• Joolsmum

    I am also the parent of an extremely picker eater BoyChild type. {high fives everyone, thank you} He will be 10 in two weeks. He is skinny but in the 90% of height. Lovely skin, teeth, clear eyes, clearly well taken care of. In the past, I’ve resorted to more embarrassing moments of yelling, whining, begging and stroking out on the floor to get him to eat something other than plain pasta, quesadillas and frozen waffles. Some mornings I expect to find a giant flour tortilla filled with grated cheese in his bed instead of BoyChild with both dogs going, “What? He tastes way better now. Smells better, too.” However. Your therapist is right. Letting it go. Ohm. Now I have more success with serving what we have and not being a short order cook. I won’t do it anymore. Don’t eat, that’s cool, whatever. You’ll eat what we have when you are ready and you’ll eat it when we are eating, not at 8 pm when you are “starving.” Newsflash: It’s working. This week he’s tried: One Green Bean; 2 tsps Cous Cous; 1 tsp rice pudding and one bite of lettuce. Oh Joy and Rapture.

    Find your zen about it, you just have to. Once you find the zen, then you’ll still be worried and checking out every bite, but a new lightness will surround the proceedings. I promise. Or else just wrap Leta in a giant flour tortilla…

  • azarifopo

    If taking just one bite is a struggle for Leta, try doing it in stages:

    step 1: smell the food on the fork

    step 2: lick the food

    if she gets that far, maybe she’ll actually try a nibble, so…

    step 3: eat a mouse-sized bite

    Got this info from my friend whose daughter goes to a “feeding” therapist.

    Good luck!

  • Joolsmum

    Oh, and we do apples and peanut butter. Fruit and protein. Badda boom, badda bing…

  • amyptucson

    I like the suggestion about offering her just one alternative to the meal you’re preparing (maybe the alternative is something she can make herself). Then just know that you are a good parent, offering her healthy food and not making it into a huge fight. Especially if she’s willing to take a multivitamin.

    Also, here’s a child you don’t have to goad into reading. How cool is that?

  • Totah Sam

    Ha! My mom force fed me brussel sprouts one time. She had a grip on my face with one hand while shoving the sprouts into my mouth with the other.

    NOW CHEW AND SWALLOW!!! she screamed.

    I vomited all over the table and everyone’s food. She never tried that again.

  • Amy J.

    I’m gonna go with the vast majority of people who have responded already to feed her what she’ll eat and forget it.

    My youngest is a picky eater. We all had a heart, homemade cabbage beef soup last night, full of veggies. It was yum! My oldest ate it with gusto…said it was great. The five year old told me as my husband was making it that she would not it.

    I said, “Ok”. When dinner time came, we ate. She didn’t. Then she came to me and said she was hungry. I asked, what do you want? She thought about it and said, “A PB&J, carrots and ranch and some crunch and munch.”

    My response? Ok.

    That is what she ate. And it’s fine. She got all food groups in that meal…even drank a big glass of milk. It’s fine

    I was told by a pediatrician years ago that a child will get all they need nutritionally, naturally, with full day or even full week of meals. Let them eat what they want, their body will tell them what they need. Supplement with some chewable vitamins, avoid excess sugar and over processed stuff (but be for real, kids like spaghetti os and we keep them on hand all the time).

    Life is too full of stress to worry about it Heather. In our house we already have to worry about my oldest daughter having Type 1 diabetes and what she eats…to add to it worry over a picky second child, well, I’d go over the edge.

    Feed her a bowl of dry cereal. It’s a good meal! Bowl of popcorn…hell, a fruit popsicle.

    Hell, I’d eat a bowl of croutons to! They’re GOOD : ). Oh…maybe make her a “mix” that has croutons in it…it could have like cheese bits, some kind of veggie she likes, croutons and maybe some nuts or something. One thing a mom noticed is that her daughter tended to like sweet over salty, so she geared her foods on the sweet side…she ended up LOVING Indian food! If Leta has a liking for one kind of taste, run with that. You might have to get creative, but if she eats it, then it will be so much easier. I don’t mind fixing different stuff for my picky eater. I don’t want her hungry…or make her feel sick if she really doesn’t enjoy something. That seems more cruel than letting her not eat.

  • janenyy26

    One trick I’ve learned from my own personal love of macaroni and cheese is that at a certain age (my 20s) it’s time to eat more healthy foods. I have managed to trick even the pickiest eaters with this trick: When I make mac and cheese, I take a squash, boil it to soften, mash it up and mix it in the sauce.

    I might as well be consuming a whole produce aisle. It is quite possibly one of the easiest and repeatable tricks I’ve come up with for getting not only others but my own self to start eating at least a few veggies in addition to the crap I still crave. You might try that with Leta if she’s a mac fan. If not, try other veggie/meal combos. Same color really helps with the trickery.

  • GlassofWin

    As someone who has been working with kids for over a decade, I’ve come across my fair share of picky eaters. I want to reiterate what a few commentators already said:
    1) feed her what you and Jon enjoy (maybe make a simpler version if it has sauce or a lot of layers)

    2) Get rid of her fallback foods. There’s all gone.

    Congrats on taking the no emotion over food approach, it’s the BEST way to do this (the one I found most effective as well) I had a kid who would only eat butter, chips, pasta, cheese and bacon. She’s now a vegetarian and eats very healthily. :D

    Please keep us updated!

