Another feeding kids post

Can we talk about food for kids yet again? But this time for older kids.

I'm feeling in a distinct and pernicious rut. My children are old enough to eat real, adult food, but they just seem to refuse to eat things that aren't the old stand-by foods (burritos, pizza, Cowboy Supper –hot dogs and baked beans–and homemade baked chicken nuggets that they help me bread).

Frankly, I'm sick of it, but demoralized that when I make the effort to put together something better they just turn their noses up. It doesn't seem worth it to put together something decent if I'm the only one who will eat it. But I'm not going to do the two meal thing.

I guess I'm looking either for ideas that will bridge the gap between homemade chicken nuggets and  braised monkfish with asparagus risotto. Last Sunday I roasted a chicken (it was amazing) and the kids barely even touched it.

So I need ideas, or assurance that at some point they will eat what's offered. (At this point they just refuse and go without eating, pretty much, and don't seem to care.)

133 thoughts on “Another feeding kids post”

  1. I hear you. I have the same issues. My two year old is refusing all of his favorites like mac n cheese (though we did find he likes the SHELLS, not available in single serve though) and he’ll only eat fast food nuggets. Grrrrr. I’m looking forward to other comments.By some miracle he ate his canned pumpkin with applesauce mixed in. I put it in front of him, not really expecting much, and he gobbled it down! I never know what to expect…
    I told myself that when he turned two I would NOT be a short order cook but he would eat pretty much everything we are eating. I still find that I’m making easy side items like pb&j, quesadillas, thawing out premade oven fried chicken nuggets, etc.

  2. I’m no help. I was (am) very stubborn and I ate like that mostly until I went overseas in college. I learned to eat other crazy things because that was all there was. There are still things I don’t care for (seafood, lamb, white chocolate, coffee,…) but there is nothing I have not tried! So even if this ‘phase’ lasts and lasts…there is still hope for the future.

  3. My daughter is going through a bit of a picky phase right now, too. Hate it. She’ll only eat tacos, burritos, pasta, etc.Stir fry? Maggie for some reason has loved tofu since she could eat solids, and will eat the rice and the vegetables.
    I also made this pasta from Cooking Light the other night that she loved — she asked for thirds. It was jarred roasted red peppers with sauteed onions, I added garlic although the recipe didn’t call for it, half and half, and Parmesan. It should be searchable through the Cooking Light website. Super easy and good. I know my daughter will eat any kind of pasta, and is learning to like garlic as a result.
    Baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli? Maybe ham too? Crepes? Salmon? Soup?
    By way of reassurance, I was insanely picky as a kid, I did not know how my parents fed me. Now, I’ll eat almost everything (although I still hate mushrooms and tomato sauce) and am a pretty good cook.
    And I am glad to know I am not the only one who pretty much says “this is dinner, end of story.” If they are hungry enough, they’ll eat (although we will give Maggie a bedtime snack).

  4. The Mother’s Credo: “This too shall pass.”Cook your meals, offer them. Don’t offer alternatives. Either they’ll eat or they won’t. Eventually they will.
    Yeah, I was a bit of a hard-ass as a parent.
    They certainly will have likes and dislikes in foods, just like any person, but they will not be able to develop those preferences if they aren’t offered (and encouraged to try) different foods.
    (Disclaimer: As always, the above assvice is offered only barring any medical conditions that require special diets, etc.)

  5. I guess I’m just mean. I cook what my husband and I want to eat and they can eat it or starve. They used to pick around at it, but now they’ll eat all but the spiciest foods. Tonight I’m planning a 16 Cajun bean soup with kale. They’ve gotten used to my rules I guess. They certainly have never starved. (They are 4 & 7)

  6. yup. ellyn satter. you have something every meal that the kids are pretty sure to like, whether a side dish or the protein or whatever, bread of some type most every meal, and don’t sweat it. no pressure at all, and neutral comments (‘oh, i see you tried the trout.’ ‘hm, not into the asparagus today? well, thanks for giving it a try.’) no short order cooking, no panhandling between established meal & snack times.my only rule with baby j (2) is he’s not supposed to throw food on the floor. that just gets right up my nose. i don’t care if he doesn’t eat it, but don’t chuck it! grr. and thank goodness he’s a great eater. barbecue, tofu, lima beans, collards, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, chicken, peas, anything not nailed down.
    anyway, try the ‘gateway’ thing…if they like beef & bean burritos, try chicken & bean or beef & rice. if they like pepperoni pizza, try make-your-own pizzette night with pita or something & choice of toppings (that you can have leftovers of as a salad next day), etc. stretches, not jumps.

  7. Um…we’re still working on the eating as a family thing….let alone eating the same food. It’s a pain in the ass. We are not ready to eat dinner (some aren’t even home yet) at 4:30 PM, yet at the same time, if we give a snack to delay Alex’s dinner, then he just won’t eat dinner at all.I HEAR that if they get hungry enough they’ll eat anything….but the ugliness that precedes that point is more than I can bear. Not to mention the middle of the night wakings. I will be reading comments diligently today.
    I do think, however, that we are on the precipice of something. I’m just not sure what.

  8. I remeber a newspaper article talking about the author’s children who were living with him in China, and how they ate cuttlefish in ink and fried beetles etc. So very smug. But an actual lesson to be taken from it was, keep putting it infront of them and they’ll eventually eat it. I also read it can take at least 10 times of introducing a new food to a child before they will eat it. Keep trying! I finally got my son to eat red meat ( I know, I should’ve just let him be healthier and not!) after about a year of polite and not so polite refusal.Getting the kids involved is a great way to get them to eat too.
    Another idea rather than two meals is making meals w/ several parts and putting them together at the table, your kids eat only the parts they like. For example my son loves peas and carrots but not meat or sauce of any kind. Stir fry with noodles or rice is really easy this way, just leave all the components separate and everyone puts what they want on there plate. (meat, peas, carrots, corn, onion, celery) It’s more bowls to clean, and takes marginally longer to cook that way, but he eats what he wants. it’s all healthy and so much more satisfying than his nose turned up at my food.

  9. How do you feed grown up food to someone without all their teeth? I’ve tried cutting it small, etc. I give the 3-yr old chicken and he either chews for 20 minutes or gags. Ditto steak. Ditto pork chops. He’ll eat ham which is soft and chicken that has spent time in the crock pot, but grilled chicken? No way.

  10. We still resort to quesadillas with beans and avocado, or fishsticks a couple of times a week (usually when Mouse is eating separately from us because one parent is late and we’re planning a later, grown-up dinner). We’re also fine with providing one of those basic alternatives if she really doesn’t like what we’re having. But she’s been expanding lately, I’m happy to say, so I’ll just share some of the “step up” foods that seem to work for everybody in our family (YMMV of course):-chili! I’ve made a white bean, turkey version and a red bean, beef version…and a veggie version that have all been approved by Mouse. I just make it not too spicy and provide all the fixins in little bowls–cilantro, avocado, cheese, lime, scallions, etc. She really seems to like decorating it all up and then she eats it. 🙂 I suspect a baked potato bar would be just as successful, but we will have to try that sometime when Mr. South Beach C. is not around.
    -spaghetti with meatballs (but not meat sauce, go figure)
    -salad, sometimes (that’s because her favorite color is red and I told her the red leaves are extra special) –I make simple ones with a very basic lemon-and-olive-oil dressing
    -chicken pot pie, though she won’t touch the cooked celery
    -slightly more “advanced” sausages like bockwurst or chicken apple (we usually have them with steamed artichokes which are fun because of the dipping but that’s kind of a California special)
    -beef stew (not too winey or oniony)
    -roast pork tenderloin (which is super easy) I think she likes it because it’s tender
    It’s still mostly “comfort food” but it’s getting into more interesting comfort food and that feels like a nice overlap for now. Also, she’s way more likely to easily try something that she helped me cook, so I try to involve her as much as a 4 1/2 year old can be…and also give her the job of setting the table. Hope that helps!

  11. My son is little younger but eating really well (not meant as smug – we know we’re lucky). I keep waiting for it to stop. However, so far, we’ve really been able to try lots of things. A couple hits:1. Risotto – we make it all different ways, but as long as it is cheesy and has hunks of chicken in it – he loves it.
    2. If no egg allergy, Omlettes – good method for us to get veggies in. Easy to do after work too.
    3. Homemade pizzas – another great way to get veggies in – I learned from the Sneaky Chef to hide pureed spinich under the tomato sauce and it works like a charm (even on husbands). You don’t even need pizza crusts, for lunch DS often just gets toast with spinich, tomoto sauce, cheese and whatever toppings are leftover in the fridge. I think this would be fun with older kids because they could help make the pizzas.
    4. Veggie Burgers – With or without bun. Our guy is too little to eat a proper burger, so we just lighly pan-fry a veggie burger, melt some cheese, chop it up and it’s great finger food.
    5. Scallops pan fried with lots of garlic. Cool, right?
    6. Pork Schnitzle – in our house we make them basically the same as chicken nuggets, but with pork.
    7. Any kind of chunky soup or stew, or chilli, even mild curry. I don’t mind too much if DS picks through his meal and only eats what he wants (i.e. if we make beef stew he usually only eats the beef and potatos, and won’t touch the veggies).
    If you have a lot of standbys, could you try to mix those up. DS loves cheese, and has it at almost every meal in some capacity, so I usually have about six different varieties in the house – so at least he’s getting a variety tastes. Same with sausages, I try to switch up among pork, beef, and chicken sausages.
    Hope those are helpful. I’m looking for some new ideas too because my problem isn’t that DS won’t eat, but that I’m not a good cook and short on time at the end of the day.

  12. @SarcasitCarrie: I skipped any and all meat until my kids could chew it. We eat meat at almost every dinner, but he’d have the sides and, if he really needed more protein (seldom) we’d give him some kidney beans straight from the can.

  13. I’m with the previous posters who say that kids will get used to a balanced diet if that’s all that’s on offer. “Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right” by Joel Fuhrman (who basically advocates for a vegan diet, though he doesn’t really call it that) makes that point forcefully. Sometimes it may take a couple, three weeks for the kids to get used to it, but they will not starve.Now, in reality, I modify this approach somewhat to take into account my 3yo’s preference for starchy foods. So I cook grains (quinoa, various sorts of rice, farro) for her, even though I’d skip grains if I were just cooking for myself.
    Our dietary situation is made a bit more complicated by the fact that our kid eats lunch and snack provided by the daycare center. Usually not the most inspiring food choices, but not garbage either. That and the exposure to peers who practice saying “icky” all day restrict her willingness to try out new foods, but not too much.

  14. I lie to my kid.He loves noodles, so we call anything white and starchy a noodle. He loves chicken, so all meat is called chicken. He loves carrots, so green beans are “little green carrots.”
    This wouldn’t work for an older kid, but so far, we’ve convinced ours to try a lot of things and after a couple of mis-namings, we call them the right name and he knows he likes them, so it’s not an issue.
    He’s also the weirdest little boy – loves pretty much all veggies and beans and tofu, but fruit?! Won’t even try it.

  15. @Kathy B. and JillInAtlanta- I’m in your camp. My olders (8 and 6), who have historically been very open about new foods, are in ‘lunchroom mode’ now and everything new I put in front of them initially gets an ‘eeewwww!!!’. Which is not allowed, but it happens anyway. So, they have a choice whether to eat or not, but not to order their choice of replacement. Usually after a few exposures to said new food, they acquiesce, and sometimes I even get a ‘YES!! I loooovveee Calamari!!!’, or whatever, out of them eventually. If at first you don’t succeed…

  16. Luckily, I consider my almost 2-yr-old son pretty easy when it comes to eating, but he’s becoming more and more conservative about what he eats for dinner. I feel vaguely guilty that sometimes he doesn’t eat much for supper, but I think those are just times when he’s not very hungry (I hope!). I refuse to be a short-order cook, so I just make something I know my son will like at least twice a week. The rest of the time is for perhaps discovering something new that he will eat–I would have never found out that he likes chicken curry if it were not for the experimentation nights!

  17. I’m an Ellyn Satter devotee, too. We’ve had some periods of fussiness (right now we’re in a good period, thank goodness) but they’ve passed.But I wanted to respond to the other part of your post, Moxie, because my husband travels a lot and often it’s just me and the kid for dinner. It’s hard to get up the motivation to cook a “real” dinner for one adult and one two-year-old. Especially since even though he’s generally a good eater, like most two-year olds he’s somewhat hit or miss on whether he feels like eating on any given day.
    I rely heavily on recipes from Real Simple, because they’re often quick, so you don’t feel like you’ve slaved over a hot stove for little reward, and they feel like “real” dinners. I would just keep making the food you like to eat, make sure there’s something “taste-neutral” as part of it (rice, squash, corn, bread–or heck, cornbread!), and wait it out. I also always keep an Amy’s frozen pizza around for emergency REALLY-don’t-feel-like-cooking nights.

