the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Here’s where my mom brings up the apples and peanut butter

It should surprise no one who has read this site for any length of time that my older child does not like food. It started when she was eighteen months old with a three-day hunger strike and continues to this day: she won’t eat bread, certain kinds of pizza, or cake. Don’t even bring up the name of a vegetable. Fruit? Are you crazy? Fruit has taste which is the number one property of disgusting!

So after many months of fighting a losing battle, I decided to disengage. It wasn’t worth it anymore, the screaming and crying and multiple skipped meals. Her pediatrician advised this course of action, and I think it was the right one to take at the time. I was so out of my mind with frustration that one night I found myself trying to force open her mouth with one hand while trying to shove a spoonful of applesauce in with the other. A quick one, two! Except it was a little less jovial than that! Yes, a tad bit less jaunty and more like the inspiration for the title of her tortured memoir:

Force Fed Applesauce: One Woman’s Journey Through the Hell of Being the Daughter of a Mommyblogger.

Ever since then I have been that awful parent who fixes her child a separate meal at dinner time. We’d always bring it up with her pediatrician at check-ups, and he’d always ask, “Is she happy and walking? Then why are you bringing this up? Next patient, please! Preferably a toddler who has swallowed a nail!”

Jon and I were notoriously picky eaters when we were kids, but we both eventually grew out of these phases on our own. And I have the same hope for Leta, except things in the last year have been getting out of hand. When she started first grade we decided she needed to eat something from the menu in the cafeteria, an effort to use peer pressure to our advantage. And that worked for a few weeks, but then she became obsessed with wanting to know what was on the menu every day. Cut to several weeks of eating only a bowl of croutons for lunch. COME ON, PEERS. Can’t you play up your enjoyment of that bowl of pasta JUST A LITTLE BIT? Oh sure, you can go on and on and on about a one hundred and fifty dollar doll that you have to special order through Satan, but you can’t hype an egg roll?

Are none of you being raised by a Chinese mother?

And then last week there was one awful episode at dinner after another, a situation we have basically created ourselves. In fact, we take all the blame for this, for the fact that she can tell the difference between organic spaghetti oh’s and the ones whose main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, and IMMA LET YOU GUESS WHICH ONE SHE’LL LOOK AT.

Cue our family therapist who yesterday afternoon just sat there shaking her head, and I was like, no! LISTEN TO ME. I have to get this out there:

I’m about to compare my child to my dog, so if you take offense to that kind of thing why have you not unfollowed me yet?

I remember the fear I experienced during Chuck’s first year, one of a person who had never owned a dog. What was acceptable in terms of discipline? Was I going to scar this dog forever if I went this far? And it took a trainer coming into our home and going, dude, that isn’t anywhere near far enough.

(It was LA. He did, in fact, call me dude.)

So I’ve given birth to a picky eater. One so picky that she’s gone days without eating before. I don’t have any experience with this. How far do I push her without causing permanent damage? Already she has daily anxiety over lunch, anxiety that gives her stomach aches. But the list of things she will eat? All awful food.

That’s when our therapist goes, “Are you finished? Okay, good. Now, shut up.”

That’s basically the recipe, no pun intended. No more talk about food. If she asks about lunch? We shrug and say, “I dunno.” If she asks about dinner? We shrug and say, “I dunno,” knowing that we will fix her a plate of what we are eating that night. She doesn’t have to touch a thing, but if she sits there and complains, she’s more than welcome to go to her room for the rest of the evening. No more emotion over food. Ever, at all.

And she promises that Leta won’t remember the incident involving the applesauce.

So, I know I’ve just opened things up wide for judgment and whatnot, but what I’d really like to hear from you guys are menu ideas. We want Leta to try new food, so where have your picky eaters been willing to go? (also, please hold me and tell me it gets better)

  • hoosiergirl1962

    2011/01/11 at 2:44 pm

    Ya know,
    Who knows? My mother had a cow because my brother wouldn’t eat anything but buttered egg noodles for about 3 yrs. So, she always had a bowl of egg noodles on the table and thats what he ate for three years. He’s 45 now with no major health problems. When she’s ready to eat, she’ll eat…until then, I guess unless you want to deal with untold drama every dinnertime, let her eat what she wants….unless its like a scotch and a bong she wants…In the end, you can only do so much and then you have to, as my grandmother would have said,”Give the little shit to Jesus to handle.”

  • VegasNative

    2011/01/11 at 2:45 pm

    Ok so I’m not a parent. but I wanted to say that my brother was a horribly picky eater as a child and actually through his teen years. He survived. He now eats better, though he’s no foodie (dude didn’t know what a parsnip was when I showed him one at Thanksgiving). There are many foods he likes.

    I wasn’t necessarily picky, but as I’ve grown older, my palate has also increased about a million-fold. Hopefully Leta will grow to enjoy a few fruits and vegetables as she grows up, especially if you guys listen to the advice of your pediatrician and therapists. xoxo

    P.S. my reCaptcha was “Wants tooter”. heh heh.

