurt (we cannot mention the actual fruits that these colors contain and I try not to let her see the images of the fruits on the containers). She’ll eat any meat–especially processed meats and pork products (seriously, the way to convince her to go food shopping is to remind her about the sausage samples)–and any cheese. But, as far as vegetables go, they all must be drowned in ketchup. Even then we only have 3-5 bites of the following: asparagus, broccoli (if it’s cut very small and I place it in the ketchup and then in her mouth myself–with my fingers, not a fork), califlower, and green beans. She will, thankfully, eat sweet potato fries by the plateful. But that’s it. I can also convince myself that she’s getting vegetables by baking zuchini into bread, or making carrot or apple cakes/breads. While she knows these are “healthy cakes” she still eats them. I keep offering certain things, but honestly I am so sick of asparagus I could die. But, I just can’t take the crying at dinner, the yelling about food. It just makes me sick. And that’s not how I want to feel when I’m eating my asparagus.

  • Michelle

    September 10, 2008 at 7:15 am

    I am soooo glad that you posted this! My son is on the Autism spectrum, has ADHD, and eats one food consistantly. THere are two or three others that get in the rotation, but that’s it. I’ve tried every method I can think of and all of the ones I’ve been told and no change. Actually, after the school district sent over a behavioralist he did stop vomiting when trying a new food. Although the thought of trying something new still makes him cry. I’ve almost given up and if it weren’t for the fact that what he eats isn’t healthy, I would give up immediately. I just thank God that he can take vitamins.
    Everyone assumes that the pickiness is because of his disorders. However . . . When I was a kid, I was not picky as long as we were at home. Anything Mom made was great. Outside of home, however was another story. I remember sitting in a restaurant wanting to cry when I looked at my order and it wasn’t what I expected. Also, my mother wouldn’t try anything new until she was 27. Since then she has belonged to two different gourmet clubs and eats a wide variety of foods now. So, I have hope it will change.
    I totally get where you are coming from and as long as the kid is healthy, stay the course and ignore negative comments. In our case the fear of new foods dissipated after he realized that it wasn’t a big deal if he said no and I wasn’t going to force him to try it.

  • crabbyappleseed

    September 10, 2008 at 8:27 am

    For what it’s worth: I was a TERRIBLY picky eater as a kid. And a teenager. And one day, after college, I don’t know what happened, but I actually started eating different things. I don’t think my parents could’ve done things any differently, I think I just had to outgrow my super-sensitive taste buds. Also, I survived to a very healthy adulthood:)
    Having said that, we’re expecting our first in a few months, and I’m already dreading this child’s eating habits, which are sure to be terrible. Last time I mentioned it, my mom literally cackled. You’ll get your revenge one day, or at least sit back and enjoy watching Henry tear his hair out as his kids refuse to eat anything except apples with no skin and string cheese.

  • Stephanie

    September 10, 2008 at 9:47 am

    I, too was a very picky kid, and I’m still pretty picky now (I absolutely hate any kind of seafood and I can’t even smell a cucumber without gagging, among other issues). My parents were fairly controlling about food–my dad, especially. I had to finish my food before I could leave the table, even if that food made me gag (which happened quite a bit). I sat at that table until well after bedtime, refusing to eat, many, many times. My mom would finally take pity and send me to bed, sometimes with a glass of milk first. I dreaded dinnertime and hated the phrase “Just try it, you might like it”.
    All of this is a long-winded way to say that you’re not coddling Henry, and that forcing the issue is not always the way to go. Some kids really do have texture or taste issues and forcing them to choke down food that they can’t stand won’t do anyone any good. My 7 year old son is just as picky as I was, and while I do offer food that isn’t on his short list of favorites, I do not make him try it. I strongly encourage, but if he refuses, I let it go. Dinner should be a pleasant experience, not a battle of wills.
    And hang in there, he just might outgrow some of this (and even if he doesn’t, it’s really not the end of the world).

  • Kmommy @ The Poopie Patrol

    September 10, 2008 at 10:10 am

    My D is the same way! The kid will eat absolutely nothing! I also have tried just about everything, and his handful of foods that he will eat gets fewer every day! It’s so completely frustrating! And starting last week he went on a milk strike. Will not drink it!

  • Deb

    September 10, 2008 at 11:11 am

    From the time she was quite little my daughter had strong aversions to numerous foods: oranges, apples, chicken, carrots — the sorts of aversions that made us describe her as “picky.” Turns out she’s allergic (quite) to all of these things (plus others)– a fact we happened on almost accidentally. It makes life complicated, but given us more patience with the hassles of constructing acceptable meals (especially those troublesome school lunches) than we had before.

  • emjaybee

    September 10, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Apparently, we are all insane when it comes to food, our children even more so.
    My brother was super-picky, I was slightly less so. But he was the tennis star athlete and I was the one with weight issues. For what that’s worth. How he did that with a complete aversion to veggies and a crack-like addiction to pop tarts, I’ll never know.
    Alice, who knows? Maybe the only dietary addition to make is to add more wine to *your* dinner so you will stop caring.
    My son is 2.5 and heading right into picky territory–but he has never, ever, tolerated meat, and we’ve already adapted to that. I worry about balance and vitamins but have pretty much decided to just buy the Flinstones tablets and call it a day, so long as he still eats fruits (more than I do!) and doesn’t seem to crave sugar or live on potato chips. If I have to watch him eat cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, plain buttered noodles and cereal for the next (oh God) 16 years till he moves out, I guess I’ll just have to.
    (I am still freaked out that one poster’s kid went 3.5 days–oh my God. I would lose my mind.)

  • hikooky

    September 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Here’s how I look at it. Different sections of kids’ brains are wiring up at all different rates. Some kids are sports stars at age 4, while others are reading stars. I think the “expanding my culinary palate” section lies dormant for many years in some people. That’s how I look at it anyway. (I’m no brain expert – it’s just an observation.)
    My boys are not adventurous eaters, although they get good nutrition. They look healthy, continue to gain weight, are smart and alert, blah blah.
    It sounds like you’re doing fine! Hang in there. He might amaze you one day with a request for cream salsify (gag).

