So my kids are picky eaters. Get over it.

 

So my kid

Ever since my girls have been babies, they’ve both been supremely picky eaters.

As in “will pretty much only eat foods that are white or beige or orange” kind of picky eaters.

They don’t even eat normal “kid foods” like spaghetti sauce or chicken or hamburgers (unless it is a McDonalds emergency and then only if it is plain and the edges are cut off).

I often wonder if I perpetuated this pickiness because I, myself, am somewhat particular in my culinary preferences. But no, my husband and I eat a variety of nutritious foods and are, for the most part, pretty health conscious and have always offered everything we make to the girls. In fact, we have video proof. When Thing 1 was about two years old my husband set up the video camera at the end of the table (unbeknownst to me) and caught me singing a wonderful self-scribed song singing the praises of the vegetable soup I was trying to convince her to eat. It’s become a bit of a family joke and to this day – 15+ years later – one of them will still occasionally burst out with “YUM, YUM, Vegetable Soup!! Mommy loves Vegetable Soup! Daddy loves Vegetable Soup!” just to piss me off.

But for some reason, they just don’t like most “normal” foods. Not even crappy fast food (thank God).

For over 17 years it has been a struggle to get them to eat things that aren’t solely in the carbohydrate group and that come with at least a marginal nutritional value. When Thing 2 discovered that she liked bacon last year I about bought a pig farm I was so happy.

Thankfully they like fruit. No kidding, in the summer we blow through pints of strawberries like a “Real Housewife” blows through Xanax.
Apples, pineapple, grapes, Cuties…they get their color there.
Occasionally they’ll dip a few raw spinach leaves into a cup full of ranch dressing, but the ratio of spinach to ranch is so uneven they might as well just use a spoon.

I know there are many of you who are part of this picky eater kid club. We’re a special bunch, but membership comes at a price.

Membership requirements include (but are not limited to):

  • Difficulty eating out because your child won’t eat most things on regular menus and you must always pick a restaurant that serves plain pasta (BUT WITH NO GREEN SHIT ON TOP).
  • Difficulty eating at friends’ houses for dinner because 50 bucks says your child won’t touch whatever they are making – even if it is burgers on the grill or — God forbid — frozen chicken nuggets.
  • Difficulty eating as a family because strangely enough, you and your husband do not want to eat quesadillas or grilled cheese sandwiches or peanut butter every night for dinner.
  • Being subjected to the judgement from parents of kids who eat everything (or the parents who claim their kids eat everything).
  • Worrying about your child getting the nutrition she needs solely from the five things she eats on a rotating basis.
  • Having to pack their lunches every day because they’d vomit if they ever had to eat the school lunch (however, in their defense, so would I).

And before some of you get all bent out of shape about not catering to your kid and how I should at the very least expect them to try a variety of foods and how I’ve perpetuated their pickiness and their resulting nutritional deficiencies, let me tell you a little story that might shed some light on my position…and that just might help those of you who are struggling with this issue with your much younger children feel a little bit better.

When Thing 1 was six years old, I’d had it with her picky eating.
I was sick and tired of having to make a pot of mac-n-cheese with every meal my husband and I ate just so she’d have something to eat.
So I tried the tough love.
One night I made lasagna, which she, of course, couldn’t even look at without gagging.
We put a small square on her plate (no lie, it was like a 1″ square) and told her she had to eat it before she could leave the table.
Swear to God, that child sat at the table crying for over two hours with us yelling and threatening and storming around increasingly as the clock ticked away.
And — spoiler alert — she didn’t ever eat the lasagna. If we hadn’t have changed the consequence (the details of which all these years later I have forgotten) she might very well still be sitting at the table today, 12 years later.
So I did what most first time moms do when all else fails.
I took her to the doctor.
And to this day, I am grateful to that woman for her advice.

She told us things we already knew and had tried; things that had been a source of frustration in their failure for years:

  • Have your child help plan the meal. (Done — many, many times — and which always resulted in the same thing: pb&j’s and apple bites)
  • Make sure your child knows that it is the parents’ job to cook the dinner and the child’s job to eat the dinner, and the consequence of refusal is hunger. (Harsh, but okay, I could live with that as long as my child didn’t end up looking like a sad, malnourished child that large groups of famous singers were singing songs about.)
  • Always have at least one thing on the table that your child likes. (In our case, a basket of bread and a bowl of apple bites. Every night.)
  • Most importantly? Do not make dinnertime a battle. 

The doctor told us to go home and recommit ourselves to these rules for two months — however pointless we thought they were — and then return for a follow-up.

In the next two months, nothing changed.

Thing 1 still only ate carbs and apples and didn’t try one new thing, but my husband and I kept our mouths shut and followed the rules.

When we went back to the doctor two months later, she asked us how dinner had been going.

At the exact same time, I said “terrible” and Thing 1 said “great!”

Huh?

The doctor looked at Thing 1 and asked her why she answered that way, and she said, “Because dinnertime isn’t so mean anymore and I’m not sad at the table.”

Here’s the lesson in that six year old’s honest statement (as told to me by the doctor, but that I still carry with me, all these years later) –

As a parent, don’t make food a control issue with your children (especially important with girls).
Eating shouldn’t be associated with stress or fear.
Lay out clear expectations and try your best not to cater to to your child, but don’t make eating be about power – on either side of the table. 

