An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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)

  • lynchh1

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

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

    Peanut butter. By the spoonful.

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

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

  • BellyGirl

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

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

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

  • zuwkeeper

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

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

  • Issa

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

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

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

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

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

  • Couture Coco

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • kim at allconsuming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But even that has random success.

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

    And just throw her a multivitamin every so often.

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

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

  • dainec

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Bobbie58

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

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

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

    Good luck!

  • LJ-NJ

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

  • dosvegans

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

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

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

    Good luck!

  • my2sons

    I feel your pain and remember, this too shall pass. Seriously, my 7 year old is getting better every day (OK, maybe every month) but I had to totally stop talking about food. My 4 year old eats next to nothing, nothing I would call healthy anyway.

    We have smoothies that started with ice cream and strawberries but now have banana and yogurt included, give it a try!

    For dinner, make your dinner as normal. Have 1 thing each night on her plate that Leta will eat and don’t say a word. We often have our youngest eat cereal – if that is all he will eat, his choice. If he is hungry, his choice.

    Good luck and keep us posted! I have often wished you lived down the street so we could sit down and have a chat – you rock and are always a highlight to my day!

  • helixiafox

    I think your therapist gives good advice. If you don’t allow it to be a situation where she can have control, there is no fight.
    That being said, since it IS an area of control for her, have you considered having her go to the therapist? Of course it’s normal for kids to have these control battles but if she’s having severe anxiety it could be something to look into.

    And the applesauce incident ain’t gonna scar her, but I just need to say the whole “your child will never remember that” logic pisses me off. No, babies don’t remember details but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact. A toddler might not remember being beaten but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect him.

  • cclark16

    As a picky eater myself (I ate PB&J for lunch every day for 12 years), the only thing that worked for me was bribery. My parents made a deal with me that if I would eat anything they cooked for me for dinner for one month, they would buy me the latest Nintendo system. I came out of that month with a lot of new meal options–grilled chicken, fried chicken, spaghetti, green beans, lima beans, peas, mashed potatoes. If Leta likes condiments, perhaps put some of those out on the table for her to dip the food in to try. I put ketchup on everything and it makes it all better.

  • Nhiro

    My aunt used to mince food that my cousin didn’t like into really tiny pieces and mix it into food he did like, e.g. meatloaf into fried rice. He was none the wiser and thankfully he’s grown out his fussiness.

    Or if you want to be really devious, tell her those princesses she worships LOVE brussel sprouts and green beans. And that they didn’t become princesses until they had finished eating what the king/queen had prepared at the grand ball/feast/party. A little photoshop wizardry here is key. 😉

  • cshearson

    Have you looked at Dinner: A Love Story?

    Even if Leta doesn’t like any of the recipes, reading the blog will make you feel better.

  • Mrs.Mommy02

    Can 2 different women give birth to twins, and how far from Michigan is Utah? My 7 year old daughter is finally growing out of the “foods that start with peanut butter and jelly” phase. One day she borrowed a book from the library(aka her favorite place on earth). The book “Jam for Frances” is about a girl that insists on jam and bread everyday, every meal.One day she realizes the other good foods she is missing out on. When we finished the book we suddenly spun in a vortex and landed in the last 5 minutes of Full House. Message taken. We also decided to stop making an issue of food, and be more casual about it. I was concerned making an issue out of eating now, would continue into adulthood. She has always had the same shape as Leta and therefore I was concerned about her poor eating, then a doctor told me “If a child is hungry, they will eat and will not starve.” Now I cook and she eats, if not she takes her stink face to her room. However, keep my daughter cassidy in mind, one day you will see her winning an Oscar. I wonder if they have children’s theater in my area. She could convince any stranger that my secret ingredient is arsonic sauce. My daughter was 5 when the drama started and now she eats dinner pretty much every night. I also try to cook a good breakfast to start out the day, when she is hungriest. The rest is just a bonus. It will get better.