  • The Dorkier Elizabeth

    I was thrilled to see erinnatani mention Ellyn Satter, and I want to echo her recommendation. Ellyn Satter’s suggestions on how to feed picky kids have made a world of difference in my household. One idea of Satter’s that has been vital to us is the idea new food should be introduced alongside a familiar food and a carb (one recent example in my household was brussels sprouts accompanied by roast chicken and mashed potatoes); you might find relief in Satter’s division of mealtime responsibilities (adults say when and what; kids choose how much and whether). Good luck.

  • dianerose

    Oh dear…I echo most of the advice that others have given. If I have this correct, this seems like old school advice, i.e. you make your kid eat his or her food or it is put in the fridge until they do, or they wait for the next meal. Not sure this will work and it could add more undue stress to everyone. Not all Therapists are right ALL the time. Sometimes you have to use your own judgment. If this turns into a nightmare, it is certainly fine to regroup and try another approach. I do agree on leaving the emotionally charged energy out of the situation.

    As many mentioned, I also had family members who had major food issues when they were young. My cousin only ate a hamburger patty and chive cottage cheese every single day of his life until he hit his teens. My step daughter hardly eats anything, so picky. I think it is a common problem.

    I am sure others must have mentioned this as well…but you can do tricks such as adding spinach to a brownie recipe. In other words, sneak nutritious food into muffins and such. Leta might be hard to fool though.

    Frankly, I raised 3 boys who are all in their twenties now. I wish I had been warned. Raising children is a challenge and each had their own set of quirks. Oh, those dreadful teen years. I would give anything to go back to the problems of their youth. Now the problems are bigger and you never stop being a concerned parent who worries about them.

    Good luck Heather… and don’t be too hard on yourself. My oldest was more of a ‘difficult’ child from the moment he was born it seemed. He’s doing great now… but it was so hard to know exactly how to handle his behavior.

    Take Care,

  • clairepittman

    FUSSY EATING IS GENETIC!! She will grow out of it, mostly, as time goes on.

    I have been assured of this by our Paediatrician who is a Professor of Paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital and one of Australia’s leading specialists in children’s health. (How we got through her waiting list I’ll never know, I think crying to her receptionist helped…)

    ANYWAY – I would guess that Leta is a sensitive person, and feels her feelings very instensely. This is why she can love her sister so ferociously and hate cake with equal passion. Texture, taste, COMBINATIONS of flavours or textures (lord spare us!) are VERY FULL ON things to experience for her.

    I guess. I don’t know – but I would hazard.

    Anyway – I can relate. As a parent of a fussy eater, not a fussy eater myself. It’s maddening.

    1. Traditional Chinese Medicine
    We had a huge turnaround after consulting a TCM doctor and using an off-the-shelf kids digestion tonic regularly. He had a “damp spleen” which creates picky eating and cravings for sugary food which only exacerbate the “dampness”.

    Yes – spleen, damp etc… I don’t get it either but having seen the PHENOMENAL turnaround in my own child’s volume and (to a lesser degree) variety of food intake I am totally converted.

    Leta might do better with acupuncture or acupressure because the herbal tonic, while it doesn’t taste BAD, does have a certain flavour.

    2. Pro-biotics
    Good bacteria for the gut, helps balance out the less helpful bacteria (including yeasty beasties) that CREATE cravings for sugar and other crap!

    3. Bolognaise.
    Bolognaise sauce with finely grated vegies, just up the amount and coarseness of the vegetable content graaaadddduuuaaaalllly over the course of a year. I now make mine with ground beef, onions, GARLIC, tinned tomatoes, carrot, zucchini and capsicum which now only gets pushed to the side of the plate not banished along with the rest of the meal.

    4. Fried rice.
    Again, for us, if it’s finely diced enough and there’s a DVD going at the same time you’ll be amazed what ‘yukky’ foods manage to slip past the Food-Is-A-Weapon-And-May-Very-Well-Kill-Me patrols.

    5. Big-kid crush.
    Peer pressure only works if you admire your peers. If she’s got a cousin or a babysitter or someone that she TOTALLY adores get them to come over and make a big deal about how delicious the {food} is and how glad she is that you’ve got {food} here and how there was this boy she knew who DIDN’T like {food} and he was so STUPID and all the really best people like {food}.

    And remember, if she’s growing okay and she’s got energy she’s getting enough of whatever she needs to survive. We’re only shooting for some protein, some omega-3s, some orange vegetable, some green vegetable, some red/purple fruit, carbs to make up the calorie requirements.

    Highly Sensitive People.
    They are smart. They feel things very strongly, including taste and texture. This is why they are so annoying to us cluddites and so brilliant.

    Good luck and lots of patience to you guys!

  • 1eloise1klive

    I have a couple of picky eaters too but we’re making great strides. When cooking I bring in a stool so they can watch me prep/cook. I toss on two aprons and allow them to participate. This drives me nuts but as they toss, mix and chop (my 8 year old) they lick their fingers and taste little niblets. They now eat raw red peppers, scallions, lettuce and guacamole. I also (after I’ve had a couple of martinis) allow them to use the left over cooking scraps (veggies and stuff) to pretend cook. So it’s changed the way they view food – it’s now creative and they’re in control. One other point – we watch cooking shows (cooking tv/top chef) together as a family. Give it a whirl.

  • kristinkaminski

    I have no kids. But I do remember being a picky eater as a kid. And now I eat everything. Except horseradish! and lima beans..annnd liver..but I mean GROSS!