And maybe the best lesson?
Your kid will not starve.

And something else I need to say:
Mothers with children who eat meat and fish and broccoli and sushi? Please don’t judge.
Please don’t roll your eyes when our kids don’t eat your green bean casserole or sloppy joes when they’re at your house for dinner and poke at their mashed potatoes. Contrary to what you might think, we’re not catering to our kids and feeding them only BBQ potato chips and string cheese for dinner  and letting them walk all over us. We don’t know why our kids are picky and yours aren’t any more than we know why your kid might wet the bed or suck his thumb at age six and ours doesn’t.
We’re just trying our best – like you are – to raise our kids with a healthy attitude towards food. And by healthy, I may not mean one that is chock full of vitamins A and D, but one that doesn’t turn on them when they’re teenagers.
And it’s not easy.
In fact, like so many areas of parenting, it’s damn frustrating.

My girls are insanely picky eaters, but they are healthy (they get sick fewer times than most kids) and are growing just as they’re supposed to be growing.
Do I wish they ate soups and mexican food and chicken and veggies and eggs and beans?
Sure I do.
But I know that given their own space and timeline and ownership over their control of the food they eat,  they eventually will.

Proof?
The other day Thing 2 tried edamame and ate a whole bowl. Now it’s all she’s requesting for dinner.
Thing 1 ate three shrimp when we were out to eat the other night.
Sure, I was kinda pissed that I had three less shrimp to eat, but still was pretty damn impressed, and felt just fine with the way I’m raising my picky eaters.

 

Following YMFT on Facebook and Twitter saves dolphins!!
Okay, fine, it doesn’t, but it will bring you welcome distraction from whatever it is you are avoiding by being on the computer. 



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  • Kris at AintNobodysMama - Thanks so much for your post. I have godsons who are super picky eaters. We’ve had more than one meal end up in a Mexican standoff over “just one bite.”ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Ooohh…so been there. Happy to provide a word of encouragement or support. Everyone has to deal with it as they see fit, and it’s a difficult row to hoe, no question. I found such a weight lifted when I just let it go (for the most part) and didn’t make it an issue anymore. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Keesha - Thank you for this. My son eats everything -pesto, grilled spicy shrimp, and other grown up food. My little girl is a total PIA as food goes. This was a great tale with some very helpful info!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - You’re welcome! I’m in envy of kids like your son – although it must make eating out a lot more expensive! haha. Glad you got something out of this! :)ReplyCancel

  • thepennypichingmomma - I have one super picky eater and one that will eat ANYTHING. My super picky kid will eat peanut butter, cheese, pasta, spinach, carrots, potatoes, apples, grapes, falafel, and hummus. It’s not a long list but I am soooo happy most is fairly healthy. Oh and chicken but any other meat “freaks her out”… Before we figured out her likes and dislikes she would gag until she would vomit! Right at the table and just by looking at it! Fun times!!ReplyCancel

    • thepennypichingmomma - And I just about always have to make two meals =(ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - I feel your pain! I try to always have something in mine and my husband’s meal that they’ll like – but it’s not easy. Your picky kid will eat spinach and carrots and hummus?? You hit the jackpot of picky eaters with that one!! 😉ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I’m a fairly picky eater myself (my husband would call me a really, really picky eater) so I can relate, but I do think it’s important for kids to grow up knowing the skills of how to be a polite picky eater. At least, to not offend hosts and other people with their pickiness. I am quite good at these strategies–I grew up in Asia and was routinely offered foods like pickled nutmeg, fishhead curry (which is actually tasty as long as you avoid the fish heads), sushi-esqe stuff, and countless other dishes that I don’t know what they would be called in English. I learned pretty early on to always be vocally grateful for the food I was served….to try to eat as much of the food as I could while they were watching me (that picked nutmeg was the worst!) and to secretly dispose of the remainders of food that I couldn’t finish by hiding them in napkins or secretly giving them to hungrier siblings. If at all possible, I would insist that I had already eaten right before coming, and that I couldn’t possibly eat anything else. Maybe such strategies are a little sneaky….but I can avoid confronting the kindest, sweetest elderly aunties and telling them that I think their food is yucky…at the same time as not eating stuff that I find gross.

    Now, when my husband’s brother, who is a teenager, came to stay with us for a while and would refuse to eat the completely normal food that I make for dinner and ask us to go pick up food from McDonald’s for him–I find that extremely rude. I can relate to being picky, but it’s all about how you handle it. He pretty much demanded that I make him separate dishes or, mostly, pancakes the entire two weeks he was there (my husband and I don’t even eat pancakes)…and I could hardly stand it. I would have happily allowed him to cook whatever he wanted to eat…but if you’re a teenager refusing to eat perfectly healthy, normal food (I wasn’t even giving him pickled nutmeg!) and demanding that I (not your mom, but your sister-in-law) make you separate meals….and then complain to my mother-in-law that I don’t feed you….that kind of pickiness ticks me off!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Oh, I totally agree! We’ve always told our kids that their pickiness it THEIR problem, not that of dinner hosts or even Mama (me!). And they know that when they’re at friend’s houses for dinner or sleepovers they have to always be grateful for what they’re served, and to just politely say, “no thank you” if offered something they don’t want. But never, in any circumstance, do they request something different. They’ve always been super about this, thank goodness.
      Fishhead curry?? OMG I just threw up in my mouth!! :OReplyCancel

  • The Girl Next Door Drinks and Swears - YES! My kids are super picky. My oldest has started to branch out and try new things – salad (hallelujah!) being one of them. I feel like punching my friends when they are all, “Why are your kids such picky eaters? You should just make them eat whatever you make.” Uh-huh. Now why didn’t I think of that? You must be a genius. I totally enjoy fighting this battle every. Single. Meal. My kids won’t eat sandwiches. Know how hard that makes lunch packing? Don’t get me started.