  • birdylegs

    2011/01/11 at 2:47 pm

    My seven year old daughter has three items she will eat for lunch and they can’t be rotated daily. For weeks on end she will only eat Chicken ‘n’ Stars soup. Then it switches to hummus and pita bread. Then it switches to Calabrese salami (no chuncks of pepper) and water crackers. There is never anything on bread. Sometimes I can get her to eat tuna or egg salad, but only with a fork. Dinner is often spaghetti with olive oil and salt. The good news is that she loves vegetables.

    Have you tried balsamic vinegar? My kids treat it like ketchup. It’s about the only way to get the five year old to take a single bite of pork tenderloin.

  • Love_Monkey

    2011/01/11 at 2:48 pm

    She really hates pasta? My extremely picky eater hates pasta *sauce* but loves pasta with Parmesan cheese on it. So I buy Barilla Pasta Plus and feel good about that.

    She’ll also eat Bertolli (?) 3-cheese tortellini but again, no sauce.

    I make homemade smoothies to get fruit into her.

    And I put panko on chicken tenders and stick them under the broiler for 8 minutes, flip them and do it for another 8 minutes. No seasoning. No dipping sauce.

    And in general we follow your therapist’s advice. The ones who would judge you can rest happy knowing they are far more superior parents than us. I’m so over them.

  • MollyCT

    2011/01/11 at 2:48 pm

    Make stuff you and Jon *enjoy* eating. Bless you for seeing a therapist about this. No emotion over food means no anxiety from *your* corner over the menu allowed.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/01/11 at 5:59 pm

    God, I wish I had some helpful input to offer here, but I’m dealing with a 5-year-old daughter whom I am sure will, any moment now, suddenly turn into a macaroni noodle.

    Meanwhile, my 7-year-old son? He likes sushi … and salmon … and broccoli … and, no I’m not kidding.

    So maybe it’s a girl thing.

    I’ll be reading with great interest the advice offered in these comments.

  • eustella

    2011/01/11 at 2:48 pm

    My nephew is a notoriously picky eater as well. He is 6. It has been going on for years. Probably as long as Leta. He is so picky, he cannot even sit at the table if others are eating something he won’t eat… specifically meat. If he saw anyone eating meat, smelled meat, whatever, he would gag and sometimes vomit. Finally, my sister brought it up to his pediatrician and he referred her to a child eating specialist. (Maybe a child nutritionist? I’m not sure.) He has gone to a few counseling sessions and the specialist said that some people have extra sensitive olfactory and taste senses where food smells and tastes overly strong. His therapy sessions include tasting things he has in the past refused to eat and finding things that he will eat. It might be worth a shot… I know it has helped my sister and her family with their food time frustrations. Good luck with Leta.

  • theripetomato

    2011/01/11 at 2:49 pm

    *big hug* i don’t know if it gets better (our kid is just 10 mos) but i’m hanging onto the hope that it does.

    Our pedi recommended hiding the disliked veggies and fruit in other things – like covering peas in apple sauce. I know Leta must be much more difficult to fool than that so maybe some more creative ways to hide those veggies, etc. Maybe the cookbook by Seinfeld’s wife?

    I read somewhere that a mom who had a picky eater made 2 options at dinner. What they were having themselves and 1 other option – bread with jam – every night. Allowed the kids to choose but never offered anything else…

    anyway, just wanted to give you support and hope that things get easier. A super picky eater is one of my fears for my little guy since we *love* to cook/eat. Ah well, I’ll take a picky eater if that’s the worst of his qualities.

    good luck!

  • KrystinB

    2011/01/11 at 2:49 pm

    You guys seem like good parents, so I don’t say this to seem harsh. But it’s clear Leta needs some tough love in this instance. A case of – ‘eat what you’re given, or don’t eat at all.’ Let her go hungry. Use the oldest trick in the book, ‘some children in the world have no food.’ Or if worse comes to worse, use the charming line my Dad used on me: Eat it, or I’ll shove it down your throat. You’re going to eat it, and you’re going to like it!

  • Natasha A.

    2011/01/11 at 2:50 pm

    My brother ate Kraft Dinner for 9 years. *Try* not to stress too much!! She WILL grow out of it. Will she take pills? Like Vitamins?

  • NinaBee

    2011/01/11 at 2:50 pm

    I know this is really hard for you, Heather, because I live it every day. My youngest ( 7 years old) lives on PB&J and cheese melted on a tortilla. Every time I try to push food, it ends in tears, gagging, and parental rage. I don’t have any answers, but I take comfort in the fact that he’s growing, he’s healthy and when he does decide to eat, he eats. The only thing I have done to save my sanity is give him the option to eat what I’ve cooked or fix something for himself. That way I don’t get ragey and resentful that I have to cook a separate meal, and I don’t have to watch him gag over a bite of chicken. Yeah, his diet is not great, but I give him vitamins and his doctor isn’t worried as long as SOMETHING goes into his mouth at the end of the day. I don’t know if it gets easier, but giving up control on this sure makes it feel easier. *hugs*

  • slappyintheface

    2011/01/11 at 2:51 pm

    I have a picky eater too … her favorite vegetable is corn – which technically is not a vegetable, but we go with it. She is skinny skinny but she has always been that way. We do make her at least try a food and I just realized that she has never really fought us on that – she might sit there and sulk about it but other than that she just eats her spoonful, declares that she hates it, and then eats her corn.

