• papernapkin

    I have 3 kids. Two are picky eaters, the third will eat anything. My husband is a picky eater too. There is no meal I have ever fixed that will please everyone. I’m a good cook. I make dinner, I set it on the table, and hopefully someone can find something they like. Sometimes I let my picky ones have cereal for dinner, sometimes I don’t– depending on my despotic whim. I do not engage in power struggles I cannot win. Food is one of those.

  • c_kidman69

    Well my sister had/has a kid who only ate popcorn and chicken nuggets and i’ll be damned if she didn’t haul around a bag of popcorn everywhere she went. It turned out to be a texture thing and believe it or not they have a therapy group for kids who have problems with food, so she did it and it worked. They started out with playing with their food and then gradually got to tasting it and now all is good.

    In our house to try new foods I take the kids to the store and let them pick out something that looks good and then I figure out how to cook with it. So last summer my 4 year old chose artichokes, what do you do with an artichoke? Well the internet saved me and it has become a big hit in our house. I figure if they pick it they will eat what they picked out, not what you picked out.

  • TeresaQ

    Try meals that can be constructed at the table. As kids, our most requested meals were things like tacos, burritos, hot dogs (with real sausages) etc. Any food where our hands acted as the utensils were a double hit.

    We also loved making smoothies – ourselves. We liked to experiment and sometimes things got a bit weird, but it was fun. We were only allowed to do it if the kitchen was left gleaming afterwards.

    Can Leta take lunch to school so that she has a choice between what the cafeteria is serving and something she definitely likes? That way she knows she always has a backup plan.

    Good luck!

  • catslife

    Our 8 year old son has always been a picky eater, but I don’t think as picky as Leta (you win!). He will have the same dinner if we have garden burgers and fries (plain bun, garden burger, ketchup and mayo for him). Also, macaroni and cheese (“Daddy’s world famous homemade macaroni & cheese” as he puts it). And he would eat white rice every night if we gave it to him… We recently conquered broccoli (steamed, with butter and salt), his second veggie after baby carrots, but that was a success due to a bribe (if you eat a spear of broccoli, then…). Now he will reluctantly eat it when we serve it as he now knows it isn’t the most disgusting thing ever. A HUGE surprise to us was that he LOVES lox and cream cheese on a roll which we fixed for ourselves recently, and I asked him to try one bite. He did, said it was “pretty good” and would have his own sandwich. He claimed that on a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 2-billion, and the best dinner he had ever had in his life. This is the boy who will only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Go figure!

  • mollysusie

    My two cents:

    1. If she doesn’t already, make Leta help you cook. Both with meal planning and meal execution. She needs to learn that the home kitchen isn’t a restaurant where prepared food magically appears. Also working hard to prepare the food will make her want to try it to see how it came out and take pride in it. And yes, it will take at least twice as long and leave twice as big of a mess.

    2. Small portions, small pieces. I have the eat everything on your plate before seconds rule, and often that will include on lonely pea or bean, the tiniest glob of potates, or a speck of chicken … which will all be swallowed with more drama and gagging than you can imagine. Well, maybe you can. Anything that can be cut up is cut up into bite sized pieces.

    And it will get better. Or they’ll turn 18 and you can kick them out. Then it will get better.

  • tangobat

    I think your therapist is right on the money. This is the approach we have taken with our children. They can choose from what we have on hand for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner, they eat what we eat or they eat nothing at all. There is no “finish your food to earn a reward,” there are no special meals, there is no “good job on finishing your food!” We display no apparent interest in whether they eat or not– but they do not receive snacks if they have not eaten dinner, and they are not allowed to insult the food or create a dramatic scene at the table. Sometimes they end up filling up on cereal in the morning and then eating no dinner, sometimes they try new things and end up liking them, but there is no emotional power struggle over food, period.

    This worked quite easily with my older daughter, who eats a wide variety of food in reasonable amounts. It was significantly more difficult with my younger daughter, who is super finicky and still eats very little, but I think we’ve had good results. Best of all, it’s one less thing to worry about.

  • tiktoktoo

    I never comment, and you’ll probably never get to this one anyway, but…

    Both my girls were horribly picky eaters when they were little, and this led to many awful fights between me and my husband about how to handle it. He was the “sit there til you eat it” guy, and I was the “don’t make food an issue” voice. Even he now admits I was right. Food is the one battle you won’t win; it’s the one thing kids can control. As long as she’s healthy, offer her what you’re eating (as long as it’s not really weird — like kidneys or something), and if she doesn’t want it, let it go. She can even make herself her own dinner if she wants, and eventually she’ll expand her repertoire. My two kids who refused anything but beige food for years now eat just about everything and have turned into real foodies. It took them til sometime in middle school, but they got there. The worst thing you can do for everyone is make it a battleground.

  • Miss Anthrope

    My family breeds pickiness- though I don’t think on this grand a scale. My brother would eat rice and corn (together) and bread with cinnamon sugar.

    This has probably already been mentioned, but you may consider getting her to help you make dinner. She still doesn’t have to eat it. But she’s a part of the family and old enough to help out with it. If she argues that she doesn’t eat it you could easily inform her that you didn’t take her shit but you changed her diapers for years!

    I know you’ve mentioned you want to start cooking more. This was the only time my mother was able to get my other brother to talk to her- when they were working in the kitchen.