    There was a point I remember where I ONLY ate candy that I would steal from the local Albertsons. So I mean. at least she’s not THERE.

    I had a point somewhere. Oh yah. She’ll outgrow it. I agree with your therapist! Ignore her and make your family dinner and NOT her own plate (because cesar milan would NEVER do that and I do everything he says..dogs, humans WHATEVER!)

    Did this help? No?

    Well here’s a Hug and a batch of chocolate chip cookies!! (cuz that’s WAY better than just an internet hug!)

  • AnnieWifey

    It’ll be more difficult to implement this strategy after a few years of the Separate Dinner Strategy, but I HIGHLY recommend it. We’ve always done the Single Dinner, Like it or Not Strategy, and it has worked quite well for our three children. I think if we just had one kid who was a great eater it would be a fluke, but all three are. I’m talking sushi, indian food, big plates of salad kind of eaters. I think it may also have to do with the fact that I made their baby food, which tends to have more real flavors than jarred food, so their palates get exposed to things like leeks and herbs at a younger age.
    Leta may not eat for three days, but she won’t go a week. If only healthy options are presented to her, she’ll learn to like it at some point because she’ll be hungry. Just make sure you don’t give in and give her yogurt or a glass of milk or something before bed if she doesn’t eat–just offer her dinner, and if she doesn’t eat it then there will be a healthy breakfast option in the morning.
    Our guys are also very rarely sick, and I think this has to do with the amount of dark leafy greens and vegetables that go into their systems.
    We talk about how when they put good food into their bodies, their bodies go “ahhhhh, thank you”, and that we need good fuel to move and think. Has she learned about nutrition at school? Most kids get into that and naturally want to make healthy choices for their bodies.
    Good luck–and be strong. No giving in, or she’ll see a weakness!

  • thechocolatecat

    My daughter is now 16 and I hate to tell you she hasn’t improved a lot! Things turned around though when we decided to stop preparing special meals, she either ate what we did (she didn’t ) or she had something she could prepare herself – bread, cereal, fruit. Even now if she doesn’t like what we are having she will cook herself a pot of pasta or make a salad. She has made her own breakfast and packed her own school lunch (which is often very weird) for years now. We do comprimise and will use the ‘correct’ bowl or plate or take her vegies out before they get mixed with a sauce for example. Good luck, do what works for you with the least amount of stress!

  • knicklen

    I compeletly understand where you’re coming from. Our daughter is a notoriously picky eater. So much so that like you, we were frantic over it, consulting friends, family, and the pediatrician. Our pediatrican reacted the same way yours seems to have. But the good news is, it DID eventually get better. She has suddenly decided to WANT to try new things. Though here’s the kicker…it has to be HER idea. If anyone merely hints at her possibly trying something it will turn into a huge battle. The less that is said, the better.
    Just last night, in fact, she asked to try some of my dinner (hers was different, of course). And the good news is, she LIKED it, even asked for some. I about fell over trying to get my dinner to her plate.
    Another thing we did was take something that our daughter LOVES (in this case soup or doughnuts) and just started calling everything by a different name (e.g. chili soup and biscuit doughnuts). It worked!

    That said, I’ve also found “The Sneaky Chef” by Missy Lapine and “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld to be WONDERFUL. Both are chock full of recipes and tips for hiding veggies and fruit in things like Brownies.

    I wish you luck. And as others have posted, you’re not hurting her by giving up the fight. It will all work out in the end.

  • felis44

    Hmm, I’m going to have to follow this particular post for a while to see if there are any suggestions I can use! My oldest son (5 yrs) has a very limited diet as so many of you have described. He seems to grow anyway! Spinach or basil pesto on pasta is something he always eats. My latest ‘great’ discovery is kale chips. They are so surprisingly delicious that I’ve been telling all the other moms I know and they’ve tried it and had success also! They are crispy and crunchy and you can add whatever spices suit. Give it a try… my veggie-averse son declared they were his favourite snack ever.

  • jamie1577

    I always have my kids (5 and 2 year old boys) help me or my husband make dinner, lunch, breakfast, whatever. I noticed anytime that they didn’t help, they were less likely to try anything new on their plates.

    My youngest is a big fan of kale. He is because we decided to grow it, last year, in our garden. He gets to pick it and take it in the kitchen and help cook it. He loves it with hot sauce!

    Both of my boys are also big ranch dressing fans, so carrots, beans, tomatoes, even grilled cheese gets dipped in ranch.

    Good Luck!

  • tokenblogger

    I can’t help you. My kid ate everything — even stuff I didn’t like. He still does.

    What would I do? Well, if I were giving in, (which I would not)I think I’d tell him if he didn’t like what everyone else is having he’s gonna have to eat cereal or something else kinda bland he could fix himself. It would have milk in it and he loved juice, so I’d let him have that, too.

    I wouldn’t think a kid could starve to death on that 3 times a day and a vitamin.

    Apples and peanut butter are very nutritious.

  • shood

    I have a picky eater, so I’m enjoying reading the comments for ideas of ways to sneak healthy stuff into a picky child’s diet.

    However, I did get a piece of advice once that’s helped me avoid a lot of frustration in the potty training and the diet areas:

    When it comes to children, two things you can never control is what goes into them and what comes out of them.

    It makes sense, and it keeps me from feeling like I’m failing all the time.

  • SparkleP

    My heart goes out to you. That sounds like a really frustrating situation. I hope it gets better for you soon.