    Anyway…thanks for this. Makes me feel like maybe I’m not a TOTAL screw up. Maybe.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Sandwiches are hard, I agree, especially when one likes pb and one doesn’t, and one likes turkey and one doesn’t. I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO STOP AT FREAKIN’ SUBWAY ONCE IN AWHILE.
      Glad you got something out of this. You’re not a screw up. I promise. :)ReplyCancel

  • Dead Poet - Thank you thank you thank you! I’m so glad for this article. My 2 year old is so, so picky and I can’t stand it. Even things that are mostly something she’ll eat she refuses sometimes (Though Malt-o-Meal is always good). It drives me batty! I always feel so guilty for how picky she is. One trick that mostly works for us is the one bite for every year you are (2 bites for 2 year olds, 3 bites for 3 year olds, etc.) Though frequently a bite will be one French cut green bean. I had my own battle with an eating disorder for years and still struggle sometimes and I don’t want to pass that on to my daughter, but I feel so guilty for feeding her nothing but carbs and juice. Most days I really hate all the pressure that has grown up around eating right and how to do it. You can ask 10 different people what eating right and healthy means, and you will get 10 different answers! I just want her to be healthy, be knowledgeable about what is healthy food and what is not, and never feel like food controls her. But it sure would be great if she would eat some fruit or vegetables sometimes!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - I hear you, I do. You are so right, there’s so much pressure about what you are “supposed” to be doing, but you know what? YOU know what you are supposed to be doing for YOUR child more than anyone else. And you’ve been in the boat you don’t want her to be in so you need to really believe that. Keep offering the healthy food and eating it yourself – that’s the best kind of example you can set. Hang in there! :)ReplyCancel

  • Karen - Thanks for this post – my kids are teens and still picky eaters…the girl more than the boy. One time at a restaurant teen girl ordered plain pasta (of course). It came served with parmesean cheese on top. The look on her face pretty much said “WTF is this??” We asked to have it returned without the cheese and the waitress gave me that “look”. All I wanted to say was..”Listen we are paying a ridiculous amount of money for you to boil some noodles..so we can eat out as a family..can you just do that with out the judgy look?” Lesson learned…now out at restaurants teen girl explains what PLAIN means…no cheese..no butter…no salt. On another note how did you serve the edamame? I tried with my kids (as a colleague said her kids eat it like candy??). Bought the frozen in the pod…no sale at my house…

    thanks again for your posts….love your blogReplyCancel

    • Dyanne @ I Want Backsies - My son would only eat refried beans in a Mexican restaurant, and when I ordered it, I would say, “Plain refried beans. No cheese. No sauce. No sprinkles of parsley. Nothing but a blob of refried beans on a plate.”

      Edamame was a big fail at my house, too. It is NOT candy.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Oh, yeah…we always have to specify, “NO GREEN FLAKES OF ANY KIND ON TOP. BUTTER ONLY. PARMESAN ON THE SIDE.” And god help us if the cheese pizza comes out with green flakes of any kind on it. Sigh.
      I buy the frozen steamer bag of edamame (in the pod) at Target and just steam it in the microwave and toss with sea salt. However, Thing 1 is not a fan. Thing 2 has always liked popping sugar snap peas out of their pods and eating them raw. But by that I mean she’ll eat 3 and be done. I’m so happy with her new love of edamame I could pee. Go figure. The girl won’t eat spaghetti sauce but loves mushy soybeans.ReplyCancel

  • Kimbra - Thank you so much for this post, I am the mom of 3 picky eaters. One of whom is the weirdest picky eater I have encounter (meaning one day he may love something, yet hate it the next). I always get so stressed by the things other parents say about my kids, but they are happy, healthy, and do not let food control their lives. I love your blog by the way
    http://www.mommysrambles.blogspot.comReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Thank you….and glad you enjoyed it. When I was writing it I hoped parents like you would read it and get something out of it. I spent years frustrated at the judgy comments, etc. from other parents and knew there were others out there with kids a lot younger than mine struggling with the same things I went through. It’s always good to find others who know what you are going through!
      ReplyCancel

  • Dyanne @ I Want Backsies - My son is supremely picky. He only eats about 5 things (hamburgers, pizza, beans, chicken and, thankfully, most soups). No pasta. Nothing that grows out of the ground, except beans and potatoes. He DOES drink milk, but no juice. He’s managed to make it to be 17, 6’3″ and 180 lbs. and no scurvy. It annoys the hell out of me to fix meals, but my silver lining is that he will go to college in the fall and we can enjoy pasta again at our house without his curled lip.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Hahaha!! Yeah, we keep telling our daughter that when she goes to college (2014) she’ll need to keep a bag of apples and a jumbo box of Goldfish in her dorm room so she doesn’t starve.
      No scurvy….that cracks me up…..ReplyCancel