    I think what you’re doing in absolutely what you should be doing. Tying emotions to food is never a good idea. And if this is what it takes, so be it. Even if she continues to be picky.

    I wish you the very best of luck.

  • Fifi Coon

    OK – call me a rotten mom – but, we put it on the table and they ate it or went hungry. No special meals just for them (two kids now 31 and 27). They ate eggs, tuna, tomato soup, salad, whatever was on the table. There was no fight.

    My husband came from a family of four boys and one girl. His dad died when he was six years old. They were lucky to have food and ate whatever their mom put on the table.

    My dad was a picky eater (something I now realize) and my mom catered to him. But we still ate whatever was put on the table. There was not a lot of variety – but we ate it or went hungry.

    I watched my sister cater to her two daughters and still don’t understand it. They thought I was the mean aunt – they ate whatever we were cooking or went without. Not a lot of sleep-overs :o )

    We have all lived to tell about it.

    Good Luck!!! And remember – it is just food…….

  • Eveie

    Start a vegetable garden or maybe start taking her to the farmer’s market!

    I grew up with grandparents who grew all their own vegetables and raised chickens and cows.

    My mom was a big time green thumb and since I got to go out there and help pick the corn and the tomatoes and onions and whatnot, and got to go pet the chickens and pick eggs, it made me want to try them much more than I otherwise would have! Ever since I was little I think I have had an almost unhealthy LOVE of tomatoes! I eat them whole with just a little garlic salt! MmmMmm tasty!

  • REBottoni

    My favorite oldest nephew (now 36) was a picky eater – he broadened his food horizons when he went fishing with my Dad down the shore and he caught a flounder. They had fish for dinner and he LOVED it.

    He always ate a great breakfast – if Leta will eat breakfast food how about cereal or pancakes for dinner?

  • eherzog

    You could tell her to plug her nose when she eats food she doesn’t like, which takes away the smell and taste. That’s what my parents made me do.

  • shangyle

    Hey Heather,

    Someone might have already said this, but there are so many comments and I am a busy law student. But I love you enough to comment! Have you read The Sneaky Chef? It’s brilliant. Seriously.

    You can make purees to put into different recipes and she will not be able to taste it. She teaches you how to switch to whole grain gradually, to get her used to the taste so eventually she won’t be able to tell.

    It is pretty awesome, seriously.

    Boil noodles in chicken broth instead of water, or use green tea. Stuff like that. It’s very clever.

    My favorite trick (does she like French fries?) is to make sweet potato fries. You just slice them up, coat them in EVOO and bake them. I add various spices, but some people just do salt and pepper.

  • tiny apple

    ugh, i feel your pain. although in slightly different terms…we don’t have a picky eater, we just have a child who refuses to poop on the toilet. the drama, the attemps at games, peer pressure, forcing it…oh my. it SUCKS. she’s going to be five and still poops in a diaper. i’m told she’ll go to college pooping in the toilet, but i’m not so sure she’ll be there by jr. high. the only consolation i’ve gotten is a friend who is an OT telling me her extreme stubborness is probably a sign of high intelligence. nice. sometimes i’d take a slightly stupider kid in exchange for not having to wipe poop from my almost 5 year old’s ass.

  • hudsonj

    Have you checked her for a gluten allergy? I hated bread and pasta as a child and it took 26 years to figure out I was allergic to wheat gluten – I am living happily as a celiac now- with plenty of gf substitutes for everyday food items.

  • justcrazyme

    First of all, repeat after me: “I am a good parent!”
    Repeat multiple times daily. Now, listen to your therapist. I have four grown children. This is how I handled the picky eaters (all of them at some time or other): Make a meal,eat. Tell Leta that if she doesn’t like what you are having, she can make something that she likes that she can make without the use of the stove. Always have the ingredients available. Tell her that she is welcome to have all or some of what you are serving. Make no comment whatsoever about what she eats or doesn’t eat….especially don’t praise her for eating something outside of her comfort zone since that will just embarass her into NEVER eating anything again that might provoke a comment from you. If she points out that she tried something and liked it, just say, “I am glad you liked it, we will have it again someday soon.” Oh, and we NEVER served dessert after meals so eating anything in particular didn’t make one deserving of dessert. Treats were not available in our home on a daily basis, they were just surprise treats not contingent on any specific behavior or food consumption. All four of my children are healthy adults who now eat all food groups, and dessert!
    Remember, you are a good parent!

  • Cooky

    Awe, Heahter, I was actually going to send you a few words about kids’ eating habits, but felt I was overstepping a boundary. Your post today really touched my heart.

    What I found worked with my sons was — to get them involved in the planning, shopping, and preparation of our dinner. Breakfast was a no-brainer — they would eat cereal most days. Lunch was at school. And dinner was a TEAM SUCCESS each night — not a battle.

    There are tons of websites and books about getting your kids involved in the kitchen. Once of my personal favorites is Zonya Foco at http://www.zonya.com.

    Good luck with your picky eater. It DOES get better when it’s no longer a power struggle or control issue between you and Leta.

  • kristinbuel

    My husband was the world’s pickiest eater when I met him. He had never eaten soup until he was 23. SOUP. He would eat fajitas, not tacos, and lord help you if you offered him steak (it hurt his teeth). His parents made different meals for each of the three kids every night, and all three of them were horribly picky.

