My kids won’t eat what I cook. Should I care?

I used to love cooking. I made dishes like coq au vin, marinated flank steak, and chicken piccata. I peeled potatoes, boiled them, and whipped them into heavenly clouds of lumpless fluff. I roasted asparagus to the point that the tips would get browned and crispy and salty. Mmmmm. Ahhhh. Excuse me while I have a moment.

But now? I have kids.

And my kids are the type of kids who won’t eat anything that appeals to taste buds older than, say, five years of age.

I can list the main dishes they will both eat on one hand: Peanut butter and jelly/fluff. Meatballs. Pasta. Turkey dogs. Mac & cheese. Chicken nuggets.

Okay, I need a sixth finger. But you get my point. Can I even count PB&J as a main dish?

I don’t get it.

I ate everything when I was a kid. It wasn’t an option to have something different from what my parents ate. I never asked. They never offered. Fish, meat, exotic fruits, and yes, even brussels sprouts – I ate it all. And I loved it all. I was a foodie before age five.

I was thrilled to bits to dine at fancy establishments when on vacation. For me it was as exciting to go to the five-star restaurant at the Williamsburg Inn as it was to go to Busch Gardens.

So how did I, lover of all food, end up with kids whose palates are seriously deficient?

Apparently it is all my fault. As usual.

My pediatrician says: “Make the kids eat what you eat.”

What this turns into: Me and the hubs eating chicken nuggets with the kids.

I tried. I really did. I believe it all went south when Anne was little and just starting to eat table foods. Hubs and I would eat a normal dinner. Anne wouldn’t eat it when it was offered.

I, being first-time parent of a 90th percentile height and 10th percentile weight toddler, freaked out that she’d lose more weight and gave her something she’d eat.

Anne realized that she could make her newbie mom feed her what she wanted, whenever she wanted.

Fast-forward five years, and if I want the kids to eat what I eat, I’m eating something beige and toddler-sized.

Website advice columns say: “Cook dinners that the whole family will eat.”

What this turns into: Me hurling the computer with said advice across the room when my kids reject my latest attempt at a family meal.

For a few blessed times, everyone ate pasta and homemade meatballs. For another short stretch of time, it was lasagna. Once it was a casserole. But what always happens is one of the girls – usually Anne – suddenly refuses to eat the accepted meal. And one or two people end up in tears over it. I am always one of them.

So it’s not like we don’t eat. I still cook. But I don’t love it.

And I want to love it again. But I am tired of making separate meals for the kids and for the adults. I hate that when Hubs and I devise a plan to get everyone to eat the same thing, it doesn’t work – either because I can’t take Anne’s tantrums anymore or I am worried she will waste away into nothing if she doesn’t eat.

Grace is a bit more open to trying new foods and I am fully taking advantage of it. At least she’ll try what’s put in front of her. But Anne … not so much. So it’s a conundrum.

What about you?

Do you cook different foods for the kids and adults in your life? If so, are you okay with it? If you are unhappy with the situation, how have you tried to fix it?

And if you all eat the same thing at mealtime – how, in all that is holy, do you do it?!

Comments

  1. says

    I, like you eat everything as a child. You eat your brussels sprouts, I eat (and loved) the liver my parents cooked for me. When my boys came along I was determined it would be the same way, and it was. Up until they turned 2 at which point it all went downhill.
    Now that they are older its gotten much much better. They eat a huge variety of foods. Veggies are still not big one list. But each boy seems to have chosen one green veg that they love and eat it all the time, although I’m bored to tears cooking them.
    I guess my one bit of advice is keep at it. Offer foods over and over and over.
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  2. says

    This is my life! Well, except that I have no idea how to make coq au vin. I was a picky eater as a child and occasionaly my mom would make me something different, but often, I just wouldn’t eat. Now with three sons and a baby, I feel like I’m a short order cook. We only have one who will eat what Hubby and I eat. And I have a tiny, skinny one, too that I worry about. I wish I knew the answer. I am going to feed the baby anything and everything and see if he becomes a better eater.
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  3. says

    When I was a child, I ate only one food from each of the four food groups:

    Protein – peanut butter
    Fruit/vegetable – applesauce
    Bread – mashed potatoes (& it had to be boxed)
    Dairy – milk (only w/strawberry powder in it)

    I was a colossal pain in the ass. I remember my parents rejoicing when I learned to tolerate lettuce. ICEBERG lettuce. Really? It tastes like water.

    My kids were the opposite. They ate everything in sight. The first time my said tried a banana he ate the entire thing. And he was 6 months old. I had fed my children broccoli for breakfast when the toddlers because I felt they had eaten so much that I could only imagine giving them pure nutrition as seconds. (Or fourths.)

    And now? Well, short of red meat, I eat everything in sight. Sigh. I am easily the least picky person in my household (to my husband’s most, by the way). And my kids? The ones who would eat sushi at one and bok choy at two? Well, those little pains in the butt now balk at the brand of macaroni & cheese I buy. One doesn’t like mashed potatoes and the other is finicky about the kind of cheese I serve. Really?