  • Julie

    September 10, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    My husband still refuses to eat veggies. He eats cereal 5 times a day. He drinks about 2 gallons of milk every four days. I make food, and if there is a vegetable in it, he will pick it out. Seriously.
    He puts the blame on his parents. They never forced him to eat vegetables the way mine did. They let him eat what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted.
    Was it less trouble? Sure. But, my parents made us do chores and eat at least one vegetable a day. I’m positive we (my brother and I) hated every second of it. But now, I clean the house and eat my vegetables and my husband still hates doing both.

  • ann

    September 10, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for the reminder, I hadn’t been reading Wonderland lately. And, oh my dear, we are in the same boat. My oldest son is the picky one. Parties are the worst. He can be counted on to eat: half of one plain roll, a couple of carrot sticks, and whatever is for dessert. I was the picky one as a child. I TRY not to let it get to me, but dinner time is exhausting. I also never wanted to be the mom who made separate meals for her kids but … here we are. They usually eat components of whatever meal we are having (instead of lasagna, they get plain noodles, etc.) I don’t know if the better approach is to say, “this is dinner! Eat or be hungry” or to allow a back-up option (have a bowl of cereal after everyone else is done.)

  • The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet

    September 10, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Eh, it happens, Alice. It’s no consolation, I know, but worrying less is definately the way to go.
    Sometimes you get a good sleeper or eater. Sometimes you don’t. Watch, he’ll end up being a chef or food critic when he grows up.
    By the way, this totally explains why you never come over to my blog. God, you must totally hate me.
    Just the same, I think you rock.

  • Erin

    September 10, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I don’t have time to read all the comments and see if this has been mentioned, but one thing that stands out to me is that extremely picky eating can be a symptom of food allergy. Often, the allergic person will eat the allergen almost to the exclusion of other things. I found this to be the case with my daughter, who is allergic to dairy. Her daily intake was along the lines of cereal with milk for breakfast, mac and cheese for lunch, a string cheese for snack and grilled cheese with broccoli and cheese sauce for dinner. Once we got dairy out of her diet, she suddenly started eating lots of other foods and vegetables.
    Often, these types of allergies don’t show up in allergy tests. My daughter tested negative to everything they tested her for, but she clearly reacts to dairy with severe eczema and behavioral issues (as in full-on screaming tantrums in a 7 year old) when she’s exposed to anything with even a trace amount of dairy protein (casein, whey). I also test negative to dairy allergy, but when I’ve been off it for a few weeks, my chronically stuffy nose clears up and I can make out with my husband again and breath while doing it. As soon as I eat something with casein or whey, my nose is stuffy again. Boo! I love cheese! My husband loves to make out. I’m not sure which I love more, cheese or making out with my husband.

  • Sara

    September 10, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    I was mildly picky as a kid, one thing my folks did that helped was to make a ‘face plate’ – lots of small things arranged in the shape of a face – hardboiled egg eyes, carrot and celery stick hair, mouth made of peach slices. If I didn’t eat one thing I still ate most of the others. It helped when there was a ‘story’ going on on my plate.
    I really like the idea of the alphabet collage!

  • jaxies

    September 10, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    when i was a kid, i would not eat ground beef, any kind of bean, mustard, pickles or eggs. if we had chicken, i would only eat the sauce or the crust on the outside but never the chicken. i liked mashed potatoes and pizza and that was good for me.
    after about a year i gave up and ate the rest of the chicken, then i allowed beef. but i didn’t try beans, mustard, pickles or cooked eggs until i was TWENTY YEARS OLD. do you know what it’s like to realize at twenty that you love mustard? to tell your new boyfriend that you can’t make him scrambled eggs for breakfast because you don’t know how they’re made or what they should taste like?
    i am torn about my own pickiness because i both regret not trying stuff earlier and i kind of like that i can REMEMBER the first time i tried scrambled eggs, that i could examine whether or not i liked them with my adult mind.
    so, i guess what i’m saying is, yes, they can grow out of it. my mom never made me eat anything that i didn’t want to and i always appreciated that.
    still won’t eat pickles, though. tried them and realized young jaxies was correct and they are terrible. the rest are now important staples in my life.

  • amyb

    September 10, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Ah, it is so nice to read my story written in print. This week, I am in the cycle of forcing my very picky eater to try new things. He is miserable and going to bed early (and hungry) every night. Perhaps I get into this cycle subconsciously when he is driving me crazy.
    I don’t know about you, but my cycle goes like this: Give him what he wants-Get sick of making the same 3 things for dinner-Start trying new things that he may like-Start trying new things just to torture him-Feel sorry for him and let him eat what he wants.

  • Amanda

    September 11, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Thank you! It is so heartening to know that it’s not just my child. My 4.5 year old son is on the autism spectrum and has huge sensory issues with food, refusing to even touch fruit (forget eating it). He subsists on pasta, cereal and dairy (milk, cheese and an occasional yoghurt). I’d say carbohydrate, but he generally refuses potato too. He eats no fruit unless it’s dried, and no vegetables at all(refusing any sauces, so hiding veg in the sauce doesn’t work). I don’t force him to eat (the anxiety it induces is too much) but don’t allow snacks or dessert unless he has made a good attempt at his plate (an untouched plate remains on the table for the duration and if he asks for a snack he is told that lunch is there…). He can’t even cope with something he doesn’t like being on his plate as it contaminates it.
    I have tried cooking with him (happy to help as long as he doesn’t touch the things he dislikes) but it won’t make him eat the food. We have grown our own fruit and veg – doesn’t work – he’s fascinated but still won’t be interested.
    He told someone that he likes “dry food, that’s cold” (after an awful incident in a restaurant where he burned his fingers on a scalding hot plate of plain pasta & cheese). I thought I’d sussed it as a baby – he ate anything and everything (broccoli florets in his little fists) including spicy food and flavour.
    My sympathies to anyone with a truly picky eater -especially to those with sensory issues. FWIW I grew up in a “clean your plate” household and some memories still haunt me, and I have a lot of issues with food. BUT I am not really that picky now. I want mealtimes to be social occasions (especially important for a child with ASD) but I won’t force him to eat anything. He would rather not eat than be forced to eat something he dislikes.
    Thank you for this post and all the comments – you make me feel a whole lot better.

