My No-Nonsense Strategy for Picky Eaters

I have been asked more and more these days, partly because of my participation at 30 Day Vegan, about picky eaters. What we did as a family and if I have any tips or tricks to share.

I have shared my parenting experience in this matter in face to face conversations with those who exclaim, "What good eaters your kids are!" And I have also left a fair number of comments on (mommy blogger) blog posts. You know those posts, the ones where mamas discuss clever strategies for how to get kids to eat vegetables.

But I have been avoiding writing about this topic here at FIMBY. 

It's quite easy for me to leave my opinion (on possibly contentious issues) sprinkled here and there, on other people's blogs. It's another matter entirely for me to post my thoughts on my own blog, opening myself up to criticism for being a mean mother (I prefer the label bad ass).

Here's the reason for my insecurity in writing about this. I'm a no-nonsense mother. A bit of a traditionalist (ESTJ, if you must know) - no sassing, no whining, eat your veggies. That sort of thing.

I'm afraid you'll interpret that as "bad mother", certainly not very politically correct or attachment-ish. 

I have one more fear to share with you (sigh). I'm afraid that by telling you our family's approach to this subject you'll think I'm passing judgement on you if your kids are picky. So know this - I'm not.

Each family needs to do what works for them, make their own household rules, and live according to their values. In case you needed that permission (smile).

So now that I've cleared everyone from the room, or at least had you squirm in your seats as I reveal my mothering insecurities, let's get to the nitty gritty of the topic.

What I'm going to share with you is what our family has done. It is not my perscription for picky eaters and in fact if your children are older this probably won't work. This advice, or rather experience, is more useful for families with wee ones - the age at which we addressed the picky eater issue.

When Celine (now 12) was a baby, and probably even before that, we determined that we (Damien and I are on the same page) were not going to have a family restaurant. By restaurant I mean we were not going to offer children different food from what the adults were eating.

Looking around the world at what people eat it was clear to me that children will eat whatever their "norm" is. Spicy foods in Asia, insects, grubs, little rodents(?) in the Amazon, cow blood in certain African tribes. We're talking some weird stuff from the North American perspective.

Let's talk choice for a minute (never mind the lack of "food groups" in these cultures). Many children around the world have no choice about what to eat. There is either very little variety or very little to eat. Period. 

And here we are wringing our hands and writing books about how to get kids to eat vegetables?

Eating what's served

We decided that in our home what is served is what is available to eat.

When we sit down to eat a family meal, you get to eat what's on the table, whether you're 2, 12, 42. Damien regularly adds more frozen vegetables to his meal but I don't consider this a problem.

If you don't like supper you're not offered crackers from pantry. Or toast and peanut butter because "this isn't junior's favorite". And you certainly don't get served the frozen un-chicken nuggets kept in freezer, "just in case the kids don't like this meal".

So here's the question. If our kids didn't like the meal what's to stop them from holding out till snack time when they could eat that toast and peanut butter? (Back when toast was served for snack. Nowadays snack is one of these options).

Here's how we addressed that. If one of our children refused to eat something (almost always it was a supper meal - some kind of mushy soup or stew) that was fine. There was no pleading, whining, yelling, cajoling, punishment or consequences. We smiled and said, "you can eat it when you're hungry". And we meant it.

The food went into the fridge and re-appeared at snack or the next meal, whichever was first. In fact, that same food kept showing up until they ate it.

Somewhere between the age of 18 months to 3.5 years old each of our children walked up to edge of this family food rule and tested it. Two of our children "fasted", obviously they were drinking water, for a day before they decided it was a losing battle. They ate the two tablespoons (which is all it was when they were this little) of whatever the offending food was and gladly moved on to more palatable (to them) fare.

I only recall having to do this once with each child. Of course, memory probably fails me and we might have had to do this twice. But our children knew that when we said "no other food till you finish this serving" we meant it.