    I have a “clean” eater. No sauce, no easily observed seasonings. Luckily she will eat lots of healthy foods, as long as I break it down into components. She will not eat a turkey sandwich all put together, but she will eat turkey, cheese, tomato and lettuce. Once I figured that out, things became much easier.

    I also have good luck adding things she loves into things that have too many components. She loves chips. So, I crumble chips on top of chili. Stuff like that.

    I also, ahem, have very good luck with bribery as a last resort. With candy. I mean, she’ll need something to talk to her therapist one day, right? I have three jelly beans that say you’ll eat that hamburger.

    I love the idea of serving what you are having for dinner and ignoring the fact she’s not eating. Sounds like a sanity saver for you if nothing else.

    Good luck!

  • preachrswf

    My daughter did the same thing, only her foods of choice were those without color – potatoes, pasta, bread, cheese – no veggies, no meat. She ate that way until she was almost 16!

    Now my daughter is 23, lives in New York and is a huge foodie. She eats brussel sprouts, artichokes, and yes, even raw meat! Steak tartar is one of her favorites. Her first year in New York at NYU she was invited to a large group dinner. It was free, she was poor, so she went. Turns out it was food taken from dumpster diving – and she liked it!

    Don’t give up. And no, it doesn’t get better, at least with daughters.

  • poundcake

    OMG! I am obsessed with that “Chinese Mother” article! I have been thinking about it all day! I was thinking when I first started reading that Leta was lucky to be an American girl- she would have had to hoard HoHo’s under her bed in China, and then you mentioned it! I love how the author said that Chinese mothers assume strength in their children, while we wussy western mothers assume fragility. I’m a teacher, and I have to admit that I subscribe more to the Chinese mother philosophy at school. My classroom kids are tough, can take criticism, and really try hard to do well. I really don’t throw a bone unless I feel like a kid is working hard. On to the home front…I just finished playing Wii cycling for my son…so he could be ranked as high as my daughter is- so his little ego doesn’t suffer. I know…I am sufficiently shamed.

  • jzamoyta

    I am the mom of a 5 1/2-year old picky eater myself, and it is totally crazy-making. I have tried everything, and finally gave up as well. I like the advice of your therapist and I should put it to use on a daily basis. Shutting up is not really my strong suit, but I guess I can try it. Once in a while anyway. I am a total control freak myself and suspect that God is punishing me for wanting to control every aspect of everything in everyone’s life. I’m a bad person.
    Anyway, the only way I know this does get better is from hearing from parents of grown people. My brother-in-law literally ate nothing but hot dog buns with peanut butter for the first half of his life. He is now 6 foot 4 and stupidly healthy. By contrast, I was forced to live in what I called the whole wheat palace and was not allowed refined flour of any kind, no sugary cereals (which means you either eat plain shredded wheat or plain cheerios. yum.), no candy, no soda, no fast food, and my mom announced the calorie count of everything I put into my mouth (imagine how happy she was when I gained 50 lbs during my pregnancy. I weighed more than my own dad). This was in Berkeley in the 70′s, big shocker. Anyway, long story short, my husband and his siblings, who subsisted on a diet of tv dinners, hot dog buns, and “red” soda, are all tall, good-looking, and unbelievably healthy. I get sick when a germ floats within 15 feet of my body, and stopped growing when I was 13, at just under 5 foot 4. So this gives me comfort when my son eats a bagel with honey and butter for three meals a day for a week. One great cookbook you might want to try, that has actually yielded recipes that my son will not gag on and run screaming from the room, is No Whine with Dinner by the Meal Makeover Moms (they have a great website too mealmakeovermoms.com.) That said, I am going to shut up now. Maybe forever! Then everyone will eat, right??
    P.S. Also, I really can’t stand people who look down their nose at me and tell me they NEVER have to make a separate dinner for their kids, oh no, they would never do that, and their kids just LOVE broccoli because of that. The implication of course being that I am the world’s worst parent and I have created this whole mess. My kid will be messed up for many other reasons that ARE my fault. This one is all him.
    See how good I am at shutting up? Love you and your stories, Heather. You connect me to sanity. ((hugs))

  • clairepittman

    Oh yes – and our dietician and speech therapist recommend getting our Highly Sensitive Picky Eater to play with textures…

    shaving cream
    dry rice
    food she doesn’t like – make her pick it up with her fingers and put it in the bin

    If she won’t touch it or eat it, ask her to have a smell of it.

    First she needs to be able to look at it
    Then smell it
    Then touch it with her fingers and say ewwww
    Then touch it with her fingers for longer, (like chopping it up and giving it to Marlo)
    Then touch it with her mouth and spit it out
    Then touch it with her mouth and swallow it
    Then get rewarded for every step of the way (five minutes extra reading before lights out!)

    There’s a lot of two steps forward three steps back start over but then you get further the next time….

    Desensitisation. It takes time. It is repetitive and boring. It works…. eventually…

  • dad

    (I’m assuming no food allergies)

    When I was a kid, I was a very picky eater. From the time I was about 5, or at least as long as I remember, my mother basically said I’m only making one dinner, if you don’t like it, make your own, end of discussion. I whined, and cried just like any other kid, but got over it, and sometimes made my own dinner (junkfood wasn’t allowed, but we didn’t have much anyway). Lots of PB&J, but I also learned independence, and no hassles at dinner.

    I still hate stuffed peppers, meatloaf with baked ketchup, ring bologna, and mushrooms (the 70′s sucked for food)

  • NStock

    My son, who is 6, is a very picky eater too. He won’t eat any meat, cheese, pasta, eggs, etc.