  • brg65

    2011/01/11 at 2:51 pm

    My sympathies are with you, since I also make separate meals for my daughter, and feel terrible about it. Meanwhile my son has eaten Ethiopian, Indian and Thai food, and hasn’t met a vegetable he doesn’t like. One idea that is starting to work with my girl is getting her involved in the process. Her girl scout troop got to take a class at a local cooking school and she ate a bit of everything they made. We’ve also gotten kid’s cookbooks from the library and let her pick out recipes which she helps me make. The bottom line is she is a freakin’ control freak, so it shows up in her eating just like everywhere else in her life. Good luck, and this IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

  • shawn keehne

    2011/01/11 at 2:51 pm

    I’m an only child and I remember my mom telling me sage advice that my pediatrician gave to her about me. “Don’t worry, they’ve been making this model for years.” I think she was asking if it was bad to drop me on my head or something.

    In all honesty I think that a mellow de-stressed approach is good and seriously, people go for days and days and days without eating. At some point her “oh no we’re gonna die” switch will go off in her head and she’ll eat something. Who knows maybe the universe is training her to some day do this amazing hunger strike to change the world, you never know.

    And dude, you’re totally right, in LA we do call everyone dude.

    Cheers – Shawn

  • shalak0

    2011/01/11 at 2:52 pm

    I hear you. I SWEAR I hear what you are saying and what you are going through. I get that you feel as though you are trying to be the parent for god’s sake and do the right thing and yet holy crap is this going to scar them forever but wait – I’m trying to do the RIGHT thing so why do I feel this way???

    Thanks for putting it out there because there are hundreds if not thousands of us nodding our heads and agreeing with your latest child episodes.

    I try to cook rounded meals but they are kids so whatever – they don’t care about that. My kids love chicken so sometimes they get baked chicken w/ketchup for dipping, fruit and a roll. It seems as though the fancy wheat rolls will entice them to eat things they wouldn’t normally so I use that like crack to an addict. You want the roll – you eat SOME of the food. (Enought that you aren’t whining about snacks before bedtime 20 minutes later.)

    Maybe find some small something that she really likes and use that as bait? If rolls don’t go with the meal then I remind them that X dessert is available. (We tend to do 2 or “gasp” maybe 3 cookies as dessert so we aren’t exactly wild here either.)

    Good Luck and isn’t this parenting crap just beyond anything that you were ever warned about? I just didn’t KNOW how intense it would get over the most ridiculous issues.

  • juliannarose

    2011/01/11 at 2:53 pm

    I was a horribly picky eater as a child and my parents did a lot of their own vegetable growing, tofu making, bread baking etc. My mom got me more interested in food by having me help make dinner. I especially enjoyed getting to add the artistic touches when plating everyone’s food. I would add a dollop of sour cream and a black olive to the top of each burrito or get to put the shredded cheddar on top of everyone’s veggie chili. I will admit I still didn’t really start eating salad until after college, but when my mom involved me in cooking it most definitely helped.

  • rbiggs

    2011/01/11 at 2:54 pm

    You rock, You figured it our much earlier than my mother did. I am 39 and did not eat crust until I went away to college. My major food groups as a child were crustless grilled cheese, chicken SKIN, hard candy and homemade pancakes. Maybe some white rice thrown in for good measure. My mother doted on me simply because I was tiny and sick all the time.
    I have tried so hard to not make food an issue with my kids, but lo and behold I am also raising myself.( I also have one of the best eaters on the planet!) She is now 14 and eats lots and lots of fruits and vegetables and cannot wait for the day when I will let her be a vegetarian. She can be when she finds a few more sources of protein that she will consume. Leta, too, will figure it out. Her taste buds will mature and she will eventually become good company at the dinner table. Enjoy the journey as much as you can.

  • panduh

    2011/01/11 at 2:55 pm

    My sister would only eat tacos (with no lettuce!) and pizza (plain pepperoni & cheese) for a million years. I was very picky, too, growing up, but I don’t really remember what I ate because my parents never cooked. It was more like TV dinners and whatever we could find in the house is what we ate. That or fast food.

    As I got older, I started trying more things and now I’ll eat just about anything.

  • brg65

    2011/01/11 at 2:56 pm

    Krystin B, you must not have a child with the steel will of mine (or sounds like Leta). Mine once went days without eating when we tried the “eat what you get or you go hungry” routine. Tough love isn’t always the answer! Of course I have no idea what the answer is but I’m too tired from fighting my daughter to think about it right now!