By the time Brienne came along, our most strong willed child, the stage was set. The older children, and of course us as parents, modeled the expected behavior. Interestingly, Brienne had the most sensitive gag reflex and those mushy veggies were never her favorite. But to see her now at age 8, scarfing down eggplant un-parmigan, zucchini stir fry, etc. you never would know.

Keep in mind our children were very young when we laid this foundation. We were serving them tablespoons of food. If they didn't particularly like something there was only a couple tablespoons to eat, which they learned tasted better the first time it appeared.

Giving our kids a bit of choice

I'm not totally a mean mother. We do give our kids some choice. Because our meals almost always feature a variety of veggies, mostly all served together in one pot, we allow our kids to remove one veggie variety they don't like.

And because I know my kids don't particularly like mushy veggies (ie: zucchini) I do my best to cook meals that don't include all mushy veggies.

Laurent has never liked fresh tomatoes. Brienne is just leaving the zucchini dislike stage. Eggplant has never been popular but the tide is starting to turn on that one also.

They were, and still are, allowed to leave one thing that they absolutely don't like. Granted nowadays, at 12, 10 & 8, they rarely leave anything and will eat heaps and heaps of beans, grains, veggies, whatever is served.

Celine has never been a picky eater but I very clearly recall the lentil soup fast she took. We laugh about it now as she heartily eats and enjoys all manner of legumes.

I can honestly say we have not had many food battles. We didn't allow food to become a battle zone in our house. "This is supper, this is what you eat" was pretty much our philosophy.

With regards to other meals, it's much the same, with the exception of breakfast. Currently Celine (12) often makes her own breakfast with fruits and nuts because she doesn't like soft cooked grains, like oatmeal (we eat lots of hot cereal).

As the kids have grown there are some meals they don't eat as much of, but they eat what I cook (or this summer, eat what Nana cooks). There is also a lot of variety in our meals because I like to experiment and don't like to exactly follow recipes. Chances are if you didn't like tonight's meal I probably won't repeat it.

I have always tried to make food my family will enjoy, not just choke down. It's not like I'm thinking, "ha, ha, let's load this entree with zucchini and watch my children gag". I love it when my family raves over a meal I make. But I determined long ago I wasn't going to be a short order cook just to keep the troops happy.

I like what Jennifer at Kidoing has to say about the feeding kids and her rebuttal to getting kids to eat veggies. I asked her to share a bit of her philosophy here at FIMBY. This is what she has to say:

I treat my kids as people when cooking for them...not their own species! They eat almost anything I put in front of them when it's cooked with fresh wholesome ingredients and lots of love. Of course, there are always exceptions, but who doesn't have an off day when you just don't feel like eating what's on your plate? Cooking (and eating) in our home is enjoyable and a top priority every day.

Love it. I also really like what Erika from Mud Spice says about how to get your kids to eat vegetables. I agree, if they are really hungry, they'll eat. 

A few last thoughts on raising hearty eaters:

  • If one of the adults of the household is picky eater you can expect the kids to follow suit. So much about what we want to teach our kids is modeled, not spoken. Neither Damien or I are picky eaters. Damien has always eaten, and never complained (the same cannot be said for me), about a meal I've cooked. And I've cooked some "interesting" stuff.
  • I don't believe in hiding veggies from my kids. We enjoy sauces, smoothies, etc.. but not as a way to "mask" an offending fruit or vegetable.
  • I don't make veggies fun. Veggies, like other foods are just that, food. I like to cook with intention and love and prepare my family's favorites but except for the odd snowman pancake I don't dress up food as fun or un-fun.
  • When my children were too young to dish up their own meal (now they serve themselves and are expected to eat what they dish up) I didn't serve them large portions of food I knew they disliked. We wanted to set our kids up for success, not failure. And of course none of this applies to when kids are sick, when their appetites are low or they're throwing up all the time (in case you were worried).
  • If I make something really weird and wacky (outside their normal grid) we always give our kids the option to eat just the blandest part of that. For example, serving sushi the first time I probably offered the kids plain ol' rice and tofu. Though, for as long as I can recall my kids have eaten sushi like there is no tomorrow.
  • If you are changing your family diet with older children this article I wrote on helping children embrace lifestyle change might be useful.
  • My kids have been in the kitchen and garden with me from the very start. They know and understand food. Where it comes from, the effort it takes to prepare it. I don't know to what extent that has helped them be hearty eaters, probably some. 