    But something happened. We’d go to my mom’s house and I’d make sure she’d make something he’d never had before. I’d order unusual things at restaurants that he had to try. Ten years later, he’s a total foodie and an excellent cook. It was a gradual change, something that only his curiosity could ignite. His brother and sister, at the ages of 25 and 27, are still impossible to cook for and will only eat fried bologna, Chipotle burritos, and turkey. They are also single.

    We have our first little one on the way, and there is no way in hell anybody’s getting their own separate dinner. We like to cook together, and I think having kids help cook goes a long way towards getting them to eat. Watch that blow up in my face.

  • stumblerina

    Ahh… I remember those days. When my husband and I first started dating, his son, at the time 4, would only eat spaghetti o’s, cheetos, any kind of chips, chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, and my husband cooked him seperate meals from what we were eating. Once we were married, enter the evil stepmom with the veggies and salad and telling him he had to eat what we were eating. Granted, we “dumbed down” our meals a little to things we knew he would like, we leave the sushi for when he is at mom’s, but it was pretty bad for a while (we have him half the week, every week). The step-son actually got to the puking stage where whenever we made him try something he would throw up everything on his plate. Made for some great theatrics. At Thanksgiving the first year he refused to eat turkey because it wasn’t chicken. We told him he had to try it. He did and then promptly threw it all back up on the table. I believe my mother-in-law cried because we were being “so cruel.”

    In the end, you’re therapist is right, no discussion (that was the other part, the constant arguing about it), you eat what you are given or you go to bed hungry. A year and a half later, he requests caesar salad with every meal in a salad bowl and will eat that before anything else. He will try everything on his plate (and we are still reasonable with that, hey there is stuff I won’t eat either), and do it without incident. Once he learned he wasn’t going to win and there was nothing he could do, no amount of arguing, etc, it was over. It also helps to have a really good caesar dressing and croutons! LOL! It will be ok! I promise!! =)

  • lisalaplaca

    I may slap the next smug parent who casually crows to me while at the park that their child eats everything handed to them including kale and sardines. My girl is not the pickiest eater in the world, but she’s certainly not the most adventurous, either. Her preschool teachers ask children who don’t like certain foods to at least lick or “kiss” a piece before saying “No, thank you” to it. I myself have never even gone that far. I make what I make for dinner and if my girl doesn’t want it, she is free to have a pb&j or cheese and crackers (we limit it to those two choices because I don’t want to be a short order cook every night). We don’t comment on her eating beyond asking her to have nice manners — no “eeewww”, no ugly faces, no commenting on what we’re eating. I do, however, recognize that children’s tastebuds are more sensitive than adults and I ease up on spices and seasonings for her foods. We let her help cook as much as possible and let her make choices (pizza with pesto or pizza with tomato?, burrito with cheese or just beans?, that kind of thing). Really, the best advice I got was to leave her eating under her control.

  • mlouprice

    I was that picky eater. During a certain point in my childhood, my diet consisted of fried chicken and Sunbeam rolls. I survived. I now eat such foods as chickpeas and salmon.

  • photogmomma

    I was going to read through the other responses, but holy crow! This may duplicate what’s going on with their answers…

    So, my daughter is picky. Not Leta picky, but not fun…. I have had her go to the grocery store to help me pick things out. It was just a trip with me and her and that’s all. If you’re wanting to go more organic, only go somewhere that carries organic food. Tell her that she doesn’t have to LIKE everything, just that she has to try what she picks. Just try.

    Have her take a bite and see what she thinks. If you can get her to that point.

    Why doesn’t she like the foods? Is it allergies? My daughter gets upset stomachs because of some of those. You could try something like AAT (www.allergytx.com) to test for allergies in a non invasive way – and then treat them. (As it get RID of them with this method – amazing stuff.)

    Another thing you can do is figure out if she’s eating by texture. I eat more by texture and there are some things I like the taste of that I think are FOUL because of the texture. Then you can branch off that. To get over it, I will grind things up and then put other things in it – for example, I’ll make a veggie soup and then grind it then put meat in it. Or noodles. My girls rarely complain about this! Shockingly, they get TONS of veggies – even the ones they hate.

    Finally, it could be a sensory issue. Hers sounds so extreme that it wouldn’t shock me. I know there are several books out there that can help with that as I don’t have much experience with that.

    Best of luck! I suspect she’ll be just fine in the long run. She’s just giving her mom a run for her money!

  • swilliams38

    I think Leta will be a-okay. The fact that you are so concerned shows what a good momma you are. With all of my four kids, there was a period that they would not eat anything. So, I just decided to cook dinner and if they wanted to eat, cool, if not, cool. they could just get down and quietly play or read. It took away their anxiety. Meanwhile I was a nervous wreck. But they all grew out of it and are now eating more than a herd of horses. Hang in there. You are doing just fine.

  • knud

    I have a very similar situation and not a lot of help to give you but I will tell you that my son who is 3 does not eat meat of any kind unless it comes in the form of a chicken nugget. I have finally decided to just feed him the dry noodles and pb&J that he likes. He’s healthy – tall for his age – not overweight. But I did recently discover that I can trick him – probably because of his age. Just last night I ordered a chicken quesadilla from my favorite Mexican restaurant and pulled it apart to give him. I told him I had taken all the chicken out but it was still in there. He ate the whole thing. In fact, he ate so much I had hardly anything for myself. Probably just because he is young. The point is that it taught me that it isn’t that he doesn’t like the taste of the chicken – he’s just a stubborn pain in the ass. But I’m a stubborn pain in the ass so I’m really not willing to battle with him.