    These are not my kids. I mean … the moral of the story is … whoever they are now has NO bearing on who they will be as eaters. For now, enjoy the chicken nuggets. Your metabolism won’t be able to tolerate them forever. And I highly suggest a peanut Thai dipping sauce.
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    • Nat says

      My son is like this. Im finding myself sick and tired of even TRYING to make anything I KNOW he wont eat. He’s even started not eating his Peanut Butter “chinches” People tell me he will eat if he is hungry enough” but this isn’t true. He will wait. And wait. And WAIT. And if he has to mess up his food in a way that it can’t be eaten anymore, he will. Mucho frustration. Lately i’s been Mac and cheese, Buttered toast, applesauce and fries. We will have a beautiful array in front of him, and he will still say he’s hungry……

      • Worried Mom says

        I’m worried like crazy too…. My son is the same way….He is hungry but he’ll not eat…. He hardly eats one meal a day and that too may be half of it…. I can’t help but feed him….Its takes 2 hrs for dinner but can’t see him starving himself and not eat….He is two years old and goes to pre-school….I give him one main entree, fruit and a side item…. the only thing is consistently eats everyday is fruit….. some items side item and hardly main entree once a week…. he is very lean…. it drives me crazy and gives me sleepless nights…

  4. Erin says

    Sometimes I make my daughter something separate from what my husband and I eat, but usually we all eat the same thing. My daughter tried doing the same thing yours does, but I grew up in a household that proudly carried the standard tradition of you don’t eat what is put in front of you, you go hungry. My pediatrician also told me that basically she will eat when she is hungry, she won’t starve herself to death and that it might take awhile before you figure out what she actually does not like. So far the only thing I have found that she really dislikes is spaghetti and sauce. I remember if I used to throw tantrums over the food I was served, I was sent to bed without supper. Giving in is only making the problem worse, which is something you’ve already figured out. Good luck!

  5. says

    My son eats about 5 foods. He has sensory processing disorder AND reflux, so both of these things have caused him to have severe food issues. He occasionally has trouble eating at a table where there are lots of strong smells and sights. IT. IS. A. LIVING. HELL. My daughter is pretty open to trying foods and she gets what my husband and I eat, but my son always gets a different “meal” (can’t even really call it a meal). Once I tried saying, you are eating what we are eating and he ate nothing for 2 days, until I caved. I hope Old Dog New Tits is right and he can change someday.

    But, until then… I hear you. Wish I had some advice for you. With my daughter, we just put it in front of her and I consider myself satisfied if she has a few bites. Often she will eat the whole thing and want seconds, but on those picky days, I am fine if she eats three bites. Having my son first really put it all into perspective.
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    • Melissa says

      My son (11) has a sensory processing disorder as well. He only eats about 10 things and I have caved for so long that it is a HUGE issue. I dread dinner time… My daughters (5 and 7) are pretty picky as well. I can usually get them to eat one thing at the table each night but I end up adding/making extra things. Right now we are on a wait list for an eating clinic at Duke for kids with selective eating disorders and their families. The hardest part of it all is I am such a healthy eater and I feel like such a hypocrite serving my kids the foods they eat/want. But if I ever served them quinoa it would end up as a gagfest!

  6. says

    I’m like you, Chicken nuggets are a regular feature on our menu. I used to love cooking, now I hate my kitchen. I shouldn’t complain, my kids love fruit, cereal and toast, all fairly healthy, easy to prepare foods. But I miss whipping up a lovely 3 course meal for hubby and I, just because I want to.
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  7. says

    I was like you. No surprise there, as we are finding out. I had a plate put in front of me and I ate everything on it or I would not get my precious Nutty Buddy for dessert. Oh the horror!

    My children ate everything I gave them. Tuck refused to give up baby food until 12 months. Weirdo. Anyways, Mags made it to six months with the stuff and I was grateful. She devoured EVERYTHING! Olives, avocados, meat, cheese, papaya, mango and sprouts. You name it, she ate it and followed it up with “MMMMMMMMM”. Now, she is the Picky McPicky pants and Tuck has turned it around. He hit six and eats whatever I put in front of him. Literally I sat and stared at him the other night when he DEVOURED a stuffed green pepper in a minute.

    So I do the chicken nugget thing? Yes. I eat it with them. I do make them try a “no thank you” bite for everything, though. Mags is always the first to make a face. Grrrr!