As much as it might seen otherwise, I believe it's very important to listen to our children and what their bodies are telling them. We have never forced our children to eat but when they are hungry they are expected to eat what has been cooked and what is served. If they don't like it, there's not a more tasty option waiting in the pantry or freezer, which is pretty much the gist of this post.

But that doesn't mean we are encouraging them to ignore their body's signals. We have tweaked and adjusted our children's diets over the years in response to how their bodies feel after eating. Tummy aches, skin rashes, behavior problems, bowel problems, itchy mouths & throats - all of these (and more) are potential signs of auto-immune responses to food. We do not ignore these. We are a "food sensitivity" aware family.

I think that pretty much covers it - my offfical, no holds barred response to the oft asked question "How do you get your kids to eat all those one pot meals and veggies?" 

I will now slink back to random commenter on other people's blogs.


6 September 11


Nice to read about other

Nice to read about other parents who feed their families as I do. When I had my daughter, who is now 7 1/2, I vowed that she wouldn't eat "kid food" - i.e. chicken nuggets, french fries, mac n'cheese - but would eat as my husband and I ate: healthy, home cooked vegetarian food. Going against my sisters ways was hard and fighting off the criticism all the time was difficult. I eventually gave in and let her eat whatever they serve when we are over at their houses. But in our house, you eat what is served, you don't criticize the meal, and if you don't like it, there is nothing else (with some exceptions: sick, or sometimes a really, really bad day can soften me). My daughter tests all the time. I stick to my guns and don't waver. It is one of the harder parts of parenting I think: staying on message all the time.

We also talk about how you feel after you make bad food choices and at 7 1/2, my daughter is starting to get it.

Now why don't all you people live near me?!?

Thanks for a great post!

Your kids would enjoy hearing

Your kids would enjoy hearing my kids' stories about rural Kenya. We spent a month volunteering there in 2010 and the only available food was rice and cabbage every dinner for the entire month. My 10 year old would say "I'm going to starve!" then look across at the actually starving children and eat his rice and cabbage. Our three have never appreciated our fortune as much as they did when we arrived in London and had a simple picnic in Hyde Park after their weeks of rice and cabbage. We're no nonsense vegan eaters at home too, but still have moments when the kids struggle with other people's cooking that tastes unfamiliar, we're working on polite behaviour in these contexts currently.

I've been waiting for this

I've been waiting for this post, too :) Sigh. We are so weird when it comes to food. We had in mind that we wouldn't be short order cooks when my first was born, and also that we wouldn't be preparing "kid cuisine" for them. That, at least, we still don't do. However, it's extremely common for even my husband and me to have something different from the other - he eats red meat and pork and seafood and I don't, for instance. So, unfortunately, it's common to have a minimum of 3 different suppers on the table for 4 people. My first was the picky-picky, my second (6) loves and savors good food and will eat adventurously and with gusto. Thankfully, they do both eat veggies and fruit without any issues. Alec (7) was a vegetarian for a long time but refused any and all sources of protein (no beans, nut butter, cheese, etc) and was so stubborn I could present the same food until it was no longer recognizable and he would choose to be hungry, which naturally affected his behavior and energy in a negative way. Such fun. Anyhow, I have always wished our family could all eat the same food at one sitting, but it just doesn't work that way. Add to this that I'll sometimes cook something and then my husband will come in and fix something else that he's crazy! The one thing I can say in my defense is that my husband is usually the one who fixes supper, so I guess he can choose to make four things if he wants! When I cook, we're more apt to have a one dish meal or something that it's easy to save parts of without adding the difficult flavors.