  • Melissa @ i carry your heart - Great post! My husband is a former picky eater (pretty much ate plain pasta, pizza, hot dogs, pancakes – all the healthy stuff). haha. He was like this his whole life and my Mother in Law took him to the doctor too. I met him when he was 19 and he was still eating like that and slowly I got him to try more and more foods and now he eats almost anything! He told me he feared that if he didn’t start eating more things that I would never marry him. This was something he came up with on his own, but apparently it was enough to make him change. Pretty cute! So maybe your girls will meet some one down the road who will change the way they think about food. :)ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - So funny you say this because we tell them all the time that when they go on nice dates one day they won’t know what to order. They’ll look pretty stupid ordering “plain pasta with butter NO GREEN STUFF ON TOP.” haha. My brother-in-law is super duper picky and my sister is kind of a foodie and it’s pretty funny to hear her talk about making him Hamburger Helper while she makes these elaborate dinners for herself. Hey, whatever works! :)ReplyCancel

  • Dani Ryan - THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! I have a picky eater, and I spend a great deal of my day acting as her short-order cook, and it drives me bananas. She is still too young to tell me what she wants to eat, but I have figured out the things she does like, so that helps. But I never thought about how stressful I make mealtimes, and your advice is really wonderful. I will keep it in mind the next time I want to put a fork in my eye at dinnertime!!!!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Oh, even with knowing the lessons about not making mealtimes stressful or negative, believe me there are still times when they are. But I think the difference is that there can be stress of me getting annoyed that they don’t eat what we’re eating but that is a lot different that the stress of me or my husband MAKING them choke down something they honestly do not like and that makes them gag. There have been countless times I refuse to make them something different and so they are on their own. They make a pb&j and life goes on. :)
      Good Luck! :)ReplyCancel

  • Kathie - Thank you…I have 2 and 4 year old picky eaters, and all I can say is thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - I was a picky eater growing up. I had a weird aversion to anything mushy. Wouldn’t eat mashed potatoes no matter who made them. But somewhere in my late teens/early 20’s, I started branching out. I would NOT eat fish at all as a kid. Hated the smell of any fish. (Oddly, I hate popcorn shrimp but it was doused in ketchup.)

    But at my step-sisters wedding, I was starving and on the plate was a little bit of steak and a little bit of salmon. I gave in to hunger and ate the salmon. I curse myself for missing out on it for all of those years.

    We have 2 kids. The youngest will eat anything. (I mean that. When she was 2 tried pigs feet. She threw up after but she did try it.) She’s 7 now and will still try anything at least once.
    The older one is about to turn 10. For years, she was too picky. Wouldn’t eat hot dogs or corn dogs, which I thought at the time were staples in kid diets. She would eat mashed potatoes but ONLY if they were totally plain. If it had anything in it, anything, she hated it.

    When we go to Chili’s, they have a huge kids menu. 11 entrees and 11 sides. Whoa. The 7 year old will eat any of it and always wants something new. The older kid has already turned up her nose at almost ALL of it. (I thought for sure she’d want those warm cinnamon apples. NOPE.)

    But as picky as the older one has always been, we are starting to see a change in her eating. I sat down with her once and told her that she had to stop taking one look at it and saying to herself “it’s gross”. Mentally, she was killing her chances of eating anything new.

    She’s working on it. She’s still not where we want her to be but she does eat more than your kids. (Sorry for those problems. That sounds like a flipping nightmare.) The older she gets, she improves a little on the picky eating.

    Some people do grow out of it. For your sake, I hope Thing 1 and 2 do as well.
    Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - They’re getting better and it gets easier to deal with every year. Thanks for your story – I also believe in the mental image thing, and am always telling my kids not to be scared of food. “It’s just food”. :)ReplyCancel

  • lilshrimpit - I don’t think I was a picky eater growing up, at least I haven’t heard from my parents that I was. I liked carrots, so I had that going for me. Now, at the ripe age of 25, I am the LAZIEST person when it comes to food. It isn’t that I am picky, I just don’t cook and I don’t want to drive to get food. I’ll literally open the fridge/pantry think “there is nothing here” or “I’m too lazy to cook that”, close the door and skip dinner for the night.
    When I was swimming, I’d eat anything and everything that was in front of me because I could…like the Michael Phelps diet :p

    You’re right, your kids will not starve…I’ll eventually go to a restaurant or ask someone to bring me food, or ask someone to go with me to get food.ReplyCancel

  • naturallyeducated.com - Thanks for this post. I have three picky eaters and I go back and forth between the battles and saying, who cares? Sure you can have peanut butter toast for dinner. I like the idea of having at least one thing the child likes at the table. Think I might try that this week!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - As long as it’s not a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, right?? haha. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Nikki | Days With Us - Bravo! Thank you! I’m printing this an pasting it to my refrigerator. Seriously, I am a foodie. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love food. My 4 and 2 year old are the worst eaters. They only eat as you referred to as the beige, the white, and the orange (maybe). Mealtimes are horrible around here because I cook only one meal and then say a Hail Mary hoping they might try a bite. It’s so hard but I refuse to get into a battle over it. I agree 100% with not making this about power or demands but it still drives me insane. I want them to love food and to enjoy cooking and trying new things. Maybe, just maybe, they will remember the many things I’ve shared with them about food, cooking, and mealtime. I really enjoyed reading your post {visiting from Honest Voices Link-Up}. Thank you.