  • Sophie

    September 11, 2008 at 8:22 am

    amyb! You are me.

  • Katherine

    September 11, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I was a picky eater and my youngest son was a very picky eater. I’m still pretty picky and I remember that panicky feeling when my parents insisly I was actually able to make myself throw up buy mostly I just wished I could.
    I tried to serve something my son liked every other dinner. Lunch and breakfast weren’t so much of a problem. When he didn’t like what we were eating, he could have a peanut butter sandwich or cereal
    He’s 22 now and eats everything. I think all the pressure and fighting is counterproductive and just creates more opposition in the picky eater. The less fuss the better. My husband’s family has a lot of eating disorders, so I didn’t want to do anything to set him up for that.
    Just do your best and it will work out.

  • readersguide

    September 11, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    I was a picky eater, and my youngest is a picky eater. I really do think you should just not worry about it. Our youngest ate cheese and, well, maybe cheese, for a very long time. She’s now 16. She doesn’t eat a huge spectrum of foods, but she can get along. We’ve taken her to Spain and sent her to Italy, and in both places she managed to survive. After about 13, every year she eats a few more things. I would definitely not make a big deal of it, let him eat what he likes, and eventually, either he will or he won’t eat more. But, as you know, there’s really very little you can do about it. And, the bigger the fuss you make about it, the bigger a deal it becomes. Just don’t worry about it — I was a picky eater, and now I eat all kinds of things. And even if I didn’t, it would be okay.

  • Monica

    September 11, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    My son was a picky eater. He was one who grew out of it, but I still blame it for most of my grey hairs.
    We went for weeks where he would only consume pasta with butter and if I was very lucky a little cheese on top. Our pediatrician like yours, pointed out that he was healthy, active and growing and told us not to worry.
    That obviously didn’t stop us from worrying, but he now towers over me at 6’3″ and he not only eats a decent variety of foods, he is interested in learning to cook most of them himself from scratch and just last week he complained because I’d never offered him lima beans.
    In general we got from A to B by making as minor modifications as possible to family meals, serving his meal as our sidedish when we couldn’t adjust what we were eating. We didn’t make a big deal about it but there were always other foods available to try. It was a long and worrying road, and it was populated by family and friends who all had brilliant ideas that they just knew we should be doing. It was damn hard. But there is light on the other side.

  • janny226

    September 11, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I could have written Amanda’s post. That’s my household to a T. But not T-bone; DuckyBoy’s just begun to tolerate a made-at-home, 2-oz puny, squashed-in-the-Foreman-grill hamburger.
    We struggle sometimes and let him off the hook sometimes; more than once we’ve realized afterward that pushing him wasn’t worth it. Other times we do feel he has the fortitude enough for us to insist on a bite, or for the “this is what’s for dinner” routine. If he refuses, we tell him he can have dry cereal later.

  • amymarie

    September 11, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Don’t they say you crave/eat what you need? Maybe Henry just needs lots of calcium these days. Who knows? I have one of those ‘spirited’ children. Don’t fight it, enjoy the good times and he’ll turn out fine.

  • Mandy

    September 11, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    You know, I’ve been in your shoes. There was a time when what my daughter would eat was so limited, it seemed ridiculous.
    I finally decided to stick to a course of offering healthy variety, not making food a power struggle, and seeing what would happen. She ate a lot of yogurt. A LOT of yogurt.
    She still eats more yogurt that most kids, I’ll bet, but at almost three and a half she also will eat things like quesadillas, mac and cheese, chicken cooked just about any way, same for pasta, and she’ll eat ANYTHING vegetable, meat or bean variety if it is in soup. SHe’s a fanatic with regard to carrots. And squash. And of course, ketchup. 😉
    My point is that we just kept trying and eventually it would click. It was exhausting to offer things we knew she’d love only to have her even refuse to taste them.
    There are still times she’s difficult but it’s getting easier.
    he’s not starving, he’ll be fine. Hang in there.

  • Sheri Bheri

    September 12, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Oh, Alice, I’m going to stand in the “don’t worry too much about it” line. He’ll outgrow it or he won’t, but it’s not worth making meal times a battle zone.
    Of course, I do have an idea for you, for something to do to make YOU feel like you’re doing something, even if it doesn’t affect the outcome.
    My daughter WILL NOT do what she’s ordered to do (huh, me neither!). But if you explain WHY, she will usually “get it” and follow the rules.
    So she’s not allowed to say that she doesn’t like something if she hasn’t tried it. Period. Because she CAN’T know that yet. She can say “I don’t feel like trying this right now, thank you Mama” though.
    And we do talk at the table about how meat is good for your muscles and milk is good for your bones and your teeth, and carrots are good for you eyes, ect. I would stress the MUSCLES part and even tell stories about pirates needing fruit so they didn’t get scurvy.
    But the point is to let him draw the link to his eating all by himself. You just offer the information and let it sink in.
    Good luck!