Anyhow, I applaud your way of doing things even if it hasn't, and probably couldn't, work here! Now, the flogging may commence! :)

Yes, I am lucky that he likes

Yes, I am lucky that he likes to cook. I don't know if I'd say our way really works for us (maybe it's just me, though)...I have frequently lamented "I wish I could just make one thing that we could all eat" - it would simplify things significantly. It is the way it is, and all the wishing I do won't change it. Nor will my pleas to just stick to a meal plan and once a week grocery shopping (and it is my husband who objects most to this, not the picky child)! At least we all enjoy good, healthy food. I can't see hiding vegetables or making games out of dinner at all.

Well, I thought I was pretty

Well, I thought I was pretty much no-nonsense about food, but consider me schooled! Saving uneaten portions for the next meal? That IS mean! But I love it. And it totally never occurred to me. Perhaps because I have a memory of not being able to leave the table at preschool until I finished a bowl of mushy zucchini. But, I think we will try it. A child that eats is worth it.
My daughter is very picky, and also a very poor eater. While I haven't succumbed too much to her whims (okay, I do cook mac and cheese once a week just to fill her belly at least once,) I have been aware that getting her to eat ANYTHING is a challenge, one that was exacerbated by the fact that she seemed to stop growing once weaned and spent a long time in the 10th pecentile.
While I try to keep her in mind when I cook dinner, serving at least one or two things that I know she'll eat, (rice or beans, say), I've never fought her disinterest in vegetables. It just seemed like one of those things that she'd grow into, and the less fuss I made about it, the happier we'd all be. That seemed pretty no-nonsense to me. And she will occasionally eat a broccoli or cucumber now, at age 3.5.
Another trick I learned, but she still seems too young to try as it involves reasoning, is this: serve a plate with miniscule portions of everything on the dinner table--like, a teaspoon of each. Before the child can have more of any one thing, she must eat all of the samples on the plate. Perhaps too fussy for you, but might work in some homes.
I'm much heartened by your words here, and will bring them to our table. Forget the old "no desert (!) till you eat two more bites." Now it's gonna be, No Nothing till you finish!

Well, I didn't figure you

Well, I didn't figure you would! LOL! :) I was just saying....

Also, do you see what I mean about people who can't cook!? We get invited to others' homes a lot, or have pot luck type get-togethers with the homeschool group, etc. and I find that more and more...many people make gross food. Just thought I'd throw that out there. LOL!

Well, it has begun. My

Well, it has begun. My daughter (6) ate the yummy dish I prepared, with ample raw veggies and popcorn on the side. My 8 yo and 9.5 yo did not sample the dish, though they both ate a ton of veggies and a small serving of popcorn. 9.5 woke up, looked at the noodles on his plate, and burst into tears. He took an apple from the fruit bowl on the table and went to school on his own. 8 yo had his almond milk and that was it. He cried the whole bike ride to school. I'm not sure I can do this, though the image of rice and cabbage is a strong one. Any support is welcome! :-0

Wow! I have to say that I am

Wow! I have to say that I am a bit shocked at all the responses... I highly value children's instincts. We have practiced child-led feeding (see a post about this here:

Of course we cook everything from scratch and only offered food that was not denatured (nor too sweet or salty), but it never occured to me to force my child to eat something that did not attract her. We have introduced them to a variety of food when they were very little (sauerkraut, sprouts, kefir, moose meat, green smoothies, goat dairies, to name only a few) and refrained from commenting about what they ate, how much they ate, etc. They went through phases where they wanted a lot of meat, phases where they were not interested in meat and only wanted raw vegan food. At other times, they want a lot of breat (sourdough, homemade) with butter and we just let them.