  18. My husband and I were raised in homes where you ate what was put before you or you did not eat at all. Same expectation goes for our kids. I am not a short order cook. Thankfully, our daughter loves a wide range of foods – sashimi anyone? – and we hope the same holds true for our son.We are not going to force them to eat something they truly do not like but they at least need to taste it first.

  19. It is 10 taste exposures to get them to accept it.Getting to tasting it is harder.
    I’m a fan of Ellyn Satter’s books. What’s hard to see from the parent side is the overall flow of the transitions.
    So, my notes on the subject:
    1) about 40% of all kids go hyper picky between 2 and 5 years old. At 5, they start being more curious about novel foods, but aren’t really INTO them until maybe 8-10 years old, and for some kids not until 12-14. And for epeepunk, not until we started dating (mid-20’s). Heh.
    2) Of those pickier eaters, 70% of them have a genetic predisposition to resistance to new foods. You didn’t cause it. That’s just to help reduce the stress factor.
    3) Appetite is lowest after about 4-5 PM for young kids. The appetite range varies by child, but expecting new foods to be interesting when they’re not really feeling so hungry? Not happening.
    4) Eating is a learned behavior over a long span of time. It gets frustrating for us way before it bothers them. Family meal, family meal, family meal. Set the expectations of what is food in our family.
    5) Trying a new food and moving to acceptance happens in stages. The feeding clinic said that this is a staged process, and for some kids, if you jump stages it is worse. First is sight – they have to be used to seeing it. Next is proximity – it takes time to get used to having it near you (this is also a biological safety reaction – don’t get too close to scary-looking or weird-looking stuff!). THEN, get used to the texture. This is the poke-it-with-a-stick phase. After that, it is touch exploration (the ‘I don’t like it’ after ‘tasting’ it with a fingertip). Then it is the tiny nibble (testing for toxicity) step. After that, the exploration for acceptability (the slightly larger nibble with thoughtful look). After that, you may get acceptance. And then even that will go through cycles, and you’ve only got to the first ‘exposure’ for those 10 exposures needed for acceptance for most foods by most kids.
    6) Know Thyself – it’s important to know whether this is a Big Huge Issue for you personally (which makes it harder to observe your kids dispassionately, IMHO cough-me-cough). When we react emotionally it is often to the message, not the food. Granted, what you’re talking here Moxie is just frustration about the process of a) growing up, and b) just making freakin’ dinner ONCE for pity’s sake! That’s just normal life issue, not ‘food issue’.
    So, what we’ve done:
    Background: Mr G had a feeding disorder that was basically really severe neophobia (fear of new foods) based on many traumatic oral experiences. He was food-defensive, and any food that ever made him uncomfortable even slightly was forever written off. He had the red-flag issues: a) long-term weight percentile decline after 1 year or weaning (after weaning in particular, regardless of age), b) fear reaction when exposed to new foods, and c) refusal to taste even when allowed to spit back out. NORMAL feeding kids even picky ones don’t have those three signs. He had all of them. Sigh.
    So, we did the oral retraining for stimulus process (the black-white divide between good and awful was set waaaaaay over at the high side. That is, if it was 100% yummy high-feedback food – salty, sweet, or fatty – it was fine. If it was 98% yummy, it was GROSS, EVIL, DISGUSTING, or even registered as physical pain. No gray zone, and only the highest feedback foods were okay. Pizza, donuts, chocolate, pretzels. Toss in a texture aversion… yeah. Fun.
    After just retraining his mouth, it was two separate processes:
    1) getting him used to new foods by visual, proximity, and tactile stages, then asking him to taste. He was for a while required to taste, because he was so deeply distrusting. He discovered that there were things he liked, and things he didn’t, and that allowed him to expand the possibles. He’s still pretty restricted, though.
    2) Family meal culture. We blew this one with him by doing short-order cooking too much. I was told to have a backup meal for him, but was NOT told (pre-clinic) that it was important for that backup food to be part of the family meal. So, we now make one major meal, unless we’re having a short-order day. We make one protein, one starch, one veg, and that’s what’s available. They can opt out to have oatmeal or something they can make themselves, but we don’t offer that. At first, we had this:
    Me: What do you want on your plate? We’ve got
    Child: I want hotdogs and corn and rice.
    Me: You didn’t let me finish. We have steak and noodles and peas.
    Child: I want hotdogs!
    Me: Sorry, don’t have any made. Would you just like the rice and peas?
    Child: BUT I WANTED HOTDOGS… (pause) Please, can I have hotdogs?
    Me: Thanks for asking nicely, but we aren’t having hotdogs. Steak, rice, peas.
    Child: Just peas. I’ll eat just peas.
    Me: Okay. Peas it is. (cheerily)
    After about an eon (probably six months) they transitioned to:
    Me: What do you want? We’ve got…
    Child: Hotdogs!
    Me: Um, no hotdogs. Salmon, rice, and corn.
    Child: I don’t like salmon. I’ll have rice and corn.
    Me: Okay, rice and corn it is.
    MUCH better. (I just realized that how we phrase it might be part of the problem – we say ‘what do you want’ instead of what shall I serve you… sends them down the wrong path. Huh. Learned something!)
    So, we still have days where we have lovely roast chicken, or slow-cooked lamb shanks, or salmon, and they only want hotdogs. Sometimes we’ll make them the hotdogs anyway, but mainly we ask them to try the food (if it is new or an infrequent item), and if they don’t like that, they can have whatever else we’re having, which is always at least one item that they enjoy – rice noodles, rice, potatoes, peas, corn, cucumbers, carrot sticks, whatever. Mr G declines to join us most days, but he mainly gets his own meal – he eats pizza or cereal or yogurt for dinner, and joins in on the veggies (most days) – but he also has become willing to taste new foods, and just doesn’t like most of them. We discovered (after the feeding clinic) that he’s also a super-taster, with a very strong reaction to flavor. He’s quite brilliant at telling me what is missing from a dish (I’ve asked him to taste to help prepare a dish) but actually eating it is more stimulation than he can cope with. He’s okay, and growing (even if not as well as he might if he ate a more balanced diet), but… we’re okay on that. The rest of the kids go through strong phases where they want nothing that we’re offering, and decide that MAYBE they’ll just eat rice tonight. So they just eat rice.
    I learned from the feeding clinic to average over at least 10 days, not one, not three, and certainly not just one meal. If they don’t get much protein today, that’s okay, they’ll go nuts on it in a week. Some nights all Miss M eats is meat – no starch, no veg.
    Lessee, other strategies…
    1) Make a simple meal with minimum spices, but make a sauce on the side just for the grownups, and let the kids ‘dip’ into it if they want.
    2) Provide a series of shakers or grinders of herb blends at the table, so everyone can do their own. Keep them salt-free unless you don’t mind listening to your kids crunch on all the salt they applied. We use sea-salt grinders a lot – slightly lower sodium, and it makes eating into a process or activity.
    3) Eat with other families when we can – seeing other food cultures can improve their appreciation of their own; The point isn’t ‘see, THEY eat what their parents make’ but ‘hey, wow, look at what other kids eat, how interesting!’ It’s not supposed to be peer pressure, but an additional layer of information and observation they can add to their experience. “Kids eat grownup food” is hard to grasp if they haven’t seen kids eat grownup food. Ever.
    4) Cooking classes. Seriously, they’ll eat stuff for other people they’ll never eat for you. More if they got to make it. Or at least, they’ll try it. There’s a Young Chef’s Academy (franchise) near us, where they do birthday parties, cooking classes, etc. We are now making pizza at home (gluten-free, unspiced sauce, manchego sheep cheese, actually not bad!) because of a birthday party there. Even Mr G tried it, WITH SHEEP CHEESE ON IT. Events like that can change the expectations.
    Mainly, it it long, takes time, and takes assuming that only these things are going to table – and if there’s kid food there, it is an option for the adults (the adults should partake), so that the expectation is these are OUR foods, not ‘us-kids’-foods’ and ‘your foods’. And it will get better in surprising ways when you have given up expecting it. Like, when they’re 8, or 10, or when (like ep) they bring home their girlfriend for dinner, and she lets them try it off her plate.
    My brain hurts – that probably needs edits, but hopefully it carries enough info to help.

  20. i have a problem with a definition, i guess. there’s a giant push to not be a short order cook, and on the whole i agree because leaving kids to choose the menu every meal of every day is not a great idea; however, the idea of having one or two things at every meal that you know the kid will eat is not always that far from preparing two meals. for instance, if my husband and i want a steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans for dinner, then there is nothing there for the tot (4.5) to eat, no matter how hungry she is*.if i want to offer her two gimmes, then i still have to make extra food. the only difference, it seems to me, is in how much of it i make. do i make just enough to put on a plate for her? (which is appropriate amount since my husband and i are not going to eat chicken nuggets or crust of garlic bread in addition to the steak, etc.) or do i make enough for all of us merely to present an illusion that we’re all eating that? i cannot bring myself to waste that food and i am not going to eat like she does. period.
    that said, i try to eat lunch with her. if she’s having peanut butter sandwiches on crackers, i’ll sit with her and have a sandwich of my own choosing – usually lunch meat. even just being exposed to a food at the table but on someone else’s plate counts as exposure, especially for fussy eaters.
    if i can get her to do it, i have her make her sandwiches, with help when needed. she’s always more likely to eat it if she made it, and she’ll often tolerate more peanut butter on the sandwiches if she put it there instead of me. this is one way she pushes her own boundaries.
    *here’s the brick of salt: the tot has feeding issues – texture/tactile/taste hypersensitivity, food anxiety, and a wicked quick gag reflex. we’ve been working with occupational therapists and infant/child mental health clinicians on this. certainly this is not everyone’s situation.

  21. Man, I long for the days when my kids were 2 and I could lie to them or just put it in front of them. At this point they’re past that. And the “go bump your head” method (which is what I was raised with) leaves things very lonely for me and a big waste of food and effort. Because if they’re not going to eat it, I might as well just have a salad.Honestly, I don’t have the mental energy to make something and put it in front of them 10 times. Meals shouldn’t be that much work.

  22. I’ve tried everything, but my two year old still basically eats the same few foods: yogurt (with honey or else), bananas, cheereios, noodles, milk (cow and soy), watered down juice (when he has coughs), grapes, oranges, grilled cheese “samiches”, toast w/ peanut butter. there are a few more things he’ll consider, but vegetables and most proteins are simply not options.I guess I haven’t tried “everything” — in the end we haven’t yet done the whole “eat this or eat nothing at all thing,” because when we try to do this he opts for nothing. And then I worry that he’ll wake me up at 4AM to eat, at which point I’ll be far too tired to play the game all over again.
    But my gut tells me that this is the only way to win this one: a little more school of pain (i.e. don’t give them options?!).

  23. one reason many kids don’t like (read: struggle with) sauce or soup is the mixed texture. as adults, we’ve gotten skilled at drinking the fluid while holding on to the solids, then chewing the solids, but kids are still working on that. for some, it’s a matter of flavor, of course. so if that means adding the sauce after you’ve pulled out the kid’s portion, don’t beat yourself up about doing it. when they’re ready for the flavor of the sauce or the mixed texture, they’ll let you know.with the tot, when she tries/eats/enjoys a challenge food, our OT taught us to have some narrative time after the meal is over. we talk through a list of all of the things she ate and we identify the challenge foods. “i saw you ate some apple chips – those are new – and so are the cheese cracker sandwiches.” then, because the tot often forgets in her anxiety that she has tried a food, we draw pictures of what she ate, and we reference those pictures if we need her to remember that she has eaten this food already and liked it. talking about food outside of mealtime works for us to help build her positive ideas about foods.
    all of the stuff we’re doing, for what it’s worth, is based on kay toomey’s models of learning to eat, which hedra has very briefly summarized in #5 of her list. be aware that for some kids, it takes more than 10 exposures and sometimes he/she will need 10 exposures at each level before accepting it. of course not every child is like this, but my soapbox dead horse is the prevailing idea that all children learn to eat the same way, and it’s not true. moxie’s kids sound – at least from the post – like pretty average kids, but not everyone stopping by here will have average kids.

  24. Our policy is if you don’t like what’s for dinner, you can have a peanut butter sandwich. You must have an honest bite to try it first. But we almost never have to go there – they pick & eat the chick peas out of the “yucky” stew, or eat the rice but not the lentils. We do cook less adventurously than we did before kids, but to some extent that’s exhaustion and need for speed. There are some things my 5 year old consistently doesn’t like, and I respect that to the extent that it’s reasonable – she doesn’t like spinach in anything, so I make a half-spinach half plain lasagna, and leave it out of lentil soup; she will not touch dried fruit or cooked fruit (hates pie!); she doesn’t like thing too garlicky or spicy (have to watch the hummus and Indian food). That’s honest taste that I respect – and she eats things like Kalamata olives, feta cheese, any meat, and tom yum soup with glee, so.Moxie, maybe try a “new foods” night once a week – make is a special event, and they help pick the recipe/ethnic cuisine, or plan the shopping, or help cook, or all of the above? If you pick foods from other countries, do a little background on the place. A weekly night of excitement might help you be less bored and making it an event might get them over some mental hurdles to like new things.