  • 4get2remember

    I’ve been following this blog for about a year for the same reason:

    This woman’s entire blog is just recipes she makes so her kid will try new things. She’s also into presenting the food in a fun way – she thinks if it’s entertaining her daughter will at least try it. She updates almost every day, so there’s bound to be something on there your little girl will eat!

    Good luck!

  • elptransplant

    Former picky eater here.. Just recently read this blog post about giving kids the chance to try something and spit it out and struck me that it would have probably worked for me when I was younger.. just a suggestion..

  • Big Mo

    We basically have two rules for dinner in our house.
    1) If she’s never seen it (and it doesn’t contain untenable amounts of capsicum) she has to at least try it before she is allowed to say she doesn’t like it. This often results in a token nibble being removed from her mouth and wiped on the napkin, but it at least got her to taste the food.
    2) Mom and Dad eat their vegetables, so they get dessert. I know, you took away this incentive a long time ago, but for me this is more about her seeing us eat a well-rounded diet of varied foods, about teaching that when you have the stuff that’s healthy for you it’s OK to have a little candy.

    The thing about making separate meals? It’s more of a stress on you than on her. I mean, obviously, but my impression is whenever a parent does that, the kid is saying, “Hmmm, let’s see what else I can get away with.”

    I’m not gonna pretend that I never serve my daughter a different meal than what we’re eating. She doesn’t like anything spicy, she won’t look at something that already has sauce on it, and anything red is going to get shoved off the edge of the plate onto the table. Unfortunately, this encompasses most of my favorite things to cook — chili, enchiladas, any kind of stir-fry. So some nights she gets a hot dog and salad. Nobody’s perfect.

  • geeka

    Ok, so I was a really picky eater. The only thing I can remember eating as a child is chocolate, the leaves from celery, and Kraft Mac and Cheese. In fact, I had the Kraft EVERY SINGLE DAY the year I was in kindergarten.

    At one point, my mom who was desperate to get me to eat a vegetable explained to me how digestion worked. There was literally a half hour story about saliva and stomachs and molecules and blood and poop with voices and everything. And after this, because knew how everything worked and why I needed to eat something other than saturated fats.

    I have also heard that helping to make the food makes kids more likely to eat it because they grew it/made it.

  • RedRobyn

    I am 51 years old and still a picky eater. As a kid, my mom used to make me a separate meal (mainly Kraft Mac & Cheese) for dinner. I also ate a lot of PBJ sandwiches. She would try to get me and my sisters to eat our vegetables and would make us sit at the table until we ate them. And sit, we would – all night cuz we were NOT going to eat them! I still don’t eat ANY cooked vegetables (they make me gag) but I do love salads. I’ve added a few things to my “I like to eat” list but not a LOT. I take vitamins and work out and I’m relatively healthy. I do get anxiety about going to fancy restaurants with groups because I’m always worried that I won’t be able to find anything on the menu that I’ll like.

    Favorite foods as a kid were: pizza, fried chicken, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup and of course – Macaroni and Cheese (still love it).

    I remember one time I came home and my mom had made stuffed green peppers (green peppers are DISGUSTING) and the whole house reeked of that smell. She also had made my favorite dessert (Apple Crisp). She told me that I had to eat the TEENY, TINY (like 1/2″ by 1/2″) morsel of the stuffed green pepper or I wasn’t getting any dessert. I was in about 7th grade). I was SO UPSET. There was no way I was sticking that in my mouth. My brother was coaching me on how to swallow it without it touching my tongue. I wouldn’t do it. I went without the dessert. My brother couldn’t believe I was THAT picky. He cracked up! I crack up at the memory!

    Good luck with the picky eater!

  • lynchh1

    Ok, I’ve got a picky eater and here’s what we eat (she can’t have dairy or eggs, so we’re creative):

    Hummus (with a spoon)
    brown rice pasta with meat sauce (I use the full fat ground beef 1. because it’s delicious 2 because if she’s going to eat 3 bites, best get in some fat and protein.

    Peanut butter. By the spoonful.

    After my husband a SAHD) seemed stumped as to what to feed our kiddo recently, I made him a list of proteins and carbs. And that’s what he’ll try everyday.

    Oh also? Quinoa with raisins, chicken, onions and carrots. So tasty.

  • aadrolet

    We deal with much of the same here and for what it’s worth, after many months (years!) of the same emotions that you are dealing with- this is the approach we take:
    If I look at what my 4 yr old eats over the course of an entire 2-3 day period, she’s getting what she needs. It’s just in fits and spurts. I constantly remind myself that just because she wants to eat the same 10 foods, it doesn’t need to bother me. As long as what I offer her most often is healthy, then she’ll get what she needs, with an ocassional cookie as a reward for trying a bite of something new.

    We struggle with protein- but I have found that she will tolerate certain brands of bacon, and sausage, as well as certain brands of cheese and yogurt.
    Her favorite color is red, which was enough to convince her to eat raw red pepper slices. and if I cut them the right way, she’ll eat raw carrot sticks (with salt). Bananas, grapes, apples (peeled and sliced). Grilled cheese, PBJ, plain noodles w/ parmesan. We do a lot of 100% fruit/veggie juices, and healthy cereal w/ milk.

