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upsidedowngrl
01-28-2010, 11:53 PM
Hello everyone -

I'm currently working on an article idea that I want to pitch to a parenting or women's magazine about how to get your picky eater to eat the foods he/she refuses or fights with you about at the dinner table.

My question is How do you get your picky eater to eat?

Thanks so much everyone. I look forward to the awesome responses.

Alpha Echo
01-28-2010, 11:57 PM
Oh my gosh.

I am an almost stepparent. We have my SO's daughter 50% of the time, and she does not eat. Well, she will...as long as you didn't tell her what or when to eat.

My SO was getting very frustrated, so I suggested we set a timer. 30 minutes. Every meal. If she's not finished when that timer goes off, she goes to her room.

On top of that, my mom used to make us eat the meal (if it was dinner) for breakfast the next morning - cold. We don't do that, but that worked.

The timer I think is the answer - as long as there's either a consequence if the kid doesn't finish in time or if you dangle an award at the end of the 30 minutes. :D However, we haven't had any problems with the 5 year old since we invoked the timer. She still complains, she still whines, she still sits there without eating until the last minute, but she eats.

Millicent M'Lady
01-29-2010, 12:02 AM
Oh my gosh.

I am an almost stepparent. We have my SO's daughter 50% of the time, and she does not eat. Well, she will...as long as you didn't tell her what or when to eat.

My SO was getting very frustrated, so I suggested we set a timer. 30 minutes. Every meal. If she's not finished when that timer goes off, she goes to her room.

On top of that, my mom used to make us eat the meal (if it was dinner) for breakfast the next morning - cold. We don't do that, but that worked.

The timer I think is the answer - as long as there's either a consequence if the kid doesn't finish in time or if you dangle an award at the end of the 30 minutes. :D However, we haven't had any problems with the 5 year old since we invoked the timer. She still complains, she still whines, she still sits there without eating until the last minute, but she eats.

I'm in the same position as Alpha with a fussy five year old kind of step son. When he won't eat, I do something similar by betting him he can't eat a certain part of his meal (the chicken or the potatoes or whatever) in maybe ten bites. If you make it a challenge or something or a game, he'll eat most of it.

When he was a little younger, I used to tell him when he wouldn't eat that squirrels were outside the window and they were trying to eat his dinner on him.:) This worked when he was about three.

Alpha Echo
01-29-2010, 12:04 AM
I'm in the same position as Alpha with a fussy five year old kind of step son. When he won't eat, I do something similar by betting him he can't eat a certain part of his meal (the chicken or the potatoes or whatever) in maybe ten bites. If you make it a challenge or something or a game, he'll eat most of it.


That works too. I've purposely put too much on her plate so that I can say "You eat one, I'll eat one." Lol

Millicent M'Lady
01-29-2010, 12:08 AM
That works too. I've purposely put too much on her plate so that I can say "You eat one, I'll eat one." Lol

I've done that too but I don't think my rear end could take it long term!:DI think the main thing is to not make food a chore but to teach children that it is an enjoyable part of life.

My sister was a fussy eater so my mother refused to let her leave the table until she'd eaten which solved nothing (she just gave her food to me!) and ensured that she was a fussy eater for a lot longer that she might have been had she not been made to feel like food was a punishment.

Alpha Echo
01-29-2010, 12:17 AM
Well, I didn't eat a lot of my own food when I ate some of hers. lol :D

Gretad08
01-29-2010, 12:33 AM
I've used "eat your age" with my nieces. "You can leave the table if you eat 4 big bites b/c you're 4" type of thing.

Also, like Millicent said, I'll bet that they can't eat a certain thing. Like this:

"No, Daddy, she can't eat all those green beans. She's not a big girl. Big girls can eat all ther green beans, but she can't because she's too little."

Kids love when you challenge them to do something.

gracemichael
01-29-2010, 09:28 PM
This has worked in the past, and it makes the child feel like they are somewhat in control: Let the child take as much of the food he doesn't like (i.e., peas or broccoli) but they have to eat all of it. It may be just a small amount but at least he will eat it. As the parent, your hope is that eventually, he will learn to like that particular food.