  25. Ok, another try. My sister was a VERY picky eater partly due to medication she was on suppressing her appetite. In late elementary school, instead of listening to her whining at dinner all the time, my parents allowed her to try or not try the food as she liked, but not complain about it. If she didn’t like it she could quietly get up and make herself a PB&J and come back to the table. It worked pretty well. We all ate together and there was much less whining about how disgusting the food was (which it wasn’t). She now eats a pretty normal range of foods.

  26. We are working on this with our 4 year old. Generally, during the week, I make whatever entree I want and she can eat it or not. BUT I do let her pick out which frozen veggie the family is having and our rule is that she can have dessert (often fruit or yogurt) if and only if she eats her veggies. I don’t care if she eats the meat or starch because most days she gets some of both at one meal or another- the veggies are a sticking point for us. Also- I am considerate about some clear hates…for example, I know she hates pasta sauce…so I save some noodles with no sauce for her if I’m doing pasta.@Sarchasticarrie-
    We don’t give our 14 month old much meat, but I always give him a little to try because our pediatrician said that trying different textures such as meat and toast is important at his age.
    We do cut it up in miniscule bites and he spits a lot of it out. The exception is dark meat rotisserie chicken, which he loves and can eat easily because it is slippery. Also very tender meats like beef-chuck-in-the-crock pot (pot roast) or slow-cooked pork butt are good candidates.

  27. @pocha,i fear that 4 o’clock wake up, too. what we do is a modified “this is dinner, that’s it” approach. i make her dinner, which she often refuses. i remind her “this is dinner. that’s it.” then, because we have a late bedtime, about a half an hour before bed, i offer a snack. the snack is always cereal or peanut butter crackers. i limit the quantity of snack so that she can’t quite count on snack if she didn’t like dinner, but it’s enough to offset the hungries and quell the whining.
    i’m probably breaking every rule you can break, but whereas some families are “sleep by any means necessary”, we are “fed by any means necessary”. i’m okay with that because i know we’re also working to get closer to a normal model of eating for the tot.

  28. This is still theoretical for me (eats-like-a-bird 15-month-old, still nursing lots), but…I hear the not a short-order cook thing, I really do. But I worry what would happen if I had to rely on someone else to make dinner every single night, who never made anything that I liked at all. Say, my husband. He and I have polar opposite tastes. Not just BBQ vs. Thai, but I barely eat meat and he barely eats anything else. Yeah, I wouldn’t starve, but I’d be hungry all the time. I’d hate to do the same thing to my child, you know? Most nights we essentially make two different dinners already. Sigh.

  29. My playgroup is in the habit of conducting regular recipe idea exchanges with the goal of increasing the amount of vegetables we can get our almost two year olds to eat. Here’s a list of the ideas from this week. I have quite a bit more but this seemed like enough to post for now. It may not be exactly what Moxie was looking for but might help someone else.Trader Joe’s shopping list:
    Gorgonzola Gnocchi on hand. You just put it in a skillet and warm it. Add either chopped spinach or peas to it.
    Mini quiches
    Spinach Hummus
    Quinoa Bagels
    Alexia all natural Chicken nuggets with Broccoli and Cheese
    Spinach pancakes ( Dr. someone makes them)
    All fruit Jelly
    Quinoa enchiladas:
    Cook quinoa (2cups of water to 1 cup quinoa) for 15 minutes
    Add a bunch of sauteed veggies to it (eg: spinach, carrots, corn, zucchini / Optional: Chicken)
    Add cheese, roll it is tortilla, cover with enchilada sauce and bake for 20 minutes.
    Homemade chicken nuggets with sweet potato and cauliflower:
    Mix flax seed and whole wheat bread crumbs with some spices of choice in one bowl.
    In another, mix sweet potato puree and cauliflower puree, an egg, Parmesan cheese and garlic.
    Roll chicken in wet mixture then in the dry mixture.
    Fry in a pan with olive oil.
    Burger with everything:
    Chop or puree every veggie you can think of.
    Mix it with burger meat, one egg and some whole wheat bread crumbs or flax seed.
    Vegetable medley:
    Ingredients:
    Zucchini
    Carrots
    Spinach
    1 clove of garlic
    Optional: Meat or Tofu
    Directions:
    Blend in the food processor
    Mix with tomato sauce.
    Ways to “hide” vegtables in other foods:
    Grate raw beets into yogurt or oatmeal.
    Spinach and cauliflower puree in meals (eg: eggs to whole wheat mac and cheese)
    Sweet potato or pumpkin puree in french toast and pancakes
    Carrots in oatmeal/raisin muffins and cookies

  30. I’m also a HUGE fan of Ellyn Satter fan (her book’s Child of Mine: Feeding Your Child with Love and Good Sense). Honestly, it’s the one parenting book I’ve read where I felt like my parenting choices actually made things better—most of the time it’s hard for me to tell!How about making a pot of soup that has a few ingredients that they’re likely to eat, like beans or chicken or macaroni? Then you can always freeze yourself portions even if they turn up their noses and it won’t seem like such a huge effort. I have several soups that my kids pick through, and last time my six-year-old suddenly started eating the spinach out of it. She said that she loved the soup so much that it wasn’t worth the effort of trying to avoid the spinach since she could hardly taste it anyway.
    I frequently leave things a bit disassembled so that it’s easier for the kids to pick through. For ex., one of our favorite recipes is a gnocchi/chickpea/collards/cheddar cheese recipe, and I usually leave some chickpeas plain from the can and leave the collards separate. Then they’ll eat everything but the greens.
    If you want, I have a recipe for these little Asian burgers that my kids love.
    On the Cooking Light site, there’s a “Curried Chicken with Mango Relish” that’s extraordinarily easy if you just buy a jar of mango chutney instead. My kids love this so much I have to double the chicken. Then you can have a mixed veggie side dish and put some jarred Indian sauce on top of yours. Actually, this originally came with a cucumber/yogurt/mint salad that we make–the kids just eat some plain cucumbers. And then if you serve it with rice, the kids won’t starve no matter what.

  31. Your comment about them liking the homemade chicken nuggets that they’ve helped with makes me wonder if getting them involved in the cooking process might help them be more interesting in eating it. Obviously not a possibility every day given normal hectic meal schedules, but if you try to have them involved in helping with making the “grown up food” as much as possible (measuring, stirring, etc), or even have them “make” a meal (with lots of parental supervision and help) once in a while, it might help with that whole exposure issue and make them curious enough to try a little bit of the new foods.(Of course I am most definitely NOT the voice of experience here – my kid is still waiting to be introduced to the world outside my body, much less real foods. But just some brainstorming for you to do with as you wish.

  32. absolutely true, amy – thanks to you & hedra for a ‘different from average’ perspective.moxie, i read somewhere (’til we meet again’, romance novel) that in france it’s a tradition to make a wish each time you eat a new-to-you food. i dunno if it’s a ‘real’ tradition, but it might help some kids screw their courage to the sticking place.

  33. The only suggestion I can think of that hasn’t already been said is something my mom used to do when we were little. She cooked dinner almost every night. But occasionally, we would have “silly supper” nights where we could have cereal or a sandwich or something easy that we picked. As an adult, I realize my mom just didn’t want to cook that day. But as a child, it was a fun night to have something we didn’t usually have for dinner.This doesn’t exactly address getting them to eat the dinner, but I think that we were more likely to eat regular dinners and not ask for sandwiches or hot dogs because we know that silly supper nights were the nights for that.

  34. Oh also Moxie, if you’re looking to get the boys more into thinking about food in general, they might get a kick out of Iron Chef. Don’t know to what extent your ex cooks, but if they could use a male model for interest in food and taste, it’s a really fun show and there’s no violence or sex, obviously. 🙂 We’ve let Mouse watch it 3 or 4 times on rainy days and she’s really liked it…and I haven’t put this part into practice mainly because Mouse already likes to cook, but you could totally play a little Iron Chef game with making and tasting dinner.Also, does food come up in any of the books they like? We got onto the chicken pot pie thing because Mouse’s teacher read “Nancy and Plum” to her school class, so maybe that’s another entree into their thinking, so to speak.
    Just another thought, though I know exactly what you mean about the mental energy, especially on weeknights.

  35. My older daughter, almost 9, liked everything as a toddler and didn’t start finding foods objectionable until she was in school and learned that other kids were allowed to reject foods. So, there are things she won’t eat now that she loved as a little kid, like carrots and hummus and cucumbers and on and on. But we just keep serving everything we always served, and even when she groans and complains about what’s being served, more often than not, she eats and asks for seconds. I was so gratified last week when we had guests over and out of the blue, she said, “Mom, thank you for making this wonderful dinner [Italian wedding soup]–it’s delicious!” and my guests said, “hey, when are MY kids going to say that?”Our 4-year-old is following the same pattern. She has only recently begun to express food dislikes, and they are often of foods she happily ate one week before. So in her case, we are chalking it up to “testing us” and more than that, just general reduction in appetite that goes along with being in between growth spurts. She just doesn’t eat at all when she doesn’t want what we’re having.
    I agree with all the suggestions to have at least one usually accepted food on the table so that there is something for them to eat, but in practice I have found it hard to identify the “usually accepted food,” given my kids’ recent decisions to be offended by something they previously liked. Ah well….
    Good luck everyone!

  36. My own mother’s take on it:They won’t starve.
    Her other brilliant discovery? When she didn’t want to share with us she told us we wouldn’t like it because it was grown-up food. Natch, we decided on the spot that we would love it forever! Hence my adoration of fried chicken livers to this very day.

  37. Oh, another idea: my brother and I loved frozen peas (they were like candy!), but not cooked peas. So my hubby and I have tried giving the Pumpkin frozen peas and frozen green beans, and she will eat those when she won’t eat them cooked. So sometimes they will eat things frozen/raw/cooked or cooked in a different way.

  38. I think that you should make at least one meal a week that *you* want to eat and then just plan on leftovers for lunch the next day. Because you sound bored with what they want to eat but too tired to fix a big meal every night that is just ignored. So, fix what you want that one night and offer it and if they don’t want it you can either choose to fix them something super quick – cereal for example – so you can all eat together, or make sure you include in whatever is on the menu that night one thing they will eat so you aren’t eating alone.

  39. I was fairly picky as a kid – my father had two rules about food: ONE – you ate what was on the table. No, can I have a grilled cheese sandwich instead? Or stuff. TWO – you couldn’t get up from the table until you’d taken at least a bite of every dish on the table (dinner tended to be three items each night). My brother would eat a bite each immediately and get up, and not eat if he didn’t feel like it. I would just whine and cry and be a brat until two hours later, when my brother is off playing, my mother is done cleaning up, and I am the only one still at the table. And then I would finally give in, eat a bite, and then get up. My parents couldn’t understand why I would hold out for so long. It eventually ended – I stopped being too picky by the time I was 9. (Now I eat everything)We’ve done the same thing with the kids. The older one would say “I don’t like this.” We reply, “Too bad, you still have to eat three bites.” So far he hasn’t exhibited my stubborness, so whew!
    In terms of food, I like the idea said above, about just substituting things. If the kids like chili, try it with different beans, or veggie, or different meat. I actually like making chili with sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
    Since they like chicken nuggets, how about doing the same with other meats, or even fish? Yesterday, I made nuggets using swordfish. Beef is good, too, although I prefer lamb.
    I also like to make “fries” using eggplant, squash, pumpkin, asparagus, string beans. Dip them into a paste made of chick-pea flour and water, pan fry. It doesn’t soak up as much oil as tempura would.
    If the food looks like something they already like, the kids in my family seem to be willing to try new variations. Especially if they get to help making it.
    Good luck

