• ozonelayer

    I went through years of this. Even talked to a therapist who said it was a fear/anxiety issue. I just dealt with mac n cheese being on the menu every night and draw the line with total junk food instead of “real” food. Vitamins did give me some peace of mind, I even tried ensure, ah but guess what, “it tasted funny” :) Also helpful are granola type bars that sneak in nutrition.
    As for school lunch, I packed. I swear I packed 1/2 of a peanut butter and a Sunny D for at least 8 years . Also cereal helps because it has added vitamins. I tried to focus on getting the nutrition in without discussing it too much. But at times I would lose my cool and bring it up. It’s a deep stubbornness and fear of food, that I don’t think you can win with.
    What created a little bit of a breakthrough when she was about 11, was going to ethnic restaurants. The first time she ate nothing but a piece of bread, but as we took her out more and more to funky little place she began to have fun and enjoy the experience. Of course she still played it safe when ordering, but she began to see food as more of an experience to be enjoyed.
    I think she will be a cautious eater for life, but it does get a little better with time.

  • KatieMama

    I also wanted to add that I disagree with the idea of “you’ll eat what is on your plate or you don’t eat at all.” My husband and I decide what we fix for dinner based on what we are hungry for. Why would that be any different for our kids? We might want cheeseburgers for dinner but one of the kids may not be craving cheeseburgers, so why would I force him/her to eat it? Like I said in my other comment, we only make one meal and if they don’t want what we make, they can make their own meal. If our kids don’t eat something, they will get grumpy and unpleasant. Why would I want unpleasant kids?

  • jaypea

    you’re probably way done reading these comments by now. And perhaps someone has already mentioned this, but I think it’s awesome. Simple, organized, instructions. The manual I always wanted:


  • curlsz

    I agree COMPLETELY no emotion over food – just look out into the world for 5 seconds right now to see the result of a lot of emotional eaters – she’s fixating on it and causing you guys to fixate. Its turned into a power struggle and dare I say a manipulation tool on both ends. My mom was of the mentality “this is what’s for dinner tonight, don’t like it huh well then hope your cooking skills are up to par”. She was a single mother that worked way too much, she just din’t have the time or energy to be a short order cook and deal with the drama. So good for you guys!

  • Mama to Henry

    As a Registered Dietitian, I see a lot of families for this very reason. I like to use Ellyn Satter(www.ellynsatter.com) as a reference. She has some really good books out there and tips for dealing with picky eaters. All I can say is don’t make food so much of an issue. Kids are more in-tune with their hunger cues than we as adults are. as long as she is happy, growing, and hitting milestones, she is healthy. I went to a conference a little while ago that talked about chaining foods – it is mainly used with kids with autism but also can be useful when dealing with picky eaters: Take one food that a child will eat (for example, chicken nuggets) – and if that child will only eat McDonald’s chicken nuggets, break that brand loyaly by getting him/her to eat other fast food chains. Then move on to (or chain to) store bought frozen chix nuggets … chain to homemade chix nuggets … chain to grilled chicken … or branch off with different dipping sauces, until your child will try newer/or healthier version of the food that they “only” will eat.” It’s a slow process and “trying” might just be having the new food on the table with their regular foods. The next step in trying might be to just put the new food on their plate … etc … if you would like more info, I would be happy to email you.

    I always tell my parents (being a parent of an almost 19 month old myself) when introducing a new food, always have one familiar food that the child likes and don’t even feel the need to mention the new food or make a big deal out of it, unless the child asks. Just have it there on their plate or on the table and if they want to try it, they can. Also, bring Leta grocery shopping and see if she wants to pick out a new fruit or veggie (like star fruit, or something fun-shaped like that) to buy, help you cut up and serve – make her part of the process. Gardens are also a great way for kids to learn and get excited about foods and try new things — if they planted it and grew it themselves they seem to be more open to trying it. A couple small in-door plants (until winter is over) could be feasible this time of year. Hope this helps!

  • SallyB

    Hi Heather – I’m a 62 yr old mother of three adult children and could go on and on about control issues because that’s what this looks like to me. Let me pass on what my oldest child’s counselor (homework issues) told me which sounds so simplistic but proved to be true and it’s this: Choose your battles. Parent from a longterm perspective because if you think food wars are hard just wait til she’s a teenager and you have no idea where she is or what she’s doing and all you’ve got is the relationship you’ve built through the years. SHE WILL NOT STARVE. My 23 yo daughter who hated dairy products is now 5′ 9″ and played college soccer. She never drank a glass of milk or ate cheese until she was in college. I worried myself sick.

    What I’m trying to say is this issue is not worth all the emotional capital you’re spending on it and the potential damage to your relationship with her. Let her eat croutons. Focus on the character qualities that are important to you instead. You are a very involved,engaged parent and my advice to you is relax a little, take a deep breath and let ALOT go. You will be just fine and so will she.