Stacie

icerose
01-29-2010, 10:42 PM
We're a one bite family. No matter what it is or what it looks like, they have to take one bite. That's it, and it can be a micro bite, but it has to be a bite. My kids have found many things they enjoy by the one bite rule and a few things they hate. But it was the rule from the beginning. You don't have to eat all of it or even most of it. Just one bite.

It's worked really well for us.

heyjude
01-29-2010, 11:07 PM
We do two things that work well for us: One is to put some of his/her food on a fork and say "I'll be right back for this after I drink some of my water. I hope no one eats my broccoli before I get back." It works almost every single time and gets everyone to giggling.

Two is kind of gross--to me anyway. My dh puts ketchup or mustard or whatever and dips his green pepper/broccoli/whatever into it. He'll go to eat it and I'll say "EW! Don't you DARE! That's disgusting!" So of course the kids want to do it. To this day my dd will eat any vegetable, so long as there's a bit of ketchup with it.

We are a very contrary family, but we have fun. :)

Canotila
01-30-2010, 04:08 AM
There are medical reasons for pickiness too. It is a symptom of some sensory problems, and at that point it is more of an issue of texture than flavor. My nephew had pretty severe problems with it when he was younger, to the point that as a three year old he would starve himself for 3-5 days with nothing. No amount of punishing, threatening, bribing, etc. ever worked because it wasn't a behavioral issue. Some foods, particularly those with a soft or slimy texture, triggered a gag reflex and he would end up throwing up if they forced him to eat. Some things he would nibble at were quesadillas and string cheese. He would eat eggs our chickens laid, but not store bought ones. I know it must have been a difference in the eggs because he didn't see us prepare them, and had no idea they were different in any way. They were just more palatable for some reason.

Most of my professional experience is in childcare, along with having a toddler of my own. I remember one boy who was three years old, and had a lot of sensory issues. Brilliant kid, some things seriously bothered him. Some days no matter what we served, he wouldn't touch it. Well, it turned out (as he learned to talk we found this out) he has synesthesia. Seeing certain colors while eating changed the flavor on his food. Serving cheese on a green plate made it taste like poop, according to him. So much so, that he wouldn't touch it no matter how hungry he was. But then, anything served on a hot pink plate tasted amazing. Once we figured it out, it was easy to adjust.

Here's a pretty good link about sensory integration disorders with articles on food aversion:

http://www.comeunity.com/disability/sensory_integration/index.html

With most kids, having them help plan meals and pick things out at the grocery store goes a long way. I ask my two year old what fruit and vegetables we should get, and she helps me pick out the apples, oranges, broccoli, etc. that she thinks look good. Then she's excited to eat the food she has picked out once we get home.

If you can give them little "jobs" in meal preparation, that is helpful too. Like, if you're slicing carrots, give a toddler a plastic knife and a carrot to saw at.

My daughter used to despise anything green. When she was one and a half, I got my seed catalogs in the mail, and we would sit together and look through them. I'd point out all the beautiful flowers, tell her their names, go through all the vegetables, name them all. She learned a lot, and I started asking her what kinds of vegetables and flowers we should grow. She picked what to put in the garden. She "helped" us plant it (mostly made mud pies) and was very excited to eat the plants when they grew. Every day all summer long she went outside and pulled a leaf off the kale and ate it. She started asking for kale with her breakfast, etc. Even if people don't have land for a garden, they can have their child pick out some lettuce or carrots and plant them in a little window box, or container on the patio.

Inky
01-30-2010, 04:20 AM
you pick your battles. picky eating isn't one of them. why? do you want someone forcing you to eat something you detest the sight/smell of?

This was done to me...I've sampled foods from all over the world. Love food...but eating snails at four years old is a wee tad much.

