Picky Eater - what should I do???? — The Bump
Pre-School

Picky Eater - what should I do????

I have a 5-year-old VERY picky eater. Has anyone else dealt with this? This is literally the only items she will eat. I do not know what to do.

Produce 
• Apples (red: Gala or similar) 
• Broccoli (raw or cooked) 
• Carrots (raw) 
• Edamame 
• Corn (cob or loose)

Dairy 
• Whole Milk (plain or with Carnation Instant Breakfast) 
• String Cheese (white) 
• Shredded Cheese (Parmesan, Mozz, Cheddar – will not eat “cooked” cheese, or cheese in slices only shredded)

Other 
• Peanut Butter Granola Bar (F&E brand) 
Cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, Trix) 
• Pretzels 
• Peanut Butter 
• Nuts: Pecans, Cashews and Pistachios 
• Chicken Noodle Soup (chicken removed) 
• Noodles (buttered-no other sauce) 
• Tater Tots 
• Potato Chips 
• Pizza (2 types, does not like all cheese pizza) 
• French Fries (occasionally at restaurants) 
• Lo Mein Noodles (occasionally at restaurants) 
• Fresh Pretzels (Wetzel’s or Aunt Annies)

We have tried the “dinner is dinner” approach, and the “dinner is dinner + something I know she will eat” – but nothing is working. The worst part is that lately she is always hungry and whiney, because she does not eat anything. Many of the items on the list are healthy – but I fear she will have this relationship with food forever. Please share your thoughts, experience, and suggestions.

Re: Picky Eater - what should I do????

  • My thoughts: She has a fairly healthy favorite food list. And from a variety of foods groups. Leave it be.

    Don't be a short order cook. Cook whatever you're having that night. She can eat what you're eating or not at all. Her choice. No hassle. No nagging. Incorporate at least something she likes into every meal and don't go out of your way to force something you know she hates on her. And no second helpings unless she has eaten a portion of everything she started with on her plate, that way she can't fill up on her favorites and not try anything new.

    But your kid isn't a bad eater, from this list. Count your blessings.
    blu-eyedwife
  • My DD is the exact same way! She is very picky but loves pretty healthy foods - Greek yogurt, cheese sticks, strawberries, bananas, carrots, salad... She will not touch many toddler friendly foods (peanut butter, jelly, fish sticks, French fries, anything fried, chicken nuggets, etc) which is fine with me. However, I do want her to broaden her food a little. I always offer her what we are eating and a little of what she likes. If she wants more of what she will eat she has to at least try the other food on her plate. There have been many more failures to try and failures to like even when she reluctantly tries, but the few new additions make it well worth it. For example, she told me she hated carrots a dozen times before one night when she reluctantly tried them again and found that she likes them.
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  • I don't think she's excessively picky since i know kids who pretty much reject anything that isn't grilled cheese or mac & cheese but  in looking at the list, I would focus on maybe trying new meat/protein sources and fruit since they seem to be the most lacking right now. I wouldn't go nuts trying all sorts of different things but try to introduce something new every few days & try it for several days- I wonder if some of it is texture related, maybe you can try meats in different forms?(ground, shredded, chunks, in soup, in sauce, etc). Have you tried tuna? My kids both surprisingly love it on crackers  I personally hate the whole idea  of kids needing to try something 10+ times before liking it b/c I assume like at my house, they won't even try it usually and then put it in their mouth &spit it out and frankly doing that 10 times just seems wasteful of food & time (even though I realize that there is probably some research to back it up), so I just try a few times and then throw in the towel & revisit later.  My kids are relatively picky also (they won't touch much in the way of vegetables in particular), but the main reason I'm not too worried is that I was exactly the same & worse and frankly, I have a very healthy relationship with food and over time grew to try more things & am relatively adventurous with food (though I admittedly still don't *love* vegetables on the whole). I think it takes a lot more than pickiness in the younger years to lead to nutritional issues, you can always give a vitamin if you're concerned about that. Beyond that, once she goes to school, is at friends' houses, sees you eating a variety of foods, etc, she will likely begin to open up.

    When I was in elem school, the only veggies I would eat were lettuce smothered in some dressing and broccoli smothered in cheese. I used to chew up carrots, excuse myself and spit them down the toilet, and refused red sauce or any tomato product on anything, including pizza or spaghetti &so ate buttered noodles from like age 4-10.  I ate more veggies as a teen and even more as an adult, I love tomato sauces as an adult, and even in recent years have started eating raw tomato in certain forms (I hate the gooey seed stuff ;) ). 