  • justnesting

    Ok, picky eater here. I think what you have decided to do is the right thing. You can’t feed into the hysteria. All meals are a non-issue. Cook whatever you want to cook and she can eat it or not eat it. I think the problems start when a kid is forced to eat things. I know this from my own experiences. It hasn’t made me any more open to food, if anything the old foods that I was forced to eat as a kid are foods I will not even try now that I’m older. For me, once the pressure was off I found I was more open to trying things. If someone made me feel embarrassed, like haha, you like it, I’d stop eating it out of spite, that’s just the way it is. Kids don’t like to be made to feel stupid or embarrassed. I think I mostly tried interesting things when an interesting person exposed me to things. For example we had a family friend and one time he brought over a bag of egg rolls. I’d never had one in my life but he was so awesome and fun and made the egg rolls look so good that I tried one. The same thing happened with crablegs with a different person. The main thing is nothing is a big deal, don’t make her eat anything, don’t talk up anything, don’t do anything. Just make what you want, let her serve herself (I think she’s big enough for that?) and then she can choose as she wants.

  • Eilhsa5

    I haven’t read all of the other comments so this may be a repeat… and a disclaimer: I have no children but did just get a puppy and i FEEL YOUR PAIN on being worried you’re going to screw it up ha.

    Anyhow- have you tried having her help you MAKE the food? Or grow a vegetable? or something? If she has a direct tie to the food maybe she’ll me more excited to eat it (as long as she doesn’t’ think of her grown veggie as a pet- then she’ll be tube fed and plan FAIL)

  • dubya

    She might be a ‘texture’ eater. Meaning, anything with a weird texture can’t be eaten…or mixed textures, like mashed potatoes with peas. Or stew. Ugh. Anything with tomato is not an option. Tomatoes are a picky eater’s nightmare.

    Here are some possibilities of edible foods to a picky eater with texture issues (which I was as a child, and sometimes as an adult):

    -Crispy bacon. Not burned, crisp.
    -Raw vegetables (baby carrots, greenbeans nothing with a texture issue like peas or lima beans)
    -For fruit, try peeling an apple with no bruises or soft spots and cutting it into bite size pieces. Then do a cinnamon/sugar “dip”. Yeah, I know, sugar is bad, but the apple will get eaten. The peel is a texture thing. The apple is a ‘starter fruit’. Once a picky eater can handle an apple, other fruits will follow. Cantaloupe is a good choice too.
    -Cheese is always good, even as a stand-alone food. It’s not a topping to a picky eater. Grilled cheese is a fave amongst picky eaters, but it can’t be burned. Or soggy.
    If texture isn’t an issue, then anything that can be dipped is great. For kids, it’s like playing with your food. Make eating an event or game instead of a chore.

  • meganqbostic

    this is not based on research, personal experience, or even advice.

    however, having made my disclaimer, i’ll throw this out there anyway:

    perhaps, if you guys (plus leta) grew your own veggies and watched them grow, she would have a greater appreciation for those foods, and might be more willing to eat them. or, this could cause greater aversion to veggies and backfire with her being grossed out by the dirt they grow in or not want to eat/hurt what she helped nurture.

  • clapifyoulikeme

    I’ve had “issues” with food for as long as I can remember. I’ll be 23 next month and still can’t eat normally. This article, and the study being done at Duke, describes me perfectly; the questionnaire Duke had me fill out had questions that no one has ever asked me but that are my life. Questions about avoiding social events, for instance. I know this is about adult picky eaters, but people say it started when they–we–were young.

    This may not be Leta’s decision. She may have no control over how she eats. Doctors are only just starting to recognize this as a disorder, so finding her help may be hard (my mom tried to tell doctors about me for years), but please don’t just assume she’s being picky or fussy. If she’ll not eat for days rather than eat the food on offer, there may be something really wrong.

    Good luck. I hope that she doesn’t have a problem, but that if she has a problem, she is able to get help.


  • alexisting

    I was an extremely picky child and still am a very picky adult. My childhood was filled with hopes that my mother would let me have a meal of soy sauce on rice or cereal with milk.

    It was mostly a sensory issue for me (although if adults made a fuss over what I was or wasn’t eating, I’d dig my heels in and just not eat even if I loved it). Certain textures, tastes, temperatures, smells or even the way a food looks can make me feel sick. Eating it results in gagging, vomiting or a migraine. It’d explain why even now, my favorite meal is a fried egg on white or brown rice and soy sauce on it. I’m now a 24 year old endurance athlete with a honors degree despite all the pickiness so Leta will survive being picky too.

    A few things helped. One was identifying why I didn’t like something and how to change it – maybe I liked the taste of chicken but it was too soft so overcooking it until it was dry and tough helped. Another was discovering spicy foods when I was 9, the insane chili heat made everything more bearable. The biggest though, was learning to cook and discovering food shows, food blogs and cookbooks. Hearing about people eating something, describing that stuff made me curious to cook it myself (so I could control the taste, textures, smells, temperature, whatever) and try it. I’d suggest a kids cookbook Leta can read and pick things out to cook from and Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows for her enthusiasm when she eats the stuff she prepares.

  • hayofray

    I am/was Leta. Still at 39 years of age. I grew up as a very picky eater and my Mother made me a separate dinner than the rest of the family. My diet was meat and bread. That’s it.

    They tried the “sit at the table until you finish your vegetables” but I outlasted them. They tried to force feed me vegetables once and let me tell you this, I remember it like it was yesterday, both mentally and emotionally. My Father wound up wearing the vegetables and that was the last time that was tried.

    From that day on I was the kid who didn’t eat them. Ever. Until I was 30 and diagnosed with high cholesterol and had to start eating them. Then I got diagnosed with celiac disease and could no longer eat wheat so I had to expand my boundaries even further. But I’m still a picky eater and food is still a major issue for me.