I cook one meal and if they do not want what I cook, I can make them a green smoothie, or they can help themselves in the fridge to veggies, fruits, nut butter, whatever they feel like having.

They eat extremely well and a big bag of sprouts is big treat for them! I just respect their tastes and opinion, just like I would if another adult would come over to my place and not like the dinner I prepared. Why would it be different for our children? Why not treat them like we would treat other adults?

I feel like this technique might bear fruits (hitting children also worked!), but what about messing children's instinct? We are telling them that they cannot listen to their bodies, that we know better... and I don't feel this is fair. I want my girls to be able to listen to how they feel about food in order to trust themselves and build a healthy relation with food.

I had much the same view I

I had much the same view I think, until Nemo went four days without eating and started vomiting, all over one little bite of lasagna, which he had previously loved. Since then, although I have tried a few methods, I try to cook foods we all like, with new foods on the side, and if they don't try one bite of the food they haven't tasted they go to bed and start fresh in the morning. It doesn't happen too often, but food can still be a source of stress.

Nor did I intrepet your story

Nor did I intrepet your story as "you should do this" :0) I appreciate hearing what has worked for others though. Sometimes experimenting is the best thing, till you find what works! Whatever happened to that manual babies were supposed to come with...

So glad you touched on this

So glad you touched on this topic. Now I can sprinkle my opinion here and avoid the conflict on my own blog. I always feel so holier-than-thou when I ever touch on the subject. (I may or may not have slight problems over-speaking exactly how I feel.) But people constantly comment, "How DO you get your kids to eat so well?" It is so easy to me... they eat what I feed them. I have made them a wide variety of food since they were able to eat solids. I cook one meal at my house for dinner. I might offer a couple of different veggies or perhaps a red sauce and an alfredo with pasta... but that is about the extent of it. They are welcome to not eat it, but they are only allowed water after that. I think people that offer the short order cook route are totally short changing their children.

Ok, I will get off my soapbox now.

Loved reading this post, I'm

Loved reading this post, I'm an INFP (full of nonsense), but this is exactly what we do at our house. It doesn't seem to be going as smoothly as you described, but the tears are mostly about any meat in the dish (never the veggies). Maybe we should just take the vegan course . . . ; )

Absolutely brilliant!!! I

Absolutely brilliant!!! I have been so fearful in the past of being labelled a "bad mom" for making my son eat more veggies. Now I am a bad mom because he is out of shape and over-weight. Your post gives me courage to make some new rules for meal time. Thank you so much for sharing this, and for the bravery it took to possibly receive criticism.

Great post. I need to be

Great post. I need to be tougher. I usually include one item in a meal that I know the kids will eat, mac and cheese(the real stuff), noodles, sweet potato fries, etc.. I need to be better about insisting that they eat more of the rest of the meal or save it for later. Maybe eat the rest of the meal before getting a second helping of the "kid preferred" food? I need to rethink the evening snacks (usually string cheese or fruit) as well. Good food for thought.

Update! My 9.5 yo, when

Update! My 9.5 yo, when confronted with that same spoonful of corn chowder for breakfast this morning, asked me to warm it up. He gulped it down in one swallow, chugged his homemade kefir, and said, "I want to be a raw vegan when I grow up. I think I don't like cooked things." I LOVE that he could verbalize what he didn't like about the food, rather than just refusing to eat it. I told him tonight he would be my sou-chef and we would prepare a raw vegan dinner together. He is very excited.
He and I are going to China next year to volunteer in an orphanage there (my youngest is adopted from China). This is a good time to help him learn to appreciate what he is given. It's mostly congee with veggies and steamed eggs at the orphanage. :-)
People can say what they like about the internet - I know that my parenting, eating and overall "way of living" has drastically changed since I became a mama in 2002, mostly due to the internet and other people's gentle teaching and guidance.
Thank you Renee!

I am loving this very open

I am loving this very open and respectful discussion. Of course, when we go out to someone's place, they eat what is served (or not) and that's it. I don't bring an alternative meal for them, of course!