  • brandychome

    2011/01/11 at 2:57 pm

    1. Never ever mix anything together (i.e. no casseroles)
    2. Serve nothing with a sauce on it, all sauces are on the side
    3. Meats should never ever have visible marks from cooking
    4. She’ll live
    5. Don’t think that just because Marlo eats now that she will when she’s a bit more independent.
    Good Luck

    {{{{it’ll be all right}}}}

  • LindsaySweeting

    2011/01/11 at 2:58 pm

    I did this, too. I would eat “cold dogs” (because, ew, “hot” dogs are gross) with ketchup and minimal mustard (on the side because I had to choose how much condiment I wanted on each bite) and macaroni and cheese every. single. day. My parents started doing awesome things like what you’re about to do. It works. How do you keep your kid from starving?

    1. Don’t keep any of her “old standards” in the house. Then, you can’t fall back on them and she won’t see them and beg (plead! sob! Mom, all I want is some high fructose corn syruuuuuup!) for them, either.
    2. Take a “favorite” and change it up so that it’s different. For example: she loves mac and cheese? Make quinoa and cheese. Or homemade mac and cheese (if you tend to use Kraft). When done right, it’s healthy and a different option. Make spaghetti-o’s with meatballs….but use whole wheat pasta, make your own meatballs, use real tomatoes, etc. She won’t eat it at the beginning (I would lock myself in the bathroom), but she’ll get hungry enough to give things a try.

    You will win this freeze-out. My parents sure as hell did. Hope that helps!

  • CmeSmile

    2011/01/11 at 2:59 pm

    i don’t necessarily have a picky eater but i believe you asked for menu ideas- healthy ones at that. after watching food inc. i realized my chicken nugget days were over. the company is called quorn. they make meatless, soy free products that taste amazing and no one i feed them to knows the difference. try it- we can only hope.

  • Sonika

    2011/01/11 at 3:00 pm

    My own parents had the policy of I could eat what was for dinner, or nothing. It worked. I wasn’t quite as fussy as you’re describing Leta, but I pretty quickly learned that food wasn’t a battle worth picking and ate at least *some* of what was offered.

    I’m not a mom (yet), but I do work with children professionally and I’ve employed similar tactics. I’ve worked with special needs kids who have food texture issues and my strategies have always been to offer them a choice between two foods that I *know* that they like. If they won’t make a choice, the next step is that I choose one of the two foods and offer it to them with the caveat that it’s that or go hungry. If they won’t choose, I choose for them. There are no other options. It works. The battle ends. They usually, being children, immediately ask for whatever the other option was and that’s totally fine. It keeps every snack time from being a battle of wills and keeps me from being a glorified waiter who has to go and fetch whatever Sir desires.

    If there are specific foods that Leta WILL eat, just keep offering those foods for lunch if she really needs to be able to plan ahead. Ask if she wants the croutons or the big bowl of nothing. It’ll give her a small amount of control over the situation, and it sounds like the lack of control is part of what’s stressing her out about lunches.

  • Ommax3

    2011/01/11 at 3:00 pm

    Ahh, man Heather…no judgment here…I created the picky eater in my first child, by always giving in to his whims. So, we now have the, this is what is served…eat this or a pb&j and be happy, or be excused…no snacks later deal. This has worked for us somewhat…I never make the pb&j mind you, he must, but it is always an option…so is there a “no fail” dish for Leta and can she prep it herself??? I also fix many layered dishes unassembled…for example on the table at dinner there are spagetii noodles in a dish, meatballs in a dish, and sauce in a dish…this way the kids all assemble the meal to their taste(one is a no sauce kid, one hates meatballs(hence meatballs instead of meat sauce…even a tiny piece of ground beef resembles a meatball to this child) and one really doesn’t care for noodles. I remember my mom forcing peas on me…I still hate them to this day, so I don’t force any food…and give them a multivitamin each day…

    The boy has started to eat better…10 was a year of trying new things…amazingly, his mother wasn’t lying about pudding and ice cream all these years! 😉

    Good luck…offer food…let it be her choice…and let yourself off the hook!
    Mary Anne
    omma to 3 beautiful kids(all picky about something…)

  • roxanne dubier

    2011/01/11 at 3:01 pm

    I have a 7 year old daughter with similar food issues. Lunch entails of mainly peanut butter and nutella sandwiches, every day, every day, every day, except when there’s “Big Daddy” (i.e. really unhealthy) pizza at school. I just don’t sweat it anymore, her daily visits to the nurse before lunch made me rethink it all. It was hard to let go 🙂

  • Brookelyn Bridge

    2011/01/11 at 3:01 pm

    I feel for ya! Our son has become gradually more picky as he has gotten older, but nothing with what you are dealing with. Safe bets are mac & cheese and spaghetti.

    We just make whatever it is we’re making and he has to take a couple bites and must try everything once before he’s allowed to get down. Anything beyond that isn’t worth the battle.

    Good luck!

  • WindyLou

    2011/01/11 at 3:19 pm

    Our picky eater is in the form of a 9 yo boy. When I met him he refused to eat tomatoes or pretty much any other vegetable. Now he tries all kinds of things.