    My rambling is coming to a close, no worries. I say they will come around. There tastes will change as they grow. They will find what they like. As long as they are healthy and growing…I say you are good. :)
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  8. says

    Usually, we all eat the same thing. Sometimes, I’ll make the children something that I know their dad won’t eat (like…anything with tuna in it, for example), but usually it’s one meal. I try to include at least one thing that I know everyone will eat. Or, for example, mashed potatoes because child A will eat them, but won’t eat anything else that night, and carrots, because child B will like them, but not anything else.
    We also have a rule that you have to have 3 bites of everything before you can declare it to be horrid.
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  9. says

    Dad’s a meat and potatoes man, Mom gave up trying new foods for him. I grew up on meatloaf (sorry but turning meat into bread still doesn’t do anything for me without being drowned in ketchup, and I despise ketchup) and overcooked vegetables. I’m pickier than my husband, who, bless his heart, tries everything under the sun to get me to eat vegetables. I’m learning, but I still don’t like them. But my upbringing: children are seen and not heard, don’t ask for seconds on anything until it is quite clear that everyone is finished with their firsts, eat what’s on the plate before you, these rules were drilled into us as kids because my mother would not be embarrassed in the homes of her friends and families. To this day, if someone has gone through the trouble to prepare it, I eat it without complaint. Even my husband’s stew (my absolute least favorite meal in the world, next to deep fried crickets) I eat and say thank you for supper honey. I don’t have kids, but my niece and nephew both need a lesson in the above rules because I leave restaurants angry when we’ve all dined out together.

    I didn’t know what a chicken nugget was until I became an adult. Maybe they weren’t invented until then. Maybe it was strategic on Mom’s part to keep me clueless. I dunno. I wish I had some gem of wisdom I could impart here that doesn’t result in a paddling. Have you tried the “Deceptively Delicious” cookbook?

    I wish you luck and give you the sympathetic hug over the internet.
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  10. says

    Oh, the stress of meals. My eldest ate pretty much anything I gave him until he turned 3 1/2 and it shocked me at how picky he got. At first I tried forcing, insisting, yelling, withholding, etc, but it ended in tears and frustration for both of us. He overnight quit milk, the one thing he had loved as a toddler and that I felt was so needed for his growth. That was a tough one. He is also the type of kid who loses weight easily when sick, and if I recall correctly, he had been sick shortly before he got picky.
    What I found was that I had to stop forcing him to eat at all, and when he was hungry he would eat. I also allowed him extra snacks of some things he did like so he could regain the weight he lost – mainly buns and pancakes. Now at 4 1/2 he is still picky but is slowly eating better.
    I learned that 1) getting upset only made it worse for everyone, and 2) I had to see what he was eating and not what he wasn’t. He loves fruit, carrot sticks, yoghurt, plain salted chickpeas, breads, rice, fish, chicken, and meat. So instead of freaking out that he didn’t want milk, I gave him extra yoghurt. Instead of making him eat the chickpeas in the spicy sauce (that he loved as a toddler), I let him eat them plain. I never cook two separate meals, but I always try to serve something I know the kids will eat. Now my daughter is almost 3 and is getting pickier. She used to be a great eater, but I don’t get upset like I did with my son. Mealtime is more peaceful for all of us. I also taught Logan to tell me nicely if he didn’t want to eat a certain thing instead of screaming like he used to, and it makes it easier for me to let him not eat it cause he is being nice about it.
    I also make sure their snacks are healthy. They love peanuts and rasins, dates, saltine crackers, and banana chips, so that is one of their main snacks (a little of all of it mixed). I figure the important thing is that they do eat, not what or when, so if they don’t want breakfast when I serve it, or they just eat the fruit, I know they will be hungry in an hour so I leave it on the table and they always amble back and finish it. I also keep junk food out of the house and they know that chocolate is a treat, not something they can have daily.
    My top advice? Relax, let them eat what they want to eat but do offer new stuff frequently, and save the special hard work meals for later. Last night I made spicy fried chicken, mashed potoatos and salad. My picky eaters just had the chicken. Argg, I knew I shouldn’t have worked so hard on it. (At least my husband liked it.)

    Maybe I need to write a whole post about this. :)
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  11. says

    I DO NOT make special meals for my four kids. I did that with my oldest and it was a BIG mistake. My pediatrician says that I should have at least one thing on the plate that everyone will like. If they are hungry, they will eat. But I have the same weight problem with my kids – they are like 10th percentile for weight and they are about the same for height so I always feel the pressure to make them eat. I actually hate the pressure. I always say, dinnertime is my least favorite time of the day.

  12. says

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

    Just today I saw an article in the Boston Globe on this topic. The attacks by some commenters are just mind-boggling. People love to throw stones at each other over this! I left a comment there. Sort the comments by “latest first” and you’ll see mine. Here’s a link to the article:

    http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2012/05/09/at_the_end_of_the_day_its_the_scariest_question_a_mom_can_face_whats_for_dinner

  13. says

    My kids are like this too. I have twin almost 8 year olds and they are so picky. I have had to resort to punishments, groundings and bribery to get them to eat my food, and even then sometimes they prefer the grounding over my food. I say this as I'm fighting with my son to finish his one lone rib i put on his plate.. I am not a bad cook. I always try different things. I'm out of ideas on how to get them to eat. When i was a kid, it was eat dinner or get a spanking. It isn't that way anymore and these kids today get away with so much more than i ever would have. Does anyone else have ideas?