    Every day he goes to school with a jam sandwich.

    I know exactly how you feel.

    All I do is tell him the importance of a healthy diet any chance I can and then I let him eat whatever he wants (within reason – no ice cream for breakfast).

    He is growing, he is healthy and I don’t stress over meals anymore.

    Stay strong!

  • katielovesstan

    This is really, really long… sorry!

    I was a very picky child then and I am a picky 25-year old now. And I don’t have kids. But I do have first hand experience!

    It’ll be ok, I promise! No matter which way you go, she’ll end up ok. :)

    You have a right as a parent to choose whatever tactic you want. My parents used to try to make me eat a bite of whatever was for dinner and I’d refuse (however my siblings gave in and they’ll eat ALMOST anything these days). It was a huge ordeal and then finally they gave up and I could either eat what was made, make my own, or skip dinner. Most of the time I’d make a sandwich or cereal or just skip dinner altogether (I don’t ever remember being hungry as a child). We have a lot of food allergies in my family so my mom had us bring our lunches to school. When we were younger she’d help us make them and then as we got older we’d make our own. There wasn’t any other options: make what you want to eat or don’t eat at all (and as a child it would be embarrassing to not eat lunch with your classmates!). I always made a sandwich, chips, and juice or water for lunch. My sister usually did the same although she’d also eat leftovers or bring a salad.

    If we went out to dinner and I didn’t like anything on the menu I wouldn’t eat. My parents didn’t make it a big deal if I didn’t get anything so I remember dinners as time spent with my family instead of horrible, embarrassing experiences. I’m a high stress, high anxiety person (with major control freak tendencies) so anything that is calm is a plus.

    When I was a kid I’d get major anxiety if something food-related was going on at school or at a friend’s house and I didn’t know what to expect (kind of like what Leta goes through with school lunches?). I’d become fixated on WHAT WILL I DO IF I DON’T LIKE ANYTHING THERE – I THINK I’LL DIE. I still get anxiety with random food moments, but I’m better. For example, the thought of having to try a piece of red meat gives me major anxiety. The thought of having to try a new veggie, fruit, or grain isn’t as scary. For anything non-meat it’s mainly bad habits that keep my picky eating. For meat it’s like an actual phobia. I don’t know if Leta is like that, but maybe you could talk to her (not at a meal time and not in a room where you normally eat or prepare food) and see if she just doesn’t like it/thinks she doesn’t like it or if it’s phobia related. If it’s a phobia I’d tread a lot more carefully in terms of making her try that food.

    I’m trying more and more food as an adult. When I moved away to college that really expanded my food choices… I started eating salad! A vegetable that tastes like grass! Crazy! Now that I’m a working adult, I’ve eaten foods I would have NEVER touched (fish, yuck!) at work events where I’m stuck with one or two menu choices. Basically when faced with looking like a fool at work or eat something I think will be awful, I’ll eat the something awful. :) Peer pressure works as an adult but it absolutely didn’t work as a child. As a child, I’d mentally freeze up instead of coming up with strategies to cope with the situation. Now if I know something horrible is on my plate I coach myself: “take small pieces, try not to let it touch your tongue, scrape off the sauce, you can do this!” Honestly though, if I was served red meat at a work event I might be close to tears… it’s that bad.

    And now that I cook for myself and my husband and keep track of what I eat to figure out how much calories/sodium/sugar/etc I’ve had, I’m trying to make more balanced choices as far as food goes. I’m realizing that it’s ok that I don’t like most salad dressings, condiments, and red meat, but it’s not ok that I don’t eat more fruits and vegetables. I understood the food pyramid when I was a kid, but I just didn’t care. Now I vaguely remember the food pyramid (lol) but I care about my diet because I think of things like osteoporosis and being healthy through future pregnancies. I still consider myself a picky eater but I think the number of food I’ll eat now as opposed to when I was a kid has tripled. Also, my husband is NOT picky at all so I can’t get away with cooking the same thing night after night. I’ve had to diversify and that’s really helped.

    I don’t jump the gun to try new foods, but I have slowly introduced new foods to my diet since I turned 18 and that’s made a huge difference.

    You don’t have to take my opinions at all, but to sum up here’s my suggestions:
    1. Figure out if it’s a phobia/anxiety related or just being stubborn. If there’s anxiety involved, try to work with her on methods for coping with anxiety.
    2. Relax about her eating what you make for dinner… but don’t make a separate meal just for her if she’s old enough to make her own. Let her skip dinner if she wants to (but require her to sit at the table if dinner time is important to your family).
    3. Make her pack her own lunch for school. If she’s like me, it’ll give her peace to know what’s in store for her the next day.
    4. Let her look through recipe books/food blogs to find food that she thinks looks good and help her make it in the kitchen. Cooking for myself (I never did as a child, it was always frozen chicken nuggets or sandwiches) has really helped me get excited about trying new things. If she likes mac & cheese find a couple recipes on blogs with really attractive photos of mac & cheese and ask her if any of these look good. If they do, help her make that one. I’m a very visual person so attractive looking food helps my appetite a lot!

    Good luck! And again, really, it’ll be ok. I know a few picky eaters from my childhood and we’re all educated, employed, highly functioning adults. :) (Although I really do need to address my anxiety!)