Maybe because I've been a mom both at 17 years old and then in my 30's, I realized, as an older (geriatric, according to the OBGYN who monitored pregnancies..but I'm not bitter), that you feed your kid what they like...even if it means buyine those sectional plates so their food doesn't touch--gah--and as they get older, you then teach 'em that they're going to have to begin AT LEAST tasting foods...so that when they are invited as someone's guest..rudeness won't be tolerated...to eat what's put in front of them.

My picky eater didn't try her first cheeseburger until she was 8. Her first slice of pizza was because she was at a birthday party where they didn't have anything else. She didn't act an ass (I've never been one to suffer a tantrum or rude children), but tried to pretend she wasn't hungry. She relented. Tasted. And nearly swooned with just how great pizza is.

It was when she was ready. A wee bit forced due to circumstances, but basically on her terms. An no one came away frazzled over the experience.

She was seven.

Now, that said, she loves salad, always has, and chicken and scrambled eggs and cheese. Those were her faves even as a toddler. The ONLY junk food/sweet she'll eat is Hershey's Chocolate bars...the plain ones...never deviates...and that's only during PMS. Other than that, she's not into the sweets.
She's tried German foods--we lived there nearly her entire childhood--and loves, loves, loves British and German food, oh, and several dishes she tried in Turkey, like chicken tava.
Go figure.

Here at the house, we cater to what she likes. She's a love about trying something new and makes an honest effort to sample it.

As a guest, she'll eat everything, even if it's the most wretched meal she's ever had to endure...and you'll swear she's enjoying it.

My advice: don't push. They'll eat what's good for them...because they like it, not because you feel they will just die without having eaten something green, slimey, mushy...

If you push...the stress just isn't worth it to either of you. Because I don't push, when I want her to sample something, she's very open and willing. The faces are priceless!

Let them come to their own regarding their tastebuds. It's THEIR mouth, not yours. What tastes great to you may make them turn shades and shudder that are amusing..but just not worth the battle.

But, again, as they get older, so too teach them that as a guest...they're not to make faces or rude comments regarding what's being served..or the 'I'm not eating THAT!'

Me?
My girls know: you say that at someone's house...you'll be eating THAT for the next month.

I don't do rude.
Find your middle ground and both you and the child will be the better for it.

WildScribe
01-30-2010, 04:20 AM
We're a one bite family. No matter what it is or what it looks like, they have to take one bite. That's it, and it can be a micro bite, but it has to be a bite. My kids have found many things they enjoy by the one bite rule and a few things they hate. But it was the rule from the beginning. You don't have to eat all of it or even most of it. Just one bite.

It's worked really well for us.

We do that as well. If he refuses to take the one bite, he gets his same meal again at the next meal time. And if he takes one bite and says he's done, well, that's fine, he doesn't have to eat it, but I also won't prepare anything else for him until the next scheduled meal/snack.

Dawnny Baby
01-30-2010, 06:05 AM
Three basic rules we live by:

1) When I started having kids, my mom offered me this sage advice, "Let young kids eat whatever they want: their bodies know what they need" (similar to what Canotila and Inky said, above). This has proved (surprisingly) true. (Especially since, when I was growing up, Mom was a "No one leaves the table until it's all gone" type of mom.) I've notice that whenever I slice up cucumbers, for instance, my littler guys will eat them like potato chips. The preschool crowd prefers healthy foods to processed crap. (My teens, OTOH, need a Candy Police to enforce limits on sweets. But that's learned behavior, not their natural instincts.)

2) Also, I read an article at some point that said kids need to be offered food an average of 10 times before they will accept it into their diet. Keeping that in mind, we are a you-must-TRY-it-before-making-yourself-a-PB&J-sandwich family (like icerose and WildScribe). Some of mine will never like fish. But some of them have been amazed to find that they do.