  14. Ashlee Collins Mathis says

    Sighhhh. My child won't eat any meat, except for chicken fingers, not even nuggets. She eats PB and Nutella sandwiches, no crust. Go-gurt, crackers, corn chips, pizza, and cereal. The only fruit she'll eat are strawberries and bananas. Veggies…..carrots. She's never had pasta, soup, salad, eggs…..and she's 4. I am a vegetarian and never made much of a fuss about preparing food. My husband is a chef who studied French cuisine and cooked with Emeril, and he eats EVERYTHING. So, I have to make 3 separate meals. His meat thing, my burrito, her whatever. It is the biggest problem we have ever had to face. She won't eat anything from a restaurant, unless it's corn chips or dessert. So, I feed her before we go out, and let her order a dessert, so we can have our meals in peace. We have tried everything. NOTHING works not even bribing anymore. I've started giving her breakfast essentials, mixed with ice, milk, and spinach. I give it to her daily, sometimes twice a day. My husband is furious about the whole issue, mainly me, because she inherited my palette. I just read some article about 10 things you should never say to your child about food……I've said all of them. Is that REALLY the problem? I doubt it. I mean what kid won't eat mac and cheese? Mine. I gave her a wedge of a Cutie the other day…she barely licked it and started gagging as if I tried to feed her a hairball. The Dr. says not to give up. At this point, I feel if I continue making food an issue, it will be her biggest issue her entire life. I'm hoping that by eating in the cafeteria next year, she'll be curious to try what her friends are eating…..but I'm pretty sure I'll be packing her lunch. Good luck.

    • Daria Boyko Canton says

      Have you had her tested for food allergies? When I was in elementary school, I would never drink the milk. Turns out I am allergic to milk.

  15. Chase Miller says

    I don't make separate meals for my kids because, frankly, I don't want to. There are rare exceptions to this (ie. when we make a soup that my toddler would have trouble spooning into his mouth, or something spicy) and sometimes we treat them to something kid-like for fun. However, they usually get what we get and they hardly ever eat anything. I started to realize that my husband and I are eating three medium-sized meals a day with snacks in between, so maybe my kids should do that same thing. We made healthy choices available for snacks (whole almonds and dried cranberries, fresh fruit, string cheese) and it has been well-received. I feel like they're eating a little more now. Dinner is still a struggle. Every. Single. Night.

  16. Joy Jeffries says

    It is exhausting, I agree. I have two boys, ages 7 and 1. My 1 year old can't eat a lot of what we eat because he is allergic to milk products. My 7 year old just won't eat much more than mac and cheese, corn dogs, pb&j, and a few other items. It is a fight if I try to get him to eat what we are eating. I have been making separate meals for years because of this and no matter what I do, I can't seem to change that. I don't know what else to do. Should I tell the oldest that he eats what he is given or he doesn't eat at all, or do I make him what he wants? How do we change these horrible habits without putting their health at risk?

  17. amanda bowden says

    My son is 3 1/2 he Literally will only eat yogurt, cereal, mac and cheese, sometimes an apple and sometimes a banana. I’ve tried everyhting from hiding foods in his food, to not giving him what he wanted (that didn’t go well at all, he ended up not eating for two whole days it made him sick) he’s in the 8th percentile for his age and now his dr wants me to do the whole don’t give him what he wants thing again. Does anyone have any advise? Its such a struggle at meal times I can’t even get him to try other foods. I’m worried about him bc I want him to grow, and bc I think he’s hungry all day bc he is always asking for food. How can he ever get full if he’s really always eating grains?

    • Zk Mama says

      @ Amanda B:
      My son never asks for food, always says he’s not hungry, will not eat unless the pain of not eating (missing out on the playground etc) is greater than the pain of eating. Take heart, it’s long but at the end I have a suggestion.

      I have a 3.5 year old. He’s not a picky eater, in that he tries a wide variety of food (from eggplant to quinoa to mango chicken and all the in between stuff) – HE JUST WON’T EAT more than a 1/2 bite of it.

      So, being barely 30lbs (actually, that’s fully clothed) and short, naturally I’m worried he’s starving himself. In fact at age 17 months he was tested by a pediatric gastroenterologist. And yep, he was. Starving himself that is. His protein intake came back similar to a famished Ethiopian toddler (super low prealbumin). The reason for the referral was that from age 12 months to age 17 months he had only gained 4oz! He was 15.1lbs at 12 months and 15.35 at 17 months.
      Just a 1/4 of a pound in 5 months – and at that age! When I stopped BF at age 12.5 months (he weened himself as soon as he learned he could run away) he basically stopped eating all together. spitting out foods, having horrible stools etc. he was getting baby food/real food from age 5.5 months on.

      I refused to starve a 17 month old who didn’t know any better (it was NOT a power struggle issue!!! – And I’m really bugged that people still say it is).