    Nikki | DAYS WITH US
    dayswithus.com
    ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Oooh – frustrating if you’re a foodie! I’m sure that they’ll see you modeling good eating habits and will one day follow along! It will be a good story when one of them is a Top Chef! :) Thanks for stopping by, I will definitely check out your blog!ReplyCancel

  • fadedginger - You have my full support. I was a picky eater, and I raised one. I even blogged ( http://wp.me/p2GxUO-KC ) about it a few weeks ago, because I get so tired of hearing moms judged because their children are picky eaters. Or, worse, hearing the children described as little monsters because they won’t eat green beans. Oh, and btw, my picky eater was always my healthiest child.

    ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Amen. The other mothers who tell me that my child didn’t eat anything at their house for dinner with that judgy tone annoy the crap out of me…especially when the next week THEIR child comes to my house and throws away everything I made, too.ReplyCancel

  • Helen Handley - “And something else I need to say.
    Mothers with children who eat meat and fish and broccoli and sushi? Please don’t judge. Please don’t roll your eyes when our kids don’t eat your green bean casseroles when they’re at your house for dinner and poke at their mashed potatoes. Contrary to what you might think, we’re not catering to our kids and feeding them only BBQ potato chips and string cheese for dinner (much) and letting them walk all over us. We don’t know why our kids are picky and yours aren’t any more than we know why your kid wets the bed and ours doesn’t. We’re just trying our best – like you are – to raise our kids with a healthy attitude towards food. “

    AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN. Thank you.

    Stopping by from Honest Voices. I blog over at http://wegotourhandsfull.blogspot.comReplyCancel

  • Stacey Hatton - Excellent post!!! Apparently, humor bloggers have children with this malady. Who knew?! Drives me freaking crazy at times, but the docs say the same thing here. Great info and I want to share it with the world, mah friend!!ReplyCancel

  • ~The Bargain Babe from *Zucchini Summer Blog* - Oh. My. Gosh.
    There are people out here living this too?? And not judging? Where have you been all my life?!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Right here! Well, only for the past year…
      Glad you found a kindred mama! Read all those comments up there….you are not alone, my friend!!ReplyCancel

  • Alison Sommer - I have one picky eater and one human garbage disposal. I know it has nothing to do with parenting. No judging. :)ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Isn’t it interesting how two kids can be raised in the same house by the same parents and have such different tastes? That’s fantastic! At least your garbage disposal gets lots of leftovers from the picky eater! ha.
      ReplyCancel

  • lorihokie - this is not making me feel better about my 3yo who is extremely picky, especially if something does not look “perfect.” (seriously, she pushes away sandwiches, berries, cheese sticks, etc and says, “It doesn’t look perfect!”)ReplyCancel

  • rugrat1411 - Reading this made me happy, because I cook 3 meals when I cook. One for my husband, one for one daughter and one for the other daughter. We only eat out together for birthdays, because it is so not worth it. People always say thats ridiculous I wouldn’t put up with that, Now I don’t feel so bad, knowing I’m not the only one going through this, thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Longo - I love this. I have a 6 year old who is terribly picky. We took him to a feeding clinic so specialists could evaluate him, that’s how bad it is. He eats the same 5 things, day in and day out. It is so frustrating. We can’t go out to eat, I cook two dinners. I’ve tried every trick in the book and none of it has worked. But when I backed off last year, he tried two new things, but it took a year of backing off to make it happen. Still though, we are the family whose kid pukes at everyone’s house because he doesn’t like what they are cooking, or pukes in every restaurant because he doesn’t like the look of your plate. People have actually asked if there’s anything we can do to make him stop. Stay home, that’s it. If there was any other way to make him not puke in public, don’t they think we’d do it?? Anyway, thank you for this. I needed the reminder that they grow up healthy and we all get through it.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Oh, I hope you check back here so I can tell you how much I feel for you and how hard I’m virtually hugging you right now. Something we finally did so that we could go out to eat and go to friends’ houses for dinner without the drama is we just fed them before we left. We’d still take them to restaurants with us but they either wouldn’t eat (because they already had), or would eat the bread or just order dessert. And I told friends not to worry about them, I’d either bring them something or they’d eat before we came. Whatever works for YOUR family is perfect – don’t listen to the nasty words from others. Trust me, there’s a lot of other things that are worse to be fretting about.
      Hang in there! xoReplyCancel

  • Sarah Baldwin - This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Baldwin - I’m 27 and STILL a ridiculously picky eater. Basically unless it’s from an animal grazing in a field, I won’t eat it. And even then I’m pretty particular about what’s on it (NO GREEN SHIT ON TOP!). Grows in the ground? Not a chance. Swims in the sea? Oh hell no. Strangely enough though, I used to eat everything as a child.

    As you’ve figured out, there’s not a lot you can do to help it. My parents tried but I got much, much worse as I grew up. I do hope it’s starting to get better for you guys, it becomes a real pain in the ass when you’re older. Not only is it difficult to find healthy food, it’s hard to go out with friends when they go to nice places (now I go & just order a beer!) but I also get a lot of concerns about having an eating disorder. I’ve had many a boss sit me down & have the “talk” with me, or concerned friends try to coax their posh nosh into me. I understand why, & I appreciate that they care enough to bother, but it’s also a bit frustrating that every time I meet a new bunch of co-workers (which is often) I have to go through it all again. Half the time I feel like opening with “My name is Sarah, and I do NOT have an ED!” Don’t get me wrong, give me some fried chicken & I’ll lick that bucket clean. But try having me eat your posh nosh, & I’ll probably throw up on your best china. And your fine persian rug. People don’t understand just how serious I am until they sneak carrots into my mash & I projectile vomit over a posh steakhouse in London.