  40. @Moxie, it isn’t so much ‘make a meal and put it in front of them 10 times’ as ‘make what you like as often as you like, and after 10 exposures they may decide to like it, too’. With caveats that we’re not trying to make them miserable by never having what they like, just don’t give up because the roast chicken went untouched. It went untouched a long time with us, too. But now we’ve got some refinements – Miss M likes the skin, and some dark meat. Miss R likes light meat, Mr B likes food he can handle so the drumsticks are his fave (but he will eat whatever), and Mr G will sometimes eat a drumstick, but prefers fried chicken to roasted.For us, breakfast and lunch are on their preference – short-order, no problem.
    @Tamar, the point is to run the range. So, we have stuff they LOVE more often than we’d have for ourselves, but we make a version we’ll eat, and they’ll eat, both, if possible. If your husband wouldn’t put himself on the downstream end some portion of the time when he’s cooking, then I find I’m not thinking very fondly of him – what, he wouldn’t include you in the planning? YES, include the kids in the planning, accommodate within the schedule, just not every blessed day their favorite thing. Everyone can find a way to incorporate what the others like, or to decline it AS IF IT WERE A REAL OPTION. For example, put out the chicken nuggets in a bowl for serving, and offer them around. The adults can model saying ‘no thank you, I don’t care for any tonight’ or whatever, and they’re still verbally assigned as ‘OUR food’. We DO have hotdog dinners, and (had) chicken nugget dinners, and pizza dinners, and order out for chinese food, because that’s favored by the kids. We also have salmon dinners when we know very well that two of the kids don’t much like salmon. We tend to ask in advance if they want something else added to the meal, but at this point, mostly it is just ‘I’ll have some oatmeal, too’ or, as I said, we *do* allow short-order sometimes, when it is appropriate. “I know you hate this meal, I wanted to have it, I’ve made something else to accommodate your needs, too.” BUT everything else in the meal is then something we all eat. I don’t make mashed potatoes much because the kids don’t eat them. But I find other things to do with potatoes that we all like.
    For now, that means we don’t eat soup, or stew, or things with a lot of sauces and mixed textures. I take the long view – we will get there eventually. I can live without soup once a week, even though I grew up on soup at least twice a week.
    I don’t bother with the hiding, or thinking too hard about it. I don’t have that kind of time. What I do is make what we know goes over most of the time for a couple of the items, but leaning toward the future model (adult or simplified adult version). If I want to introduce something I’ve missed, I add it to the list, but only ONE new item at a time. Like, I added asparagus along with peas. I ate all of it the first time that happened (mm, leftover asparagus). But now we know that Miss R loves asparagus, so now we buy it when she wants it, and we both enjoy it, and yes, there are two veggies, or sometimes NO other veggies, and everyone else eats the starch and protein. My kids eat veggies at lunch, and regularly at snack at school, so I’m not too fretful about dinner.
    Hmm. I guess because I am very flexible on what I eat, myself, I don’t have trouble eating whatever it is. We almost all live within the FODMAP diet for the kids, so we’re cooking from scratch 95% of the time. It keeps the options simple, since we don’t have much time, and overall, it doesn’t seem to be too expensive (it would be harder if we had a smaller family, though – we can easily buy cheaper in bulk when we’re feeding six people). It took me two weeks to get over being pissed off about having to cook from scratch all the time, but then I discovered that it didn’t really take more time, if I knew what I wanted to cook. It was just practice cooking the dishes that was lacking.
    @Amy, we also have some of the same strategies, but I’ve integrated them so far I don’t even notice them anymore (like talking about what they ate that was new – but not at mealtime, and reminding them about other times they had something). Thanks for detailing the other activities, and the fact that the 10-instance thing can be for each layer in the process – certainly they expected it to be a minimum of two weeks for each stage with Mr G, and that was with daily exposures to the same thing.
    Oh, and don’t try hiding foods with a super-taster. Seriously. Mr G can taste the burnt in the crust of pale white bread, he can identify gradations of salt, bitter, sour, etc. that I can only recognize in theory. He can taste way more than I ever could. And smell, too. He’d make a good perfumer.

  41. Oh, and @pocha, get the books recommended – they’ll help you formulate an appropriate plan, I suspect. Your kid is exactly spot-on typical. And even with 12 foods (‘typical picky’), they almost never lose out on any of the major nutrients, and most micro-nutrients. I was absolutely shocked that Mr G, in full food-defensive mode, was short only on vitamin A, and only a little short at that. HOW? I don’t know. But every time I start to worry that his diet just looks *wrong*, I run it through the My Pyramid Tracker (the fda.gov site), and sure enough, he’s usually a smidge low on vitamin A, and on fiber, but he’s okay on everything else. In fact, usually near perfect – despite the bizarre unbalanced appearance of his diet.

  42. I just lost part of a comment, so apologies if this is a repeat….Moxie, my boys are similar ages to yours (7 and 5) and I feel your pain. I also work outside the home so, like you, dinner planning can’t be too complicated. Here are a couple things we’ve tried:
    I quantified how often I am willing to serve the “favorites”. For me it’s about once a week for each thing (at either lunch or dinner). I wish I could get away with doing it less often than that, but there it is. But committing to a certain frequency, and planning ahead, helps me avoid using the favorites as fall-back dinners when I’m tired and don’t want meal-time battles. I’m also more careful about watching the school hot-lunch menu now too, since I’d rather pack a cold lunch than “lose” my pizza night for the week to a pizza hot lunch.
    I also had the boys make lists of their favorite fruits and vegetables (things they have committed to eating when served without complaint). I make sure to serve these when the main dish is not as much to their liking. I also serve other (supposedly yucky) fruits and vegetables on nights when we have the main dish kid-favorites so that they have the opportunity to try some other things and so I don’t get sick of carrots and apples. With this system, there’s always something they will eat without complaint and there’s some semblance of a rotation of foods.
    I am also trying to commit to one new recipe each month in the hopes of adding to the boys’ repertoire of favorites. I have had some luck with this and actually stumbled onto a veggie casserole recipe that they like! Getting recipe ideas from other moms with similar aged kids is a good place to start with this.
    My neighbor with teenagers says her kids are just now getting more flexible with food so I think part of my frustration is that I had expected their tastes to broaden after the toddler years and that was a bit unrealistic. Good luck, and let us know if you try anything new and meet with some success!

  43. Well, getting them to branch out is a good thing. My kids have been very good eaters, willing to try, willing to eat the family meal. This sounds obnoxious, but on the nights I make a meal really well (not every night for sure), everyone eats more.General ideas–casseroles of things they like generally put together in new ways. Or taking apart meals so you don’t notice so much that they’re eating it differently–fajitas or taco bar?
    And now I am going to be shocking and admit I make multiple meals lots of night. But it is not the kids’ faults, it is the grown-ups’. My parents live with us and eat with us every night. My dad is an old school meat and potatoes guy. My parents don’t like ethnic–growing up, spaghetti was still ethnic food at my house–although I have slowly added in more foods that we have stir fry and spaghetti and even fajitas fairly often. So I can say that repeated offerings will get results, slowly.
    My husband made dinner difficult by going on a low carb diet and lost 80 pounds 4 year ago. He isn’t strict on the carbs anymore, but has kept the weight mostly off and is pickier at eating than before. A year or so ago he decided to give up eating mammals. I generally agree on that on because I like red meat infrequently and I am not a fan of pork, ham or veal. But the kids and my parents have not given up mammals and I can’t really see how or why I would make them.
    I cook because I like to cook. My mom doesn’t like to cook, but does in a pinch. My dad doesn’t cook–but he is tired of chicken, which I will admit we eat a lot of. And my husband gets home too late to cook.
    It is almost impossible to make one meal that pleases everyone. I have settled for making shared side dishes and 2 meats, most nights. Or keeping the beef to the side and making tofu as well. On the bright side, we (the 5 of us, plus the sleeping infant, plus my husband as often as he makes it home around dinner time) eat together every night. We eat at one table, with no TV. We eat different things and that’s usually OK. And I feel like a million bucks when I happen to hit the trifecta of everyone home, eating 1 meal, and no whining.

  44. Wow, lots of good advice, and it’s nice to see that I’m not alone in the “this is what’s for dinner, eat it, or go hungry” camp. My son has had eating issues since he started eating food (I think he would still be nursing to the exclusion of all other food, if he could…). I think I need to go check out the author mentioned up thread.

  45. I can’t speak to medical conditions, but whatever you do, don’t let this turn into World War Three and don’t cave in, either.The biggest thing is to make sure you put foods YOU like into rotation. Sure, still have “burrito night,” but make sure they understand that YOU have a say in what goes on the table as well (but you might make smaller portions for them and be prepared for a big breakfast in the morning).
    I know this is infuriating, especially if you’re traveling or even at a friend’s house but it’s important to hold your ground with some flexibility.
    I’m also reluctant to allow older kids to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich or something else to their liking. It can create big problems later in life. I have a friend who’s over 40 and still only eats hot dogs and turkey sandwiches. She ain’t exactly someone you invite to a dinner party, ya know?
    Would she have turned out this way regardless of her childhood eating habits? Perhaps, but by allowing her to fix whatever she wanted set her up for some real problems later in life.
    Food is such a huge part of our culture that by not “training” kids to eat different foods, you’re setting them up for some social problems that are potentially huge.

  46. I can’t speak to medical conditions, but whatever you do, don’t let this turn into World War Three and don’t cave in, either.The biggest thing is to make sure you put foods YOU like into rotation. Sure, still have “burrito night,” but make sure they understand that YOU have a say in what goes on the table as well (but you might make smaller portions for them and be prepared for a big breakfast in the morning).
    I know this is infuriating, especially if you’re traveling or even at a friend’s house but it’s important to hold your ground with some flexibility.
    I’m also reluctant to allow older kids to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich or something else to their liking. It can create big problems later in life. I have a friend who’s over 40 and still only eats hot dogs and turkey sandwiches. She ain’t exactly someone you invite to a dinner party, ya know?
    Would she have turned out this way regardless of her childhood eating habits? Perhaps, but by allowing her to fix whatever she wanted set her up for some real problems later in life.
    Food is such a huge part of our culture that by not “training” kids to eat different foods, you’re setting them up for some social problems that are potentially huge.

  47. I can’t speak to medical conditions, but whatever you do, don’t let this turn into World War Three and don’t cave in, either.The biggest thing is to make sure you put foods YOU like into rotation. Sure, still have “burrito night,” but make sure they understand that YOU have a say in what goes on the table as well (but you might make smaller portions for them and be prepared for a big breakfast in the morning).
    I know this is infuriating, especially if you’re traveling or even at a friend’s house but it’s important to hold your ground with some flexibility.
    I’m also reluctant to allow older kids to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich or something else to their liking. It can create big problems later in life. I have a friend who’s over 40 and still only eats hot dogs and turkey sandwiches. She ain’t exactly someone you invite to a dinner party, ya know?
    Would she have turned out this way regardless of her childhood eating habits? Perhaps, but by allowing her to fix whatever she wanted set her up for some real problems later in life.
    Food is such a huge part of our culture that by not “training” kids to eat different foods, you’re setting them up for some social problems that are potentially huge.

  48. Wow. I guess I’m glad the toddler is an eater.We’ve always just made whatever we wanted and let him choose whether to eat it (or what parts to eat). We don’t offer alternatives at the table, but if he doesn’t eat much and is hungry later, we let him have a string cheese or something.
    Surprisingly, he seems just as fond of slow-cooked Moroccan chicken as he is of Mac-and-cheese.
    My favorite is when he asks for a taste of something spicy, like my hot and sweet mustard, and then says “OW! … hugs!… more owie sauce, please.” Little freakin’ masochist, I guess.

  49. Oh, picky eaters are so annoying sometimes! I totally get where you’re coming from. I can’t promise all of this will work, but here’s what I try. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.1. Try involving them in the process. It probably won’t work for a while, but does expose them to it and invests them a little more in it.
    2. Fix one dinner that you would also enjoy, and if they don’t like it, find something they can fix *themselves* if they’ve tried what you fixed and don’t like it (pb&j? cheese rolled in tortilla? zap some protein+ pasta in the microwave?). We made a rule that our oldest (queen whiner in chief) cannot whine and whimper and screech “I hate that”, but she can ask for a small portion, try it. She knows if she doesn’t like it, she is welcome to make herself a PB and J sandwhich. She’s recently come a loooong way (the other day I made homemade tuna noodle casserole, and she accepted some and just got busy icking out the onions and celery, ate the rest). I’ll take it if it means she’s eating without complaining. My 5yo is a whole different story, but he LOVES loves this frozen all natural spinach mozzerella raviolio and will eat it thrice daily if I left him (which I don’t) but b/c all it involves is boiling water and it’s actually pretty good for him, I let him eat it if I know I”m making something he won’t like.
    3. If you are (you might not be) try not to make them eating about how it makes you feel that they won’t. My husband always scolds our kids and says “THat is so rude! Your mother worked hard on this dinner.” I always respond with “I make food that you need to be healthy and strong. This isn’t about me, it’s about learning to nourish your own body…you need protein and vitamins and starch and fiber.” I told him not to make it about me, and he has stopped, unless they’re really bad, because he’s right, it IS rude to screech at a meal I’ve worked hard on.
    4. Finally, I’d suggest mixing up dinner a bit; make ham and cheese sandwhiches for breakfast one day, and then have pancakes and bacon for dinner. My kids are hungrier in the morning and more willing to try stuff; and pancakes, fruit salad, and bacon is a great, fast dinner option sometimes. Still a real meal, and you’ll all eat happily together at dinner and it’s good to set that pattern in place.
    Good luck! And share what works, as I struggle with this too, often.