You would be surprise to see the choices my girls make when allowed to choose between chips and an apple! They often choose not to have a desert if we are out to someone's place because they are full or they simply do not want any.

I hear what you say about being old-fashionned, but I wonder if it is not a good thing sometimes to rethink what was done in the past, since child psychology was not a very hot topic in the old times...

Love to you and your sweet family,


Great post! I am a short

Great post! I am a short order cook - part out of necessity (our now 4.5 yo was almost falling off the chart skinny) and part because we couldn't eat as a family due to work and sleep schedules. The few times I tried the "you eat this or you don't, but there's nothing else" the consequences caused me not to continue - up at 10pm with a sobbing 3 year old because he hadn't eaten most of the day and now couldn't sleep or up at 4am with a sobbing 2 year old because, well, same thing. He is super-picky, intense gag reflex (smells of food cooking can push him over the edge, and it's not fake, I've seen that trick too!), reflux diagnosed at 4... Every factor that could work against me did and I threw up my hands. Now he's bored of what he likes and is back to barely eating and I'm back to frustration. I do hide veggies and beans, not because he won't eat them if he knew, but because it's an easy way to add protein and veggies to snacks and breakfast foods that he will eat without struggle.

When, at 13 months, he started to drop foods that he would eat, I wish I had stayed firm. Good for you for holding your ground!

I wish I would have read this

I wish I would have read this about 7 years ago!! We gained custody of our grandson when he was 7 months old. Needless to say, he had allready not been off to a great start..the poor little guy was sick CONSTANTLY the first year we had him..He started refusing foods..MANY foods..and I, regretfully, gave in and fed him what he wanted. My own kids were never given this treatment..they ate everything. Well..long story short. Zach is 8 now. We adopted him permanently 3 years ago..and he is a strong, healthy, good boy...who is a TERRIBLY picky eater! Recently, I have been STRONGLY encouraging him to eat what we are least a few bites! He is SOOOOOO STUBBORN! However, I love your post. It makes such perfect, clear ruined dinners!!! I am going to have to try this!! Keep your fingers crossed for me:)

I have picky eaters and

I have picky eaters and reading your post, I feel completely inspired. I informed my husband last night that things are going to CHANGE in a big way as I wanted his total support - which I have. I only have one question, you speak about how effective changing eating habits are with younger kids, that older kids may be more difficult. How do you classify 'young'? I have a 5, 3 and 1 year old. Do you think they're young enough to implement changes without it being too much of a trial (I mean, I'd do it anyway, I feel that strongly about it, I'm just wondering how much of a fight I should prepare for!). My second son is very stubborn and I know, despite him being 3, that I'm up for bigger battles with him.

So, my question is, when you talk about 'younger' kids, what ages are you thinking of?

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I'm a no-nonsese mommy too :) I must admit though, I'm bad at inviting the kids to come help in the kitchen. Your photo's about broke my heart because I know that I need to be ok with more mess and more time and ask/let them lend a hand. Thanks for this friend!

This is incredibly helpful,

This is incredibly helpful, thank you. When you say a small serving, do you mean a couple of mouthfuls?

I love your explanation of the 'no other options' scenario. You're so right. I think we forget that food is sustenance. However, as much as I want my kids to eat healthily and also want, and maybe more so, for them to enjoy food in the way my husband and I do and I can't help but feel that eating anwider range of foods encourages this.

Many thanks to you again! This is all very inspiring for me.

Wow, this sure hits close to

Wow, this sure hits close to home! I served eggplant parmesan last evening to our very sensitive 10-year old eater and it wasn't a pretty experience. He struggled and eventually I agreed that he could finish 3/4 of his meal, because he ate without making a huge, dramatic scene (which is a big step for him). The eggplant happened to be given to us by a sweet neighbor, grown in her garden. So eating it is appreciating the labor, the gift as well as the nutritional value of the meal.