  • Rita

    September 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I was mildly picky growing up. My parent’s were of the mind that you ate EVERYTHING ON YOUR PLATE, regardless of if it was too much food for your little stomach or not. Consequently I’ve dealt with weight problems all my life because I still feel like I have to eat EVERYTHING ON MY PLATE. I still have a few foods I don’t like, but love a varied diet with a lot of ethnic foods being high on the favorite list.
    My daughter was also picky. Very picky. I had a few tricks that I tried to employ once she got to the age where we could negotiate. At 2 or 3, even 4 I just tried to make sure she got SOMETHING into her. Very little junk food was available to her. Always had a selection of the healthy foods she liked to eat. She was more of a grazer than a meal eater and I tried not to stress about it.
    I think all in all reducing stress is the key to dealing with a picky eater. I found that when I consciously stopped worrying things got somewhat easier. Kids feed on the emotions of the parent and if you are anxious and fretful during mealtimes, kids will respond to that. If you are relaxed and unconcerned, the general mood at the table will be the same. The hardest part is not letting outside influences affect things. I had relatives who were HORRIFIED at the selection of food I let her eat. My one brother gave me grief about it ALL the time. The irony is that his 3 teenage kids are the pickiest eaters ever, and mine will eat almost everything.
    Once my daughter got to be 5 or 6 we had a big discussion. I told her that I PROMISED not to feed her anything seriously “yucky”. No strong flavoured veggies like brussel sprouts or cabbage, no strong flavoured meats, nothing too spicy, but in exchange she had to try things 16 times (totally arbitrary number). Not a full plate, but a good sized bite. If after 16 tries she STILL didn’t like it, she never had to eat it again. I allowed her to not like unimportant things like gravy or pudding or even cake (who doesn’t like cake!??) so she still felt like she had some control over her food, but the result is that at 16 years old, she is healthy, not underweight or overweight, no food “issues” that I had at that age, eats a wide variety of healthy food and even loves stuff like sushi and pretty much all the veggies. Except peas.
    Another trick I employed was to hide food in things. She LOVED spaghetti with tomato sauce. Little did she know that I cut up pretty much every kind of vegetable possible and blended it into the tomato sauce with a hand blender. As far as she was concerned, it was tomato sauce.
    Regardless, the less stress you have about meal times, the less stress your child will have, and the less of a power struggle it becomes. When you take away that power struggle, it becomes less of an “issue” and who knows, maybe they will learn to like new things.

  • Lauren

    September 12, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I have a picky 6-year-old son. Just recently I thought, what if I just put all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table and he can just choose whatever he wants? I got the idea from him starting school — he told me he chose several healthy things from the hot lunch line his first day and I was shocked. I realized he was digging having the power to choose! The first time I tried this he looked at me like, what’s the catch? But I think he appreciates the freedom. It hasn’t caused him to eat better yet BUT I have this gut feeling it will work in the long run and there are no negotiations — yay! I always make meals I feel are kid-friendly but healthy, and I will keep ingredients separate for him (noodles in one pile, chicken in another, etc.) but the one thing I will NOT do is make him a completely different dinner.

  • alb

    September 12, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    most of the time at dinner in our house you get what you get, although i do try to include 1 “item” that everyone will like-it doesn’t always happen. you don’t have to eat it and you’ll still get dessert if we are having something. if the entire dinner is something completely inedible (like corned beef & cabbage) you can make yourself a pbj or cheese quesadilla. if it makes you feel better you could give your choosy eater a multivitamin (although our pediatrician says it’s totally unnecessary)

  • Caroline

    September 12, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Alice, I just looked at the list of Henry’s foods that you linked to, and I was surprised that it would even be considered a “picky” eater’s list! I see a fair bit of variety there. I know you wrote that it has narrowed, but even a handful from that list would seem decent to me.
    My two year old is an eccentric eater, but he also has many food allergies (milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, lentils…), and I just don’t want his food intake to become any more of an issue that it already is, so I indulge the eccentricity. This means I let him eat soy pudding, chicken, bolognese sauce, or turkey/bean chili at 6 am if he asks for them…. popsicles slip in there, too, as do juice boxes (the only calcium fortified liquid he will drink, and yes, it has to come from the boxes). I also let him eat on demand, and while running around the playroom dropping crumbs everywhere. I NEVER thought I’d be this kind of mom, but then nothing else about motherhood is as I expected it, either.

  • mfk

    September 12, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    They (the “psychologists” and “researchers”) actually say that you have to try a food something like 21 times (or maybe 27?) before you actually like it. So if Henry won’t even try it once, there’s no way he’s going to like it, obviously. BUT, if you can sneak some disliked foods into his preferred foods, (i.e. carrot cake, spinach “nuggets”, etc), you may have more success. There is an exceedingly trendy book out right now about this very thing and I cannot remember the name at all. But it is by some type of socialite who has nothing better to do than make her kids eat veggies and then share her hard-won knowledge with the rest of us, and I’m sure that it is on Amazon. (keywords: probably “sneaky”, “veggies”, “kids”, “subterfuge and cunning”).

  • sophie

    September 12, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    I’m sorry. but is it just me or are we like realllllly over thinking this??? They’re kids. They have opinions. They’re persnickety. They’re warm, dry, healthy, happy (most of the time) and don’t have dysentery or rickets from being malnourished. I mean, really? Relax, already.

  • aj

    September 13, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    I certainly sympathize with you, Alice.
    I have a 3.5 year old that is extremely picky. There are a lot of “snack foods” he’ll eat, but it seems like we alternate between the same 4 “meals” every single time we sit down to eat. Eating out is difficult. Staying at grandma’s house is difficult. Convincing him to try new things is difficult. Not worrying about all of it is the most difficult of all.
    Long ago we quit making meal time a battle. I fix things I know he’ll eat and every once in a while I’ll beg/plead for him to try a bite of something new.
    One thing I’ve found that has helped a little is that he now cooks dinner with me every night. One of his favorite things to do is taste a little bit of whatever we’re making. He’s recently tasted a few things that I never would of dreamed he’d try.
    As for now, we just let him eat the things that he WILL eat. He loves fruit, so I serve fruit with every meal. I give him V8 Fusion with dinner every night to get at least some veggies in him. He takes a daily vitamin.
    That’s about all I know to do. He’s a healthy, happy, thriving boy. I try to just be thankful for that and not worry about the food so much.