    I had two big breakthroughs with him – the first, with tomatoes. During a calm, non eating time, I asked what it was about the tomatoes that he didn’t like. Come to find out he liked the flavor, but the seed goo made tomatoes gross. So, I bought a different variety with less seeds the next time I went shopping, and cut out the seed area. After a few tries, I cut out less and less seed/goo, until now he will eat almost any kind I bring home.

    The other big discovery: lettuce and typical salads were a no go. Once I happened to find spinach on sale and he ate almost the entire bag all by himself. Lesson learned. we make salads with spinach leaves instead of lettuce.

    Now we talk about food at times other than meal times to get an honest reaction without pressure to taste or feel compelled to push a new food. We talk about what we like and what we don’t like and why. Also, we have instituted a rule that you have to try one bite of things, even if you don’t think you’ll like them. You never know if you like or don’t like things unless you actually taste them, y’know?

    I believe in choices – you can choose to eat dinner or not, no skin off my nose. If you choose not to eat the meal that has been prepared, you can make something else or choose to be hungry, but I don’t make two meals.

    Often a substitution helps ie the spinach vs lettuce. Also noticed that he has an issue with textures, so changing the texture helps. ie he hates cooked broccoli but loves raw – I just set some raw aside. Same with zucchini – loves raw, hates cooked. Talk to her and ask WHY. Getting my picky eater in the kitchen with me and letting him not only help choose the meal, but help prepare made a big difference in his attitude towards trying things. Once he realized that I was taking his preferences into account, things got easier.

    Good luck. It sucks having mealtime drama.

    Um, yeah. I just realized I didn’t actually answer the question. Here are some things we eat:

    *nutella on toast
    *homemade bruschetta – we like it on almost any round, sliced bread, sprinkled with shredded asiago, dubliner and parmesean, broiled then topped with chopped tomato
    *homemade pop tarts – cut up premade pie crust, filled with whatever type of fruit filling or nutella – lots more options than at the store.
    *roasted cauliflower in a crescent roll crust/log (this is a HUGE favorite of the picky eater!!!) roast cauliflower w/olive oil and season to your liking, then on a pizza stone lay out the crescent rolls, small points out; pile on the califlower, and criss cross the crescent roll points until the cauliflower is encased and bake until the rolls are done.

  • melnyc

    2011/01/11 at 3:05 pm

    Can you hold me? You just described my 5-year-old. There is so much emotion over food. SO much. She won’t eat any fruits or vegetables. Peer pressure doesn’t work. Over the holidays, while her cousins happily munched on raw carrot sticks, she just became sullen and stopped playing with them.
    She will eat: mac n cheese – occasionally will allow peas, and I’ve been able to successfully hide pureed butternut squash.
    hummus on corn chips
    plain rice – occasionally will eat brown rice
    grilled cheese sandwich – only american cheese
    beans and black bean soup – another chance to hide stuff
    Chicken legs – but not any other part of the chicken.
    And that’s about it. Hang in there.

  • mkbmalone

    2011/01/11 at 3:07 pm

    My daughter is 9 and is crazy picky. I actually signed her up for a day of hot lunch at school after you tried that with Leta and it was a miracle. For a day. I decided a long time ago, when Leila started taking things off her “menu” that I would not get upset about food, or over-value food one way or the other. I was also a picky eater, and the dinner table with my family was a very stressful place for me with yelling and threats, and this stretched into my adulthood. Whenever I sit around a conference table, I get very twitchy and nervous.
    I wanted the family dinner table to be a harmonious place for us, and that meant no fighting about food. I don’t know if this was the right decision, and I have an only child, so I do make her a separate dinner. She’s happy and healthy and does well in school and sleeps all night, so it can’t be all bad. Sometimes, in darker moments, I’m afraid that she’ll grow up a junk food junkie who has panic attacks in the produce aisle of the grocery store (like I do) but then I think, too bad for her: we all have our challenges, and this will be (one of) her’s.

  • vickivictoria

    2011/01/11 at 3:08 pm

    You should check out the site and blog. Quote from the homepage: “Whether you are dealing with picky eating, concerns about your child eating too much or too little, or anxious about starting solids after a difficult time with breast or bottle feeding, we can help. And, because we are our children’s best teachers, Family Feeding Dynamics can help adults learn to be competent with eating as well.
    End the power struggles, the worry and pressure around food.”

    The approach recommended here is different from anything I’ve read anywhere else–it has helped me back off my kids’ eating and also establish healthier snacktimes and mealtimes.

  • patrice108

    2011/01/11 at 3:10 pm

    interesting. the comments are interesting too. what kids will and won’t eat. I wonder how much of these issues are about food and how much is about control, and whether that’s what your therapist is getting at by taking the emotion out of it. then again, as someone who has a sensitive nose and tastebuds, I wonder how much of it really is overwhelming the senses. things are rarely ever just one thing. I will be waiting to see how this turns out. in the meantime, good luck, of course.