    Basically I prep ahead of time a ton of easy tolerable options so that making a “special dinner” is not a pain in my ass. Everthing that she is offered in place of our meal are things that are basic and healthy. Even if it means we rotate through the same 10 foods day after day after day. We encourage her to try new stuff w/o pressure, but no longer do the “eat this or die!” approach that failed so miserably and ruined so many family dinners in our house.
    In the end, the family dinner time at the table is more important to me than what’s on everyone’s plates.

  • BellyGirl

    I’m here to report that my nephew ate only 3 things for the first 12 years of his life–chicken fingers, cottage cheese and peaches and mac and cheese. He wouldn’t even touch pizza or ice cream–two of the most important food groups IMHO.

    Fast forward and he’s now a college freshman who recently came to visit me in NYC. We went to chinatown where he downed pork shoulder, jellyfish (don’t ask–we were with a bunch of chefs) and duck.

    It will get better. And there’s always wine for you and Jon. Good luck.

  • 5 boys and a girl

    I also have two children, and for the most part are decent eaters. They are boys, and when I say that, I mean all boy…they love steak, sausage, pork, THE SKIN OF THE CHICKEN/TURKEY…anything that is meat. (let me just say, i know that is where the flavor is, but it seriously disgusts me the way my son eats it like a caveman might do) As far as a vegetable…those are never edible in their eyes. My oldest does tell me how healthy they are, but has many times thrown up at the dinner table when I have forced a bean (from the inside of a green bean which is like the size of maybe a sunflower seed)…down his throat. After doing it a Chrismas Dinner, I haven’t done it again. They do love fruit, but only certain ones…so we buy stock in apples, grapes, bananas, and canned mandarin oranges. Strawberries are too expensive right now, but we also purchase plentiful pounds of those in the spring.
    I am like you, I am tired of making a separate meal for them at dinner time. The only time I do this is when I am making something that is too spicy for them. I always put a “spec” of each thing on their plate, I totally believe that they should at the very least try it…and I have come down to bribery with desserts. They know the only way to get a sweet treat is by eating their least favorite items. I have recently told my son the best way to eat something that you don’t enjoy is eat it first and follow it by a huge drink and then a bite of something you do like. It has worked so far, and he is now eating his green beans. (I do cook them with bacon and onions with the bacon grease…so they do have a bacon flavor, which is one of his all time favorite things) but, hey, he is eating them, right? and let me just add…the bacon grease is fatty, but my son is skin and bones…so a little won’t hurt him ;)
    All I can say, is my kids have gone to bed with no dinner before, and if they complain about what is on their plate, they have to leave the table, and if we are done eating by the time they come back to try and eat it, well, they are shit out of luck. Yet, my children are alive, and healthy, so I am not too worried. I also have cut out afternoon snack…it’s amazing what they will eat when they are really hungry after a long day at school. In my opinion..I would rather have them eat the fruit and meats over the breads or processed foods…but they do like those things…not too sure what it is that you daughter likes…but if it’s healthy then let her it herself sick of it. She will eventually learn to venture out…
    Also, ONE thing i took away after working with a behavioral specialist (not for my children, i worked at a daycare for kids with special needs) is that you should only ever give them two choices…and make sure that you are okay with those choices…I use this a lot when we pick cereal…it works because they know if they want cereal they must pick only between the two i hold in my hands…not by what has the best toy or coolest box (usually the ones with the most sugar)

  • zuwkeeper

    I had always been , “you eat what we eat and be thankful” mom. Until David. David is autistic and also has a genetic disorder, food is a HUGE issue for us. I have toughed it out, and had him collapse because he missed dinner (for him missing a meal is life threatening.) I have had to deal with him eating only one brand of a food prepared in a specific way and only if venus and the moon are in the same orbit. We have tried forcing him to take one bite, and had him vomit at the table because his gag reflex is so strong. It just isn’t worth it. It’s not. He gets the couple of foods that he will eat, and I do the best I can. His geneticist says that as long as he is eating one of each color group, I was thrilled when he discovered he liked cherries. This meant for about a month a year he actually had something red he would eat!

    I think what the therapist said is great, just make it a non issue. No battle, no control. When I’m asked what’s for dinner, I just always answer “food.” I HATE being asked what’s for dinner. I try to make something that he likes to eat, at least one thing. If I don’t, he is responsible for finding his own dinner. I do try and keep healthy snacks that he likes, he just opened his last yogurt. One thing that we have discovered, he will eat foods he can swallow like a pill- like peas. I have to put them on a separate plate, and can sometimes convince him to smoosh them a little- but he pops them and swallows them like a pill. I know whole they go probably go straight through him, but I feel a little better.

  • Pluckychick

    I know you are worried about her starving. Or not eating organic or self sustainable food. I worry about the same but none of it matters really.

    She will eat when she is hungry.

    My pediatrician said to me once, ” She ( daughter) doesn’t need to eat.” By which he meant she truly was not starving. Thin maybe but thriving in every way.

    So we took emotion out of it. Its food. It has all the meaning we give it or none.

    She will eat when she is hungry. And figure out something else to battle over you with. :o )


  • Issa

    My kids eat. Mostly. Although they have oddities for sure. The worst though was my cousin. I swear to you she ate three food items through my childhood.