  • -kel

    September 14, 2008 at 12:20 am

    We were both picky eaters, my brother and me. My brother, just to push a point, ate nothing but carrots for over a year, once. We are both healthy adults who eat whatever everybody else around is eating. My parents sort of adopted this world-weary attitude about it, like, “Oh, you don’t like spinach, how gauche. More for me, I guess.” Alluring, even if I still didn’t like the spinach. “Just have one bite,” they would encourage. “Tastes change, you might like it this time.” We could eat everything we wanted, then negotiate how many bites of the despised food we had to down to get dessert. And if we just couldn’t stand it, we would be let down from the table with only the lingering knowledge that we had a depressingly limited palate. That we might someday, someday, actually want to try these foods and like them. That things wouldn’t always be this way, unless they were.
    And now I cook actual brussels sprouts and asparagus and spinach in my very own kitchen, and my picky eating brother (who survived a whole other year on nothing but pb&j’s and weiners) comes over and brings sun-dried-tomato fritatta and duck casserole and tofu stir-fry and we eat and eat and laugh with our friends. And we don’t give our parents any, because they’re in their sixties and prefer macaroni-and-cheese and chicken nuggets and white bread, with a nice iceberg salad and French dressing. Everything comes around.

  • Erica

    September 14, 2008 at 11:13 am

    My younger brother was a super picky eater and it totally freaked my Dad out. They would have these crazy battles of will about eating both of them just getting deeper and deeper entrenched in their positions with yelling and arguing and crying. It was horrible. In our family everyone made their own breakfast, usually cereal or toast, and lunch was a sandwich (which we made ourselves, his was always a PBJ) on whole-wheat bread, a piece of fruit, juice, a dessert and afternoon snack (usually crackers and cheese).
    Supper was a battle ground. Both my parents worked full time and my teenaged half-brother was on this crazy bulk-up football diet and would usually turn up with some buddies at dinner time. Thus meals had to be balanced and quick to make and huge. Add to that my Mom is a Home-Economist and she at the time had to try out new recipes as apart of her job so dinner could be quite varied in terms of it’s ethnic origin. One day when I was about 6 my then 4 year old brother was presented with a plate of mashed potatoes and peas with roast chicken, which is my older brother’s favorite meal, my younger brother screamed ‘NO’ at the top of his lungs and before anyone could say anything my Mom calmly turned to him and said “That’s fine. Starve. We are not arguing at dinner any more.” and that was that. We ate dinner and had a pleasant, if not stilted, conversation. My younger brother sat scowling and refusing to eat. He then sat and watched us eat dessert. He didn’t eat that night or the night after but I think it was the third evening when my older brother and I were enjoying a delicious cheesy lasagna (which he hated because everything was mixed up) and there was home-made apple pie for dessert that he reluctantly started eating. I remember him painstakingly picking everything in the lasagna apart into separate piles and then eating each ingredient separately and finishing long after everyone else. Then he ate his pie. That became the rule in our house, if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat. My brother is 24 now and eats enough for 2 people as he’s also a jock and he doesn’t complains about what’s for dinner.

  • So Cal Carol

    September 14, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    My husband to this day cannot have his food touch on his plate, eats one thing at a time, and the only vegatable he will eat is corn. That means his bread can’t touch his corn which can’t touch the beans that can’t touch the meat on his plate. Needless to say he was a very picky eater as a child.
    I will now eat almost anything however as a child I would sit at the table until bedtime, hide food, feed it to the dog, etc. I would even puke at the table or on the kitchen floor if forced to eat. My poor parents. How they didn’t kill me I don’t know.
    Picky and Picky had 3 kids. #1 ate only bologna and apple juice for the better part of a year. She was healthy, didn’t lose wieght, she survived and is now 26 and not a picky eater.
    #2 would eat anything as a child and still will try anything at least once. 23 and healthy.
    #3 lactose intolerant, wouldn’t eat anything other than breastmilk for the first year, only ate if you fed him until he was 3, and he would only take a bite after he inspected what was on the fork. Even then he might just chew, gag then spit it back out. Horrible ear infections until he was 11. Now nearly 15, good eater and healthy and happy as a teenager can be.
    Let the child eat what he likes. Food should not be a battle. I don’t even like the try one bite way of thinking. Sure I felt like a short order cook sometimes but really it wasn’t long before all of these food things worked themselves out. When they are old enought to start having dinner at friends they experience different foods and come home and ask how come you never fix _______? It’s really good! Can you fix it tonight?

  • Erika

    September 15, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Alice (and readers) did you see the NYTimes piece on common food mistakes parents make?
    If it’s causing him that much stress, drop it. Don’t let it be a battle. My nephew has strong food aversions, has had them since age 2, and is now 12 and still eats granola bars, chicken nuggets, and french fries. That’s about it. His main meal EVERY DAY is from Wendy’s. (He was recently diagnosed w/ Asperger’s, which is part of the issue.) None of the food therapies they tried worked. He actually cannot be at the table for things like Thanksgiving, because all the smells are so stressful to him.
    I think that strong food aversions are one of those things where they either grow out of it or they don’t. Not much you can do either way, except to try to make mealtimes pleasant.
    Good luck…

  • andrea

    September 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I’m a little late in posting, but wanted to chime in. I remember the battles at dinnertime when I was a kid and how I usually refused to finish my meals.
    A lot my food aversion was, I think, due to my extreme anxiety regarding school. Altho I was a smart student, I hated going to school! In the mornings before school, I couldn’t eat breakfast (I only drank those liquid breakfasts); at dinner, I gagged on food and often snuck the offending food out of my mouth and squashed it under the table or in a napkin (yuck).
    Sometimes being a picky eater is about more than just food. Eventually I grew out of it….but it was only in college, when I started meeting some adventuresome foodies, that I decided to try new things.

  • Mary

    September 16, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I know you’ve gotten tons of comments on the food issue, but I wanted to let you know that what helped my daughter (age 4) with her absolute refusal to try new foods was sending her to a preschool that cooks lunches for the kids. At first, the teacher suggested we pack her a lunch because she would often not eat much, but we thought we’d stick it out a bit longer, and she now (after 8 weeks) eats several foods that she’d refused at home–the most exciting one being salad. It seems like the combo of peer pressure/modeling plus knowing there were absolutely no other options did the trick. So maybe when he’s at full day school, he can eat the cafeteria lunch, if it’s not too awful.