My mother, however, bordered on abusive on this issue. My very worst childhood memories were around the kitchen table because my brother was not a big eater and my mom insisted that he eat ANYthing and EVERYthing. Every mealtime was "game on". I would eat as fast as I could to get away from the table. So I determined not to make the table a battle zone even though my feelings on this issue mirror yours exactly. I'm constantly "checking" myself to see that my expectations are realistic and respectful while also appreciating the fact that I know better than my kids here - that is, I can appreciate how their foods habits will effect and form them as adults.

I used to , however, let my kids pick their own breakfast every morning (mostly because I'm not a morning person therefore love them to be independent for this meal!) but I've changed since we started homeschooling. Now I make breakfast and everyone eats the same thing - it fosters family unity in some small way.

Finally, my son has been talking about "First World" problems and I think this qualifies - our kids as a culture are so spoiled (!) which makes this a battle worth fighting smartly. Sorry to hijack your comments, Renee! I've NEVER been so long-winded, but what a great, encouraging post. :)

I guess I'm not mean enough.

I guess I'm not mean enough. :-) But that's ok with me. My father tells stories about the cold, mushy green peas coming out of the frig meal after meal when he was growing up, and how he hated all vegetables until he finally learned to like them by cooking them himself (al dente - no mush!) when he was an adult. I had a very high sensitivity to taste/texture/etc. growing up, aggravated by being allergic to all kinds of things at a time when there weren't great substitutes for wheat, dairy, etc. As an adult, I've learned to like more and more things but there are still a lot that I just don't care for and don't eat (beans, tofu, etc.) It didn't matter at all that I was exposed to a wide variety of foods growing up. I'm thankful all the time that my parents never made me eat anything and let me come to it in my own time.

That said, I readily admit that I do too much "short-order" cooking for my younger boys and am slowly working on expanding their diets. But they also have sensory integration issues AND diverse and extreme likes and dislikes about food. Yes, they would eat more variety if I starved them into it but it would take many days of much hunger. One of them can easily go 10 hours a day without eating anything. Doesn't bother him at all. I'm picking other battles with them for now and they are gradually growing into liking more things.

I'm glad your style has worked well for you...and very glad I didn't grow up with it as a child myself! :-)

Hi Renee, I don't think I've

Hi Renee, I don't think I've ever commented before here.... I just had to say that I take a very similar approach to serving meals in our house (we have a 3-yr-old and a 14 month old). My one problem is when we allow the 3-yr-old to leave the table without having eaten enough to fill him up (and it's usually a long drawn-out and frustrating process to get him to eat enough). When we let him just go play after he's eaten a few bites, even if we don't give him anything else to eat before bed (other than offering supper again), he will sometimes go to bed and then wake up a whole bunch in the night. What would you do in that case?

PS - Interestingly, we are exact personality opposites - I'm an INFP :)


[...] decided to be brave and courageous against picky eaters, especially in light of this word from Renee. There’s no reason I need to wimp out when it comes to serving soup, a filling and healthy [...]

Amen sister! This is how our

Amen sister! This is how our house works. I've never had a child (of three old enough to eat food) go past lunchtime the next day when they didn't want to eat supper. Now, I almost never have to save food. :) Much easier battle when they are very young. Also, most parents of picky eaters are picky eaters themselves, so it's no surprise the kids eat what the parents eat.

I'm working on this with my

I'm working on this with my 16 month old right now... we're still at the "you have to take ONE bite before you can get out of your high chair" phase.

I like your strategy, but I have to say, as a grown-up picky eater, that it doesn't always work. My parents were the no-nonsense type too. I had to eat whatever was put in front of me, or go to bed hungry. Till I was 18 and left home I probably ate chicken 3-4 times a week and I still HATE it. Oh well. I eat a lot more vegetables than I would've if my parents had let me get away with it!