3) I've instituted Kitchen Hours--literally. I even post them on the fridge during the summer months. It allows me to say, "Sorry, the kitchen is closed," when they want to constantly eat at different times during the day (ruining lunch/dinner appetites and leaving dishes all over the counter), and it eliminates drive-by chippings (potato chippings) that leave a mess on the floor. (Okay, this third one has more to do with ME being picky about HOW they eat. Sorry.)

Hope this helps! :)

Inky
01-30-2010, 08:14 AM
Oh, forgot something: I've never made them finish everything on their plate.
My mom used to be Hitler about this. I'm surprised I didn't end up with amputations.
I mean, that spawn of Satan would froth at the mouth...I'm STILL in search of a Voodoo Priestess..yanno...if any of you happen to know a good one...it's a step mother...so it's all good, right?

Anyhooo, I truly believe that forcing a kid to finish all their food on their plate enforces overeating later in life. It took me YEEEAAARS to accept my body telling me I'm full and to simply stop.

Now, I've never been where they can take one bite and book from the table...but finish their plate of food...and you can tell they've had enough? Eh eh. As a result, neither of them are overeaters or snackers because they know food ISN'T off limits...so it's not a threat to them...or a comfort.

Now to eat crow. My SON, on the other hand, when he was a teen...MY GOD THAT BOY COULD EAT!!!! If I bought 3 boxes of Little Debbie snack something or other...by the end of two days...it was GONE!!!

You know that movie: if you build it, they will come?

My son's motto: if you buy it, I will eat it.

I had to put the snacks in my room and dole 'em out...to which he laughed one day..and pointed out: Ma, don't you think it's a bit ridiculous that I know where they are and have to ask you several times a day if I can have snacks..to which you still give 'em to me?

I made sure to have the last laugh--a rare occasion with that son o' mine.

I ceased buying Little Debbie Nightmares.

Sobered him right up.

I didn't say I was a MATURE mother...but DAMN, did I laugh over his expression when we ran out of sugary crap and I offered him a sugar free popcicle.

icerose
01-30-2010, 08:55 AM
I did want to add that I work very hard to make the foods they like as healthy as possible. And when they tell me they don't like something very specific I don't make it again for a full year for them to try again. I'm not serving liver and onions or anything like that. I figure that's how I pick my battles because they know it's safe to try something and it'll be okay if they don't like it. It won't appear back on their plates until they've forgotten all about it and when it does make a reappearance I take pains to make sure it's in a different form.

For example my kids do not like a strong onion flavor in their food. I have since adjusted every recipes since then to make sure the onion flavor is light.

abctriplets
02-01-2010, 10:44 PM
I tell mine that I'll put everything on their plate, but if they don't want to eat something, just to ignore it.

But then I run into situations where they eat all of one item, and ask for more. So I tell them to take a bite (or two) of one (or two) other items, and then they can get more of the requested food. It gets them to try the other stuff, and hopefully they'll remember that they like it :)

Scoates
02-01-2010, 10:48 PM
I give the food I want her to eat to her brother and sister, but not to her. She'll beg for it. She's only two though.

This will seem unrelated, but when I know she won't want to go to bed, and tell her I'm going to put her to bed in the sink, and when she protests, I ask where she wants to go to sleep, and she asks for her bed. I figure you could do the same thing with food. You just have to make them think they are making the choice.

Melisande
02-02-2010, 05:09 AM
When my son was a toddler I simply put plates before him with whatever I had for dinner. We ate together, and he didn't seem to mind.

When his father took up complete parenthood he never, ever, tried to bribe my son into eating anything. He served food, and my son ate it. If he didn't like it at first, his father served the same kind of food over and over again. He (my sons father) never compromises, though he also never forced, or tried to force, any kind of food down the throat of our offspring.

Today my son is a true gourmet, not to mention a gourmand, and I have to bow before him in the kitchen, because there are still things I wouldn't eat, let alone cook!

I was brought up the same way, with the difference that my family was very poor and there were things never served simply because we couldn't afford it.