  50. Ok, now granted my kids are freakish and eat just about anything. Seriously, my 2.5 year old will steal asparagus off our plates if he thinks he didn’t get a big enough portion.My kids looove shepherd’s pie. Good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.
    And stir fry is actually another big hit in our house. It works great because you can put whatever you want in the pan and we serve ours over rice noodles which the kids love.
    Also you can stick all sorts of healthy things in quesadillas.
    I also do the “this is dinner, I’m not a short-order cook” tactic. However, my kids are allowed to have yogurt in lieu of dinner if they prefer.

  51. MM’s sure-fire will definitely eat list:Baked Ziti/shells/spaghetti with meat sauce (I stir ricotta into the tomato sauce and he’s none the wiser)
    Most veggies, especially if they come with a cheese dipping sauce.
    Most fruits, especially if they come with a caramel dipping sauce.
    Breakfast for dinner.
    Anything that starts with “Make-your-own”. As in “loaded baked potato”
    Almost anything served over noodles.
    Almost anything starting with the word, “Cheesey”. So risotto is called “cheesey rice” at our house.

  52. Wow, I love all the responses. Some really great ideas that I never thought of. Thanks everyone!My son has developed a wheat and gluten allergy so I have had to be creative new foods. My new ‘creation’ is to make a stirfry (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and small chunks of chicken) and then add vegitable broth – to cover all the veggies/chicken – and chopped up potatoes and let simmer for 20 minutes so that the potatoes cook. I then add corn starch to thicken it right up. Put in a cassarol dish, add cheese on top and broil for a few minutes. I serve it over rice. My 2 year old LOVES it. To be honest, it looks pretty awful, but it’s goopy and delicious.
    Anyway, that’s my only thing I make outside of the realm of grilled cheese sandwiches and shepherds pie!

  53. Reading the comments has been really helpful. Thank you – and Hedra, your breakdown of the phases of introducing new foods was enlightening and actually something that has happened at our house except I was not sure what it was until you outlined it so clearly.I used to love to cook, now I dread mealtime. DREAD it. The whole “is he going to eat/isn’t he” question looms large, though I do not make a big deal out of whether he wants to eat or not. It’s his body, he gets to decide what goes into it. I know he’s not starving himself…it’s not about nutrition worries for me at all, but rather my husband and I used to enjoy our meals and now it’s just a chore we have to get through (great for my weight, not great for the relationship). I mentioned before we struggle with the family meal still – it’s two bites and he wants to be done and then he wants one of us to play with him or it’s a screaming fit for the remainder of the mealtime. Which we silently endure with lots of calm talk about how we have to feed our bodies too blah blah blah, because we won’t give into screaming as a negotiating tactic…..but for obvious reasons it makes enjoying a meal and conversation next to impossible. Dontcha just LOVE 3?????
    BTW, eating out is entirely different and if we could afford it and if it were healthy we’d eat out for every single meal. But sadly, right now it’s us at the table and our son screaming/whining/cajoling from the landing of the stairs for SOMEONE to PLEASE come and play trains with him….poor neglected child………

  54. sigh. okay I am going to come right out and say it: I am a short order cook. and. we use tv/books to get 2.5yr old to eat. and it sucks but he is underweight and has always had eating issues and I got tired of fighting and tired of him getting up all night long because he was hungry. Now he will have a nice size serving at every meal, he is finally putting on weight, mostly sleeps through the night and it just works for us. sorry, I know Moxie was looking for advice and this isnt much in the form of advice but if anyone else is reading who is in our situation I wanted to say, “you are not alone”.

  55. I’m a short order cook, too, and I don’t have a problem with it, and neither should anyone else. I cook plenty of exotic things to downright basic things, and I just found that my child changes weekly. One week he wants broccoli for breakfast. OK. I actually like that he wants THAT, so I make it. What’s wrong with that?I offer a variety of things, and he eats.
    I also grew up in a “take it or leave it” dinner household, and I remember choosing not to eat and going to bed hungry. That’s not how I want to do things with my child.

  56. I have a roster of meals I know the 2 year old loves and we use TV/books as distractions and I offer a bedtime snack if he didn’t eat much dinner and I don’t worry about any of this at all because I truly care more about nutrition than manners at his age and I’m so thrilled he ends up eating a lot of good, nutritious food. I always think about Hedra writing ages ago that we should think of the adults we are raising and I just can’t imagine that he won’t be able to outgrow these meal times distractions eventually. SO, I’m happy and he’s happy. Last, I’d just say, in most of the world kids eat the same thing day in and day out so I’m not sure why we stress so much about our kids having a limited palate. As long as it’s healthy, who cares if they’re not into variety?

  57. What do they eat at their dad’s house? Do you think it could be a reaction to their new living situation, where they are relying on kiddie comfort food while they adjust? I know my son, usually a pretty good eater, always takes a bit of time to get back on track after a trip, especially a visit with the grandparents.I too am a fan of eat it or don’t, but don’t complain about it. And I try to make a couple dinners a week that I know he’ll like.

  58. I started a program at my school (well, it’s just me, so maybe it’s not a PROGRAM…) called Food of The Month for our 6th graders. The idea is to introduce them to a new food each month that they probably have never heard of and almost certainly never eaten. (Keeping in mind that they live in a 98% white community in rural New Hampshire.) We discuss something semi-meaningful about the food – the cultural background or the food science behind it – then they try the food. It is a “Challenge By Choice” activity; nobody has to try anything or even pretend that they like it. The only rule is that they can’t talk each other out of liking it by making gagging noises or snotty comments.The upshot of it is that after several months, most of the kids are more willing to try new foods. I think it has to do with realizing that new doesn’t mean scary.
    With that said, the most popular of our Food of The Month foods:
    Plantain chips, kumquats, mangos, Turkish Delight, edamame, jackfruit, leechees, cheese fondue, matzo balls, vegetarian sushi, kheer and a variety of pickles.
    Keeping in mind that the some of these were wicked popular – Turkish Delight and Matzo Balls – and others were not – (surprisingly) Kheer. The idea is that they get in the habit of trying new things.
    Don’t know if this is helpful in terms of you at home. (If you want, I’d be happy to provide you with PowerPoints…)

  59. Wow – great topic! I am in the “Cook your meals, offer them. Don’t offer alternatives. Either they’ll eat or they won’t. Eventually they will.” camp. Although I do try to make sure we are having at least one item she has liked in the past (but even that is no guarentee she won’t turn up her nose … she is 6 and her job is to be contrarian, I think) and we require “adventure bites” – she has to have a genuine taste of everything on her plate to get more of whatever it is she likes that meal. Some standards in our rotation are:1. Fajatas: bell pepper & onion sauteed with fajita seasoning & shrimp or chicken … served with tortillas, beans, cheese, salsa, guac – assemble your own at the table (she likes the sense of control with make-your-own meals)
    2. Fritatta: she likes smoked salmon, so I do that with peas, or sausage with broccoli; served with bread and salad
    3. Pasta e fagioli: easy to make with canned tomatoes, canned beans, little elbows or shells; serve with salad & bread
    4. Veggie or Boca Burgers: serve with coleslaw
    5. Simmer sauce from trader jo (cacciatore is good, and the korma) with shrimp or chicken and veggies; serve over rice, pasta or polenta
    6. Greek salad with grilled chicken breast, hommos and pita.
    7. Nicoise Salad with grilled tuna, potatoes, asparagus or green breans, olives …
    8. Pizza or calzone with salad
    Notice the frequency of “served with bread”? she can fill her tummy with bread and butter if she has had decent adventure bites of everything else. And our salads always have carrots and cherry toms and bell pepper because she will always eat those. I frankly tell her that kids’ taste buds are still growing so they change, so even if she tasted something last week and didn’t like it, she needs to taste it again to see if her taste buds have a different reaction.

  60. You could start putting new stuff in (like tomatoes in the beans or get wacky sausages) and ease them into it, or cut out the standbys for a few weeks until they’re not the normal food anymore. They’ll get hungry!Way easier said than done. Or let them add ketchup to everything new.

  61. I’m late to the party, and don’t have a lot of original ideas. However, I was a picky eater growing up and retain some food dislikes that I still won’t mess with (beans and peas). I blogged on this a while back,and am going to be gauche enough to link to it, because it might help someone who is reading all these “no short order cook” comments and thinking “my kid would actually starve rather than eat some things”. I was that kind of picky eater when I was a kid. So when Pumpkin started showing signs of being a picky eater, I read the Ellyn Sater book, but also thought hard about what I know about being a picky eater, from first hand experience.
    Anyway, here’s the post:
    http://wandsci.blogspot.com/2008/11/confessions-of-picky-eater.html
    We’ve succeeded in introducing quite a few new foods with my plan, but it takes patience.
    The only thing I’ll add to that post is that we allow slightly more frequent snacks than some, because she is such a picky eater and she is on the small size of normal.

  62. Check out this blog: http://greatbigvegchallenge.blogspot.comAs you’ll see in the sidebar, they’ve also now written a cookbook (but there are lots of recipes on the blog for each veggie).
    Maybe if the kids have the power of rating the veggies (or fruit or meat or whatever), they’ll at least try a bunch of stuff and in the process may expand their repertoire.
    Can’t wait to do the Vegetable Challenge with my guy (I love vegetables). I figure DH will do the Meat Challenge (he’s more adventurous that way than I am).
    DH and I looooove to cook (& eat), so we’re hoping our little guy will love to eat different things. We’ll have to see – he’s only 6 mos, and we’re going to start rice cereal in 2 days!
    I was a picky eater when I was a kid (much less so now), and my Mum said to me the other day that she wished she’d stuck to her guns more with me, instead of giving in, and not re-introducing foods I didn’t take to quickly. (Granted, easier to say this 35+ years later when you’re not in the thick of it).
    As for the number of times you may need to introduce something, I think I read it was closer to 17 than to 10 (not to be demoralizing). But as another poster said, it’s more like making what your going to make and it may take many exposures (perhaps in different forms) for the kid to try / like it.

  63. I read on someone’s blog about 30 meals in 30 days, to combat the exact situation you described. She made it an adventure for the family – for 30 days they were going to eat something different every day. She tried to make each meal contain SOMETHING that she knew her kids would eat, but beyond that there were a lot of new foods, and the rule was you had to try one bite. At the end of the month I think she’d added 6 or 7 new dishes to her family’s favorites, so I think that’s a huge success. It’s an ambitious plan, but I hope to try it soon!

  64. Coming back to say something more relevant to Moxie’s original post. If you are the parent of a picky eater, beware of trying to reason with your child to get him/her to eat something new. My parents tried this on me, and I stopped eating pizza for several years because they had told me the red sauce I wouldn’t eat on my spaghetti was the same as the pizza sauce!And I once threw up at the table when forced to eat lettuce. I still don’t like lettuce. It tickles the back of my throat. I love spinach though. Go figure.

  65. I’m a meanie too. My mantra? I chose what we eat, DD chooses how much she’ll eat.I don’t make alternative dinners. Period. I don’t take requests. Period. My three-year-old doesn’t ask for either because she doesn’t know it’s an option.
    DD is pretty good about eating a variety of things, including vegies. Some things I’ve noticed that help:
    * We eat dinner together as a family, sitting at the table, as much as possible.
    * We have a family tradition of saying “Good cook, Mommy!” (or the name of whoever cooked) if you like dinner. It’s something my grandfather used to say to my grandmother.
    * I let DD cook with me as much as possible. She buys in more if she helped cook it. And she loves it when someone at during dinner says, “good cook DD!”
    * We don’t make disparaging comments about what’s offered. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat it. But don’t ruin everyone else’s meal by bad-mouthing it.
    * We don’t cajole or bribe. We just praise DD for trying something or for “doing a good job eating dinner” and move on. Otherwise it becomes a battle of wills.
    * DD is very consistent about disliking spicy food, so I make milder versions of most things and let family members add more spice at the table.
    * I let DD chose from two or three options for breakfast and lunch, where it’s just the two of us eating and it’s simple to make separate things. She gets a little control that way. Like most kids, she likes repetition, so this is a way she can play out her desire for the same things over and over and over again without driving me crazy.
    * I stopped asking if DD would like X with the meal. She’s more likely to eat it if I just put it in front of her or put it on my plate without comment.
    * We don’t have dessert very often. It always starts a battle of wills. (She wants dessert but not dinner. We want her to eat something nutritious. We set a number of bites to eat before dessert. She wants a molecule to constitute a bite, etc. It always ends in tears.)
    * I will offer a bedtime snack (of “grow food”– cheese, yogurt, fruit, vegies, etc.) if she complains that she’s hungry before bedtime. No crackers or anything else she adores, though.
    * I remind her during dinner that she needs to listen to her stomach, and that this is the last meal before breakfast.
    * I try out new recipes a lot, but mix in recipes from parents’ magazines (Wondertime, Parenting), kids cookbooks, as well as Cooking Light.
    * DD’s taste varies. Last week’s favorite is this week’s “that’s yucky!” I figure whatever it is will come back around on the hit parade and just keep making it.
    Some does she chows down, some days she lives on air. I feel bad about the air days, but she doesn’t seem to be starving.
    The irony? I was an incredibly picky child, and my mother made an egg for my dinner multiple times a week. I remember visiting my grandparents’ home and refusing to eat dinner. My grandparents thought I should be forced to eat. My mom used to say to my grandparents, “she won’t starve herself.” Still true.
    Moxie, I feel for you. My husband worked out of state for a year starting when DD was one-year-old. I hated cooking just for myself and DD, and made pretty simple stuff that year. It’s rotten to spend the time and energy and then have everyone turn up their collective noses. I don’t have much advice on that one, except maybe getting the kids more involved in picking recipes and cooking.