    And now I see my nephew doing the same exact eating patterns I did and it frightens me. How do you tell your younger self, “it’s in your head, let it go and move on.”

    But you can’t. However, I’ve thought a lot about how to improve things perhaps for my nephew and your struggle with Leta gave me a new idea based on how I started eating after the celiac diagnosis.

    Begin it as a project with Leta that you know she doesn’t like a lot of foods but you want to find stuff she likes. So start the game. Here’s a basket of what she will eat and one for what she won’t eat. Make a card with the name of each food on it. She puts what she likes in the “likes” basket and the one’s she doesn’t in the “dislikes” basket. However, she doesn’t get to put one in either basket without actually trying it. Once she tries it and its in the dislikes basket it can stay there for a year with no pressure. After a year we try it again and if she doesn’t like it, back it goes. If she’s changed her mind, which she always has the right to do, it can go in the likes basket. Then Mom and Dad can make dinner, lunches, etc based on the (hopefully) plethora of choices in the “likes” basket. Some things may have to be negotiated such as, apples are okay but only when covered with peanut butter or only without the skin or broccoli raw is a no but broccoli steamed with cheese on it a yes, but I think there’s a way to get there. I hope.

    This is the best idea I can come up with that gives her choice and gives you a heads up as to what is safe to serve without the drama. I’ll continue to read to see what ideas you’re trying and hopefully what’s working. GOOD LUCK.

  • checho

    So, I don’t have kids. But I WAS the picky eater driving my parents crazy.
    For a while there were 4 meals being cooked at dinner at my house: one for me, one for my sis, one for my dad (can you guess who we take after?) and the actual meal.

    Mom put up with this for a long while, until she realized it was nuts.

    From then on, only one meal was cooked: a protein (chicken or beef) a starch (typically rice or potatoes) and two forms of veggies – cooked and raw.
    You ate what you liked and if you didn’t, you went hungry.
    Many nights I just ate mashed potatoes for dinner. And more than once I went to bed hungry. Eventually I got over it.

  • misshana

    I watched supernanny and she got a child that had been hospitalised for not eating, eating!!



  • chanteling

    Unfortunately, I can’t speak as someone who has faced this issue with my own children, but I can speak as someone who is a reformed picky eater. And this might be a strange suggestion… But does Leta know how to eat the food you’ve prepared for her?

    I ask because, as an extremely insecure perfectionist whilst growing up, I wouldn’t eat anything that I wasn’t sure how to eat. Didn’t matter if the only people who might see me eat were my parents… I thought everyone would laugh at me if I did something wrong, and drop a bit a food, or didn’t have perfect technique. For example, I hated eating things like peas because they might fall off my fork. Not that I didn’t like the way peas tasted, but I was just anxious about being imperfect.

    So I wouldn’t eat anything I didn’t know how to eat, like burritos, fajitas, teriyaki bowls, or sushi. I never tried sushi because I was too scared to pick up chopsticks, until a friend of mine told me just to use my fingers. She said she didn’t care how the hell I ate it, as long as I tried it. So I did. And man, sushi rocked my world. And sort of made me realize that people probably don’t really care how I eat my food… Which made me feel more adventurous and willing to try new things.

    So, maybe it’s not about the food itself, but a self-image thing? That’s just another way to think about the problem while you try to find solutions.

  • xtothey

    You aren’t alone. My daughter is 10 and I’m just still hoping she will grow out of it. She constantly wants to know what we are going to eat – what are you cooking? What’s in that? I don’t like that (even though I’ve never had it in my mouth) – and it seems to get worse every day.

    I am totally removed from it – she is old enough to make a sandwich or whatever – so I let her. She is accusatory “You never cook what I like.” I told her if I did, we would be eating chicken nuggets 7 days a week.

    When she does like something – it doesn’t last – and all of a sudden it will be “I don’t like that.”

  • Mellywok

    Coming at this late and so you probably already have a “plateful” (ha) of other bits of advice and stories… but here’s one more:

    Growing up my brother was a hugely picky eater. He would eat spaghetti with margarine or PB&J on white with no crusts. That’s it, for about three years. My parents tried everything – they even went to parenting class. In the end, they gave up because he learned how to vomit on command, and just enough to cover the offending food they were trying to get him to eat. After that we just didn’t talk about it and he ate whatever he would eat. Today he owns an organic food shop and has an incredibly complex palate. I’m pickier than he is.

    The thing to remember, though, is that whatever you try is in front of an audience. I was so stressed out over the fights about food as a kid that I ate EVERYTHING. As in, “See, you don’t have to yell, I’ll eat, I promise.” And I’ve grown up to have a really unhealthy relationship with food (and conflict). Maybe it helps to know I am 5 years older than my brother, so perhaps I was at an impressionable age.

    With my 5 year old, we’ve decided we’ll TRY to not let food ever be an issue. We usually share sides but her main dish is something different from my husband and I (usually pasta but not always). I want her to see me eating a wide variety of foods and not being held prisoner by her choices. At the same time, why should she be held prisoner by MY choices? When she has a hard time we simply ask “Have you done your very best?” and if she has we leave it at that. She’s pretty honest and about 50% of the time will say “No, I can do better.”

    It’s not the right answer for everyone (and I get constantly harassed by how we choose to deal with it by other parents), but it works for us.