And here I am talking about oysters, snails, lobsters, shark fins, sword fish filet and stuff like that. Veggies in any form, ANY form, was a simple requiriement to eat, because that was about the only thing we could afford. Thay are also the easiest things (in my book) to make tasty and easy to eat for a kid. Liver is a whole different story (eeeek), but don't tell anyone I said so.

Barb D
02-03-2010, 07:46 PM
None of my kids are picky eaters, but each has things they really, really don't like. So do I. I don't force them to eat things they hate as long as they're generally eating a good variety of foods.

Example: at this point I have a vegan teen and one who hates beans. So I make two pots of chili, one with meat and no beans and one with beans and no meat. Vegan kid eats the bean version, no-bean kid eats the meat version, and the rest of us mix whatever combo we like. Everyone is happy, everyone gets some protein, and what's one extra pot to wash?

April
02-06-2010, 03:49 AM
I have a ten-year old stepdaughter. When my husband and I got married she was four. She would try to exert control at meal time. No matter what I cooked, she wanted something else, the little brat (jk, I love her to pieces.) I was so scared of being the stepmonster. Finally, I just had to cowboy up and make a stand. She had to eat three bites of everything on her plate. Like Dawnny baby said, kids have to be exposed to a food multiple times before they acquire a taste for it. If you have three different things, that's almost enough food for a little belly. When she was five, I started teaching her to cook. I showed her how the same food cooked a different way could taste totally different. Just because she had had salmon and didn't like it, didn't mean she didn't like ALL salmon. Just salmon prepared that one way. After she spent a good deal of time in the kitchen, she gained a respect for how much trouble goes into preparing a nutritious meal and she was less likely to be disrespectful at the table.

I wouldn't, however, make a child eat something that made them gag. My girl doesn't like butter (?). She's had it plenty of times. It is not a matter of exposure. She doesn't have to eat it.

bclement412
02-06-2010, 03:52 AM
It depends on the age of the child. I'm a teenager, and I have extreme nausea, so when I feel way to sick to eat, I don't eat, no matter what my parents bribe me with. But for the most part that works for younger kids (Except for me when I was younger. I'm stubborn.)

padnar
02-06-2010, 07:54 AM
I often wonder what are the vegetarian dishes do Americans prepare. We prepare sambhar , rice and a curry for our lunch . For breakfast we prepare Idlies .For night we have the same food or tiffin . Any veggies here ?
padma

tlblack
02-06-2010, 08:19 AM
I thought up all sorts of ways to get my son to eat better. None of them worked. He was so picky when he was young that if I ordered him a hamburger or hot dog at any fast food restaurant, they had to be separated and each part of it wrapped in different paper. He'd eat all of it, but one thing at a time. First the cheese, then the meat, then the bun, and they had to be plain, no sauces. Pizza with no sauce, spaghetti noodles with parmesan cheese but no sauce. He wouldn't eat any kind of sauce at all. Not even ketchup. He loved salad... but you guessed it, no dressing and only certain foods were allowed with the lettuce. If he even thought I was thinking about adding some sauce to what I was cooking, he wouldn't eat it. He wouldn't even eat ice cream, because it was "mucky." He still must have gotten enough nutrition as he grew to be 6'3" but man oh man was he ever picky.

Today, he needs a straw for the ketchup, salad dressings or other sauces, but still won't eat a big variety of vegetables. He eats one thing at a time until his food is gone.

C.bronco
02-06-2010, 08:25 AM
You don't. The bigger of a deal you make of it, the bigger it becomes.

My son gagged on macaroni at four; at 7 it is his favorite food.

Just make sure the child gets all four food groups with a day, and don't stress over it.

Tastes change with age. In the meantime, we have vitamins and fortified juice.

C.bronco
02-06-2010, 08:28 AM
P.S. My kid (LOL, not a kid anymore) sister was a vegetarian for 14 years. One day, she had a craving for a bacon cheeseburger. She eats meat now, and has a son who eats everything they put in front of him (unfortunately, even paper).
Things work out in the end.

heyjude
02-06-2010, 04:07 PM
I often wonder what are the vegetarian dishes do Americans prepare. We prepare sambhar , rice and a curry for our lunch . For breakfast we prepare Idlies .For night we have the same food or tiffin . Any veggies here ?
padma

Yeah, we're veggies in my family! (O-L vegetarians, not vegans...) We do a lot of pasta (Italian family) and raw foods.