  66. I was so smug when P was 2 and would eat anything – ANYTHING. Now that she’s 5 I ask her what she likes for supper and she can’t come up with anything other than mac and cheese. She doesn’t like foods that most kids like: pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti for crying out loud. A lot of that I’m happy about because they’re not the healthiest of foods but it makes things complicated.Because it’s just the two of us, the whole ‘this is dinner, eat it or not’ thing is hard to put into practice. It leads to a lot of waste (or endless leftovers of a meal she didn’t like in the first place) if she won’t eat it, and the balance of power feels icky to me. If there was even one more appetite in the mix, it would feel less deliberately mean to make stuff she doesn’t like and that I do.
    However, I am driven at least a little crazy by “I HATE … ” whatever it is, that she’s either never had or liked 2 days ago. And thanks to her father’s inability to connect with her by any means other than feeding her sugar (and you may think I’m kidding, but I’m really not), she has been exposed to a lot of stuff I would never have countenanced and with very few limits. Case in point: he took her to breakfast this very morning and she had M & M pancakes followed by an ice cream cone. Argh!
    She knows of course that my rules are different and she doesn’t spend that much time with him, but still, the seeds are planted… As a result we have the Dessert Debate at nearly every meal: how many bites of what does she have to eat to get dessert. I hate it, but I don’t know how to get out of it.
    I can’t battle on every front at once, but I like a lot of these suggestions and I am going to try and remember to implement some of them.

  67. What about crockpotting? I think I learned about the Year Of Crockpotting blog here — she has the “verdict” section, and says what the adults thought of the meals as well as the kids. I have more time after everyone is in bed in the evening to throw things together in the slow cooker, pop it in the fridge, and start it in the morning, coming home to a nice warm meal without evening effort. My small one is too young for dinner to be too much of an issue yet, but we’re trying to do the family meal and the stress of meal prep in the evening would certainly prevent it from happening.

  68. we’re a vegetarian home so all we eat is veggies and fruits. we also have a lot of dairy *milk and cheese*.my son is 2 and he eats pretty much most veggies we offer him * carrot brocolli and beans provided they are cut up the right size.
    we eat lentils mixed with rice that he loves and veggies.
    he picks out and eats the veg and noodles himself but we spoon feed him the rice or else he makes a big mess.

  69. Have not read all the comments but saw at least one that is of my general philosophy. Cook it and eventually they will eat it. My success story: I’ve got a great pork chop and rice recipe that is super easy. I started serving it to the kids as toddlers and they usually just pushed it around on their plates. But in the past year they’ve really warmed up to it–to the extent that each of the older ones (6 and 8) will eat an entire chop to themselves (I think even #3 would eat an entire chop given the opportunity). Plus, the rice is delicious and while they are busy eating all that pork and rice they scarf whatever veg I’ve served as well.I realize getting them to like ONE adult meal in 6+ years hardly makes the case… but it has been a nice jumping off point for convincing them to try other things.
    Also, I do try at least once or twice a week to just do a “kids’ meal”. Because if it isn’t pork chops and rice or spaghetti and meatballs, pretty much only the adults are *really* eating it… and that gets VERY frustrating to do night after night!

  70. OK I just want to throw in a WHAT? I have YEARS ahead of me on the dinner time battles? I was hoping by the time my daughter reached the ages of Moxie’s boys, she’d be eating normal food like a pro. Ugh.

  71. Have now perused more comments and want to add something about being “picky”.I have been blessed with 3 pretty good eaters. Yes, they’d prefer mac-n-cheese to pasta primavera, but I could do roasted chicken, broccoli and the mac-n-cheese as a side and everyone would be happy and clean their plate. I do, however, require that the older children take several bites (usually 3) of the things on their plate they don’t like (I don’t bother with the toddler as he’s still in the irrational stage when it comes to being required to do anything!). We’ve only had one real stand-off… over peas. #2 absolutely refused one night and ending up sitting at the table by herself crying for quite some time. She did finally choke them down and will now tell you that she does indeed like peas… as long as they haven’t gotten cold. 😉
    But, like babies and sleeping, I think a lot of this has to do with the personality of the child. My best friend’s son was a picky eater and any attempts to make him even taste certain staples ended in lots of self-induced retching and vomiting and general misery for all involved. She kept trying new things, however, and discovered he would tolerate carrot sticks, apples, and PB&J fairly consistently. So… that’s what he ate for about 2 years straight.
    My point is that there is no magic bullet. There is no new-fangled approach that is going to make your picky eater suddenly not picky. Like the poor sleepers, you just have to ride it out. My best friend’s little boy is 9 now… and while he’s still pickier than most kids I know, his repertoire has greatly expanded.

  72. I don’t really have anything but commiseration, Moxie. I try to be zen about the food issues – I just make what my husband and I like and the kids can take it or leave it – but sometimes it gets overwhelmingly discouraging. On the night when he works late and it’s just the kids and me, we have pancakes and sausages. I just don’t have to gumption to make a complicated meal when I’m the only one who will eat it (probably).I let my kids pick what they want for breakfast (usually frozen waffles or peanut butter toast) and lunch (usually a sandwich or chicken nuggets with fruit and cheese/yogurt) and then I get to be in charge of dinner. Sometimes they eat and sometimes they don’t and if I kept track I bet they go days without veggies. We enforce a “four bites because you’re four!” rule, but if that turns into a battle, I don’t think I have the heart to follow through. Right now they eat 4 bites willingly.
    My sister’s kids are 8 and older and she says they started being more willing to eat new things around 10 or so and she even has a son that loves salad and broccoli. I’m holding out hope that if I continue to offer the variety of foods that are normal for our family, one day they will try them and like them.

  73. Moxie – I’ve been composing a question to you in my head for the past week about food issues. So glad you’ve addressed this. I really hope that I’m not posting too late and that this topic continues over the weekend (at least).Before I go on, let me at least say something about Moxie’s original question:
    1) you have my sympathies
    2) I have no solutions
    3) I think what other people have said is useful(especially about ‘make your own’ meals: baked potatoes with toppings, tacos, build your own amazing sandwich, mild curry with lots of toppings etc…).
    4)Frustration is so normal. I think mothers the world over derive a deep pleasure from seeing their chidren eat. Remaining zen is hard but I think it’s the ideal way to go.
    After reading good reviews here in the past of Ellen Satter’s book ‘Child of Mine’, I ordered it about a month ago. Overall, I think it is very good.
    However, I have lots of questions about what I’ve read. One is:
    Lots of people seem to do a ‘you must try 1/2/3 or 4 bites rule.’ Satter seems to be against this. Any thoughts? My parents had a “You must have a ‘no thank you helping’ of anything you don’t like” rule. Frankly, I hardly remember this ever being used…my parents were lucky (or did something ‘right’?) and none of the 4 of us were picky eaters. Also, we weren’t supposed to say “I don’t like it.” We had to say, “It’s not my favourite” …this makes us laugh today as adults and is a bit of a family joke.
    AmyinTexas made a very good point. Just as with sleep, there are different children, different families, different approaches and the experts don’t necessarily know what is best for your family. I should apply this thinking to food issues. I have a bit of an urge to follow “the expert” Ellen Satter just because I so desperately don’t want my son to be a picky eater.
    Our boy, by the way, is 20 months old. I’d say he is a typical toddler when it comes to food. Sometimes only eats 1 decent sized, balanced meal a day. Seems to live on thin air. LOVES cucumbers, peas, broccoli, and apples for weeks on end and then goes on a carb fest and only wants bread, rice, cereal, and potatoes for a while. Rarely eats meat but we’ve recently had some success with fish.
    I’m not really worried about him. As I say, I think he is pretty normal. However, I REALLY want to be a smart parent in this area because I want to do anything I can to avoid having a picky eater. Maybe there’s not much I can do and it is somewhat a matter of luck.
    One other thing: I totally see the value of family meals but in reality we are pretty poor about all sitting down together. Maybe a New Year’s resolution I should make?
    This is rambling, I know. Hedra said recently that she likes reading other long comments so maybe she’ll read this blathering even if no one else does!
    Thanks for raising the topic, Moxie. Thanks everyone for all the insightful posts.

  74. My 4 year odl has become extrememely picky of late and I’m hoping it’s just part of the developmental spurt ramp up that I’m certain he is going thru (stuttering, not wanting to nap, unusually long tantrums being the other symptoms).At the moment my 2 year old is the better eater and that is really saying something ( she was such a crap eater till 18 months)
    My kids get only cooked meals. DD (23.5 months) wouldn’t know what a sandwich was unless it hit her in the head. DS will get the occasional sandwich on kindergarten outings, but never at home. I find it simpler to cook a plate of pasta or risotto than throw together a sanga. And that is basically what my son eats: pasta, in various forms, and risotto ditto. Plus steaks: chicken, beef, pork, turkey.He’s not fussed as long as it is pan fried and doesn’t have any sauce or anything. But offer him a soup (which daughter LURVES) and he has a meltdown and will prefer to eat nothing even if he’s hungry.
    Occasionally he will eat a vegetable soup disguised as risotto so he does get his vegetables, but if it’s liquid he won’t touch it with a barge pole.
    But hey, I know exactly how you feel. The other day I prepared a wonderful mashed potato, carrot and pumpkin with delicious Italian sausages (sausages, he usually eats BTW) and there was total refusal. Could have wrung his neck!!

  75. @Moxie: It sounds like the clinch point in this one is not necessarily just the food, but the fact that you probably long to have some FUN time with your kids after a long day of work/running around. I can imagine that it’s just downright disapponting to get home, wanting to look forward to the time you have with your kids, but knowing that you are either going to be whined at (if you cook something that you can enjoy) or have to eat something boring for the umpteenth time. So on to some suggestions.Do your kids eat more experimentally at restaurants/ethnic restaurants? Maybe you could see if you can find recipes that are similar to the things they will eat outside of the house. Another idea: go through the cookbooks with them and see if they can find things that they think look interesting. Maybe even have them make suggestions on how they would (slightly) change the recipe so that they would like it more (i.e. if the recipe calls for green beans and they like broccoli better). I also really liked the idea of exploring other cultures FIRST – i.e. reading up on where the country is/what the climate is/traditions, etc.) – and THEN trying out a couple of not-so-challenging dishes. Is your younger son still reading picture books? If so, I remember having a couple of books as a young girl that talked about things to eat that made them sound WONDERFUL. The pictures together with that made me more aware of how many things I actually DID like to eat: real mashed potatos, peas with butter, baked ham, corn on the cob – and curious about the foods that LOOKED good that I hadn’t ever had. I remember reading a Babar book that showed a strawberry soufflée – and OH, how I just WISHED I could try a bite. Maybe the cookbooks would do this for your older kiddo, too.
    At the heart of it, I really agree with those who are fairly hard-nosed about the dinner table. I grew up in Central Africa, so I had the hungry kids right outside my door sometimes. As a result, I think it’s important to make it clear to your kids that it is a luxury to have enough to eat on the table, which is just not at all given in a large part of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting guilt-tripping your kids is going to make them eat more, but I think it is worthy to give them awareness of how thankful we should be of what we have.
    I also think it is worthwhile to make it clear early on that the parent has likes and dislikes, too – and those preferences are just as important as the kid’s. I think a lot of parents treat themselves as second-class citizens whose need alway come second – or never get serviced at all. If you want it to be fair, you could even take turns deciding what’s for dinner (although I would set rules like “there has to be something nutritious in every meal” or “one veggie minimum”), with at least every third night being mom’s choice, period. Then no one can complain that they aren’t being heard. In any case, I totally hear you that you want your dinner time with your kids to be nice time TOGETHER, not angry time apart. I hope you can find a happy medium and more harmony at the dinner table!