    Here’s the funny thing though. She, at nearly 30, still only eats about eight food items. But she’s healthy and she’s made it to freaking 30 years old. She has a business degree, she’s a great tennis player. She’s all around awesome. Her plate at Thanksgiving looks like a toddlers….but whatever.

    Heather? Give it up. If you can, just let go of this one. She’s healthy and happy. Just know that this is a part of Leta. The more you worry about it, the worse it gets. Her worrying about it makes it harder on her too.

    Maybe sit down with her and make a list of her acceptable food choices for the week. If it goes on the list, she has to be willing to eat it. Make sure you have those on hand.

    Worry about other things. Like making her believe that BYU is a school that only serves veggies and is filled with little bouncing, licking your stuff, dogs.

  • Penny Rene

    Ya know, I have that Jessica Seinfeld book…. And I’d like to feed it to her page by page.
    My daughter and son are both picky beyond reason. They are 4 and 2. If you find a solution to this problem, post it immediately.
    I will say that the less of a deal I make about them not eating good food, the less stress we have in general. I figure if I keep making such a big deal about food it could really backfire on me when I do have real leverage. “You want to have a play date? Eat one vegetable first.” It’s beginning to work with my four year old.

  • Couture Coco

    It DOES get better! Our eldest (yeah made all the mistakes with the first!) would not eat meat for the first 2 years, fast forward another 2 years and she adores a juicy steak! It was just a constant effort of eating family meals together and a try it or leave it understanding.

    For this child, with hindsight I’m pretty sure, her fussiness with food was all to do with her allergies. It was her body’s way of protecting itself and we had her tested, sure enough she has several food allergies and intolerances. We constantly offered her new tastes and textures. If she asked to try something we let her.

    The foods that worked best for her were super simple foods, prepared in the simplest way and served separately so she could see exactly what they were. She also didn’t like different foods touching on her plate, yeah whatever as long as she ate some! Very gradually she got food that was mixed up eg boiled pasta had a very light cream or plain tomato sauce on it (barely) or had a little chopped ham tossed in it.

    Also a little effort in presentation might work eg roll cold meat and cut small cute slices. The trick is to make it small, manageable and never a plate too full of food. I read somewhere not to get too hung up on what she eats in a day but over a whole week.

    Menu ideas:
    1.sometimes a complete change of taste/flavour appeals to their curious nature so I would offer something different to the usual like a tiny piece of smoked salmon, a tempura vegetable, crispy duck, bbq prawn with tangy dressing. It’s not the quantity it’s the variety.
    2. soups – homemade is best – start off with basic vegetables and smooth with croutons or fresh bread. Also try Chinese style soup which are clear broth types and add some plain noodles in for fun building up to vegetables and meat pieces
    3.fruit smoothies
    4.steam rice (served as a little hill on the plate created by pressing the rice into a small cup) with very simple stir fried chicken or beef (soya sauce for flavour) pieces placed on top of the hill with maybe a slice or 2 of cucumber to decorate
    5.experiment with different breads/wraps for mini sandwiches and rolls

    Also get her to help plan, make and dish out meals and snacks. My 5 yr old just loves to cook with me. My eldest is now nearly 9 and eats very healthily.
    Hope this helps.
    All the best!

  • lisa boomerang

    Here’s the list from our house…don’t judge:

    1-pop tarts
    3-turkey sandwich
    4-corn dogs
    5-macaroni & cheese

    These must ALWAYS be on-hand for my 6 and 8 year old. They eat plenty of other things, but these are the go-tos if they don’t like what’s being served.

    We have faith that one day they will branch out! Don’t overthink it.

  • kim at allconsuming

    OK, four boys here.
    Boy #1 – eats anything.
    Boy #2 – daily battles to get him to eat as a toddler – now eats anything except risotto, soup and casserole (it’s a texture thing)
    Boy #3 – OMG – PICKY EATER EXTRAORDINAIRE. Seriously, we call his diet the Beige Diet – if it’s beige, white, off-white, taupe then he may eat it. If he so wishes.

    It has done my head in. BUT.BUT! After learning the hard way of tears and fights and high-blood pressure of my efforts w/ #2, I just refused to go there with #3.

    So – every night he gets what we are eating. Sure, I occasionally make allowances by picking things out of it to try and guarantee some form of success but it can be VERY hit and miss.

    I try to include something in each nightly meal which he will eat (ie – pasta, rice, chicken (only ever so often will he deign his system with protein), roasted potatoes) but if I don’t it’s just what we’re all eating and a ‘oh well’.

    here’s the thing. The food ‘issues’ also started at around 18 months. BUT, as he is now 5, he is willing to try new foods – even if it’s just a taste.

    Also – the use of older siblings has been AWESOME. (Maybe wrangle some cousins in for duty, although I think she could be a bit too old for this trick now?) #2 would just calmly, nonchalantly say, “don’t eat it because I want yours when I’ve finished mine. So don’t eat it OK” – Cue #3 threatening to eat it, massive dramatic reaction from #2, #3 eating it, #2 falling off his chair, laughter all around.

    the main line we use: Dude, you don’t have to eat it, just taste it.

    But even that has random success.

    The paed is right. Back away from the food discussions and incidents.

    And just throw her a multivitamin every so often.