    But if all fails, just know that eventually it will become your childs problem!!

    Also, on the fish head note – I work on cruise ships (hence the many new coworkers, I don’t just get fired a lot!), and every so often they have fish heads as a specialty. Literally, chopped off & piled on a tray. I once got backed into a corner by friends trying to touch me with them & had to reply to my boss’ radio call with a frantic “I can’t get past the fish heads!” Needless to say, on fish head day, I turn my ass around & get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, even if it means going hungry for the day.ReplyCancel

  • Kenyon Delk - Feeding my husband is no different than feeding our 7yo twins, unfortunately. :0/ Love your blog!ReplyCancel

  • Friday Favorites - Places I like to hang...and one I don't. - Youre My Favorite Today - […] I signed up about a month ago and have already had a post on the top of the leaderboard (the picky eaters one, which has become my second most viewed post of all-time. By “all-time” I mean 14 […]ReplyCancel

  • Cindy Schlung - I have a daughter who would only be at bread (no crusts or edges), cheese, and fruit until she went off to university. We went through what exactly you explain. We even had some friends who kept (seriously) a bucket at the table because she would try their food and invariably puke. Lo and behold she went off to university and came back kind of paleo-vegan. Go figure. We stopped beating ourselves up. Finally. Nice to see you getting support because it is tough.
    Hang on thereReplyCancel

  • Rick Roberts - I don’t know why you all put up with that crap. I really don’t. If they don’t eat what the rest of the family is eating, they might be hungry enough by the time the next meal rolls around. You people need to stop letting your kids rule you. It’s ridiculous.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Thank you for your very thoughtful comment, but I disagree. If you read the post closely you’ll see that there are definite boundaries set with mealtimes and that instead of anyone “ruling” anyone else in our family we are trying to create a respectful relationship not only with food (and subsequent food issues) but among EACH OTHER. In our family — as appears to be the case in many of the families of the previous commenters — having respect for your children facilitates their respect of you.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Banse - Sensory processing disorder. Try Googling that. It’s very real. It can affect any of the senses. It is very common among, but not limited to, autistic persons. I once had a student who lived almost entirely on raw, cruciferous vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, radishes) because he was orally hyposensitive. He couldn’t eat bland and/or soft foods because they were basically flavorless goo in his mouth. Foods with firm textures and strong (even bitter) flavors were the only ones that he could feel or taste. A few months ago I read that researchers at Duke University’s mental health department are studying underlying physical causes of picky eating. I hope they glean useful information.ReplyCancel

  • Foxy Wine Pocket - I hear you, sister. My kids are also picky eaters. We go through an ungodly amount of rice, pasta, peanut-butter toast, and grilled cheese. You are not alone, and I will not judge you. And, if being picky eaters is the worst trait about our kids, I think we’re doing a damn fine job at parenting! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Here the 4yr old is all about tacos, regular tacos, cheese rolls ups dipped in sour cream. I once tried to put pot roast in a tortilla shell…. Yeah that was a fail! LOL I know getting Mcdonalds is wrong but like yours wont touch chicken nuggets mine wont touch fries or potatoes in ANY form! But loves yogurt and the apples. BTW Mcdonalds wont tell you but you can sub out fries and get both! I printed out your rules from the DR and we are going to try it hard core for a month maybe we can get more trying food. That first bite sometimes is the hardest battle!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Over the past 12 years since that doctor’s visit, we’ve modified things a bit. Once the kids were older we’d be like, “hey, if you don’t want what I’m cooking for dinner then you are on your own, sis!” yet would definitely set parameters on what they could make themselves (i.e., NOT a half a box of Cap’n Crunch!). But when they’re too little to do that, just try to have one or two things available that he likes (even if it’s cheese roll-ups every night!) and make dinnertime an enjoyable time instead of a battle! And obviously, there’s lots of info. out on the web or even at your doctor’s office to help you through it! Good luck!!ReplyCancel

  • jenG - I’m so glad this is here.

    My toddler is super picky and I struggle to remain calm about it. Basically, he’s just still not fond of most solids…which wasn’t a problem until he decided to quit nursing cold turkey before 10mos. His main nutrition is “smoothies”–yogurt and baby purees blended with milk in his straw cup. He still loves most “baby kibble” that he ate all along–puffs and freeze-dried yogurt bits, plus Goldfish or similar snacks. He’ll tear into watermelon by the handful for a while, then stop. Same with a few other fruits. Waffles are hit or miss. Graham crackers are awesome! Except when they’re not. Everyone who thought they’d get an adorable cake-smash pic from his 1st birthday went home unfulfilled. (I did warn them…)

    And yet…he grows. He’s solid and strong and developing. And he will quietly shake his head or hold up his hand if he doesn’t want something. He does occasionally show unsolicited interest in new foods.