  • lolab9442

    Both my boys didn’t like “green stuff.” My oldest son has outgrown this, while the youngest still won’t eat anything green. BUT…and this is a HUGE BUT…. They both LOVE LOVE LOVE indian food!? really???? you won’t eat anything green, but you eat indian food like its your last meal?!?!?!
    In my house this is the rule….Take it or leave it. You don’t like it, you dont get anything else. I don’t push the issue. No emotion over food. There are foods I don’t like and I wouldnt want anybody to push them on me.
    Leta will outgrow this…in the mean time….good luck!

  • rainylakechick

    I have no children, but I too, was a picky eater. I ate Honey Nut Cheerios every day for 7 years straight, then woke up one morning in 8th grade and almost puked at the thought of having to eat Honey Nut Cheerios ever again. (No, I still haven’t taken a bite of Cheerios to this day. YUCK!) I put ketchup on everything and ate hamburgers at every restaurant. I was that weird kid. NOW? I love almost every type of food: I even will eat anchovies if you dare me! Leta will grow out of this… and maybe your therapist is right. Don’t let it be an issue where she can take control. Good luck!

  • George

    I just wanted to say, one of the first things we learned from the experts when dealing with our kid who wouldn’t eat was exactly that. No emotions around food. None. No comments either. Don’t ever comment on their eating/lack thereof, or have any emotions surrounding their eating.
    That was probably second only to the first rule, the one that states that the number one reason kids stop eating is pressure/force. Never have any of that either.

    We had a much more extreme case than Leta on hand (yes, they do exist!), so there was a whole expert eating team involved from our local hospital, as well as the top-notch-expert team from the other hospital. And they all agreed on what I said over here. As well as “Healthy kids do not starve themselves”. Turned out, ours wasn’t healthy, but Leta is. So she won’t starve herself. It *will* get better.
    Lots of love and good luck to you guys.

  • mandypants

    Dude, my son eats milk and cheese. Sometimes cottage cheese and has progressed thanks to his dad to chocolate and chocolate milk. He wants candy everyday and chips. He will eat bologna but only if it’s on bread with mustard only and crushed pepper and salt. He’ll venture to a McDonald’s cheeseburger patty or steak but ONLY if dad is feeding him. He’s 2 and the doc says it’s fine. His sister on the other hand eats everything. Off the floor, out of other kids’ hands, off the street… so while I prayed for a kid who ate after my first, I got my second who does nothing BUT eat. Good luck.


    I grew up with a family friend who only ate Miracle Whip sandwiches on white Wonder Bread. Only. For years. She was skinny as a child, but she did grow up into a healthy adult. Also, have you seen those TLC shows where people have weird eating habits? Like the 20-something girl who consumes 30 regular Cokes a day—and she’s not fat? Our bodies are pretty amazing and I think they can handle a lot of things that aren’t necessarily optimal for them.

    My advice would be to stop making such a big deal out of food. (Believe me, my kids are grown and I have been there!) I would tell her that you’ve been talking to the doctor about this and he/she said that there will be no more special considerations for Leta’s meals. I would make her a plate of what the family is having for dinner and if she doesn’t like it, then she doesn’t have to eat it, but she needs to sit with the family and not whine or complain about the food. Either eat it, or be quiet. If she throws a fit, then bedtime comes early that night. No discussion, those are just the new rules. She may go for a few days without eating much, but eventually she’ll learn to be more adventurous. And if she doesn’t for a long time, at least the stress and arguing, cajoling, etc. will be gone.

    I also like the idea of getting them to help prepare dinner. And talking to them about the benefits of fruits, veggies, etc. If they’re like my kids, they won’t believe it until someone outside of the family tells them, but at least I planted the seed of knowledge. And that way she learns that different foods provide our bodies with different nutrients and have different purposes, and you’re not just trying to force her to eat something “gross.” Good luck!