      Thankfully a very smart and wise friend recommended we have our son treated with NAET: Nambudripads Allergy Elimination Treatment. I will explain that later.
      Now keep in mind our son had just had 12 vials of blood drawn in one day – in search of any and every food allergy imaginable. None were high enough to be detected. Also keep in mind, I’m quite fine with standard American medicine as hubby is an MD and I’m now resigned from the medical field. But it wasn’t helping my son. NAET uses knowledge from chiropractic and acupuncture as a compliment to standard western medicine.
      NAET – it defines allergy as anything our body doesn’t know how to process or what to do with (i.e. alcohol in perfume: reject from absorbing into the body; calcium from milk: digest/accept). It’s a treatment that is non invasive and actually acts to reset the nervous system (seems weird I know) to retrain your body to properly absorb or reject substances (FOOD in the case of my young son).

      I kid you not, after 3 NAET treatments (acupressure and exposure to the foods / substances in question, including saliva and digestive enzymes) my son gained 2 Full Pounds and his stools became normal. He ate well for the next 24 months. It’s only now that I”m having a regression (age 41/42 months) . He’s scheduled for follow up treatment in March.

      He will drink Fruitables juice (just 4-6 oz/day) and takes a gummie vitamin in the AM/PM; plus a fiber gummie.. Sometimes drink 3oz of Boost vanilla or Horizon organic milks. Or 6-7 pistachio nuts.

      My hubby (MD) and our sons pediatrician both say “no neurologically intact child will starve himself”; yet my son will go for hours if not 2 days without eating. Not even foods he used to like, like pizza, mac n cheese, cereal, carrots, apples etc. Well apparently, bright as he is, perhaps he isn’t as “neurologically intact” as we had thought.

      And, especially since he’s giving up his nap, leaves me with a grumpy, tired and very irritable 3.5 year old. How happy are we adults when we’ve not had anything but juice and 3 fish crackers in 9 hours?!?

      http://www.naet.com

      also YouTube NAET success stories.

      • Lisa says

        My son was also literally starving himself…evidenced by albumin levels as well. We limped along from 1 year (when we stopped formula) to age 4. We then started Pediasure supplemental drinks added to the little food he would eat. At 9, he voluntarily gave up the Pediasure. It’s been a long road and an expensive one. There are behavioral “food camps”. It’s something we never tried, but sometimes I wish we had.

    • says

      We had similar issues with my daughter (and still sometimes do). She once didn’t eat for almost a week when they wanted us to try a gluten free diet. We battle anemia because she doesn’t eat much meat. I found by decreasing snacks and focusing on 3 meals it got a little better but we also give her pressure to give her the extra nutrients. I also allow myself to give her Dino-nuggets and hotdogs since that is the only meat she’ll eat.
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  18. Ana Mamana says

    same story over here :/ and my older two kids have started to 'spoil' the younger two with their 'bad example' of not eating… it's terrible… I consider myself&hubs gourmands but nothing seems to help the kids…

  19. Daria Boyko Canton says

    After my husband and I went on a whole food cleanse, I realized that making meals out of real food takes a lot of work. I have been spending hours in the kitchen cooking quinoa and roasted vegetables. I can imagine long ago when this was the norm in most households that after a mother slaved all day in the kitchen, that kid was eating whatever she made or he/she didn't eat. I think the availability of processed foods has made it easier to make two separate meals. We give our kids too many options. Either they eat it or go hungry. Now saying that, there are times I will make something else for my kids if I am making something unusual or spicy or they are sick and just want soup. We have to stop becoming slaves to our kids and take back the kitchen. Don't buy the junk and they won't eat it!

  20. Jane Gent says

    I am at my wits end with my kids and food – my husband and I have 5 between us – four living at home – you can never get them to eat the same thing – one of them always has something to say – dinner can last over an hour, and then more often than not ends in tears. My youngest is the worst for tantrums, my middle girl is the worst for trying stuff. And my youngest has just told me she would rather go hungry than eat pasta (this is a new thing, usually she will eat it) Grrr, what do you do?

    • Laura Bolton says

      Sounds like hell for u poor thing !! Its really hard when u have different tastes , my youngest is the same would rather have junk mostly then eat a proper meal drives me nuts but I've kind of given up now so if he eats a sandwich for dinner then that's all he has. Really annoying when your over the oven for ages cooking. ! Xx

  21. says

    He eats what he is given or he doesn't leave the table and if he cries or refuses he goes in the corner until he is ready to come eat calmly. And if he doesn't eat it then he asks for something later than its that I put it in the fridge til he says he's hungry and warm it up. I also don't give playtime to those that don't eat. He eats anything and everything and actually eats the "yucky looking" veggies first!

  22. says

    Love the appetizer idea: We’ve basically gone to having no afternoon snack. Then the 3-year-old is served a decent dinner, which he doesn’t have to eat. Sometimes he doesn’t eat, but he doesn’t get other options.

    My kids are still very small, but I have no problem sending them to bed hungry. I’m lucky that they are not overly skinny kids. They probably get far too much pasta from the nanny, and we’re too lazy to fix that, but she does get them to eat fruit too.