    Have you read this? http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/114390/lesson_eight_im_judging_you

    Hang in there!

  • PamB

    I have a picky 10 year old.
    He doesn’t eat anything with cheese, do you KNOW how many “kid” recipes have cheese in them? Same goes for anything creamy. doesn’t eat hot dogs… hell, if I let him he’d eat a steady diet of pumpkin pie, ice cream, chicken nuggets, and pizza pops (blech).
    Added to this list of “won’t eats” is the fact that he will not let any food pass his lips unless the person offering food is a blood relative!! For three years I had a daycare provider that was beside herself TRYING to get him to eat anything at her house!!!

    I finally just gave up. I offer him food and if he doesn’t eat it too bad. I am in the process of getting rid of the “junk” foods that they rely on to get around my meals…

    Soon they will only eat broccoli and apples (mwahahaah)

  • Jenn dePaula

    My two year old son is a horribly picky eater as well. I’ve had people try to tell me what I “need” to do and honestly it just pisses me off. I know I will be judged for this but I don’t care…it’s the only way we can get my kid to eat: I hand him my iPhone. The iPhone distracts him and I start shoveling food into his mouth…and he eats it. We have some educational apps on there that he loves and he plays with that and eats. I look at it as picking my battles and I think it’s more important for him to eat (and not be a raging mess because he’s hungry) than to try to sit still at the table for the first few years of his life. That and he’s learning something.

    On good days he will eat without the iPhone and if he’s being a pill I don’t let him play with it. Honestly, it has kept my husband and I from pulling every last hair out of our head and the kid is eating. It might be the same five foods every day, but by golly he’s eating.

  • becaru

    Having no kids of my own, my contribution is the memory of watching my brother force-feed his toddler fish, while casually commenting, “oh yeah, this is how we taught him to eat peanut butter”. Toddler’s 23 now, and while he still might be somewhat picky, he had a plate of normal food at Thanksgiving. His little brother, btw, took the tack as a child of only eating foods that his big bro wouldn’t eat. Seems it’s definitely all about the drama.

  • Celestia

    I have a daughter who’s a picky eater too. She won’t touch fruit! I’ve heard that some kids have a problem with the texture of foods and there are special therapies that address these problems.

    I like the advise you’ve been given. Take all the emotion out of eating and food. Don’t make a big deal out of it. We tried putting her uneaten food in the fridge and every time she said she was hungry we would take out her uneaten meal and offer it. She would go without eating for days. Now we just give her what we are eating. If she won’t eat we’ll make her a grilled cheese but only if she eats her veggies first. She will eat some veggies but no fruit. Only juice.

  • grandview acres

    I know I am very late to the party, and you have so many notes you probably won’t see this one, but I saw at least one other person who suggested exploring the possibility of sensory difficulties. I have 4 of those kids…and every time I read one of your Leta stories, I think..Hmmm…I wonder if? Knowing I have no idea what really goes on behind this screen, I never wanted to say..but you did sort of ask.

    More to the point, your therapist is absolutely right. That’s how I got my picky eaters to eat every thing I put in front of them now. Plus, breakfast and lunch are independant for them, as long as they make good choices, the choice is theirs to make. The older they get, the more involved in the process of serving it too–my 9 yr old now gets breakfast for himself and the 5 yr old. She’s in training now too, to get her own meals.

    For dinner, I cook whatever I cook, and they can choose to eat it or not. For a while, I offered them the option of making their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but after they did this about twice, they decided it was too much work, they’d rather just be served.

    They now think that everything I make is restaurant worthy, and will at least try it. Usually they like it, but if they don’t, they respectfully decline.

  • Pixie

    Over this last weekend, my daughter introduced me to Weelicious. http://weelicious.com

    Click on the School Lunch daily photos of what gets packed into these lunches…the visual sensation alone ‘might’ bring Leta around. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=194597&id=248062301608

    I wonder if she has any interest in ‘creating’ the food she consumes? This might include a garden, finding recipes, cooking and then consuming the food she’s been involved with.

    And I wonder if a little trip to a local Soup Kitchen or time volunteering in a survival center to help others who have little or no food, might put food in an entirely different ‘position’ in her life.

    Food is such an amazing thing! Culturally, economically, symbolically, medically etc. I’m sure you have approached all this, I just wondered if a different type of ‘recipe’ to expose her to the wonders of food and the role it plays in our lives.

    Keep us posted on your progress.

  • Midwesternmomma

    I had a son who once would consume lentils, lamb, buffalo wings, tomato slices, mandarin oranges, water, yogurt, rice, spaghetti, ground beef, or pretty much anything else you once placed in front of his adorable mouth.

    Then two happened.

    Oh the horrors. When we enrolled him in pre-school the teacher asked what he liked to eat. I can list that off on the fingers I have. Without thinking. I felt better when she didn’t flinch. We started off by having him get the school lunch, until I got a call from his teacher saying he wasn’t eating at all. No wonder he came home and ate us out of boxes of Cheerios each day. Then we began to pack his lunches. Then he was placed on an IEP (special education services) for some fine/gross motor skills. Even as an educator myself I didn’t know that preschool students can have “try new foods” as a goal. The heavens opened. Angels of the food gods sang choruses. His teachers were going to try to get our son to eat new and exciting foods like salad, fruit, and rice.