  • simplyred

    My older son was a picky eater too like Leta. He ate about a handful of food and mac & cheese isn’t one of them. Who doesn’t like mac and cheese? Let me tell you it DOES get better. He started to try/eat new food when he was 9-10ish, he is almost 11. I was amazed the first time he ate Teriyaki Chicken, seriously my jaw dropped to the floor. But when he wasn’t eating/trying new food, I wasn’t worried at all, I was a picky eater myself when I was younger, now I eat pretty much anything.

  • willL

    I know strange but if things are cut up with TOOTHPICKS in them like mini appetizers…somehow this makes food way more fun to eat.
    And I’m not sure if there is a condiment that she likes. My neice only like ranch dressing basically so if you give her some to dip dinner in, she’ll eat it.
    Dips and toothpicks- it’s what I’m talking about.

    PLUS I was a picky eater and I just wanted choices.
    Don’t think it was a control thing w/ my b/c my parents were not controlling but if I was given 2 things and asked which one I’d rather have- I’d choose. Even if I really didn’t like those things.
    Hope that helps.

  • verbalicon

    The Pupselkind eats nori, or kim, with gleeful abandon. This stuff here:

    It’s weird. It makes the husband gag (heehee!). Not sure that I don’t buy it for her because of just that.

    Other than that, though? I just learned yesterday that chicken is “yucky” but veggie burger is tolerable (only the Gardenburger made of vegetables). And Cheese is God. Or the other way round.

  • epoh

    I highly doubt you will read this many comments. But I agree w/the therapist. Food shouldn’t be a battle. I make one meal every night. I do my best to always include at least one healthy item I know my kids like, and that’s that. Thankfully I was blessed with children who are not picky. I don’t try to claim credit for it.. they eat just about everything, including SPINACH and BROCCOLI. They also believe grapes qualify as dessert. So, you know, *kanyeshrug* relax. :)

  • afdyer

    I hate to say it, but I was a CHAMPION picky eater, skinny to the point that my pediatrician told me to eat as much ice cream as I wanted, and when I was in middle school, my grandmother offered me a dollar for every pound I gained.

    All that said, it finally took a combo of embarrassment in front of my friends- not just what they ate, but asking me why I wasn’t eating it too (which it sounds like Leta is immune to so far, but that could shift) and going to college to push me out of my comfort zone. It’s mostly a texture thing for me, and it still is a little, but it basically took growing out of it. It might take that for Leta, too. Sounds like you have some solid advice from your therapist in the meantime.

  • Lord Caroline

    Check out http://www.EllynSatter.com Great website for advice on kids and eating.

  • Carlybop

    a blog recommendation: dinneralovestory.com all about family dinners and family friendly foods.

    2, I can’t remember where I read or heard this recently (I feel like it may have been NPR but I’m blank on the source), but they recommended basically forgetting to serve your picky eater at dinner. sitting down with your plates, and when they sit down, be like oh, i figured you wouldn’t like this. inevitably, they will ask to try some if it is on your plate.

    It’s not my theory, but I heard it recently.

  • spedrson

    My 7 year old boy is a picky eater too! I feel your pain! He comes by it naturally as well – both my husband and I were picky eaters as kids. Probably my husband even more so. Now my husband is even more adventurous than me when it comes to trying new cuisines. My mother-in-law said that he lived on peanut butter sandwiches for a couple of years! He was forced to sit at the table many nights until he finished his veggies, but he’s very stubborn and would out last his parents (sometimes sitting for 2-3 hours).

    All of that to say – I am totally frustrated that my son is a picky eater, but we’ve chosen to make it somewhat of a “non-issue”. I know the grandparents freak out over our passiveness, but it’s a battle we’ve chosen not to lose sleep over.

    The one thing we are sticklers about is that he is not allowed to “diss” the food at the table. He has a younger sister that is 3 and if he talks about how horrible it is it rubs off on her. She’s more of an adventurous eater and I don’t want him tainting her opinions!

  • Alfriston

    I haven’t the time at the moment to read all the comments, so please accept my apologies if you have already seen these suggestions:

    1. Be a mean, mean Mummy and tell her that what’s for dinner is what’s for dinner. No more making something separate for Leta. She can eat or not. Eventually she will get hungry enough to try something.

    2. Hide vegetables in everything. Use a food processer, and you can get carrots, cauliflower, onion, mushroom, squash, and zuchinni as well as tomatoes into spaghetti sauce. Then use the spaghetti sauce to make lasagne or spaghetti or any other shaped pasta.

    Use a similar combination of veg with ground beef and it becomes Ground Beef Surprise! The surprise part is because sometimes you combine it with pasta top it with cheese and heat it in a casserole in the oven, the next time you top it with mashed potatoes and it’s shepherd’s pie, another time you put the mixture into a pie plate, top it with pastry and call it Meat Pie. I found a lot of it was in the marketing. (ie how I sold it to my kid.)

    Also, carrot and cauliflower can be ground up in the processer and added to the cheese sauce of macaroni and cheese. When challenged by your picky eater, you lie and tell them that it’s unmelted cheese.

    Finally, and possibly Leta is too old for this but maybe worth a try, frozen mixed vegetables. I started this when my son was 3 and wouldn’t let anything that he knew was a vegetable touch his lips. He had to eat 3 of each kind of vegetable in the package – ie 3 pieces of carrot, 3 peas, 3 corn niblets, 3 pieces of green bean. Then when he was 4 the number went up to 4 of each veg.