  • katdenk

    2011/01/11 at 3:10 pm

    We deal with the exact.same.thing. Our 4 year old is driving us crazy, to the point where I dread dinner time. Because after working all day, it’s awesome to spend 20 hectic minutes cooking dinner just to have someone scream that she won’t eat it. On our menu is tacos (beef and tomato, the tomato is the newest part), Noodles with butter, PBJ, and her favorite is Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup. Everything else is such a battle. She has to take at least one bite of new food if she wants dessert. I know, I suck for having dessert be a reward, blah blah, but it works sometimes. If she throws a fit about eating, we just let her throw the fit and stand firm. If she doesn’t want to eat it, she can go to bed.

    We’ve had a certain meal about 15 times before she finally started to like it and eat it. 15 times of screaming and fighting.

    We used to say that if she didn’t want to eat her only alternative was a yogurt. That worked for a friend, I thought it was too easy for her so we went back to “try it if you want dessert.” As long as she tries it, if she doesn’t like it then I’ll make her something else. I can’t wait till this ends, if it does.

    I know this is common in kids so I don’t know why there isn’t a universal solution yet. My younger daughter is showing signs of pickiness already and we find that eventually she gets hungry enough to eat what’s in front of her. I hope that we can stay strong enough with her to keep up the “you’ll get hungry enough” fight.

    I remember when I was a kid I hated milk. My mom would make me sit at the table till my milk was gone – which meant I was drinking warm milk – yuck! Ever since college, I am a milk fanatic. I blame the enormous milk machines in the dorms that made the milk so frickin’ cold. Today I will drink about two pints of milk with dinner a day. So I know kids get over this shit, I just have to stay sane enough to witness it in my kids.

  • katdenk

    2011/01/11 at 3:10 pm

    We deal with the exact.same.thing. Our 4 year old is driving us crazy, to the point where I dread dinner time. Because after working all day, it’s awesome to spend 20 hectic minutes cooking dinner just to have someone scream that she won’t eat it. On our menu is tacos (beef and tomato, the tomato is the newest part), Noodles with butter, PBJ, and her favorite is Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup. Everything else is such a battle. She has to take at least one bite of new food if she wants dessert. I know, I suck for having dessert be a reward, blah blah, but it works sometimes. If she throws a fit about eating, we just let her throw the fit and stand firm. If she doesn’t want to eat it, she can go to bed.

    We’ve had a certain meal about 15 times before she finally started to like it and eat it. 15 times of screaming and fighting.

    We used to say that if she didn’t want to eat her only alternative was a yogurt. That worked for a friend, I thought it was too easy for her so we went back to “try it if you want dessert.” As long as she tries it, if she doesn’t like it then I’ll make her something else. I can’t wait till this ends, if it does.

    I know this is common in kids so I don’t know why there isn’t a universal solution yet. My younger daughter is showing signs of pickiness already and we find that eventually she gets hungry enough to eat what’s in front of her. I hope that we can stay strong enough with her to keep up the “you’ll get hungry enough” fight.

    I remember when I was a kid I hated milk. My mom would make me sit at the table till my milk was gone – which meant I was drinking warm milk – yuck! Ever since college, I am a milk fanatic. I blame the enormous milk machines in the dorms that made the milk so frickin’ cold. Today I will drink about two pints of milk with dinner a day. So I know kids get over this shit, I just have to stay sane enough to witness it in my kids.

  • Ommax3

    2011/01/11 at 3:10 pm

    “brg65 said:

    Krystin B, you must not have a child with the steel will of mine (or sounds like Leta). Mine once went days without eating when we tried the “eat what you get or you go hungry” routine. Tough love isn’t always the answer! Of course I have no idea what the answer is but I’m too tired from fighting my daughter to think about it right now!”

    couldn’t have said that one better myself…vomit on the table once…yep…due to a “food” battle…so not worth it…

    Mary Anne

  • nonsequitur

    2011/01/11 at 3:11 pm

    I would say start with the simplest recipes that ~you~ and Jon like, say baked fish with green beans, grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs; whatever, you get the idea. Serve dinner with no fuss. No bargaining about how many bites or trying this or that. No offers of dessert rewards. If she tries, great; if she doesn’t open her mouth, fine. If she makes a fuss, pick your method of discipline. No normal, healthy child will starve themselves. If they are hungry enough, they will get over their chicken finger demands ~really~ quickly and just eat. When it’s gotten to this point, its become a battle of wills and Mom has to win, or you will be a short-order cook for 20 more years and eventually end up with a 30-yr old that still won’t eat their vegetables. Which is really sad!

    It will take time, but the relaxed, yet militant way will work.

  • melissa_anderson725

    2011/01/11 at 3:12 pm

    Kids don’t know what’s good. I don’t care what anyone says, they just don’t know how delicious things can be. And they are stubborn, directly in proportion to how much you want them to just try it. We are in the same boat, with both children now. The oldest is 8 and in 2nd grade, the other is 3 and stays home with me while I work from here. They both whine and moan and omgthehorror with whatever we eat. So we’ve been using that same rule for awhile now. Here is what’s for dinner, eat it or don’t – there is no dessert or any other dinner if you don’t. They hate it, and it doesn’t really get them to eat anything more so far, but I feel like it’s less of a fight every meal. So, I say keep doing it. They will eventually eat.