    So while my kids' pickiness annoys me and I hate having the dinnertime fights about trying things & eating a few bites, I just do it and know that this too shall pass. They eat plenty of bfast & lunch and so if they don't eat much dinner, so be it. I give them some milk & fruit with dinner & they won't starve ;)  I think more frustrating is when stuff they gobble down multiple times then gets refused and they say I hate it! Argh! wth.

    One other thing we do is the 'no thank you' bite of new foods. They have to try a bite (which includes chewing & swallowing) and then they can say no thank you if they hate it. And we have had several instances where they realize they DO like it.
    GL
  • This is a good list! I have a very picky 5 year old and he won't eat half of that! I agree with the poster above that said, just cook one meal and offer your kiddo a healthy option at each meal. Example: If I make spaghetti mad meatballs, I know that DS will eat some plain pasta. If I make shrimp and rice, I know that he will eat the plain rice, but I always put a little of everything on his plate. I encourage him to taste but don't force. Also, cut back on milk and snacks so he is hungrier at meals. It will get better. Keep offering new things along with something you know she will eat
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  • I also make some meals "disassembled". Ex: I will make a baked ziti for the family. Then give the kids a plate with some of the baked ziti, but also each item separately: plain ziti, sauce for dipping, shredded cheese. Sometimes they eat more if items are "separate"
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  • that's a great list--wish my kids would eat half of those items!
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  • Hi!  Mom of older kids who were formerly very picky eaters.  Keep the faith, Mama!  Better times may be right around the corner.  Everyone talks about toddlers being picky eaters, but I found that both of my kids continued to become MORE picky until it peaked at about age 5.  Then it eased up and got much better.  

    Looking at your list, I don't actually think it's all that bad. It's fairly heavy on carbs, which is normal for a picky kid, but you've got a few core healthy items on there that you can use as a scaffold to work up to new items.

    Here's what worked for me with my picky kids:

    --Involve her in all aspects of meals.  Buy her a good kid cookbook with real food you'd like her to eat. Rachael Ray Kid Food worked for us, and we still eat many meals from this cookbook that are reasonably healthy and yummy. Tell her to choose something she would like from this cookbook.  Involve her in the shopping and the food prep.  Seeing, touching, and smelling food in preparation helped my kids (especially my kid with sensory integration issues) buy into giving new things a try.  Make food as fun and exciting as possible.  Don't hassle her if she tries something and doesn't like it.  Just move on to the next recipe another time.

    --Give them tiny portions and hold back carbs at dinner.  My kids, if left to their own devices, would fill up on noodles and bread, and let those yucky veggies sit until they were too gross and cold to eat.  So, I would prepare the plates in the kitchen, putting a few bites of meat, a few bites of veggie only.  Offer the carb portion only when the few bites of the other stuff are eaten.  My kids would suffer 2 bites each of broccoli and chicken in order to eat 4 bites of noodles.  

    --Offer snacks on a schedule and really monitor snacks, especially before dinner.  I would offer my kids a choice of a TINY junky snack or a bigger healthy snack.  If they were really starving, they'd at least fill up on something healthy.  If they just had a hankering for junk, they wouldn't spoil dinner.

    --Don't serve too much dinner food at a time.  Set her up for success by only putting a few bites on the plate at a time.  She can always ask for more.  When we did this, we eliminated an after dinner dessert.  We found that our kids would gag down a tiny dinner and then hold out for a treat later.  We just did away with after dinner snacking entirely.  If they didn't eat dinner -- tough.  I had previously tried to compensate for them being picky by offering applesauce as a replacement for real food after dinner.  This backfired!  They quickly learned they didn't have to eat much dinner and could fill up on applesauce later!  

    --Don't make dinner a battle.  When she's ready to get down, remind her that no other food will be offered before breakfast. (When my kids were at their worst, I would set aside their plates and allow them to give dinner another try, but not offer a replacement.)

    My son read this post over my shoulder.  He says: Even though I was very picky when I was younger, we would have brussels sprouts with cheeseburgers; since we had it with cheeseburgers, I really started to like brussels sprouts.  I learned to eat a new vegetable with something I liked.

    Seriously, my kids will eat just about anything now.  Also, they'll try new stuff very willingly.  A lot of this is developmental; if you avoid making this a huge battle, she'll ease up in the next year.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
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