    It has been half a school year, and we see little tiny baby steps forward. He ate a bowl of spaghetti the other night. He ordered a cheeseburger when we went to Five Guys. Now, I have to say, to get him to eat these new (and scary) foods we have to bribe him a little, but once he takes a bite he realizes he likes it and we aren’t trying to poison him.

    Maybe someday he will eat sushi. But I’ll settle for green beans.

  • kellyelizardbeth

    AHAHA! I have done the exact same applesauce thing with my four year old daughter. And I STILL put it on her plate sometimes, even though I know that it will invariably end with me perched over her, trying to wiggle the spoon into her clamped-shut mouth while very loudly saying things like, “OMG HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE APPLESAUCE IT IS NATURE’S FREAKING CANDY!”

    Ruby will eat apple *slices* with the peels cut off, though. And…hot dogs. Basically if it is at all visually interesting, I don’t even bother to put it on her plate.

    I feel your pain, though.

  • missusclark

    Heather – It IS gonna be ok. Something a pediatrician told me once: “No kid ever starved themselves to death”. We tell our kids they can eat what’s offered or not, their choice. But this is dinner and the next meal is breakfast. Offer her healthy choices and let her choose what to eat. Period. No need to worry or fuss.

    One way to engage kids in their meals is to grown some of your food. We grow sugar snap peas, carrots and cherry tomatoes and the kids eat ‘em right outta the garden. And as others have commented, have Leta help in the kitchen. That can do wonders.

    Hang tough!

  • Littlesun

    The comparison to Chuck is not off-kilter, it’s probably more apropos than you realize. It seems as though Leta’s obsessive pickiness is driving you crazy and causing a lot of family/parental/marital stress so do what your family therapist has suggested and take the emotion out of food at meal times. Make meals that you and Jon would enjoy. You are all part of family and that very concept entails some accommodation and flexibility by EVERYONE, not just the parents giving into to the demands of the child, but all members having a part. On the other hand, you guys are the parents, so you have all the responsibility of making the choices, of providing leadership in the face of difficulty, so do that! Make a meal that you would enjoy to eat with maybe one thing that Leta might enjoy (or not, whatever) and model good eating habits. You don’t have to be a Chinese mother in order to provide boundaries and model expectations of behavior. Look, we all pick our battles and it’s easy to provide advice, but the point is that what the things that I’m a hard-ass about may be the things you are a candy-ass about. Personally, I have a son who is a picky eater but I have never catered exclusively to his whims. Meals and family dining were just too important to me to do that. I enjoy eating and preparing nice meals and his bizarre (to me at least) tastes were too punishing to accommodate. On the other hand, I have let him wear whatever clothes he has wanted since toddlerhood (shorts in January, nothing with buttons, etc etc) because I just didn’t care and well – it just seemed too exhausting to battle it out over EVERYTHING! It will take time, but Leta will learn to eat. And if you follow your therapist’s advice, she will learn to eat with pleasure and without anxiety because that is the model you will have established at your family mealtimes. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Good luck.

  • neil_diamond_FTW

    Trying to control your kids (especially in the eating arena) is like, trying to control the weather. It’s just a losing battle, I’ve found.

    My kids aren’t nearly as picky, nor are they anxiety ridden over meals, but our rule is: You must come to the table and at least TRY dinner. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, you have to sit through the rest of the meal, until we’re all finished. But, you don’t get anything else. We don’t even make them finish their whole meal, maybe 3/4 of if, or half (my husband has a heavy hand when doling out portions to them).

    My friend has a daughter with anxiety issues and food. She had three choking instances back to back, so now there are all of these weird rules she has with regards to eating. The rules change daily and, being that she’s four, at least half of it is for attention, so the rule is not to make a big deal. If she doesn’t eat, there’s no reaction.

    The anxiety of them not eating, is harder on us, than it is on them.

  • Manyletters

    Our picky eating daughter responded well to choosing her own food adventure from her own cookbook that she chose from the book store. It had great food pictures. She took control over the entire dinner experience and was willing to try new things because it was her dinner idea.

  • Plausible

    My mom was a genius when it came to my picky eating. If I tried something and didn’t like it, she would say “Well, I guess you aren’t old enough to like that yet.” This set up two things to happen: (1) it made me feel like a grownup when I started enjoying new food, and made me want to try more food, and (2) it meant that I had to taste things I didn’t like periodically to see if I was old enough to like the food yet. Eventually, I stopped beign picky altogether and today I eat just about anything.
    Sometimes mom would have to bribe me into trying something, but usually she just had to assure me that I wouldn’t have to try the food again for another year. A year seems like a really long time to a kid.

  • TheTishaMarie

    Meal Makeover Moms!!

  • Circe74

    Dude, it sometimes feels like I spent half my childhood sitting at the kitchen table over my refusal to eat chili. And mind you, to this day I will gag at the sight, smell, or the too-detailed thought of chili. In fact, excuse me for a moment…

    But the point is, I survived. In fact, it was good for me. I got to be alone with my thoughts. And realized that sheer force of will won’t always move mountains (aka, my MOTHER’S will). BUT, I waited it out. She waited it out. She had a limit — I’d sit there for an hour after dinner was over, staring at congealing chili. And life went on.