  • kagreco

    I have a picky eater like Leta. What he WILL eat: carbs of any kind, cheese (but not string cheese – he prefers manchego), milk, broccoli, carrots & greenbeans (all raw – no cooked veggies), and tofu. That is about it.
    I have handled this picky eating thing both well, and horribly depending on the day. I have now reached the point that your therapist has guided you to. I ignore it. My philosophy is “eat or don’t eat – but don’t ruin my meal doing it.” I am a foodie. I love to cook, eat and enjoy company around the table. To have a child who would rather scream and gag and eat cereal – well, that just about kills me. So I ignore it. I cook WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT for dinner. My other 2 kids will eat what I put in front of them and they may like it or may not, but they will eat it. I cook fish of all types, vegetables, ethnic dishes….whatever makes me happy that day. My theory is, he can have some choices at breakfast, and I put in his lunch things he’ll eat (mostly peanut butter sandwiches and raw carrots, but still…) so dinner is MY choice of what to eat. I am hoping that by putting these foods in front of him daily ,he will eventually eat them. I am certain he won’t starve though.

  • sadiejay1988

    I have an 18 year old who was always a very picky eater. He says that most food simply just does not taste good to him. When he was little I tried the “he’ll eat when he gets hungry enough”, but that didn’t work. He would go days without eating and he was already underweight. So I would fix one thing with each meal that I knew he would eat and once he was big enough to reach the stove and microwave, I taught him to cook the things he liked. Probably since he was 7 he has fixed a great deal of his own food. No stress, no emotional damage! And he does eat a few more things now, but his diet is still rather limited.

  • annstarrr

    Oh, it’s no big deal. As I child, I didn’t eat: processed meat, red meat, jelly, peanut butter, fried products (they tasted “like fat”), or french fries. This excluded burgers, hotdogs, potato chips, and PB&J. I was a hit at children’s parties. I only liked veggies, lean meats, fish, and dairy. However, I would eat a paste of butter and sugar that I made myself from the fridge.

    Now, I do not eat: peanut butter (never grew to like that one). I *do* eat: everything else. I’m a total foodie. Luckily, I no longer eat a paste made out of butter and sugar, although I have a weakness for English toffee, which is pretty much the same thing.

  • Hettle

    to motivate my 5 year old daughter to eat anything other than a bagel….I let her cook, it takes a bit of time, but I created a little excitement over making chinese food. I pre-cooked rice set it aside, cut up small bite size pieces of anything she might like..and a few she might not. When things were cut up super small she didn’t seem to recognize it anyway, the only ” rule” of stir fry was to add rice and at least 3 things from the cutting board, and I let her stir it in the saute pan and serve it, and yes she did eat it.

    I don’t usually have time to do this more than once a week, but it has changed the dynamic at the table, sometimes.

    Best of luck.

  • mojo

    Sounds like a lot of fun! 😉

    Here’s my suggestions -take them or leave them.

    Plant a garden next spring. Have Leta and Marlo help you plant seeds. Take them out there everyday so they can see their garden growing. When the veggies come, have them pick and eat them right off the plant. (although I’m not sure if it will work for Leta or not) My Zoe is the same age. She hates to eat anything we’re eating. Until she grew her own Peas. She now LOVES peas (canned or fresh) crazy. I KNOW! My middle daughter – would never even look at a tomato for fear that it would explode and poke her eye out. She now puts tomatoes on everything. And my oldest… well she has always been a veggie kid.. so no help there.

    I guess the point is maybe if she sees where it starts and how it gets to the table – she might be a little more apt to eat it up?

    Either way good luck. She could still grow out of it too.

  • merpeople_sing

    If she likes a specific condiment….I would put it on absolutely everything new she tries until she can develop a taste for the food without it.

    I was such a picker eater, and still am. Texture is what I don’t like about food. Somethings are too soggy, squishy, crunchy, or chewy for me. One thing that I found changed my opinion of trying new things is meeting new people who liked food I didn’t. I would get her over other people’s houses around meal times (maybe let the parents in on the deal so they don’t think you are stingy and pawning off your child at dinner time)so she has another influence on her eating habits. In the cafeteria all anyone is concerned about is getting outside to recess so there is no time for persuasion! (:

  • johjoh

    This is not just a girl thing, my nearly 5 year old boy is also a very picky and particular eater. For my sanity I’ve given up on serving him any vegetables at dinner and I do make him a separate meal for dinner, usually chicken, with rice and a few slices of apples. I’ll make up several plain chicken breasts and keep them in the fridge for several meals (if no chicken is prepared I’ll resort to frozen chicken nuggets). I also make a big batch of pancakes (made with white whole wheat) on the weekends and freeze them for use throughout the week.