  • Emmy

    September 16, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I dated a guy who was still a very picky eater at 20 years old. He ate only pizza, hamburgers, or hotdogs, and that is not an exaggeration. I paid $25 for him to attend my college graduation banquet with me, and he didn’t eat a single thing. There were plenty of normal foods there, nothing crazy. Needless to say, the prospect of cooking for and dining with someone like that for the rest of your life … not rosy. That’s why when I married a widower with a 5-year old self proclaimed vegetarian, who also wouldn’t eat potatoes or tomatoes or melted cheese, that was my number one project 🙂 Now he eats and enjoys almost anything. In his case it wasn’t so much that he disliked those foods, he just really liked the feeling of power it gave him to have everybody cater to his diet.

  • liz

    September 16, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    As a Kindergartener, Henry’s probably old enough to describe WHY he doesn’t like things. For a lot of kids, it’s about texture and sometimes a strong bitter flavor (hello, asparagus! I’m talking to you!). As you age, your taste buds and mouth sense get less sensitive, and especially your reaction to bitter gets less intense.
    Have him eat one “No Thank You” bite (for manners sake) and let him alone after that.

  • Monica

    September 17, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Thank you so much for this post! So wonderful to know I am not alone in this world. Yes, I have a picky eater a friend actually pointed me to this post after she read mine 🙂

  • Jordan

    September 17, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to find other moms that struggle with eating habits. For those of you looking for creative solutions, I’ve found helpful. There’s a similar article on that site from a mom with 2 picky eaters. Very funny and it’s helpful to have some kid-tested recipes, too.

  • jenn

    September 17, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    My son is one of the pickiest children I know. My husband is also extremely picky. Dakota wont eat any vegetables at all, unless you count mashed potatoes as a veggie. He doesnt eat pork chops or bacon, or pizza! hamburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, and we are not a fast food family..he has a sweet tooth that is out of this world! He wont drink white milk, he doesnt like cheese unless its on a grilled cheese. He wont even eat mac and cheese. he does love spaghetti, so i take that opportunity and sneak things like mushrooms and onions, squash in it, but it has to be finely chopped. Ive tried to get him to try every food imaginable, every veggie..he tries them but it never works. he wont even eat a hot dog! no mustard, no mayo, nadda. he wont even eat a sandwich! you my friend, are not alone!

  • Kate

    September 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    My one year old (former darling compliant baby, now a TODDLER) is not a picky eater, per se. I mean, yesterday she ate lemongrass chicken sticks and harvest blend couscous and french toast sticks dipped in yogurt and ham and vegetables and peaches. But she ate maybe one bite of each, or two and just because she ate them yesterday offers no guarantee she will eat them today, or tomorrow. My husband and I are both excellent eaters (sometimes too excellent) and really not picky at all. But she? My little peanut, doesn’t eat enough to keep a bird chubby, let alone an active toddler. Feeding my kid is one of the top sources of stress in my life.

  • Robin Schick

    September 22, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I am too lazy to read what everyone else wrote, so I am just going to give my two cents worth.
    My son is 15 yrs.old. And he ate pretty good when he was too little to fix food for himself. But when he could fix what he wanted he would never eat, hot dogs, mac n cheese, pizza and sandwiches or meat. So I started to worry about his health. He was not fat or thin, just right. My mom always told me that children eat what they need, so don’t worry.
    I don’t think he had his first sandwich until age 13, he just never liked them. He preferred his meat and cheese rolled up and then ate them without condiments.
    But as he has gotten older and has been around his friends, he has proceeded to try new things and he finds that he likes them.
    I think that he was afraid to try things when he was younger because he has a pretty bad gag reflex and he gets embarrassed easily. But peer pressure can be a good thing when it gets him to try new things, and I wish that I could capture the SHOCK on his face when he is surprised that he likes something.
    So don’t give up, there is hope and just keep giving him vitamins to assuage your motherly guilt.
    That’s what I do!

  • Katieo

    September 22, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I know I’m really late on this but I just had to say:
    THANK YOU. A million times over. Really.
    You have described perfectly my six year old. It’s exhausting. And just to know someone else has tried everything and is still just hanging on, well,
    Thank you.

  • Johschmoh

    September 23, 2008 at 3:33 am

    So far, my children seem to be less picky than I was. Of course, now that I’ve informed the interwebs, I’m doomed. My biggest issue seems to be texture, which anecdotally appears to be relatively common. My biggest food issue, however, stemmed from the one time my parents forced me to stay at the table until I ate what was on my plate. I eventually did eat the stone cold oatmeal, promptly threw up, and didn’t eat a hot cereal for the next 30 years. Oops! I have a few other friends with lifelong food aversions from something they were forced to eat as a child. Anyway, that’s something I swore not to do.
    However, I do also prefer not to hear “Yuck!” after spending hours on something, so I do ask the almost-6-year-old to say something along the lines of “My taste buds aren’t ready for this yet.” ‘Can’t remember where I read that, but it does sound a lot better to my ears. I’m also trying to reinforce the notion that, yes, tastes do change, and just because I didn’t like a food the last time, doesn’t mean I won’t forever.
    Finally (whew!), I must recommend the children’s book “The Peanut-Free Cafe.” One of the main characters only eats five foods, including peanut butter; his new friend has a severe peanut allergy. Anyway, enjoyable book about a picky eater.

  • Andrea

    September 24, 2008 at 8:58 am

    My son’s pretty picky too, but I have found that outside of his parents’ sphere of influence he tries more foods (although probably not more nutritious ones). Like when he was circling the hot lunches he wanted to have for lunch and circled “baked ravioli” and I said, “Really? Baked ravioli? You would never eat that if I made it.” “If you made it like the school does I would.” That is, frozen, thawed, slathered in mystery meat sauce and chock full of preservatives and artifical who knows whats… Is this an improvement over forcefeeding him a free range organic omelet for dinner?

  • Mariko

    September 24, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I have two great eaters and one picky eater. Generally I feed them all the same thing, and if there is something picky eater doesn’t eat, I just don’t make her eat it. I keep offering, and I am usually rewarded; one day she will just accept and eat the food as though she has always loved it.
    I try not to be overly pushy about the food issue and draw too much attention to it though. At the same time, I’m afraid to be too blase about it as both my father and husband are very picky eaters and make cooking for them extremely difficult. They were picky eaters as children and their parents just never challenged them on it. My dad ate fish and chips only from age 4 to age 10 and my husband was fed nothing but mashed carrots as a toddler until he turned orange (literally). They all expanded their palates somewhat but I think it is worth it to try and encourage pleasure in diverse eating.