    We had a problem for a while with him only wanting bagels, until I realized that I didn’t actually have to keep bagels in the house. So I stopped buying them. Problem solved.
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  23. Lorna says

    Can I ask all you Mum’s who are having trouble with the kids eating? Did you start them out on store bought foods? Just that I have a theory.

    I started my kid out on store bought food and he would now live on chicken nuggets and fish fingers. If I take him out for dinner he will eat what he is given, noodles, rice even real chicken! But at home it is hit and miss, though it is getting a little better. But tonight for example I made mac & cheese with cauliflower as per a kids recipe, would he eat it? Would he heck!

    I have family members who have twin girls. They on the other hand did not start the kids on store bought foods. Straight away they gave the kids what ever the adults were having for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And honestly they have had two incidents where the kids have challenged. Once, one of the twins refused to eat something. She was made to sit at the table for an hour until she gave in and ate the veggie culprit. Many moons later the other twin tried to refuse to eat a veggie, her mother simply reminded her of her sisters failed attempt at this and she gave in and ate the veggie on offer.

    I swear that this is true, this is the only trouble they have ever had. And I am sure that the store bought food weaning has something to do with it. As every other mother I know who started the kids on store bought now has a kid whom lives out of the freezer section.

    Anyone else noting this trate?

    And tonight I have given my boy his dinner. When he has not touched it I have removed it and let him go without. He will get supper before bed….. I’m not about to attempt to get through the night with a toddler on an empty stomach :-/ But can anyone advise? I don’t want to go down the separate meals road. Although he does get something out of the freezer a lot of the time and I make up the rest of his meal with what ever veg or sides we are eating.

    Help :-(

  24. Phoenix Shenna Racine says

    I am always relieved when I see others with the same…conundrums ;-) as I have. I often make different meals in my house or I pick things that the twins like and everyone will eat. Peanut butter and Nutella are must haves in this house and noodles lol. I try not to battle too much about food because I really think it contributes to negative eating habits.

  25. says

    The website I listed is for the Feingold Association. They are a non-profit organization that promotes a diet free of artificial colors and flavors, certain preservatives, and for some, foods containing salicylates. One of my children was on this diet, so we all ate the same food. Temper tantrums resulted when this child went off the diet. I know how they can wear you down! Once on the diet, both kids were eager to try new foods, but we had to be careful that they were OK first. The diet was originally for ADD and ADHD children, but is useful for other health and behavior problems. Once I figured out what foods to buy, it was a lot easier than coping with an often angry child. I find the additives we avoid give me headaches. I refuse to buy any of these products after seeing what they did to my child, even though both children are now grown up and out of our house with spouses and children of their own.

  26. says

    My son was our picky eater, but he seems to be growing out of it–there is hope! The best advice I got was from our pediatrician..she said put a few things on the table you know are healthy and you know will be eaten, mixed with the meal you cook. Make it family style so the kids can pick, it gives them a sense of control and removes the need to battle. Example: Chicken Dish Clearly For Adults, Cooked Veggie that Adults Enjoy, then a bowl of baby carrots and a bowl of slices of wheat bread or a bowl of plain rice that goes with Adult Chicken Dish. Then you’re not cooking 2 meals, and if the kid eat baby carrots and a slice of bread that is a fine meal for a child. And then they start saying, “Hey, what’s that you’re eating?” (This actually happened in our house! I almost fell out of my chair when my picky son tried “our” meal!!)

    Another good tip was from my friend’s pediatrician. He always said “Your job is to provide the food, their job is to eat it.” As in, you can’t make them eat. His suggestion became her rule: Mom makes dinner. Kid tries dinner (one bite). If kid likes dinner, hurrah. If not, kid can have cereal (it’s fortified) but then, kids do not get dessert. I know the “no dessert” thing is frowned upon but she doesn’t say it as punishment, it’s just that cereal is like dessert and dinner at the same time so that’s the rule. We’ve done that, too, when we were dealing with really picky phases with the kids and it’s a great fallback plan. No battles, that’s just the rule because Mommy only cooks one meal.

  27. says

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  28. Ana Tomlinson says

    Same thing with my first but her dr. ( mother of 7) told u the she'll eat if she wants. The suggestion she gave us was to always have a little something that she'll eat on the plate but she only gets a little and then there is no more. Of she's hungry she'll eat more. It was months of worry and she'll starve herself before she finally started eating other things on her plate. The trick is to stick with it I think and to have regularly scheduled feeding times. I watch kids and the ones i notice with the biggest eating problems are the ones alound graze or eat when ever they feel like it. They tend to be pickier and have more weight problems.