    Second finally, only offer healthful alternatives. ie, snack options are apples or carrots, cheese and crackers or peanut butter on toast. Chips cookies ice cream are out of bounds until she starts eating the healthful stuff.

    Good luck and I think you have a lovely family!

  • janharp

    1) Hot dogs (gross)
    2) Bagels (with butter ONLY)
    3) Cereal (with rice milk ONLY)
    4) Mac and cheese (from the box—gross)
    5) Sliced cucumbers (if the wind was right and you held your lips straight)

    There you have it—our experience from 12 years ago. The good news is that it really does get better; their taste buds grow up, and if you’re lucky, their friends make fun of them! For all those years of mostly carbs, we have a healthy kid (and gummy vitamins help).

    Best of luck.

  • Sassy Molassy

    One of my four kids is an extremely picky eater. Somewhere in toddlerhood, his list of acceptable foods dwindled to cheese pizza, PB&J (on whole wheat, woo hoo!), popcorn, and bacon. Oh! And pretzels. i shit you not, that’s pretty much the list in its entirety, although other beige carbs could sometimes slip through. Nary a fruit or veggie, very little protein. I could force him to eat two chicken nuggets if he wanted a Happy meal on a road trip. He is now 9. About two years ago, we started an attempt to get him to eat more. Every night at dinner, he had to choose one food that we were having and try one bite of it. I think giving him some choice helped, and as long as he ate his one bite without drama, he got his pizza with no fuss. I explained what we were going to try when it was not mealtime, so he could get used to the idea. I made it clear beforehand that if he threw a fit, we would go straight to no more pizza, so he was pretty compliant. After a few months, we upped it to one bite of two different foods, then gradually maybe two bites of those foods and then eventually, one bite of everything. One bite grew to two or three as he got used to eating certain things repeatedly. There were some triumphs, like the night he ate a small but significant portion of spaghetti with sauce and asked for seconds, but we also made some mistakes, like giving him too much mac and cheese because he acted like he liked it the week before. Maybe twice in the first year he threw a big fit and was sent to his room without dinner. Now he eats at least a few bites of almost everything we eat, and only “needs” pizza maybe three nights a week instead of seven. He is still allowed to have some foods he barely has to taste, because everyone has likes and dislikes. I have also outgrown being a picky eater (although I was never as picky as he is), and I have some dislikes strong enough that i would classify them as a true phobia (I would take a beating before putting coleslaw near my face). We feel like this approach, although very slow and gradual, has worked well for us, and it’s been relatively painless.

  • czristy

    I am an RN, and before that I worked in child care and preschool settings. I recommend a set of books by a registered dietitian, Ellyn Satter, especially Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Her approach encompasses divisions of responsibility for family eating, and puts an emphasis on what is served to the family instead of what each individual in the family eats at any given meal. It sounds like a philosophy that mirrors what your therapist is suggesting. Good luck!

  • jeniginter

    I hope my comment makes it to you because I have a few (what I think are) great suggestions.

    First, I cut a lot of food with cookie cutters, i.e. pita, tortillas, bread, etc. Stars, hearts and letters make my daughter’s PB&Js more exciting.

    Also, “homemade” lunchable-style or Japanese Bento box-style lunches really appeal to my daughter. A few wheat crackers, sliced cold meat (incorporate cookies cutters if you are using deli sliced meat) and berries all presented in separate containers.

    And finally, make-your-own stuff. This works with burritos or baked potatoes. I let her make her own tacos with meat, cheese, beans, whatever she wants to put in there and I let her do it herself. Last night she ate her first baked potato because I let her butter it herself, put on Feta cheese and salsa. It worked because she made it herself.

  • AllisonM

    From 2-5 I went to a pescetarian daycare with a real New Age bent, at least when it came to food. We ate a lot of stuff at lunch that I would assume most of us never encountered at home–tofu, quiche, carob. But there was no drama, just one rule: you had to take one bite of each meal, every time that it was served. If you didn’t want to eat it after that, you could have something else (I think there were sandwiches?) and no one gave you a hard time. (Though once I gagged on a scallop, and after that I didn’t have to take a bite of “seafood stew”!)

    Anyway, it’s a pretty good rule, because it accounts for the fact that most kids’ tastes will expand gradually, but they won’t necessarily know that until they try something again. But I’m no expert, and it’s hard to say if that’s applicable to you.

    Another thing: my best friend’s picky eating extended into her 20s. At the age of 22, this is what she would consume: egg salad sandwiches, chicken strips, pasta with cheese and oil, grape juice, milk, and mushroom soup. Pretty sure that’s it. I used to make alternate meals when she came over for dinner. But sometime around the point when everyone stopped giving her a hard time, she got interested in food. She lived with an Indian family friend for a couple months and of all things, she started eating less-spicy Indian food. After that, she seemed to realize that she was missing out, and started going to a Mexican place near school. Now, a couple years later, she eats pretty much normally. It seems like a lot of this stuff fixes itself. And her health is just fine, as it always has been.