  • monika

    September 25, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Oh, am I ever happy I found you!! Deliriously giddy!
    Your Henry is like our Viggo — pretty much the same foods, give or take. He’s never consented to eating mangoes or apples (not even as a mango lassi, or homemade applesauce), and broccoli — hah! And yes, his favourite no-fail food is macaroni and cheese, although he eat only home-made (no Kraft dinner here in Switzerland). He loves dairy products — milk, cheese, yogurt, baked egg custards, will eat meat (loves lamb, beef, and will often eat poultry), but hates all vegetables and most fruit (he’s even gone off bananas, and only seems to love berries).
    Lately, I’ve had success smothering vegetables in heavy-duty cheese sauces.
    We keep trying to offer him things, and sometimes he surprises us — he started liking scrambled eggs a couple of weeks ago.
    He’s been underweight since birth, stopped growing 2 weeks before I delivered. He took off on breast milk, growing at double the rate at first, but then, by 4 months (probably because we moved continents), he stopped putting on adequate weight. At 6 months, the pediatrician told me to make him try solids, and so I did. He hated them. He still hates the foods I tried to feed him.
    Basically, he didn’t want to go off an all-milk diet, and is still not that open to other foods.
    He’s being followed by a gastroenterologist for his low weight (he was at the 3rd percentile last time we checked), and we’ve had all sorts of useful (not) suggestions from a nutritionist on how to make him gain weight.
    It’s the bane of my existence, but like you write, you have to not draw too much attention to it…

  • monika

    September 25, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Having read most of the posts now, I am actually a bit scared of my son’s eating habits — you see, he isn’t even 2 yet. He’s been like this since birth. Most people are describing the pickiness which is programmed into our genes, which the biologist who posted described so well: hits at around 2, and is what protected wandering cave babies from eating poisoned berries. That’s not what we have. I shudder at the thought of him rejecting even more foods when he turns 2…
    And no, neither my husband nor I were picky, nor is our 5 year old. I just hope that we have managed to get his weight up…

  • mandi

    September 26, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I almost wept with joy that someone else lives in my world. The one thing that almost everyone skipped over is all the “advice” I have to endure from friends and family. I am exhausted by all the people that tell me about the “one bite rule” or that he will not starve. BS he will too! The reason I found this post is because I decided, today, that I had had enough! He would eat or not leave the table! So, he scraped together four chairs and FELL ASLEEP. I was so mad. Since I told him he would have to sleep there all night, I was torn. I ended up sending him to bed, but berating him the whole time, telling him he was having that spaghetti for breakfast. Now, I have friends telling me that I am not doing it right, if I would prepare more homemade foods, things he could see me make, he would try them. Same person swears this child will eat for HER! When she has him for dinner, she says she just tells him that this is how it is done at her house and he complies. Give me a break. The hard thing is that she is my business partner and we have our office in my home. So, she is here to scrutinize whatever I bring home from the store. Then on the other hand is my sister telling me that calories are calories, who cares if they come from cookies? She tells me to just feed him ice cream if he will eat it. I would say great, but he just had to have a filling done on a permanent tooth (I think from crap food) and the circles under his eyes are getting worse. He is growing just fine, but has no stamina in sports and is really scrawny. just needed to vent

  • Robin

    September 26, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I’m sure someone in this sea of comments has said this already, but I think you got terrible advice at that clinic. Wouldn’t you think that FORCING a child to do something he doesn’t want to do EVERY SINGLE NIGHT would make him LESS likely to want to do it?! Some ‘game’. I was never a particularly fussy eater (my parents were wannabe hippies when I was a kid – I was just happy to get anything not made of bark), but I had THAT type of personality, and if someone tried to force me do to something – anything – I’d dig my heels in and scream. I reckon Henry will get bored of his three food choices in his own time.

  • Amy

    September 30, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    In my house growing up, everyone ate the same food. Sometimes it was kid favorites (mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, corn) and sometimes it was parent favorites (pork chops, beans, vinegar slaw). But you ate whatever was given to you. Whatever you didn’t eat from your plate was put into the refrigerator and given back to you at the next meal before you got any of that meal’s offerings.
    That lesson, as much as I hated it, proved to be very valuable. I learned to eat food that I didn’t particularly like and still be grateful for it. I learned that it is ok to try new things. I learned that I can eat something that I may not care for at someone else’s house while politely hiding my dislike.
    Most importantly, I learned that Veg-All casserole isn’t very tasty when reheated for breakfast…

    • Sarah

      November 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      I grew up with the same thing! what was presented for dinner was what everyone ate, no special meals just for the picky eater of the group which happened to be me of course.

      I grew up wanting to cook! now I love cooking and trying new foods! I happen to be in love with a man who has two kids, one 15 year old daughter and one 7 year old son. His 15yr old will eat most of what I cook as long as it isn’t spicy. His 7yr old makes me want to never cook again. No matter what I make if it isn’t pizza or chicken nuggets he will make a face like it’s the most grotesque thing he’s ever laid eyes on and I admit.. it hurts my feelings. Food I present is like chicken and pasta (which I’m told is his favorite but I digress..), grilled pork chops with mashed potatoes and home made gravy, the list goes on… I try every kind of cuisine there is and we are not wealthy people.

      I feel like we waste so much money cause we end up throwing away most of his dinner. We have sent him to bed with no TV the last weekend cause he wouldn’t even try my chicken pot pie the last time we had the kids over. He chose to go to bed with no dinner, so that meant no TV.

      the kids both snack like there is no tomorrow… eating loads of carbs, cheetos, cheese it’s, crackers, sweets, anything they can get their hands on that is carbs. Especially cereal. Wow. so nutritious.

      I tell my boyfriend not to buy junk food but he always gives in just to make them happy.

