Picky Eaters.  Kids seem to fall into two camps when it comes to food – they will eat lots of foods without complaint, or they will complain about everything.  My first child (8 1/2) is a complainer, and he rubs off on his little brother.  I think my second child would be much more inclined to try new foods if it wasn’t for all the negative comments and faces from his big brother.

If you’re dealing with more than just a picky eater check out this post with recommended therapists for food issues.

Dessert = The Best Bribe

Mistakes I’ve Made:

1. I fed my child something different.
We often ate dinner after my first son went to bed.  It was easier that way, and it gave us some time alone.  He went to bed early too, so the timing was tough.  In hindsight we should have fed him what we were eating.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming your child might not like a food.  Just give it to them and see what happens.  

2. I gave up too early.
If they don’t like a food don’t give up, give it to them again and again.  New food tastes strange and it can take several tries for them to realize they actually like it, instead of just reacting to the newness of it.

3. I gave in too often.
It’s so much easier to just feed them what they want.  They are happy, which makes you happy.  In the short run this works really well.  In the long run, not so much.  When you’ve got a picky eater you have to work at it.  And it’s WORK.

Some Things That Helped:

1. No dessert/TV unless you eat “x”
Our kids don’t get junk food during the day unless it’s a special occasion.  No soda, no candy (except the occasional lollipop), no ice cream.  But each night after dinner they get a treat IF they did certain things during dinner.  The treat might mean 2-3 little cookies, 10 M&Ms, whatever.  It’s amazing how long holiday candy can last when you ration it!  We don’t make them eat a certain amount of food, they make that choice themselves.  They don’t get dessert unless they take a bite of a new food, or eat a certain amount of a food.  They almost always choose to eat it in order to get dessert.  I’m very uncomfortable telling them they have to eat something, or they have to eat a certain amount.  This way it’s their decision, and I can say: “I don’t care what you do, but if you want dessert you have to eat .”  And if there isn’t time or it’s a bad night for dessert we use the TV bribe – if you don’t try/eat it you’re going to bed after dinner, no TV time.

2. Limit new foods
We don’t eat new foods or foods they don’t like every night.  Some nights they get take out pizza or enjoy a hot dog, and we enjoy a meal in peace.  Other nights we work at it, and on those nights they always have some things on their plate they like. 

3. The sleepover/restaurant example
We always remind our older son that we’re working to get him used to more foods so that he can sleep over his friends houses, and he can go out to a restaurant.  The first time he got invited to sleep over he found out they were going out for burgers.  He likes the burgers his dad makes, but totally panicked at the thought of eating a different burger and insisted I call back and say he wasn’t coming.  Sorry kid, you’re going.  When he resists a new food, or doesn’t want to eat a food that isn’t his favorite, I remind him that we’re working on this so he can go out to restaurants and he can sleep over his friends house.  I’m not trying to be mean!

Here are some other tips and suggestions from the moms:

  • Here is what we have done (with mixed success). We take something he likes, like cheese, and try to come up with something not too “far out” that he can try. Like a cheese quesadilla. Or we aimed for the “kid foods” (hot dogs, grilled cheese, burgers) and just kept trying. If he had a friend that would eat we’d try to get that kid to push him. We started this around age 4-5 and have had reasonable success. He now doesn’t like frozen chicken nuggets, which he survived on for years LOL. Now he’s 8 1/2 and has learned how to hold his nose, gulp it down and then wash it down with water. Baby steps!!
  • I still have a standing rule – if I cook it and serve it and you dont like it – STARVE (this is due to having so many kids.) I also required everyone to take ONE bite off all foods cooked (I started this when they where infants.) I explained to my daughters that one day they wold be invited to dinner with a boy friends family, and inevitably, they would be served foods they didn’t like. I taught them to be polite and make an effort WITHOUT ugly faces or rude gags….the first time my oldest daughter met her first boy friends family, she came home with a wonderful story about egg rolls (his moms specialty fixed just for her!) she thanked me for teaching her to be polite and STILL not gag! LOL
  • Mine too, must at least taste what I cook. And if it’s been 3 months or more, they have to taste it again since your taste changes. I have a friend who had her husband and daughter wear blindfolds, while them fed them an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies…so they had to taste without knowing what it was and having the negative thought before even trying it.
  • Once a month my mom would have cheese parties where me and my sister went with her to the store and bought the smallest portion of 10 new cheeses. I think she thought cheese was the best doorway to new taste adventures. After trying moldy cheese and spicy cheese I never said no to trying something new.
  • My little brother was a very picky eater but over time mostly due to peer pressure (I think) he has tried different foods. Now that he is a teenager all it takes pretty much is for a girl to ask him to try something and he will. So I guess I am saying, give your kid a chewable vitamin and hope his peers aren’t as picky.
  • My RD (Leslie Schilling) recommended this blog to me to help me learn how to feed my child: http://justtherightbyte.com/