    Oh, #4 – was fast heading in the direction of #3, so we moved where he sits as the table. Now eats everything.

    OH- and a friend of mine, who didn’t eat anything until she was about 15 when she went on an exchange to Japan? Now owns a restaurant.

  • legalreader

    There’s a cookbook called “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld (who just happens to be married to Jerry Seinfeld) which has recipes that use pureed vegetables in kid-friendly foods.

  • bagofhamsters

    I know it seems as if kids are being picky just to create a power struggle but it’s usually not the case. Raw vegetables and most condiments tasted revolting to me as a child, to the point where I’d barf if someone fed me catsup or a salad. This, of course, was me being a willful brat and led to nights asleep at the dining room table ["You can't leave until you're done."] or going hungry for days ["You'll eat what's put in front of you or not eat at all."].

    Guess what? I turned out to be a super taster and some of those taste buds will just have to die before I can eat certain things. I understand wanting your kid to try new things but tough love with food will just lead to eating becoming an unpleasant ritual, as opposed to fueling the body.

    All I got out of my experiences with my parents was anorexia [I became so accustomed to not eating, I stopped being able to recognize when I was hungry] and some deep-seated resentment. It’s more important that she eats than WHAT she eats.

    And to add to the above poster, I also have a strong, but functional case of OCD.

  • dainec

    I was a picky eater, and I remember it well. The anxiety over going to anyone’s house for lunch. The revulsion I’d feel over even having to touch a food I didn’t like. The gag reflex. Oddly enough, many of the foods I hated weren’t exactly health foods – it was the ’60s, though, and they were “normal” foods.

    Example: my worst enemies were bread and mayo. I couldn’t stand cake, sandwiches, salad dressing, chicken salad, ham salad, or anything pickled. I was suspicious of any creamed vegetable. My eating options expanded greatly when I left home and learned that not all bread is Wonder Bread (which is still gross, BTW), and not all salad dressing is Thousand Island.

    The best thing my parents did for me was allow me to have a bowl of cereal for dinner if I couldn’t handle what was on the menu for everyone else. I remember eating a lot of peanut butter and crackers, too. Having that option helped me relax about food at home. Eventually I had the courage to expand my palate.

    Now I can look back and see that I was very sensitive to texture and smell… the food’s taste often wasn’t the problem. (I hated pizza! And Pop Tarts! And American cheese! Lucky me, I had older brothers who took full advantage of this… one of them even put a slice of bologna on my face when I was sleeping. Hilarious for him, nauseating for me!)

    My advice would be to work with Leta on a few standard nutrient-rich options that she is able to help prepare (or prepare herself, such as that bowl of cereal). Then at dinnertime, present her with whatever you’re having, and let her know she has the choice between trying it or eating one of her alternative options. She might surprise you occasionally by asking for a taste of the octopus au gratin or whatever.

    As for me, I still have strong preferences but eat a pretty wide variety of foods. I rarely eat junk food, and can’t stand soda. And I’m happy as can be when I get to dine at an Indian restaurant. The 8-year-old me would not have coped well with palak paneer.

  • Plano Mom

    My son, when baby food containing meat was placed in his mouth, would stick his tongue out and hold it there, screaming, until the offending food was scraped off.

    We fed him pasta with butter and parmesan.
    Flour tortilla “pizzas” with cheese, and a maraschino cherry in the middle.
    Apple slices with peanut butter and candy sprinkles.
    Pancakes with syrup.
    Peanut butter sandwich with chocolate sauce instead of jelly.
    Notice a trend?

    At 5, he began to eat McDonald’s chicken nuggets. At 6, he’d eat pepperoni pizza. At 7, he expanded to include ham.

    He’s 12 now, and still pretty picky, but he’ll now eat any meat except beef, and he’s had enough experiences where his “taste buds grew up” that he’s willing to try things that he previously didn’t like.

    Hug… and there is hope.

  • Bobbie58

    Kids have very little in their lives that they can control. They CAN control what goes in their mouths (as you know). My then 9-year old son was called fat by a classmate; he lost 35 pounds in less than three months and couldn’t stop. I know this is not Leta’s problem, but it is still a control issue.

    Do whatever you have to do to take yourself out of the situation (I sometimes had to walk away from the dinner table just to keep my mouth shut). You may not like eating the same thing every day, but if she does, then just make sure it’s available for her. Will she take a multi-vitamin?

    My son finally had to be put on a very low dose of Paxil (we weaned him off after two years). Going to a nutritionist helped a lot, too (it appealed to the scientist in him). He’s now a happy, healthy sophomore in college who is an EMT, a licensed pilot, and a volunteer firefighter who hopes to go to med school.

    Good luck!

  • Tracie

    I had a picky eater so I totally understand what you’re going through. It started at 6 months with my son. The first time I introduced solid foods. He hated them. Gagged and spit it all up. I tried every day to get him to eat something but he refused. So he ended up being almost exclusively breastfed till he was two. He was healthy so the doc’s weren’t concerned.

    He would eat only two things: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or spaghetti noodles with a little butter and salt. That’s it. We offered whatever we were eating and would ask him to at least try it. But we did so with a very “we don’t really care if you eat this” attitude. He either would try it or he wouldn’t. If he didn’t, he got his PB&J or noodles and that was that. No fuss, no big deal.