  • beanique68

    2011/01/11 at 3:12 pm

    My just-about-7 year old son is very picky. he is picky about his foods day to day so what he will happily eat one day gets outright rejected the next. I cannot stay ahead.

    I love the idea of taking the emotion out of the situation, but he get SURLY as heck if he gets too hungry and her is getting bigger and more ornry. And can be intolerable.

    Peek into my house at any hour and you will find me pleading to please just swallow some protein. A cheese stick (and the precise perfect temperature so that it is not frozen, but not, god forbid, mushy.) Or maybe a hardboiled egg white that all evidence of any relationship to the yolk has been eliminated. Or a specific brand of turkey sausage that has been heated but is not hot and it must be presented in a napkin to be eaten hand-held style.

    When he was 12-24 months, my M-I-L teased me that he ate tofu and edamame and most every vegetable under the sun with joy. I feel certain that she jinxed things and it is a miracle if a meal goes by without tantrums…

    Good luck. I feel your pain.

  • aaflood

    2011/01/11 at 3:12 pm

    Ok-so I don’t want to give you anything else to worry about but I’m wondering if you’ve seen that silly show on one of the health channels called Freaky Eaters? I only bring it up because they do some kind of test on there to see if the “freaks” are what they call “Super Tasters” or “Non tasters”. Apparently, this is a genetic thing and can effect what people will eat. Dr. oz has talked about it before too. Just a thought…maybe you can Google it. And have her tested. Good luck!

  • nelking

    2011/01/11 at 3:15 pm

    We received the same advice from our pediatrician. Our son is now 18 years old. You and Leta will survive.

    He eats cheese, pepperoni or black olive pizza. Hot dogs, french fries, apples, grapes, strawberries, rolls, chips salsa and guacamole (he is excellent at making fresh guacamole)He eats waffles, sausage, and just discovered poached eggs. Dessert as long as it’s chocolate is fine. He will comfortably go out to dinner with a bunch of adults and find nothing on the menu to eat. He doesn’t care what other people think.

    He eats this many foods because we did exactly what you’re being asked to do. Don’t make food a battle ground.

    When he was one, I received a call at work from day care. I was sure something terrible had happened. They called to tell me he ate the mandarin oranges! Yes, he ate mandarin oranges from a can and I then bought them by the case load.

    He traveled to Europe for 3 weeks and survived. He has a girlfriend now, and I’m hoping this new influence will continue to widen his food horizons. I’m not holding my breath though.

  • hmv003

    2011/01/11 at 3:16 pm

    I think brg65 made an excellent point. Pick out cookbooks and read them with her! Take something she loves and bring it to the next level. Maybe a great children’s cookbook with some enticing pictures will help her open her mind to new possibilities. It’s worth a shot. Good luck!

  • Lizzy

    2011/01/11 at 3:17 pm

    Does this remind anyone of a book from long ago called Cheese, Peas and Chocolate Pudding? It was about a boy who only ate those three things until a piece of hamburger accidentally dropped into his mouth. Anyone? Just me then…

    I could have told you what your therapist advised FOR FREE. It took 3 kids and lots of years to realize that I was working too hard. My first was born a gourmet and I thought all kids were like that. Cut to 3 years later when my red-headed whirling dervish of a son was born that I learned what fresh hell picky eaters bring to the world.

    Brg65 had good advice: get her involved in the cooking process. For some reason, if kids make the food they’re more likely to eat it. Williams Sonoma has a great cookbook for kids. Also? My son has become interested in food by watching the Food Network and the Travel Channel with us (he’s 9 now). His favorite show is Man Vs. Food which is a show about gorging on huge food portions. Go figure.

    The good news is that this too, shall pass. Don’t make a fuss and definitely do not allow her moods to control the family dinner. She’s smart, she’ll eat.

  • Snarkmeister

    2011/01/11 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve got a couple of crazy picky eaters here (DS, 12, and my DStepdaughter, also 12). We don’t make anything different for them for dinner – they get what we get. Our rule is that they must eat the same number of bites as they are years old (so 12 for each of them now). Of those bites, they must eat at least one bite of each “thing” on their plate – if we have rice, fish, and veggies, they have to eat at least one bite of each of those, and the other 9 bites can be made up of any combination they want. If they want to eat 9 bites of plain rice, that’s fine.

    When they are done with their required number of bites, if they absolutely hate it and are still hungry, they can make themselves something else. A peanut butter sandwich, a quesadilla, whatever – but they have to be able to make it themselves and it has to have *some* redeeming nutritional quality.

    We sweeten the pot (ok, bribe them) by allowing them to have a “treat” after dinner if they’ve eaten their required bites. This is usually a piece of Halloween-size candy, sometimes it’s a donut hole or whatever. Nothing big, but it gives them something to look forward to.