    The foods that I know he likes I try to make as healthy as possible: whole wheat bread, crackers or pasta; white whole wheat pancakes; smoothies made with banana, frozen berries, a little juice, yogurt and protein powder mixed in. Because we started out eating these things in the first place he doesn’t know any different.

    Fortunately most of the foods he does like are *relatively* healthy: peanut butter on wheat bread (no crust, jam, or honey), pancakes w/syrup (no butter), scrambled eggs, deli sliced turkey or ham (darker skin cut off edges), chicken (with salt and pepper), steak, pork chop, bacon, quesadilla (cheese must not be squishing out the sides), apple (the only fruit or vegetable he will eat in “plain” form), homemade smoothies, pasta (plain, no sauce), mexican rice (no visible veggies mixed in), crackers, milk. He is also very odd in that he does not like all the usual kid favorites: cake, ice cream, juice, soda, cheese sticks, gogurt, etc.

    I do have to say that he was willing to try some parsley on pasta after he helped his grandma plant some and watched it grow in the garden. And best of all he ended up liking it!

  • Genesis

    I was an extremely picky eater as a child. I’d eat a hamburger patty, no bun, and God forbid it had “grill marks” on it. No veggies, no fruit. Eggs made me throw up. And so on, and so on, and so on. My parents were terrified that I’d be malnourished and resorted to all sorts of games, bribes, threats and more to get me to eat. But I didn’t have any health issues growing up and survived to adulthood just fine. It took me a long time to get to this point, but now I eat a wide variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables but not many fruits (it’s a texture thing).

    What I remember vividly is that I HATED it when people made a big deal about my eating. The more attention they drew to it, the harder they tried to get me to eat, the more I dug in my heels. The absolute best tactic for me was to just ignore me and let me eat my brown and beige food. When I did start to (very gradually) try a new food here and there, it made me very skittish and likely to reject the food if anyone made a big deal of the fact that I tried it. Even “positive reinforcement” can be too much. Try to just keep it as low-key as possible. Good luck, and don’t worry so much!

    Oh, and I also loved croutons – a bowl of croutons for a meal still sounds pretty good to me!

  • Spookagain

    I entirely despair, actually. My older son drinks pediasure (aka bear milk). Today, all day, he had two rectangle crackers with some cheese between them and two small Hershey bars. Because of his ADHD we have recently discovered that chocolate makes him easier to deal with when he’s off his meds in the late afternoon. So we ply him with chocolate for OUR sanity. So far, this works. What does he eat? Oyster crackers. Vanilla milk shakes and chicken fingers from Friendlys. Pediasure. Breakfast is one saltine cracker. One. Rice. The pasta from Annie’s Mac-N-cheese bunnies… WITHOUT the sauce. Other pasta. Pizza and spaghetti from the local House of Pizza. A few french fries. Popcorn. Mac-N-Cheese from Burger King. (I know it’s Kraft, but it’s special THERE.)

    My other son eats toast, Alphabet cookies, Animal crackers, oyster crackers (from a different maker than his brother), popcorn. Taco shells. Rice from the chinese restaurant. Fortune cookies from the chinese restaurant. Goldfish crackers. Cheese sticks. Grape juice. Sparkling water.

    So, you’re actually drawing a line in the sand, more than we are. YOU are actually making a plate of YOUR food and then dismissing her with NOTHING else if she doesn’t want it. We gave up and only present the food they want and eat our food in front of them. They never, EVER, EVER want our food. But they DO get hungry later. And THEN there are histrionics. I would think you were just postponing the histrionics until later if you just say, fine, don’t eat. She’ll get hungry but STILL refuse to eat YOUR food. That’s what would happen here.