      I’m in a never ending battle when it comes to cooking for these kids, I just feel like feeding them nothing but sandwiches and canned soup when they are here since it’s hard for me to enjoy cooking a big meal (that always takes more than an hour to make!) I just want to give up.

  • Meesh

    October 1, 2008 at 2:50 am

    My daughter who is 8yo, will gladly pick a ripened tomato from the garden and eat it(unwashed)like an apple, then go back for more. Her favorite snack is avocado slices and cottage cheese (with a dash of white pepper). Last week at the grocery store I said she could pick out a treat- she picked a YAM!
    Then there’s my 5yo son, who insists that birthday cake must be a food group or it wouldn’t be edible. He thinks they only have a produce aisle to “trick you that you are shopping outside”. He sometimes asks me to make him a salad which I ALWAYS gladly do but he doesn’t actually eat it. I asked him why to which he replied, “I don’t like salad but I like seeing you be very happy to make it” 🙂 So I just smiled and ate it myself.
    Kids (people) like what they like. Those likes change with our moods, with time, with situations. Enjoying time together in the kitchen and at the dinner table can contribute to a healthy attitude about food regardless of what they are (or aren’t) eating at the moment. Maybe when my son is grown and out on his own, he will remember the silly fun of our family kitchen and eat a salad as comfort food. 🙂 For now, its pb&j’s and applesauce for him and wakame salad and mahi mahi for my daughter- And my son’s “happy” salad for me 🙂

  • blm

    December 9, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Have you heard of that book Deceptively Delicious by Jerry Seinfields wife? The recipes look pretty decent and it might be helpful for all of your picky eaters!

  • ECA

    February 26, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    As you reaad through these stories, are you seeing the obvious pattern? Who is in control here? These parents have taken something as necessary and pleasurable as food, and made it into a power struggle with their child. So parents – for children who are healthy, typically developing children, STOP THE MADNESS. Put out what your family is having for dinner (it’s always nice to include a few foods that are favorites of family members), let the child take what he/she wants, make NO comments about what they’ve selected or how much they eat, ignore any attention getting behavior and never allow yourself to get sucked into a power struggle, and let the child get down when they say they are done. Meanwhile, enjoy your own dinner and model for your child your own enjoyment of good food and the pleasure of happy conversation. If the child gets hungry before the next regular snack or meal, say, “Well, you’ll really be ready for snacktime, won’t you!” but don’t hop to, making the child something special. Or, if you prefer, keep a bowl of fruit on the counter children can help themselves to at any time. If you do this calmly and consistently, your child will eat what they need and they won’t grow up telling horror stories about their neurotic, obsessive parents. And if you’re already a long way down the road of making your child nuts over food, you’ll have a long struggle back because your child won’t be happy giving up all that power you’ve given them. Best to just be honest and tell them, “I have been trying to get you to eat because I want to make sure you get the healthy food you need to grow. But I forgot that you are your own person, capable of deciding for yourself what foods seem right for you. I am no longer going to make food a fight between us. From now on, I’m going to put the food on the table and then it’s up to you.” Then do it.

  • Point5Child

    March 5, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I was a picky eater all through elementary school and my family is vegetarian which limited my diet to about 5 things. Around middle school my parents stopped forcing me to eat things I truely hated and, as happy as I was at the time, I think it backfired. I’m in college now and I still eat pasta and cereal and pb&j and almost nothing else. I am in the process of conciously forcing myself to try things like soup, salad dressing, tomato sauce, and grilled cheese that once upon a time I declared I didn’t like and I haven’t touched since. I am hopeful that by my mid-20s i’ll be able to try more complicated things, and maybe even find something to eat at a restaurant. I’ve never tried parenting but from personal experience- don’t stop trying to make them eat it.

  • msd94

    January 17, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Lie many others on this site, my picky eater was a great ater until somewhere around age 2.  Before having a picky child, I would have agreed with the many who suggest you get what you get and that it rule but now I feel differently.  My 7 year old presents with anxiety when eating foods he doesn’t like. It’s not a matter of whinyness it is a matter of white knuckled resistance. He eats chicken nuggets, cucumbers, apples, peanuts, pizza, spaghetti (with sauce, finally) and drinks milk and fruit juice with vegetable juice slipped in.  Occassionally he will eat a banana, orange or strawberry.  Sometimes we lose foods (he had a soggy peanut butter and jelly one day and now he won’t touch it, or he got the stomach flu after eating corn so we lost that kid friendly vegetable).  His pediatrician has said like many others,  that he is healthy and not too force the issue.  I think the main source of stress comes from the judgement of others (or the fear of it at least – nope, i’d say it’s pretty real).  I resolve to cook more kid healthy meals and feel defeated after a day of scouring Pinterest and choosing a recipe I think I’ll be able to pull off only to have it be left on the plate. It’s a waste of time and money so we go back to chicken nuggets. Others think I don’t try hard enough which is probably true now because the real battles were waged at age 3 or 4 and I lost them then and now only test the waters now and again in case anything has changed.

  • Johnny82

    September 24, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    I have a son that’s on the spectrum and he is a resistant eater. He will only eat one brand of chicken nuggets and French fries, plain white bread and peanut butter, one kind of cereal, cheese its and one brand and flavor of fruit snacks. I’ve tried the whole if you don’t want what we are eating then your not hungry thing but he will still not eat. He would rather go to bed then eat something new. He tells me that he is not hungry just to avoid the arguing and will sit at the table quietly without eating. We try little steps and have him just smell it first then touch it but even this little steps are a battle. We learned to give him what he will eat and that he actually has a eating disability. We have tried so many different things but nothing helps, I even tried to put different brands into the bags he does eat but somehow he knows because he refuses it. I’ve tried to force a little piece of pizza in his mouth hoping that if he just tastes it he will realize that he likes it but it just made him throw up. Even when we make him just smell and touch different foods he will gag. I still give him different options every day but he still will only eat a handful of foods. If your child is a resistant eater then give em what they will eat and don’t think they will eat what’s front of them if they are hungry because that’s not always the case. There is a difference between picky eaters and resistant eaters.