    He’s now 12 years old and only somewhat picky. He pretty much eats everything we’re having. Or at least tries it if it’s something new. If he doesn’t like it, he makes his own PB&J and that’s that.

    I think your therapist is spot on with the advice. Just make it a non-issue. It will be much easier on both of you.

  • LJ-NJ

    I created a user account just to reply to this post. Please go and get yourself a copy of Ellyn Satter’s book, “Child of Mine”, ASAP. Satter is a pediatric nutritionist and IMO an absolute genius of feeding and eating :) Her basic philosophy has to do with what she terms “division of control”: the parent controls when, where and what meals are served; the child controls if and how much s/he will eat. She advocates preparing ONE family meal (i.e. dinner) with the menu determined by you, not the child (i.e. no short order cooking, no back-up cereal), but with at least one item on the table you know the child will eat (i.e. rice, plain pasta, bread). The child must sit at the table but is not required to eat anything, no ‘no thank you bites’, nothing. And as your therapist said, no emotion that is not positive (definitely good idea to enjoy YOUR meal as much as possible). When the child asks to be excused, assuming they have cooperated and sat nicely with the family, the meal is over. Also, dessert is the only thing that is limited (i.e. no refills). She suggests (and I have done this with great success) serving the dessert portion at the same time as the main meal. If the child decides to eat the dessert first, so be it. If it’s the only thing they eat, so be it (aim for desserts with some nutritional value, like ice cream or pudding or fruit). I could go on and on but this book has changed my life. I recommend it to EVERYONE who has a picky eater or who is not sure how to best feed their child(ren). Good luck and keep in mind, this is a control issue at heart and you don’t want to turn it into a battle b/c you *will* lose, even if you think you’ve won.

  • mitzyjalapeno

    My son is 8 and autistic. He has serious issues with texture, so lots of things are out, like soup, gumbo (we’re from New Orleans) and oatmeal. I’ve been working on the one meal per family plan for a while now, but lunch and breakfast are completely up for grabs. Even at school, he eats what he wants, as long as he eats at least two or three bites of his dinner.
    But – he eats a lot of grilled cheese and a lot of nutella. A lot. He won’t eat any fruit except for grapes and melons, and three or four times a year, he’ll eat a banana. He doesn’t like any sort of deli meat, so I slice it up and it goes in spaghetti, or just between crackers. He will eat any sort of bread, white rice and croutons, so I mix very finely chopped veggies in the rice, and then I cover it with another layer of rice. Once it’s in his mouth, he’ll usually eat whatever I give him.
    I also bribe him. I’m a horrible mother for that, but it works, so I go with it. I bribe him with another story, more time to play with a specific toy, being able to watch his favorite show, in silence, while his sister takes a bubble bath. I hate it, but it works.
    His pediatrician has repeatedly said he’s healthy, and not to worry about it. I still pump him full of low-fat milkshakes with a small amount of fruit.
    For Leta, though, if she doesn’t eat cake (no birthday cake?!) what about cupcakes? They’re so trendy right now, that almost every bakery has a good variety, even in the miniature version. I’m assuming you have her on vitamins, so at least she’s healthy. But if she doesn’t eat at dinner, then my advice is let it go. She’ll eat eventually, no matter how stubborn. There has to be some foods she likes. She doesn’t have to eat fruit, but what about orange juice? There has to be something she can work with. You might want to take her to your local Asian market (if you have one) and tell her to pick out a fruit she wants to try. There are a lot more varieties she could try that way.

    Good luck!

  • dosvegans

    Oh dear. Well, for starters you are a great mom. As far as this issue, I think its a control thing. The more a parent focus’ on making a child do something, the more the child resists. She clearly has an issue revolving around food for some reason and hopefully in time she’ll get over it.

    To give Leta some control while still maintaining some yourself, make her an active participant in meal preparation. Maybe you are already doing this, but if not then this could help. You could take her to the book store and having her pick out a cook book that looks “good” to her and you approve of (can be any cookbook, not just for kids) then maybe once a week, or more if you like, she can pick out a recipe and help you prepare it for the whole family to eat together.

    I was a picky eater when I was little too. One thing I’ve realized about my mom’s cooking since then is that she always prepared food according to how she liked it. Ex, she always prepared peas in a pan with water and dill. I HATED it. What I realized as an adult was that it wasn’t the peas that I hated, it was the frickin’ dill! She never thought to make the peas a different way, because that’s how she liked them. But just making them a different way or asking me how I would like them prepared could have saved many a dinner table fight.

    Good luck!

  • Presswoman

    I have been reading your blog and the many comments that others have given over the last 8 years, but have never commented myself. This topic is a sensitive one. People are always quick to jump to their own personal opinions, but no one ever knows exactly what you are experiencing. I am a Mother of a 2.5 year old boy, I also suffer from anxiety and depresson (though I am doing well right now) and have the joy of being a Resource Consultant for Children who have various concerns. Needless to say I know how stressful life can get.

    Do what you feel will keep your family happy. I spend my days giving out “advice/techniques” to parents and that is the best advice I can give.

    In saying that I have had many families that have tried the SOS process with the involvement of an occupational therapist(as someone already suggested) and it has caused little stress and in most cases it has worked wonderfully. Stay strong and remember years from now it won’t matter that she wouldn’t eat a damn vegetable it will matter more that you loved her and had fun with her.