    He comes by it honestly enough. I was picky until my late teens, and his father has never tried a banana (or yogurt, for that matter, so the kid has him beat on those). But oh, the stress of being around moms whose kids eat “well,” who’ve “laid down the law”…as if we haven’t tried it all (including feeding therapy, which was a joke).

    tl;dr: Thank you for this. :)ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - I love that he “quietly will shake his head or hold up his hand” if he doesn’t want something! That’s adorable!
      Oh, the judgement from the other mothers!! Believe me, sister, I’ve been there. My kids are 18 and 13 now, so I’m here to tell you YOU WILL SURVIVE! I used to HATE IT when one girl would come home from a sleepover and the mother would say, “She just picked at her dinner last night! I felt so bad!” but you know they were totally exasperated by it. I still tuck a granola bar in my 13 year old’s bag when she’s going to a sleepover! Listen, just keep doing what you feel best doing and don’t listen to all the criticism. You know your child — and your family — best.
      And btw, your husband has NEVER tried a banana?!? That’s fabulous.ReplyCancel

      • jenG - The banana avoidance is true. He has to be the only native Californian who has never eaten a banana IN THE HISTORY OF TIME. Or, judging by these comments, not. 😉 I’m betting that our kid was too young at the time to hear his father refuse to try a lentil because “they look like boogers,” but maybe not…

        So…yeah. Not a surprise, I guess.ReplyCancel

  • Kerri - My children are both picky eaters. My husband and I were as well, but as we got older we both became more adventurous with food. In any case, 30+ years ago my parents believed in the make the child eat what you serve or starve approach. Guess what? I spent countless nights at the dinner table and never ate a single thing. Not once. But I turned out ok, and I try to remember this with my kids. Sure, it frustrates me when my son throws a full body tantrum complete with gagging and screaming when I serve him something new. But I realized that I was fighting a losing battle and just getting everyone upset. So I always offer the food to my kids and ask that they try it, but if they don’t eat it they can still have a peanut butter sandwich.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Wallace - My kids go thru “picky phases”. But I’ve learned over the years the best approach for us, is that I make a meal & they can take it or leave it. If its something we’ve never had before, they are at least required to try it. After that, how much they eat is up to them, but I don’t make different meals for everyone, & thats dinner for the night, no making anything later. What I made for dinner is it, at most I might include bread or a fruit I know they’ll like with a questionable meal, but I don’t kill myself making adult food & kid food. They won’t starve & more than likely will be hungrier at the next meal. LOL If I made a meal that the adults liked more than the kids would, then the next night I try to make one of the kid faves, but again- thats the only meal offered, even for adults 😉 (my hubby HATES tacos, but its a kid fave, so he suffers thru taco night. lol)ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Banse - Thank you. I actually cried. I feel so alone sometimes. It helps to know I’m not. My older daughter is ridiculously picky too, even with junk food that most kids love. The only difference between my picky kid and all other picky kids that I’ve read about is that she has NOT been that way “from day 1”. She was a wonderful eater until about 3&1/2 years old. Then something changed; she stopped liking foods she once loved (including KitKat bars). Over the last 4 years her palate has shrunk to a handful of foods. I’m seriously afraid that if terrorists manage to disrupt food production & distribution in the U.S. (by attacking our power grid, for example, which eliminates refrigerated storage) that she will literally starve to death.ReplyCancel

  • Jodie Whitehurst Mallinson - My daughter is very firm on only eating breads and carbs. The craziest thing she will try is pepperoni pizza. She refuses to eat vegetables and fruit. It has been become an annoyance. Now I make my husband, son and I dinner and she is on her own to find something to eat now.ReplyCancel

  • Rhona Young - Hi,

    I want you to know that my 7 year old daughter loves fruit, veggies, mixed-up food like lasagne, stirfries and sushi! I exposed her to lots of flavours and textures from an early age.

    I also want you to know that my 10 year old son does not. I exposed him to lots of flavours and textures from an early age, too. LOL! He has Sensory Processing Disorder and I am not kidding when I say that a fruit or vegetable has not passed his lips in YEARS.

    I follow Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibilty to the best of my ability and just try to make mealtimes pleasant. But oh my god, we dread meals with extended family and we only accept dinner invitations from families who really get it. Fortunately, we are lucky to have lots of awesome friends who celebrate our son’s quirky eating habits. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together!

    Thanks for a great article!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie Woods - 21st century parenting. Sigh. SMHReplyCancel

  • Jason Forney - My son is extremely picky, he’s into dairy though. Very few gems does he find outside of that.ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie Goldthwaite - Amen! I have 3 boys and I end up mostly making each of them what they want and we all just dine ala carte. Their dad has more of a family dinner “eat what I prepared” approach. The boys understand that we have different approaches to food and they value both. I came from an “eat what your mother prepared you will sit at the table trying to choke down that meatloaf over the next two hours” home – struggled with bulimia and food issues most of my teenage and adult life. I’m totally an adventurous eater as an adult, and although I too would love it if my boys appreciated mexican and indian food, I just think making food a struggle isn’t worth it.ReplyCancel

  • Steven Bellock - I have both ends of the spectrum, one child who will at the very least TRY anything you put in front of her, two that try a few things here and there and one that only consistently eats bananas and chicken (depending on how it’s cooked)ReplyCancel

  • Angela Slaght - yesterday my son,3, ate a yogurt…that’s it! the day before, a wrap with cinnamon spread..thats it! its so frustrating!!!!! I really have no clue how he is still alive! But he’s happy and oddly enough, healthy!ReplyCancel