  29. Adelina Srinivasan says

    I am in the same boat, and the reason I came here this afternoon is to look for help (too). As I am speaking, my 4 year old is screaming: "I want pasta and ketchup". I love cooking, consider myself a very well informed person when it comes to nutrition, I even have a food blog…and why this? sigh. I hope I don't give in again. I feel like I am a puppet sometimes. Good I do not work and have a bit of flexibility, but one day when she goes to school, what then? sigh…

  30. says

    I am really struggling too – my little boy will only eat – the cheese of jacket potato, pasta only if it is with cheese sauce, quiche (sometimes) and pizza only if it is store bought pizza. Thankfully he'll eat cucumber and tomato. We don't do junk food in our house and I spend ages slaving away over the hob trying to make healthy meals, it's so disappointing and frustrating when he won't eat it. I'm a single mum and can't afford to make separate meals for him every day. I have literally tried everything I can think of, playing games around the table, pretending to faint when he eats a forkful (which makes him laugh), I've even tried saying he doesn't have to eat his tea but he gets nothing else – which doesn't work because he will leave his dinner even if he is hungry and wake up vomiting from an empty stomach the next morning (yes really)! :( What to do?

    • Lisa says

      I feel for you. My youngest was like this and still is in some ways. We took him to every doctor we could find to find out if there was a reason for his extreme pickiness and seemingly lack of hunger. I don’t know if you can buy supplemental nutritional shakes? Here we have Pediasure in liquid and powdered form. It was a life saver for us. It helped maintain his weight and kept him healthy. He is off of it now, still extremely picky, but does eat a bit better now.

  31. Lisa says

    Got home from work. Went to Whole Foods. Bought ingredients for meal. Just finished making one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s dishes (that her kids love). Well, my kids hated it. They spit it out. I want to cry. I told my husband that I’m done. They can eat sandwiches for the rest of their childhood. I’m not going to feel guilty about it any longer. Everything I make, they pick at or utterly refuse to eat. I ate what my parents made for dinner or I went hungry. Period. I guess all I can do is continue to provide healthy snacks, which they do eat.

  32. says

    My kids have always been given what we eat and guess what? They don’t eat it. I’ve watched 2 kids slowly decrease the foods they deem as acceptable. With mine and my husband’s work schedule we really only have “family” meals 3 days a week so 4 days they can have their chicken nuggets/hotdogs/plain pasta but the other 3 I try to make something that is palatable to everyone. If nothing else, 1 portion of the meal will be something someone likes. I actually plan my meals a month at a time, so once a month I sit down with cookbooks or pinterest and organize meals that someone might like. I usually fail.
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  33. says

    I wish I had a magic answer for you! I can totally relate – Ben started out eating EVERYTHING, then shut down around 18 months and became the pickiest eater imaginable. I went through the sobbing dinnertimes (me and him), making food look like stuff (fail), hiding vegetables in things (not as much of a fail), making separate dinners for him and us…then Molly came along and also would eat anything…but then around 2 started imitating Ben’s “But I don’t LIKE that!!”

    And then, this summer, LIKE FRIGGING MAGIC, suddenly it changed. And I have no idea why. Something clicked in his head and he actually said to me “Mommy, I’d like to try that. Because I realize it’s now or never, right?” and now he will at least TRY anything. I honest-to-goodness couldn’t tell you if anything I did was right or wrong or lead to it or it just happened that fate smiled on me and I’m in for a huge Karmic butt-kicking down the road, but c’est la vie.

    The things that I did that made it all easier for ME (because honestly I don’t think there is anything that will make a picky eater into a not picky eater until they decide to change) were:
    1. Me not getting emotionally invested in the food/cooking/meal. Of course, that is WAY easier said than done, but it is probably the most important thing to keep yourself from going completely nuts. Keep breathing, know that it will eventually pass, either because they will come around or because they will get old enough that you can make them cook 3 nights a week and see how they like it!
    2. Lunch is things that I know they like and dinner is my choice. I might make a simplified or deconstructed version for the kids, but it would still be the same meal (like if they wanted their stuff not mixed together, or without sauce, that was fine).
    3. I believe in “try one bite,” enforced with time-outs if necessary (“if you don’t eat a bite before I count to 3 you will sit out” – I found that time-outs helped a lot with the meal-time freak-outs – a time-out gave some time to think about whether it’s really worth all that effort to avoid eating one bite. After that bite, they can decide whether they want to eat more or not, but I don’t offer anything else.
    4. This was just this summer – but we grew a lot of herbs and tomatoes ourselves and were involved with a sort of community garden project with our church, and that may actually have been the turning point for Ben because he got really interested in eating things that he had actually seen growing.

    Please excuse my mixed-up verb tenses and horrendous sentence structure! I really wanted to comment to say that there is light at the end of that tunnel!! The kids now make fun of my husband for being the pickiest eater in the family. Hope this helps even a little!

    ~ karyn
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  34. Nicole H. says

    I finally decided that supper is whatever I want for my husband and I. My 3 year old gets to eat that and I’m not going to make another meal. AND the kitchen’s closed after that. I figure that if she goes to bed hungry, she’ll make up for it at breakfast or lunch the next day. She doesn’t necessarily eat any more at supper, but I don’t stress out about it anymore.