  76. I have 3 kids and my 2 oldest are 10 and 11. I am still plagued by what you are. What to make that we all will eat and not feel like they’d prefer cold cereal to my homemade meal. With 3 kids it’s hard to make them all happy but there are nights, many nights, that I wonder why I bother at all when crackers and cheese and wine work for me! I do try asking the older ones what they want to try to ensure success but even that doesn’t always work. It helps though.

  77. maria @11:11, here’s what ellyn satter says about dessert. of course your mileage may vary, but it’s a data point.everyone who wants dessert gets it served from the first, like in a small side plate (prolly wouldn’t work for ice cream!). there are no seconds of dessert. if you eat it first, fine, if you’re still hungry you’ll go on to eat the rest of your dinner. dessert just ‘is’, it’s not a reward.
    i sort of like this approach though we don’t use it yet. i have a personal issue with ‘saving the best for last’ which can mean that by the time i get to it, i’m not really hungry anymore but i’m gonna eat it by god because i saved it for last, so i end up overfull.
    anyway, maybe give it a try & see how it goes?

  78. @SarcastiCarrie – Re: the choking/food getting caught in the throat. It runs in my family. It’s not like actual choking that would require intervention. Two of my maternal uncles & I have a tendency to get “expandable” foods (especially breads) caught in our throats from time to time, whenever we are trying to eat too fast, talk too much while eating, and for whatever reason don’t chew our foods enough. Happens also with steak.On an unrelated note, I like what Lawprofmom wrote: “We don’t make disparaging comments about what’s offered. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat it. But don’t ruin everyone else’s meal by bad-mouthing it.” Many adults I know could benefit from this lovely piece of etiquette! I wish someone could tell my friend K that its is in bad “taste” (pun intended) to point out how much you “hate disgusting mushrooms” while I’m seated across from you at a fine dining establishment enjoying the world’s tastiest black truffle risotto.
    Data point for you all – I was the pickiest eater as a kid. All I ate was peanut butter & jelly, saltine crackers with peanut butter, buttered toast, or something from McDonald’s, always with a can of Coca-cola. What can I say, my parents were totally irresponsible feeders. They are also terrible cooks, which was probably why I rejected their hot culinary messes every chance I got. Anyway, I have no idea why I am so healthy as an adult, truly. But having since grown up, gotten the heck outta the Midwest, and finally traveled the world, I’m now one of those people who can eat & enjoy Literally Anything. To everything, there is a season I suppose.

  79. @SarcastiCarrie – Re: the choking/food getting caught in the throat. It runs in my family. It’s not like actual choking that would require intervention. Two of my maternal uncles & I have a tendency to get “expandable” foods (especially breads) caught in our throats from time to time, whenever we are trying to eat too fast, talk too much while eating, and for whatever reason don’t chew our foods enough. Happens also with steak.On an unrelated note, I like what Lawprofmom wrote: “We don’t make disparaging comments about what’s offered. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat it. But don’t ruin everyone else’s meal by bad-mouthing it.” Many adults I know could benefit from this lovely piece of etiquette! I wish someone could tell my friend K that its is in bad “taste” (pun intended) to point out how much you “hate disgusting mushrooms” while I’m seated across from you at a fine dining establishment enjoying the world’s tastiest black truffle risotto.
    Data point for you all – I was the pickiest eater as a kid. All I ate was peanut butter & jelly, saltine crackers with peanut butter, buttered toast, or something from McDonald’s, always with a can of Coca-cola. What can I say, my parents were totally irresponsible feeders. They are also terrible cooks, which was probably why I rejected their hot culinary messes every chance I got. Anyway, I have no idea why I am so healthy as an adult, truly. But having since grown up, gotten the heck outta the Midwest, and finally traveled the world, I’m now one of those people who can eat & enjoy Literally Anything. To everything, there is a season I suppose.

  80. @SarcastiCarrie – Re: the choking/food getting caught in the throat. It runs in my family. It’s not like actual choking that would require intervention. Two of my maternal uncles & I have a tendency to get “expandable” foods (especially breads) caught in our throats from time to time, whenever we are trying to eat too fast, talk too much while eating, and for whatever reason don’t chew our foods enough. Happens also with steak.On an unrelated note, I like what Lawprofmom wrote: “We don’t make disparaging comments about what’s offered. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat it. But don’t ruin everyone else’s meal by bad-mouthing it.” Many adults I know could benefit from this lovely piece of etiquette! I wish someone could tell my friend K that its is in bad “taste” (pun intended) to point out how much you “hate disgusting mushrooms” while I’m seated across from you at a fine dining establishment enjoying the world’s tastiest black truffle risotto.
    Data point for you all – I was the pickiest eater as a kid. All I ate was peanut butter & jelly, saltine crackers with peanut butter, buttered toast, or something from McDonald’s, always with a can of Coca-cola. What can I say, my parents were totally irresponsible feeders. They are also terrible cooks, which was probably why I rejected their hot culinary messes every chance I got. Anyway, I have no idea why I am so healthy as an adult, truly. But having since grown up, gotten the heck outta the Midwest, and finally traveled the world, I’m now one of those people who can eat & enjoy Literally Anything. To everything, there is a season I suppose.

  81. @SarcastiCarrie – Re: the choking/food getting caught in the throat. It runs in my family. It’s not like actual choking that would require intervention. Two of my maternal uncles & I have a tendency to get “expandable” foods (especially breads) caught in our throats from time to time, whenever we are trying to eat too fast, talk too much while eating, and for whatever reason don’t chew our foods enough. Happens also with steak.On an unrelated note, I like what Lawprofmom wrote: “We don’t make disparaging comments about what’s offered. If you don’t like it, just don’t eat it. But don’t ruin everyone else’s meal by bad-mouthing it.” Many adults I know could benefit from this lovely piece of etiquette! I wish someone could tell my friend K that its is in bad “taste” (pun intended) to point out how much you “hate disgusting mushrooms” while I’m seated across from you at a fine dining establishment enjoying the world’s tastiest black truffle risotto.
    Data point for you all – I was the pickiest eater as a kid. All I ate was peanut butter & jelly, saltine crackers with peanut butter, buttered toast, or something from McDonald’s, always with a can of Coca-cola. What can I say, my parents were totally irresponsible feeders. They are also terrible cooks, which was probably why I rejected their hot culinary messes every chance I got. Anyway, I have no idea why I am so healthy as an adult, truly. But having since grown up, gotten the heck outta the Midwest, and finally traveled the world, I’m now one of those people who can eat & enjoy Literally Anything. To everything, there is a season I suppose.

  82. In some ways, this sounds less about the kids being picky and more about you. One way to make it seem less like only you are eating is to invite someone else to join you for dinner. Do you have another single mother or other friend whose company you enjoy that could join you for dinner a couple nights a week?I have been a single mother from the start (My husband died when I was pregnant) and I have always found dinner to be the most lonely time to be a single parent. It is hard to work up the energy for good healthful cooking when you are alone. So I have invited my parents to join us every night.

  83. In some ways, this sounds less about the kids being picky and more about you. One way to make it seem less like only you are eating is to invite someone else to join you for dinner. Do you have another single mother or other friend whose company you enjoy that could join you for dinner a couple nights a week?I have been a single mother from the start (My husband died when I was pregnant) and I have always found dinner to be the most lonely time to be a single parent. It is hard to work up the energy for good healthful cooking when you are alone. So I have invited my parents to join us every night.

  84. Thank you for asking these questions – the comments have been really useful (especially the one about eating soup with chunks). But here’s one – what is the right age to say eat what’s here or don’t eat? The pumpkin is 14 months and sometimes eats and sometimes throws stuff off the tray. I never know how much to offer and when to just say she’s done?Husband says we should just wait until she can use utensils herself and really understand what we’re telling her. Any thoughts?

  85. @Elizabeth – we were at a theme park and ended up at a BBQ place for dinner when the monkey was about 5 or 6. We called them “Dragon Ribs” to make them sound better. Success. Although, he was disappointed when he was a little older and found out they don’t really come from dragons.@Moxie – maybe “oven fried chicken” would be a bridge between roast chicken and home-made chicken fingers?
    My newly 6 year old is pretty picky. I think that it’s just because she wants to pick, but I’m not sure. She’ll walk in the door, ask what’re we having and then reply to whatever it is with, “I don’t like that.” Even if she really does.
    When it’s me and the kids, we’ll end up eating what the kids want for the most part. If no one else feels strongly about having a “grown up” dinner, I don’t feel like going up hill by myself – I’ve got all the other parent stuff on me too.
    If it’s me, DH and the kids then it’s more worthwile to have a “grown up” dinner. But usually we’ll have sides that La will eat. But she’ll have the option to have cereal or a PB&J instead. We used to buy those frozen dinners or lunchables for her to have a mulligan, but she didn’t really like them that much, so it didn’t seem worth it.
    But back to the idea of wanting a vote in what’s for dinner – at restaurants she gets to pick, as a grown up she’ll get to pick. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with getting to pick. And if she’s happy with “getting to pick” to have cereal or a sandwich, I can live with that.

  86. You could do what my mother always did: “You can eat what I made or make your own dinner. There is bread, pb&j, and cereal available.” I never availed myself of those options, but my younger siblings sometimes did. It’s two meals, but with the work of only one meal.

  87. Posting very late, sorry if I’m repeating. We had huge food issues with one of my boys, the other was a more adventurous eater. There were two things that allowed me to get off their backs.For Tall, the younger one, he would eat anything if he had a dip sauce he could use. For about 6 months every time I went shopping he was allowed to pick out a new sauce to dip veggies and new foods into. Once he found BBQ sauce he dipped everything in it for about 3 years. I don’t think he would eat it now if his life depended on it! HIs favorites are sushi and Thai food now.
    Taller had much bigger issues. He was my texture boy. The idea of exposing him to a food 10 times never really paid off for us, until the teen years. Then he began to love spicy food. As soon as he figured out that he liked things spicy he became a much more adventurous eater. I wish we had figured that out when he was younger.
    The other thing that has allowed me to relax regarding vitamins is veggie juice. Once they tasted it, with eyes closed of course, they loved it because it tasted just like an apple smoothy. To this day we all drink Very Green Juice from Trader Joes, it’s great stuff.

  88. A couple small things to add to all the great comments:1. to get something new in (we do this with steamed veggies), put then out to graze on while dinner is cooking. Amazing what they’ll eat at that time.
    2. Put things in fun containers. We got those colored silicone muffin cups as a gift and I’ll put lunch in those – one thing in each cup and then put three cups on a plate. Somehow, they are so fascinated with the presentation, it doesn’t really matter what they are eating.
    3. Soups. We have a butternut squash/tangerine soup that is awesome. For some reason, pureed soups are easier to introduce (I’m picky and I prefer those too).
    4. Get a couple cook books with pictures (cook books where you’d be comfortable with any of the recipes) and let them each take a turn going through the cookbook to plan a dinner. (My boys – they are 3 – love to look at cookbooks)
    5. Let them “plan” dinner – but with boundaries; i.e., one green veggie, one orange veggie and a protein.
    Good luck…

  89. My 4 yo dd eats a BIG breakfast. So I load her up w as much healthy stuff as I can.She will eat a smaller lunch, then not much for dinner. I am also an “eat it or not” kind of mom. But since I know she doesn’t usually eat much for dinner, it makes it easier.
    I am still a picky eater, so I will never force her to eat anything. Not even to try it. There are still things I will never try because I think I won’t like them. They might be gross.

  90. 1. I think it’s interesting that many commenters (obviously not all) who have said that they are not short-order cooks have referred to themselves as ‘meanies.’ And when I think of the typical Moxie reader, I think of someone who tries hard to avoid the ‘mean’ label. I hope this doesn’t sound like a judgment, for it’s just an observation. Food for thought, if you will.2. I was an extremely picky eater, and I’m so grateful that my parents accommodated me. I was underweight, and the lone vegetarian in the household, and I know that my parents struggled with figuring out what to feed me. They spent an inordinate amount of time preparing my food and making sure that I had things to eat when we were dining out. Because I knew that they had my back food-wise, I always felt greatly supported and loved at mealtime. Have I mentioned how appreciative I am? I’m still a vegetarian to this day, but I grew out of the pickiness entirely once I left for college.
    3. My husband and I are blessed with a great eater. Even with my own experience, I can’t say for sure what I would have done if our daughter was as picky as my young self.

  91. Get them to cook!!! And then get them a recoipe book for kids and have them choose what to cook get them shopping. MY kids are much better eaters when they are the cook.. (They are 3 and 6)

  92. So, uh, any hints on at what age it’s appropriate to start trying to discourage throwing food/cups/utensils/etc? Mr B is 13 months old.