    And yeah, Leta may go days without eating just to test you, but she’ll survive that, too. Or it’ll really suck to be stuck in the ER rather than out playing in the snow.

    Just remember, it’s harder on you than it is on her. Be strong! You’re doing what’s best for her, whether she likes it or not!

  • Tapioca Mommy

    Don’t try too many tricks! Just make what you make and have her eat it or not eat it. The things you can try are different ways to present it. My son loves frozen fruit and veggies and eats better frozen. Try cut, sliced, diced, mashed, etc. But don’t go crazy! Whatever she does like that you can hide veggies in do it! You can puree veggies into sauces, smoothies, etc.

  • SomeSayIce

    My son is 12. He was a very picky eater for many years, from age 4 to about 9-10. During those years we ate out a lot, and the pickiness was a HUGE problem when a restaurant did not offer chicken fingers and french fries. Choosing from the available menu options (esp. if there was no kids meal–THE HORROR) became an exercise in futility which usually ended up in tears and meant either me or my husband had to take the kid outside to defuse the drama. Between 2002 and 2007, we spent more time in restaurant parking lots than actual restaurants.

    I packed his school lunches every freaking day until fourth grade, when he hit another kid with his lunch box and the teacher made him eat school lunch for the rest of the week. Being free of the task of packing lunches was like an epiphany to me and I decided to put that behind me. It was the best thing that ever happened to all of us, because he slowly started to try other foods. My son is a hoss and has never skipped more than one meal.

    Once we switched to cooking more at home, we had a big issue with our son eating vegetables. He has Asperger Syndrome and a lot of foods are off-putting to him in terms of texture, taste, etc. Because of this, I tried to be sympathetic to his condition and not push anything too out of the ordinary. But by this point, we had watched good friends of ours allow their children to eat chips and sodas and little debbie cakes without abandon, all day, instead of eating actual meals. These kids have the worst behavior (and teeth) I’ve ever seen, and I vowed my child would NOT be like that, Asperger’s-stubborn or not.

    We forced him to eat at least 3 bites of each vegetable on the plate, every night. No exceptions. And if he was feeling particularly asshole-ish, we would make him sit at the dinner table until those 3 bites were taken. He pushed it over an hour a few times, and often pulled the “gagging” bit, but eventually he just gave up and started doing it. Not always without a fight, but no more marathon Mommie Dearest incidents.

    Gradually over the last few years, he has really opened up and started eating just about everything that is put in front of him. I don’t know if his taste buds developed, or what, but it just happened. Hubby & I eat lots of ethnic food, and the kid can’t get enough of it all. He actually cries if he finds out we went to eat sushi without him. He still doesn’t like a lot of veggies, but will tolerate them enough that we can force him to eat just about all the veggies on the plate now.

    All that long-windedness to say that she’s going to have to make this decision on her own that it’s just not worth putting up a fight. BUT, regardless of which sense(s) motivate her preferences, you have to assert your authority as both a parent and cook and before she will get it. Your therapist is totally right in that the emotion about food has to stop, and in the end you will all be SO much better off for it.

    Good luck in the journey, but understand the road will be long and often rocky.

  • blondevixen

    I was an incredibly picky eater. You honestly have no idea. The only things I ate were pretty much:

    - Noodles with parmesan cheese (In my teens I graduated to having plain tomato sauce).
    - Kraft dinner.
    - Mini pizzas with sauce & cheese.
    - Boxed chicken noodle soup.
    - Grilled cheese sandwiches.
    - Oven baked french fries.
    - Bread with margarine.
    - Rice with soya sauce & vinegar (don’t ask, I have no idea).
    - Toast with margarine.
    - Cereal.
    - Cheese.
    - Orange juice.
    - Milk.

    Absolutely no fruit, vegetables, or meat. No condiments except soya sauce (I started having this at about 10ish), vinegar, or margarine.

    I would sit at the table until it was bedtime. I refused to eat. I would go days without eating. Eventually she gave up fighting. My mother took me to the doctor regularly to have me checked to make sure I was healthy and not deficient in anything. I was rarely sick. When I was about 10ish, my mother basically put it upon myself if I didn’t want what everyone was eating, I made whatever I wanted (oddly enough, I loved to cook, even things I didn’t eat). I realized as I got older my issue with food was TEXTURE, not at all taste.

    While my diet is far from ideal, as a young adult I began to drastically change my diet. My family is still stunned (in a good way!) when we sit down to eat together. There is hope! I promise.

  • Kaetra

    I have an 8 year old very picky eater, protiens being the biggest challenge. While making dinner if possible I separate individual portions of the ingredients to make separately in a way that she’s more likely to eat them. For example, for us chicken stir fry – for her homemade chicken tenders, plain veggies and plain white rice. Spagetti-she gets all plain- noodles, meatballs, lettuce and toasted bread. We don’t make a big deal about food, & we give her a choice between 2 things when practical. We expose her to many different kinds of foods, remembering to include stuff we don’t like, which occasionally adds items to her will-eat list. (e.g. we don’t like Miso soup, but she loves it.) Anything she can stomach is fine with me, but I draw the line at actual teaspoons of table sugar. Gaps get filled with gummi vitamins and snacks. She’ll eat sticky white rice, cucumber moons, sun chips, waffles, scrambled egg on toast sandwiches, fruit with fruit dip (cream cheese and marshmallow fluff mixed), green beans and “frozen peas in water” (un-cooked peas in a bowl of water). Ham, meatballs and home-made chicken tenders are the only meats she’ll touch right now. Actually, that’s not looking too horrible now that I list it all out. Anyway, I try not to be too hard on myself because I’m doing the best I can. I think the best advice I ever got for kid-raising was “Whatever works!” and I follow it religiously.