  35. Ruth Ratcliffe says

    we are a bit hit and miss. but a good recent option has been to cook a mega bland stew – veges, meat, maybe some beans – and then my partner and i add a big spoonful of chilli to our bowls. kept everyone happy with minimum fuss -for one night at least!

  36. Andrea Olden says

    I seriously don't understand this, I'm not my kid's maid, if they want to eat they will eat what I make. I won't even give them the option to make themselves something. Eat what I cook or starve, period. No one is going to literally starve themselves to death to avoid green beans. It can be hard, I get that, but you have to be the parent… obviously most of our parents did it with us and it wasn't even a question.

  37. Andrea Olden says

    You won't be putting their health at risk, and yes, you tell them to eat what you make or go hungry, period. As for your younger with the milk allergy, hopefully it's the kind he will grow out of but for the most part, you should try to incorporate more dairy-free recipes so the whole family can eat together.

  38. Sherrie McKenzie Shamon says

    Stop giving them choices. They either eat what you do or they go hungry. My kids are 26 and 22 and I never fixed separate things for them to eat. They ate what I cooked, or they went hungry. They're not going to starve to death. Once they see that they can no longer manipulate you, they will eat what you cook. You just have to put up with the tears, etc., and let them know you are not going to cave. If you fix meat and potato and a veggie and they don't like the veggie, then maybe give them a pass on that, provide they eat the rest of the dinner. But don't go fixing a completely different thing for them to eat. That's just ridiculous. If they don't want to eat, then say okay. But don't fix them anything else. When they tell you later they are hungry, heat their plate up in the microwave. If they still don't want to eat it, then they don't eat. Repeat as necessary. It won't take long before they realize there isn't any way around it. Right now, they know if they cry or throw a fit or whatever, you will eventually give in. You've created the problem, so you need to solve the problem. It doesn't have to be an argument or drama filled. They say they don't want the dinner, calmly and simply say okay, you don't have to eat it, but you are not getting anything else to eat. Take it away and they can get up. If they start crying or throwing a fit, send them to their room until they're done throwing the fit. They don't have to eat, but they're not going to throw a fit, either. It won't take long to turn that around.

  39. says

    Sherrie, a little help. I have 4 boys, ages 13, 8, 6 and 1. The 13 year old and 1 year old will eat just about anything. I have NEVER given choices. You eat what I cook or go to bed hungry. The problem? My 8 and 6 year olds go to bed "hungry" almost every night. They over do it on breakfast (meal full of carbs) and then have whatever the school provides for lunch (because God forbid I try and pack a healthy lunch-they just trade it for crap or bring home the food and toss it). I have to be careful about what they eat as diabetes has a very strong presence in my husband's side of the family. So how do I get them to actually eat what I cook? I have been struggling with this for years and am tired of being stuck in the dining room for hours trying to make them eat a healthy meal.

  40. says

    My problem is that my kids are fine with skipping dinner and then loading up on cereal for breakfast. I have never given them a choice for dinner. They eat what I fix or they go to bed hungry. They never eat any veggies because they never eat dinner. How do I get them to start eating healthier? It's not like I'm not setting a good example. I need help getting 6 and 8 year old boys to eat something other than cereal and pb&j.

    • says

      Any reason they have to eat cereal for breakfast? Hunger is a powerful motivator. You can at least start them on fruits and protein. Leftover chicken is an excellent breakfast. If you can’t get veggies in at lunch or dinner, and they’re starving at breakfast, serve them breakfast veggies. You decide what breakfast veggies are. If you feel like they need some sort of grain, give them a slice of bread for dessert, after they’ve finished their eggs, carrots, and strawberries.
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  41. says

    It seems most people commenting missed a major point in the post: her daughter is underweight. My daughter is the same way. If we tell her "it's this or nothing", she just won't eat. No, she may not starve to death but being seriously underweight can cause serious health problems. So what's a parent to do when the pediatrician says "your daughter is way underweight and needs to eat more"?

  42. Tiffany Fox says

    My son is four. I try so hard to make food that involves what he likes at that moment but it never works. All he wants to eat is apples and cereal. Nothing else! He won't eat meat. He won't eat anything white. Im going nuts here. He takes one look at it and pushes it away. I have even tried bargaining with him, "ill share my soda with you I'f you just take one bite" but nothing. I dont ok now what to do. Im trying a million different things and he won't budge. Im hoping this is just a faze.

  43. Tammy Shannon says

    I used to love to cook. But after shopping for and preparing a meal that my kids (and maybe hubby) complain about I want to cry. My son is worse than my daughter. He would complain constantly about what was for dinner. He is now 11, but about 5 years ago we had him write a list of his favorite foods and I made a deal that I would make something from that list at least once a week. I explained that in a family you can't have your favorite food every night and I am not running a restaurant. I also try to limit the after school snacks if possible because if he's hungry he will eat better. But my husband is much pickier than I am (there isn't much I won't eat) and I need more variety. I find that I just don't cook as much as I used to. So sad.

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