I really appreciated this

I really appreciated this post. My first daughter presented with a dairy allergy very early on. While this has limited us in some regards I believe that it also turned us on to great/healthy non-dairy options that have led her toward a very healthy diet.

When number two came along, she presented allergy free and picky from the start. If I'm honest, she is presently steering the ship in this area of life (which is never a good idea in the area of child-rearing, I know). While we're certainly not heading to the freezer for chicken nuggets and such, I do allow her to have alternate meals at times (i.e. oatmeal with almond butter for dinner). Still, in my most honest moments I'm eager to come to the table with ONE meal. It is challenging enough to cook more or less dairy-free. To also heat up something different for the toddler is over the top.

So, thanks for the inspiration and practical steps. I think my main takeaways are presenting her with smaller portions of what we're eating. Not offering alternatives. Ditching the cracker scene at snack time. Each will take some getting used to so I'll stop there for now. Thanks again!


PS Like Tsh, I like that you referred to yourself as a "bad ass" - so much more fitting than "mean mom."

So, any advice for someone

So, any advice for someone who didn't do this early on, perhaps following different advice, and now find themselves with a very picky eleven year old and his equally picky six year old sister? The middle child eats wonderfully, but I think the oldest has rubbed off on the youngest, which makes for some very frustrating dinners.

I too made the "I am not a

I too made the "I am not a short-order cook" pronouncement and have sent my now five year old to bed hungry more then once BUT food is still a source of contention in our home. She is a picky? eater? One minute nibbling on pimento stuffed olives and the next turning her nose up to a warm apple spice muffin. What works (most of the time) for our family is to offer new foods in two bite quantities and always have something(s) that she will eat also. My daughter loves peas - frozen - right out of the freezer - so any meal with a new or suspicious veggie is accompanied by a healthy dose of ice cold frozen peas - it is a compromise that I am willing to make. She must try the new food and then she can eat all the frozen peas she wants. I also found that a new food goes down with less complaint if Mommy or Daddy is holding the fork. I am not happy with having to feed my very capable 5 year old but usually half way through the meal, when she realizes that I was correct when I told her it tastes good, she will feed herself the rest. Asking her to shovel something new into her mouth - well - you may as well ask her to knit you a sweater whistling dixie - it isn't going to happen. And so it continues.

I wish I had read this when

I wish I had read this when my daughter was a tad bit younger. She is 20 months and used to be a fantastic eater. Then she became less interested in her variety of foods at each meal and now I offer her about 800 different things some days, in desperation for her to eat "enough." I am a picky eater, but not as bad as I used to be. My husband is Asian and will eat anything. I was hoping this would rub off on our daughter. I asked my husband and his sister how they became such good eaters (as in not picky and super adventurous) and they said they were just happy to have food on the table. Yes, they grew up in another country! I have heard of serving whatever the child would not eat, for the next meal. Guess I'd better buck up and start doing this. Here's a question. My daughter sometimes drinks tons of cows milk, and eats less solids. Did you ever have a problem where your toddler filled up on milk instead of eating whatever it was that they didn't want to eat, when you kept offering it to them?

New here and sooo very much

New here and sooo very much appreciate this post! My oldest is a great eater but I slipped up a little with my younger son. He is 23 months and almost every night is a struggle. I normally convince him to eat one bite, which he holds in his cheek FOREVER! At some point, he decides that the payoff to swallowing is good enough (ie, daddy has pulled out dessert) or we allow him to spit it out and eat another bite the next meal. At this point, if he eats a bite, I considered it good enought to have a slice of bread with honey or whatever treat everyone else is having.
I guess I have a couple questions. Do you think 2 is old enough to allow him to not eat at all and then serve it to him for the next meal? And is a bite enough the next day? After that, can he move on to whatever is being served to everyone else? And do you let a child chase a food they don't like with a food they do? I think my son would eat anything if you offered him a banana with it but that kind of feels like cheating!
Hoping you have a few words of wisdom for me!


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