How to deal with a picky eater aided by an unhealthy father? — The Bump
Toddlers: 24 Months+

How to deal with a picky eater aided by an unhealthy father?

I have two sons, one having just turned three at the beginning of April and my youngest at about nineteen months. Their father and I are separated and he gets one of them every other weekend, alternating visits at his place. The trouble starts there.

My three-year-old has always been a picky eater, but I've been able to get him to eat what he needs to not be ill. I cook everything from scratch with the freshest things I can, avoiding processed foods, added sugars, and hydrogenated oils. We don't have dairy and use almond alternatives due to my youngest being lactose intolerant and that it's a better and healthier option to make.

However, their father is not the same way. They eat fast food with him, hydrogenated oils, and loads of processed, simple-carby foods. They come home bloated and uncomfortable with runny stools. My eldest turns his nose to all of my foods now. Wanting McDonald's, Pizza Hut wings, and so on.

I called their father and tried reasoning with him, to find a solution, and asking him to please stop going to fast food chains with them. I told him how his oldest refuses to eat, even his favorite foods from before. He told me to just start feeding him freezer nuggets and foods with added sugars again. Not an acceptable answer.

He got on the defensive. Words were exchanged and I tried to assure him that I wasn't calling him a bad parent, but when his son is addicted to processed foods and coming home ill, I just think it's time to make some healthier adjustments to his own diet for his kids.

He refused. He says he can feed his sons whatever he wants, which I know he can, but tomorrow will be the fourth day my son has hardly eaten anything more than a banana and half a serving of oatmeal. I'm glad he drinks water.

I'm frustrated. I'm scared. My boyfriend is such a great role-model for them in the way he eats. My youngest eats like him, but now he's picking up on some of his older brother's mannerisms with food. I'm considering separate feeding times if things get worse.

What should I do? Any similar situations?


  • Oh hello. This is crazy familiar. DS is at his obese grandmother's house two days a week. We eat very clean. She eats processed everything and wonders why she is so sick. DH tried to talk to her about it because he has ADHD so we eliminated all food dyes hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. DH just wants to prevent DS from similar problems. She said she'd feed DS better. She bought "whole grain" Easy Mac.

    I started sending food. She threw it away. I found out she was throwing it away once when I needed to change him right before we left. I saw it all in the trash. The next time I blew my nose to throw away to check. She had thrown it away again so I confronted her. She said avocado is not a snack and salmon and broccoli is not lunch. That he didn't want any of it. Maybe that's because she let's him snack on cheeze its all morning. I went and bought cheeze its and offered both those and real cubes of cheese and kept reinforcing good food bad food. He now won't eat them and asks her for real cheese.

    All you can do is try to educate your boys at home and if they don't feel good explain repeatedly that some foods taste good but are not good for us. They will eventually learn. You want them to learn to make the good choices anyway and not force them on them.
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  • We hope to cut it down to one day soon. Financially we can't send him to daycare more (daycare is in home and she feeds the kids very well) Hopefully in August we will be able to send him there an additional day and he will only be at great grandma's one. That's hard too because I'd rather have him cared for by family and she otherwise does a good job. It's always just about balance and doing the best when you can.
  • Thank you, everyone.
  • Take a picture of the first runny stool your son comes home with following the visit your his dad with your smart phone and send it to him with an innocent text, "goodness, look at what just came out of our son!  do you have any idea what might have caused this?"  Keep a record of both what you send and the response. 

    The smart phone and text with time/date stamp it :)

  • If he only sees them every other weekend, he's probably not in the habit of cooking healthy, kid-friendly meals and it makes more sense for him to just feed them whatever he eats. My guess is he wants to make it fun, and keep it simple since his time with them is so limited. I would ask him to research some area restaurants with healthier options, so he can still take them out but not be eating drive thru meals. If that doesn't work, bring over a few "approved" meals every month to store in his freezer with detailed reheating instructions. That way you know the kids will be well-fed and it's easy enough that he has no excuses. I know that sounds like extra work on your part, but it can just be extras or leftovers of whatever you've made for the week and  it will avoid a whole lot of arguments and frustration. 
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