  • ingrida

    I’m not a parent yet, but I used to be the champion of picky eaters… meaning I hardly ate ANYTHING.
    … god bless my parents, for they NEVER forced food upon me… NEVER (except for that one time they tried to trick me into trying fish… my dad kept telling me it was “chicken of the sea”… I didn’t buy it and was LIVID for days… I was 6).
    Anyway, they had full support of my pediatrician and I am so grateful… I remember as a child, certain tastes, textures, and smells were simply HORRID and I just couldn’t stomach it. Forcing food makes eating stressful… I grew up healthy, no nutritional problems or eating disorders… I slowly grew out of the picky eating thing during my college years… and now, I’ll eat (or try) pretty much everything and anything (I’m in my mid 30s).

    As for menu recommendations, go with what she’ll eat… and occasionally check to see if she’ll mix it up and sample something new…
    I used to eat cookies for breakfast, so my mom made sure they were as nutritional as could be, and that at least I had a glass or 2 of milk and juice with the cookies. I also used to pretend I liked pizza, but I would scrape all the toppings off and just eat the pizza bread… but, I used to like to make my own personal mini-pizzas with english muffins, that way I could put whatever toppings I wanted on them.

    Good luck!

  • debincutknife

    I haven’t read all the comments so I’m not sure if this has been mentioned yet. My son will be 13 in a couple of months and has been a picky eater since he was about 2 years old. I’ve done the doctor thing and he’s checked my son out for malnutrition yearly but the 12 things he eats are at least healthy choices and that, along with the daily Flinstones vitamin, keeps him healthy, active and bright.

    A couple of months ago I came across the term “Selective Eating Disorder”, which describes him perfectly and may also apply to Leta. There are no easy answers, basically therapy consists of behavioural training. But, at the very least, there’s an explanation for it and the comforting thought for the parents that we’re not alone.

    Anyway, I’m hoping my son outgrows it although there’s no signs of it yet and, he too, is suffering the social consequences. But here’s a website to check out. Good luck!


  • ruthie

    When my kid was a baby, she would only eat mango and guava flavored baby food. When she graduated to solid food, she would only eat pickles, olives, mac & cheese, and hot dogs. In grade school, she would never eat fish.

    Now, she’s a senior in high school and eats anything you can get at a fast food joint.

    Point is…..if they are picky, let them be picky. There is nothing you can do about it. Make what you want to eat and let her figure it out on her own. She’ll either start cooking her own food or pushing for her driver’s license at 14 so that she can go buy what she wants at Mickey Ds. Look at it also as a benefit: one less dish for the dogs to pre-lick before it goes into the dishwasher.

  • DBMcGrath

    I am the very proud daughter of 2 amazing girls – 17 yo and 19 yo who have such different eating styles it is astounding. The 19 yo will try everything and eat anything. She at raw octopus in Hawaii and freshly caught yellow tail in the back of a boat in Mexico. She drank a jar of pickle juice on a dare – hey it was $10.00 – and crunched on a squid lens after dissecting the eye on a school field trip. The younger child lived on a diet of mac and cheese and chicken strips for years. When dinner did not please her – usually a holiday feast that my mother had spent hours cooking – she would enjoy a bowl of cheerios served by herself. This was a food solution my sister, a child development expert, suggested at the ripe old age of 4. We would pour milk into small tupperware cups in the fridge and moved the cereal to the lowest shelf. No other cereal was an option nor would we get it for her – we were not short order cooks.

    Listen to your therapist – stop the battling and the food will come. Peace.

  • Sari Nickelsburg

    Maybe you could try preparing meals with her? That might ease some of her anxiety about what’s in the food, and it might be fun for her.

  • Jalima

    I haven’t read all the comments (heading to bed but will do tomorrow). Very interested in what your other readers say.

    My son is almost 18 and will eat vanilla yogurt, whole wheat crackers, apples and all sorts of junk food (chips, candy) that he sneaks into the house.

    I was an extremely picky eater growing up. I would not eat breakfast, throw away most of my lunch while at school and fill up on the daily baking my mom did when I got home from school. Pick at dinner (large family, not sure parents noticed how little I ate.) But by the time I hit my teens (15?) I was all about trying new things.

    My son? Not so much.

    I tried starving him, bribing, getting him to help me shop/prepare food. Making food NOT an issue during meal times, if he wanted something different he was responsible for making it.

    Nothing helped. I took him to our doctor several times while growing up and her recommendations lame, all things I had tried before. Told he would grow out of it.

    My Mom came across an article recently that helped things make a bit of sense and a direction to go forth in. OCD hand in hand with eating disorders. Pursuing it this week with the family doc and hoping/pleading for therapy for him with a specialist. Son does have signs of OCD (fear of germs, frequent hand washing. Hates wearing restrictive clothing, etc.) Throw in a dose of family depression and it seems linked somehow. Anyway, will see in time I suppose.

    Hoping all the best for Leta and glad to hear you are investigating this all NOW.