  • manitobamama

    My kids are variably picky (depends on the day of the week, the mood they’re in or the way the wind is blowing) but sometimes they can be adventurous. One dish they absolutely LOVE, is so easy to make and is full healthy ingredients is the Filipino dish Pancit. It’s basically a vermicelli noodle dish with veggies and meat (usually pork or chicken).
    Here’s the basic description of it:

    Here’s how I make it:

    1 full package of vermicelli noodles

    1Tbsp Sesame Oil
    1 medium onion (diced)
    minced garlic (to your taste)
    3-4 chicken breasts or pork (cut into smaller stir fry sized pieces)
    3-4 stalks of celery (sliced)
    4-5 carrots (sliced)
    Bok Choy or fresh spinach
    2-3 TBsp of low sodium soya sauce
    1 1/2 cups chicken broth

    Presoak noodles in cool water. In a deep sauce pan heat oil, add garlic and onion. Once cooked add chicken and cook until browned. Add celery, carrot & Bok choy, soya sauce and SOME of the broth. Add the softened noodles and allow them to absorb the broth. If more broth is needed add sparingly.

    So GOOD!!!

  • alanmill

    Don’t sweat it.

    I ate cold sweet cereal for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple or carrot for lunch, and a hot dog and carrot for diner virtually evey day from Kindergarten to sixth grade. My mom asked the pediatrician if I was going to get sick. he said that as long as I was growing, and healthy, not to sweat it.

    Then I went to sleep over camp. I discoverd that food cooked over an open fire, liberally seasoned with sand and ash, tastes wonderful after a full day of hiking/canoing–no matter what the other ingredients are. When I came back home from summer, I discovered that my mom refused the open campfire bit, but that lots of food actualy tasted good without the dirt (dare I admit, even better). My food choices expanded from there.

    So, don’t sweat it.

  • DealWithIt

    That sucks! My kids aren’t picky eaters. I don’t get the whole “kid friendly” food that SO many people and society talk about. So this may not be at all helpful.

    When you are planning your meal try to include one thing that you thing will be a sure thing for Leta. It may be gross to you. It may not go with whatever else you are serving. But serve it up as part of the meal. That may be the only thing she eats at that meal, but IMO you are one step closer. You are eating “together”.

    Also… is she involved in the meal prep? Does she have a say in the “menu”? We’ll often ask our kids for menu ideas and we’ll include their suggestions in the upcoming meals. But I know… our kids eat nearly anything so this is easy to incorporate. Maybe she is allowed to suggest one meal a week… and each week it has to be something different. :)

    Good luck!

  • robokitteh

    Here’s some disheartening news for you:

    I’m 22 and I am still a chronic picky-eater. During my short life, I’ve seen every kind of doctor that could possibly exist in a futile effort to help combat my neurosis with food. Sadly, there really isn’t a ‘cure’ for it.

  • whoahgirl

    I just had to comment on this issue since up until I was 16 years old I was a notoriously picky eater. I can remember having battle of the wills with my parents over dinner and sitting at the table until 10PM since I refused to eat what was presented to me since it might taste funny. I, like Leta, would get anxious about meals and demand to know what was going to be served to me so I could either a) refuse straight off the bat or b) calm my fears since thank GOD we were having spaghetti but I could have it without sauce! I’d freak out if there was cheese on my pizza or hamburger and remember in 7th grade freaking out in London since the ketchup TASTED FUNNY.

    This is an excellent portrait of what a little turd I used to be, right?

    How I got out of the picky habits was actually being an exchange student and knowing that I would seriously offend people if I wouldn’t eat meals. Now, I’m not suggesting that you ship Leta to a foreign country or anything but it does present hope, right?

    I guess how my parents best handled it was to just let me prepare my own meals, eat what I would, and just not fight it. They wouldn’t prepare separate meals for me but would let me pull out the noodles before sauce was on it or pick out what I would. They’d let me eat the mac and cheese and try to get me to eat actually tasty and healthy foods but wouldn’t force it down my throat. I did love cucumbers, carrots, and corn so they’d have them readily available. The hungrier I got the more their food that I previously thought was nasty would look appetizing.

    As my Mom always said about dinner… there is two options for dinner: take it or leave it.

  • sherylwx4

    I have 4 small kids and can promise you that making it a non issue DOES work. It takes some time and A LOT of biting your tongue but it works.
    Picky eating really is more about power, than what they are eating. If they have texture issues that can be a whole other ball of wax. You need to decide which it is. But really, the answer to both is really basically the same. Except with texture issue kids you have to be a little more slow about introducing new things.
    One of my sons has texture issues like…realllllly bad. To top it off he has an identical twin that eats fine and weighs more, talk about mommy guilt knowing EXACTLY how much bigger and “healthier” he’d be if he ate more.. ugh, sometimes being in my brain stinks- I could mommy guilt profesionally .
    Anyway, hang in there. It will get better but it takes time, more than you’ll want it too.

  • Pernworld

    I voluntarily became stepmom to two picky eaters. Here’s what they ate…
    Buttered noodles,
    String Cheese
    gradulated to ramen noodles
    campbells chicken noodle soup

    And of course anything their mother made.

  • Ashley_the Accidental Olympian

    I was never a picky eater, but OH BOY was my sister ever one.

    My parents resolved from day one to never give in, and also took the no emotion route with her. I swear to you there was one year, maybe it lasted two years where she ate nothing but milk at dinner every night.

    She would ask in the morning what my mom packed for lunch and my mom would just say, “Yucky stuff.” When she asked about dinner my mom would say, “Yucky stuff.” In the beginning she would wail, and flop around at the horror of these meals, but seeing as no one paid any attention to her fuss, she quickly gave in.

    She could eat, or not eat. End of discussion.

    The best part? She graduates from University of Oregon in June, and will be enrolling in CULINARY SCHOOL in the fall.

    To make food, other than milk, for all her hungry guests. We all have no doubt she will eventually open her own restaurant in the next 5 or so years.

    It gets better.