  • Denise Bolaños - So wait, your entire story is that ONE TIME you tried to expand your child’s diet, in 6 years of time, you failed, and you took them to an allopathic medicine doctor, not a nutritionist or someone who has studied nutrition for longer than a semester, and that was enough to convince you that your child could make the rules regarding what you’re allowed to cook every day? Wow, so convincing!ReplyCancel

  • Linda Spencer - I felt like you must have had a hidden camera in my house for this article! It was identical for my son. He’s healthy by doctor standards but I get so much grief from grandparents, playe dates etc. thanks for validating my issues no matter what I try!ReplyCancel

  • Jess Lowe - I am so happy I read this. I have always eaten just about anything that doesn’t crawl away (and no, I’m not unhealthy, I’m very athletic). My children are very picky, not as picky as they could be, but still very picky. It has become a huge frustration for me because dinner time is such a battle. I am going to follow your doctor’s advice for sure and try to put aside the control issue with food! My husband eats absolutely ZERO veggies, I mean it, not one single veggie goes in his mouth or he will vomit. No kidding. So that makes enforcing “eat it or starve” even harder when he won’t eat half of the stuff our friends or restaurants serve either! Thank goodness my kids DO love veggies and fruits. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Glad to know I’m not alone on this one! :)ReplyCancel

  • Crystal Jeremy Lynch - Live the frustration… and love your post. Thanks!! ReplyCancel

  • Heather Holter - We have an eat it or starve rule. It is too hard to try to please 5 kids so we don’t put one thing they like on the table. There isn’t one thing they all like. If they eat it good if not ok. When bedtime snack rolls around, those that didn’t eat get fruit or peanut butter on wheat bread, and the ones that did get what they want. Most nights they all eat because they don’t want to watch their siblings get ice cream or popcorn while they eat bread or fruit. I do not get mad, they decide. ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - So many thoughts on this. Teaching them to take take responsibility for getting their body the food it needs everyday from the food choices they have is what the goal should be.

    Respect for them and giving them many choices both in and out of their comfort zones will have the best results. We spent 6 weeks with our 12 year old in the hospital for outpatient eating rehab due to slow growth and malnutrition issues. Diagnosed as Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Trust me. They CAN starve!! Being consistent and firm but respectful and giving her enough time helped us get 14 pounds on her in 6 weeks. And she now has an enormous range of foods she loves.ReplyCancel

  • Martin Scott - I have a 3 going on 4 year old boy who use to eat everything placed in front of him, for the last 6-8 months though he has had an appitite of a hamster and taken to eating jam sandwiches and cheese by the block. I get him to help me cook dinner and sometime he will clean his plate. (When butter or cheese is involved) otherwise he would only eat surtan veg and bugger all elseReplyCancel

  • Carolyn Perkins Nelson - Sounds like my house with my son who has SPD. Extreme picky eating!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Roberts Pannell - Fabulous article! As a mother to a very picky 5 yr old, I thank you for writing it.:) I always order her plain spaghetti WITH NO GREEN THINGS. LOL I think there is hope for her – the other day she ate Mexican rice without me having to pick out the “red and green things.” Also, my older kids (ages 22, 20, and 16) are normal eaters who were, almost, as picky as she. ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Fitzgerald - When I was a kid, I was a picky eater. There were certain foods that actually made me gag, or expel them. My mother would tell me I couldn’t leave the table until I’d finished everything on my plate -I’d be there until bedtime. She would often give my dinner back to me for breakfast -I just didn’t eat it, until it was so inedible she had to throw it out. As an older child, I got smarter. I hid food in my napkin, sneaked it off and flushed it down the toilet. When I feel sad, or angry, my first instinct is to punish myself with food. I will stop eating entirely if someone makes me feel sorry for my food,or if I think they are staring at me and I hated eating in public for years. I am less picky than I was but I think I will always have food issues. Mealtimes should not be a battleground. My memories of childhood dinner times are atrocious. ReplyCancel

  • Sydney Del Valle - This article is keeping me calm as I am trying to feed my son dinner right now. He has turned his nose up at mac n cheese, chicken nuggets and a grilled cheese tonight! Eventually I hope he stops being so picky. It is the most frustrating thing I’ve ever dealt with lol. Meanwhile my other son will shove anything in his mouth, thankfully. It’s just nice to know that there are other people out there with extremely picky children lol. Mine might be the pickiest!ReplyCancel

  • Teragram Yelgif - Thank you so much for writing this article.ReplyCancel

  • K - I’m really amazed how much picky eaters are accepted nowadays. I was brought up to eat whatever offered. Im from a food cultured country – you appreciate fish and seafood by seaside, and What food can be grown and picked in which season from young age. My parents made me to leave the table if I made fuss about food but I never felt like a battle over the food. My parents worked 6days a week, most of days I had healthy home made food but other time they had to give me ready meals, which I hated.I was however just grateful and I didn’t think that I had a choice what to eat but again I didn’t feel like controlled over what I eat. Now I am also mother of 4 I really think it is not only about “5 a day” or how healthy you can eat, but it’s all about how parents show appreciation what you have on the table. All our children finish their food even if they are not keen. I don’t make them and they can leave the table if they didn’t wish to finish. They thank me at the end of meal. They eat all vegetables and fruits. Are we just lucky? Or Has our food culture taught us a lot about food to enjoy and to appreciate?ReplyCancel

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