    The whole thing just makes me tired. Very tired. I *love* food. I’m no foodie… I couldn’t eat most of the stuff they serve on Iron Chef America, but I *do* like food. I eat food to celebrate… These guys? Food is something they endure. All I can say is good luck and stopping the drama is all good. I just don’t see where you’ve eliminated it… Only postponed it for a few hours (or days, if you’re experienced in days-long food strikes).

  • meeps

    I don’t have a picky eater, but I was one. I wasn’t so much a picky eater, I guess, as I was extremely stubborn. I chose to challenge my mother over a plate of spaghetti one night when I was about Leta’s age. She basically told me that I would not be given anything else to eat, and sent me to my room for the rest of the night. I was offered, and refused, the plate of spaghetti for the next two meals. Starving and weary, I broke and ate it for dinner the next night. From there on out we ate what we were given.

  • emily n

    Heather –

    Pickiness prevails at our home. It is all about texture with my older daughter (too mushy, seeds?, slimy? etc.). Oh, and smell too. She often smells the bread to see if she likes it. Gah!

    I’ve been judged a zillion times in regards to my daughter and her food. But, I’m totally over it. My bottom line? Feed her food that is as nourishing as possible and disengage from any kind of food battles. It is so hard and I certainly forget the rules when bread smelling comes into play, but I do work hard at it because, eventually, when my girls are older I want them to be normal eaters.

    No new information. Just letting you know that you are NOT alone. I am in my kitchen working hard to make food nothing to write home about.


  • tracy976

    Many years ago, before I had children, a friend told me she always had one thing on the dinner/lunch/breakfast table that her picky eater would eat. She would then serve whatever she chose to the remainder of the family, hoping her picky eater would try it. I have tried to maintain this with my very own picky eater. It was years before she would try spaghetti and still at 12 she hates every vegetable. I read in a book many moon’s ago that eating and using the bathroom were two areas we cannot control and our children know this. Fortunately we have persuasion but as you know, it doesn’t always work. I still cringe inside when my 12 year old insists on eating only bread for dinner, but I maintain hope that someday she’ll pick up a broccoli spear and eat it. All the best to you and yours.

  • cysmagic

    I raised a picky eater. He’s 28 now and will eat stuff. By the time he was in grade school, the approach I’d figured out was much like the one you’ve settled on, with the variations being that if he didn’t like the looks of what I’d fixed, he was 1) strongly encouraged to try a bite; 2) whether or not he did that, he was welcome to get some cheese and bread out of the fridge (his favorite things) and dine on that; 3) he was welcome to stay at the table (at which we ate and talked about fun things), in fact required to, unless he started bitching and moaning about food, at which point he was ejected from the game because I absolutely refused to listen to him or his brother talking smack about the food their dad had worked hard to put on the table and I’d gone to the trouble of cooking. I never fixed a separate meal, he had to get up and get his substitute meal himself. I think a lot of times it was sheer laziness and hunger that compelled him to at least try a few bites, and all of a sudden most of it was gone.

    After reading a NY Times article last year about grown-up picky eaters who never got over it, it sounds to me as though it’s a form of phobia. The point of (unemotionally) encouraging kids to try new foods is that it’s basically implementing the “exposure and response prevention” technique that is the standard treatment therapists use for other kinds of phobias.

    Good luck! My son still doesn’t like fruit much, in fact I’m not crazy about his food habits, but at least he can go out to eat or over to people’s houses and eat like a normal person. It does get better.

  • Sarah C

    You are a great mother, and it will get better : )

    And I totally agree with your therapist. If she doesn’t want to eat what you guys are eating, then she can go to bed hungry. I know a child hunger strike is probably tougher on you than Leta, but you’re in charge. At least just try it, if it doesn’t work after a couple weeks than you can go back to accommodating her palate.

    Side note: I have a 12 year old cousin who eats bread for dinner every night (plain bagel untoasted, or yeast rolls if it’s the holidays). Enough is enough…

  • 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…

  • Joolsmum

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!)

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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.

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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