  • gretchie

    I got nothin’ ground-breaking. I have known my step-kids since they were 6 and 10. They are now 18 and 22, and I have a 6 year old. My 6 year old has gotten progressively pickier since starting kindergarten, so I attribute it in part to peer pressure (“ew, you eat THAT?”) The step-kids were notoriously picky and their mom… ugh, forget it. My husband isn’t picky about what so much as the quality. I refuse to grocery shop on his behalf, b/c inevitably I get the wrong eggs or tomatoes. What hope did they have??? However, as they have gotten older, they have gotten much better. I have found this: Make whatever you want, and let them cry. Nothing more ridiculous than a seriously overweight 10 year-old child crying that he’s hungry with a delicious cut of salmon in front of him (he now loves salmon). Your therapist is right. Make what you love, and allow them to be conscientious objectors. It’s so hard not to get upset, but the truth is that it won’t make much difference whether they actually eat it. Some day they’ll swear that salmon steak is comfort food. I think it’s the smell of home thing that eventually lures them in. I mean, they associate the smells of YOUR favorite meals with the love and comfort of home. Do you want that smell to be spaghetti-o’s or salmon?

    Here’s the hard part: When one kid LOVES IT, BEGS FOR IT, and the other starts to cry when you make it. That’s why you should just make what you like. You’ll never make them all happy anyway.

  • AliciaH

    The Sneaky Chef website…..shows you how to sneak healthy food into the not-so-healthy foods that kids love.

  • Circe74

    One question — have you had her tested for food allergies? (Knowing you from your blog, you probably have.) But I can tell you that my mom used to get on my case for my refusal to eat certain fruits or vegetables, but it turns out (as I find out, 30 years later) I am allergic to the acids in several kinds of fruits and vegetables. They make me have a hay fever-like reaction, where my lips will itch, my eyes and ears itch, etc. I can clearly remember telling my mom that was WHY I didn’t want to eat certain things, but since she’d never heard of a kid who was allergic to watermelon (which I’m hyper-allergic to), she didn’t believe me.


  • aproka425

    I too had a picky eater. She wouldn’t eat anything white. No ice cream, mashed potatoes, icing… white. Now, I can’t get the kid to stop eating potatoes. Boiled, mashed, fried, baked, you name it. She’ll knock me over to get to it.

    What did I do? I told her she could eat or go without. Simple. I’d fix one meal I liked, the next day a meal that her dad liked and the next day a meal that she liked (there’s just the 3 of us but I’m guessing it’ll work if there are more LOL). She will grow out of it, her taste buds will change, you’re doing fine. Stop beating yourself up, woman!

    But seriously, her taste buds are in serious overdrive right now. Kids taste buds are much more sensitive than ours. You could, however, let her start smoking to kill those taste buds. JUST KIDDING!!!! Wait ’til she’s at least 12…

  • honkytonk

    One thing we do with my niece is sort of frame her picky eating as a childhood thing. We’d tell her: oh yeah, sometimes flavors taste really strong to young tastebuds, but when you grow up it will taste totally different and you may just love it! She’s very into it, and says stuff like, “I bet when I grow up I’m going to loove mustard!” May your picky child be an adventurous grown up.

  • Wallydraigle

    My two-year-old is insanely picky. When she was a baby, she’d eat anything. She was like a goat. Then, somewhere around 15 months, she stopped eating. She didn’t even have one food that she consistently liked. It was different every day.

    I made myself disengage from the start. Every once in a while, I have flares of rage and urges to make her “just tryyy it!” but for the most part, if she doesn’t want it, she doesn’t have to eat it. Two rules, though:

    1: She has to say, “No thank you,” if she’s offered something and doesn’t want it. No rudeness.

    2: If she doesn’t like what we put on the table, she doesn’t eat.

    3: After each nap/nighttime, it’s a clean slate. I’m not going to put the same stupid snack or meal in front of her for days on end until she eats it.

    She now has a few things that she always loves, no matter what. I try to make breakfast and sometimes lunch things that I know she’ll eat. I don’t want her to associate mealtimes with angst and revulsion (I remember my pregnancy aversions, and if they’re anything like what she feels, she has my sympathy). But dinner belongs to US. I cook whatever I want to cook, and she can sit there hungry if she doesn’t like it.

    She was just starting to emerge from her extreme pickiness about a month ago (after eleven months of this) when we moved to Salt Lake. And we’re back to square one now. Ugh. But I’ve trained myself so long to just not care that it’s not as hard this time around.

    It’s worst when the low blood sugar grumpiness hits. My sweet, happy child turns into a growly, screamy mess. But that’s pretty rare. She has to go a LONG time without eating for that to happen.

  • Peanut22

    I was an extremely picky eater as a child. I would basically only eat pasta, rice & french fries.

    My parents used to try to get me to eat different foods, but it never worked. They never used to cater to my food aversions either. If they made pot roast with veggies for dinner, that’s what I got. I could eat it or go hungry. I would often just pick at it because the alternative of going hungry wasn’t really appealing to me.

    I don’t have much advice to give to you that you haven’t already heard and since I don’t have children yet, I’m even less helpful, but coming from someone that was a borderline Leta as a child, I did outgrow it and I did try different foods as I entered high school. Just be patient and use the tough love approach that someone else mentioned above. Giving in to the aversion is only going to exacerbate this problem even more.