    This way, we make sure that they are at least tasting new foods, and they retain some measure of control over what they’re eating. I try to make things that I think they might enjoy, but I don’t fill their plates with chicken nuggets and tater tots every night. My beef-hating DS has discovered that he loves tacos, and my DSD loves chicken tarragon stew (basically pot pie filling without the pie crust). They both LOVE “saffron rice” (which comes in a foil packet with seasonings included and probably doesn’t have any actual saffron in it) and shrimp. Combine the two together and throw in some peas and they’ll happily eat the whole pot.

  • harrisonsmm

    2011/01/11 at 3:17 pm

    I have 4 kids, 2 eat or at least try anything and 2 are picky – different kinds of picky. I find that if they help prepare it, they will usually try it. I also find that constant exposure helps. I almost always have some kind of raw vegetable with ranch dressing at dinner. One of my picky girls will only eat the vegetable “the other white sauce” – yes, mayo. Don’t be hatin’ – she eats broccoli with it. The more we talk about it, the more picky they appear to become.

  • hollyB

    2011/01/11 at 3:18 pm

    My kids (4 and 1) are good eaters, so I haven’t experienced your struggle from your perspective, but I have seen my younger brother work himself into a frenzy that ended with vomit because he had to try a single bite of broccoli. I encourage my daughter to have a “birdie bite” of everything, and if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to have any more, but she has to at least try everything. I would get Leta involved in the grocery shopping and food prep aspect of food and let her treat recipes as a science experiement. She sounds too smart for other types of trickery.

  • Norabloom

    2011/01/11 at 3:19 pm

    You are a brave woman for opening this post up for comments! I don’t have children, so I might be completely off base, but would she have more interest in food if she was helping prepare it? Perhaps next time she asks what you guys are having for dinner, you could ask her if she has any ideas for dinner and if she will help you make it. I don’t know what she’s capable of assisting with at such a young age, and you might find yourself eating peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, but I have to think she’d enjoy the fact that she’d “made dinner.” Just an idea.

    p.s. – we have force fed our dog, who wasn’t eating and had to take medication with food, and I felt awful about it, so I understand the applesauce trauma.

  • eyoung

    2011/01/11 at 3:19 pm

    I am seconding the “eat what we made or make something yourself” approach. My brother was super weird about food for years. He wouldn’t eat when we were eating, and hardly ever would eat what my mom had made. So, my mom would tell him to make what he wanted. Usually that meant pouring himself some cereal, or making ramen noodles. For a week straight he ate lettuce and mustard sandwiches.

  • poopinginpeace

    2011/01/11 at 3:19 pm

    Oh God I pray it gets better! I too have a very picky eater. We’ve had issues with our middle child eating since she was a baby. I too have dealt with it in different ways. Sometimes like this:
    sometimes like this There are a few things that she will always eat, PB&J, Grilled Cheese and scrambled eggs. Lately, I just make dinner for us and if she eats it she eats it, if not she will eat breakfast in the morning. Sometimes she will surprise us and eat dinner. Usually a roasted chicken is a good bet, but for the most part her food goes untouched. She does do well at Breakfast though, so I’m thinking Leta is a bit more picky. Your best bet is just to do what the therapist says. Don’t make a big deal about it. If she doesn’t eat one meal, she might eat the next. Eventually she’ll get hungry enough to eat something. At least that’s my theory. I think that’s the only reason I can get Lana to eat oatmeal now. Because most nights she doesn’t eat dinner so she’s so damn hungry in the morning she’ll eat anything you put in front of her the next day. Now she likes oatmeal. Sure there’s brown sugar in it, but you do what ya gotta do! Good luck! Oh and we’re not above bribery either, which I know you’re not supposed to do, but it does sometimes worse. Then again, I don’t know if Leta would even CARE about a Chocolate chip cookie. I really believe she will grow out of it. Even if it is when she’s 25.

  • TuffDadSF

    2011/01/11 at 3:20 pm

    Gay dad here.
    When we aren’t busy dressing our son in sequined fruit hats and cha-cha heels we came to the realization that in the food battle – everyone loses.
    We now make one meal – it’s what the family is eating. Bruno has the choice of eating what’s on the table or waiting until the next meal time to see if there’s something he’d like. He does gets extra points if he eats a spoonful of something that is totally new. More often than not he’ll like it, too.
    Be strong! It will work out. You’ll faint when Leta winds up asking for Tikka Masala for dinner one day (like our son did last night!)

  • jenschulze

    2011/01/11 at 3:21 pm

    You should check out She has some great thoughts on getting kids to eat. I find her approach to make a great deal of sense.

  • erinerinerin

    2011/01/11 at 3:21 pm

    i’ve noticed that even unadventurous children respond surprisingly well to very strong flavors. my nephew was difficult, but we tried him on smoked salmon and he adored it. and even when he was very little, he would eat marmite (a weird english spread that’s very intensely flavored) from the jar with his finger.

    what also worked really well for us was giving him a plate with lots of small portions of different things that he could pick between at his own pace: cherry tomatoes, buttered bread fingers, a few potato chips, a few squares of cheese, a chopped-up hotdog. not watching him or commenting on his progress, just letting him control his own eating while we got on with out own food, helped him enjoy it and relax.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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