Devil Ledbetter
02-06-2010, 06:39 PM
Hello everyone -

I'm currently working on an article idea that I want to pitch to a parenting or women's magazine about how to get your picky eater to eat the foods he/she refuses or fights with you about at the dinner table.

My question is How do you get your picky eater to eat?

Thanks so much everyone. I look forward to the awesome responses.

The key concept is no otherwise normal/healthy child has ever starved to death in the presence of wholesome food. (We're not talking about teens and anorexia, to be clear.) With that fact in mind, here's how to proceed:

1. Cut out near-mealtime snacks. Yes, even "healthy" ones. Don't let them load up on juice, milk or other beverages. Hunger makes the best sauce. If they refuse a glass of water, they're not thirsty.

2. Serve small portions with the expectation (never a demand) that they will eat when you do. I hope it goes without saying that the family eats meals together. Even if they are refusing to eat, they must sit with the family during the meal and be polite (no complaining). If they don't, it's off to their room until dinner is over.

3. Stay the hell out of their plates. Don't offer a running commentary on what they have or haven't eaten. If you've been pestering them to eat more, you already know it doesn't work. It just ruins your dinner, theirs and everyone at the table who has to witness this tedium. Drop the power struggle and let them be in control once the meal is served.

It's the height of rudeness to comment on what others have or haven't eaten. You wouldn't do it to an adult guest; don't do it to your kids.

4. Make it easy for them. If you're serving something you know they dislike, include some healthy side dishes you know they do like. But make this part of the meal. Never "short order cook" for them. What's for dinner is what's for dinner. This isn't a restaurant.

5. No late meals or snacks to "make up for" refusing to eat. This is a parent's biggest mealtime mistake. Parents rationalize "I just need to get some nutrition in her!" No. She will not die of starvation if she goes to bed hungry. This isn't cruelty, it's consequence. Be kind, sympathetic but firm. Promise to make her a hearty breakfast, and follow through. Don't worry, this probably will happen only once or twice before your child accepts that dinner time is dinner time.

How do I know this works?

I have two "good eaters" because I always handled mealtime this way. When my niece "Darling" came to live with us, her mommy was making all of the "fussy eater" mistakes: constantly hovering over her plate, "getting some nutrition in her!" via short order cooking, pre- and post-meal snacks, etc. Mealtimes were a nightmare with Mommy's running commentary on Darling's plate, Darling's whining, Mommy jumping up to fix "acceptable" food for Darling, which Darling would then also refuse to eat while Mommy grew frustrated and angry. The drama continued well past bedtime with Mommy allowing Darling to toddle downstairs "finally" eat yogurt or fruit - with Mommy gazing on in adoration and relief that Darling was "getting some nutrition in her!"

It was godawful.

Finally we convinced Mommy to follow our lead, relax, and calmly let Darling choose whether or not to eat at mealtime. This was hard because Darling had come to believe that if she ate what everyone else was eating, she wasn't "special." And Mommy must not love her if she wasn't letting her own dinner grow cold while prepping some mid-meal specialty for Darling.

That was the real problem - the kid was being emotionally rewarded for not eating like the rest of the family. Once the power struggle was dropped and the emotional reward was removed, the variety of foods she would eat gradually widened. She's still pickier than average, but she's not being rewarded for it anymore and mealtimes don't revolve around her .... to the great relief of anyone who has to eat at the same table.

And yes, Darling's mommy was convinced that she had every one of the extra special sensory and gag reflex issues there are. It doesn't matter. Once the power struggle was dropped, rudeness and whining were no longer tolerated, and the emotional rewards for fussiness went away, the mealtime drama ended.