  93. my kids, from day one, or rather from 9 months on, have eaten what every my husband and i are eating. stirfry, chicken alfredo, taco salad… we ate it, they ate it. even when they were just learning to eat, i fed them diced chicken, broccoli florets, baked potato. i have never catered a child menu. i think the key is feeding them early on what you want them to eat for life. not to say they won’t want marshmellows for dinner from time to time, but at least the norm will be foods that will carry them through life. granted my children are 2 & 4 so ask me in 2-3 more years and see if my children are starving then.

  94. My guy actually has never liked chicken nuggets or mac n cheese, but he can still be pretty picky.One thing I have noticed with him is that he loves rice, and anything I can get into the rice I do. Fish, veggies, anything. And he’ll gobble it down.
    Lately though he hasn’t been fond of my dinners and has instead wanted a bowl of cheerios with milk. Since this does not require preparing a whole other meal I just give him that and he eats it up. Otherwise, we are kind of on the don’t like it? Well, breakfast is in the morning! side of things.

  95. We’ve been blessed with a not too picky little guy, but at two and half he got pickier. No major issues, just generally little kid picky. We decided he can eat what we eat, or he can have toast. Plain toast – I argued for butter, but my husband thought that was too tasty, and he was right. So now if he refuses everything at dinner, we offer him toast. That’s it. We know he won’t starve, whole-grain toast is pretty healthy, and it doesn’t turn us into short-order cooks.

  96. @Amy – “my kids, from day one, or rather from 9 months on, have eaten what every my husband and i are eating. stirfry, chicken alfredo, taco salad… we ate it, they ate it. even when they were just learning to eat, i fed them diced chicken, broccoli florets, baked potato. i have never catered a child menu. i think the key is feeding them early on what you want them to eat for life. not to say they won’t want marshmellows for dinner from time to time, but at least the norm will be foods that will carry them through life. granted my children are 2 & 4 so ask me in 2-3 more years and see if my children are starving then.”We did this too, and I really recommend it for any readers whose kids are still little enough to implement this system. If you start feeding them a huge variety early on (like before they turn 1), then they never realize there is any other way. I live in Japan and work with little kids, so I see the huge variety of different things their parents put in their bento boxes (these were 2- to 4-year-olds). It is de rigeur for the parents to put in a very wide variety, in small portions, and the bento should always include the colors yellow, green, and red, plus there should be a balance of different types of food. There are some kids who refuse to eat certain parts of their bento, but the moms keep putting in the huge variety, whether certain things are eaten or not. Eventually they learn to eat most things. The school lunches also include a *huge* variety of foods, and the kids are encouraged to try and/or finish everything. It is very rare to meet a child who only wants what we consider “kid foods”, because they are raised with a huge variety from before age 1.
    Just looking at last week’s elementary school lunches (which are eaten by all the children, except kids with allergies) in my son’s school, the lunches were:
    Monday – rice, Ishikari soup (containing small pieces of salmon, tofu, potato, carrot, daikon radish, burdock root, green onion and ginger), hamburger with mushroom sauce (using 3 types of mushrooms), and seaweed dessert (seaweed with syrup and sesame seeds)
    Tuesday – butter roll, chicken cream macaroni (also with small pieces of carrot, onion, mushrooms & parsley), salad (with hamu, bean noodles, seaweed & sesame oil), and fruit
    Wednesday – udon noodles with chicken (with small pieces of shrimp, clams, carrots, burdock root, daikon radish & seaweed), potato glace, and fruit
    Thursday – rice, “egg tofu” (made of eggs, milk, chicken, mushrooms, carrots, and spinach), salad (made with burdock root, carrots, sweet potatoes, tofu, beans and sesame seeds), and shrimp potstickers (also containing cabbage, pork, chicken, onion, chinese chives and sesame oil)
    Friday – tuna fried rice (also containing leek, ginger, garlic, carrot, onion, corn & mushrooms, peas), chinese soup (with egg, corn, tofu, mushrooms, bean noodles, spinach), and bean croquettes
    These foods are prepared fresh every day at a nearby school (their one kitchen is used for the two schools). The cost to parents is less than 2 dollars per day, and there is a subsidy program available for single parents or low-income families. Every month we get a print-out with the month’s menu in detail, showing every ingredient used (this would be useful for people with allergies). Costs are kept down by using seasonal foods (and also the kids learn to value the various seasonal foods). Notice in last week’s menu there were a lot of autumnal or wintery type foods.
    I know people in the US are in a different culture, so it is impossible to duplicate the conditions whereby Japanese children learn to eat such a big variety, but it is still possible to introduce many foods from a very young age, with the quiet expectation that they will naturally learn to eat most of them within their first few years. My sons are 9 and 13 now, and we don’t force them to eat their most-hated things (for example, if they complain about one of the ingredients in a stirfry, I just say, “So what, just avoid the mushrooms then”). My husband is Indian, and in our family we eat a lot of spicy food from various countries, but we don’t put the chili powder in until after serving the children. It is all possible with most children, but it’s better to start it as young as possible (before they ever know there is any other way). With each of my children, we had a couple of years where they ate “less” than we would have liked (for son 1 it was around age 1 to 3, and for son 2 it was around age 3 to 5), but we just kept plugging along with our system and it worked eventually!

  97. @Meredith and MeandMrB, both of your kids are in the way early zone for getting rules and regulations. Understanding actual RULES (that are standard, repeatable, and reliable) comes in at 6=7 YEARS old (like rules for a game, and fine points of etiquette). General behavior, you can start working on now, in the Safe/Respectful/Kind way, but it’s more likely that you can get the food throwing and eat/not eat signaling behavior translated rather than managed at this age. Some of the throwing is just ‘I’m done’ or ‘I’m bored’ or ‘This is too much I don’t know what to do with it’. We tended also to feed on a big tray at that age, a small amount of each thing, and let them play with it. If they ate, fine. If not, fine. Okay, that was by the time we had twins, anyway. Guess which ones eat better? The ones we didn’t fret over when/how – we knew they’d figure it out.For dessert, we don’t follow the ‘book’ entirely. We know that our kids are huge sugar cravers because of the malabsorption issue, so we have dessert as a somewhat random but universal experience. That is, if we’re ALL done eating by X time (though we don’t watch the clock on this so they don’t tend to rush FOR dessert – otherwise it wouldn’t work), we ALL have dessert. If we’re getting toward late for bed, nobody even adults get dessert. It’s something we have some days, and don’t have other days. If I made something special, we make an exception so everyone can have some if they want it. The only caveat is that if they realize it is there, we eyeball their plate to see if they were eating minimally in order to be ‘done’ quickly. The only one who does that is Mr B, so it isn’t too hard to say ‘um, if you weren’t hungry for dinner, I don’t think you could really be hungry for dessert…’ and he’ll look abashed for a moment, give us the sly ‘yeah, caught again’ look sometimes, stop, eat a reasonable amount, and then be ready. We remind them that we don’t want them to eat if they really ARE done, but done is done is done. Listen to your body, are you really done, or do you just want to skip to dessert. We MUST have dessert all at once, because if anyone starts, all the sugar-cravers convert to ‘I’m only hungry for sugar’ and stop eating anything else. So, yes, adapt the rules as needed.
    One of the MOST IMPORTANT things I learned from the Satter book (I have the other one ‘How to get your child to eat, but not too much’) is that NORMAL = VARIABLE. That is, disordered eating is always the same, and normal eating varies. That also means that ALWAYS having the same rules, being absolute and rigid with them, EVEN IF THEY’RE HEALTHY RULES, is disordered eating! Normal means that sometimes you do eat dessert first, and sometimes you do eat the entire plate of cookies because they’re just so yummy when they’re warm and gooey. Normal also means sometimes trying, and sometimes not wanting to try; sometimes doing short-order, and sometimes saying ‘no, I’m not up for cooking five meals, thanks’; sometimes doing breakfast-for-dinner, and sometimes doing a formal meal. If that’s normal, we hit it spot-on.
    I also remember that mealtime is cultural, emotional, and social. We make the sit-down about being together more than about eating. So we ask important questions (not ‘how was school’ which by the time they’re teens is the dumbest question EVER), such as ‘what did you succeed at today that you weren’t sure you would?’ – and ask the adults, too. We try to engage everyone. (And some days, we don’t do any of that.) On the emotional side, I can remember food being scarce (oatmeal 3 meals a day because that was all we had left, for a week; cooking up food-type animals that had wandered into our yard – okay, so it was a guinea hen, and it was YUMMY, but it was all we had; that kind of thing). My mom never pestered us about leftovers or resistance or taste. She just always said ‘you must not be old enough to like this, try it again next year and see if you are old enough then’. Meanwhile, my neighbor’s mom laid on the guilt about bounty vs poverty/lack, and her daughter ate her dinner with her head down and shame leaking out her pores over their bounty every time it was mentioned. I don’t want my kids to be ashamed of bounty, so while we talk about what it means to have-not, we do so in as deep a context as we can, so that it isn’t ‘you better appreciate this, others are starving while you have plenty’ – and we tend to not talk about it while looking at the meal. It just sits poorly with me to emphasize gratitude by doing comparisons. It’s like comparing the kids to each other, it never goes well. YMMV, but something to think about for execution. The content of that message is important, but the emotional burden of it can mess with our relationship with food down the pike.
    Another thing we did that may have helped in the long-term with the latter three kids is that we skipped babyfood as much as possible. We just ground up our own food from as early as they would accept it. Actually, Mr B was NOT into solid food until I started giving him what we ate. I know other kids who wouldn’t eat babyfood until the parents put garlic in it. The flavors of what we eat get into the amniotic fluid (that’s been tested), and into breastmilk, so either way, they know the flavor of what you usually eat. Keep those flavors in their experience, and they’ll tend toward liking them.
    @Beth, I read it. 🙂 I think I covered both questions. I agree with flexing the rules for your family. And family meals are of value for cultural and social and emotional reasons. It’s that part of the process that is important, not the requirement that foods are eaten together. For a long time, Mr G was hungry way before us, so he ate his real food much earlier than our dinner, but we’d ask him to join us at the table for a while to eat nibbles, so we had a family time. And there are times that the family portion of the time was SHORT. If they want down, they get down, though we do have ‘down=done’ for most of our kids (Miss M being the exception because since birth she has indicated a small stomach and a large hunger – so she eats, rests, eats again, and in a growth spurt may eat three times in a single meal span. If she tries to eat all her body wants, she ends up with reflux. So, we respond to that observation by most of the time saying ‘sure, come on back for more’ – where the other kids if they get down mid-meal, it is just distraction. They don’t complain about the difference because it is clearly related to how Miss M’s body works.).

  98. Oh, and I agree that for most people, they will get over it when they get older. Some won’t, but then it becomes their problem to manage – adults who only eat a limited range may have their own issues with food and some of those may have been given to them by their parents… essentially, you can create a backlash emotional reaction if you’re swinging wildly from your own childhood. The woman who only eats two things as an adult probably had parents who were still reacting to being traumatized at the table, and she’s STILL carrying the trauma, just in different form, down the generations. Being rigid in training them to eat anything is as bad as being absolute in letting them have something else. Absolutes are generally not applicable to organic systems (though there are some absolutes in there, too, heh).Long view is that we want them to respect our time and effort, we want them to be open to new things, we want them to not embarrass us or themselves at outside events, we want them to be able to read their body’s signals and respond appropriately, we want them to understand the social culture of meals, and we want them to be able to enjoy eating, both alone and with others.
    It’s a lot to put into a meal, you know?
    Taking the long view means I expect them to learn all that by the time they’re 18 or so. It’s holographic learning, in that they’ll get little fragments of understanding in each area over their lives that create a kind of vague picture that gains completion in detail, rather than having to put it together like a puzzle – FULL PERFECT in one spot followed by FULL PERFECT in another. Kind of fuzzy-version of the whole thing slowly refined toward clarity is totally fine with me. It takes practice, lots of it, to get the whole picture to come into focus.
    My mom was really good with the practice stuff, and considers meal culture important, so she even bought ‘practice crystal’ for the kids, for big meals. As soon as they show any interest in joining the adults at the formal table, they’re welcomed, and get a full table setting. They can escape to the simplified table any time they want, but they like playing at being big, and so … so Mr B set the entire table for thanksgiving (he’s 7), including the crystal and full formal place-setting, because he wanted to. He got to practice. He may lose interest by next year, but it’s all fragments of fragments of the cultural process of mealtime, slowly de-fuzzing into clarity.

  99. I hate to say it, but the 10 exposure rule may work for some kids, but not mine. I offered him chicken at least two times a week for a year and a half before he would consider taking more than one bite of it. So, that’s about 156 exposures, and he’s still pretty hit or miss. He is the fussiest eater in the world, with my husband taking a close second. Add in my husband’s allergy to onions, and I can assure you, menu planning is a living hell for me.However, I do not do the short order cook thing. I make dinner, and if they don’t like it, I don’t care. Husband can snack on peanut butter and crackers if he wants, and my son can have a string cheese or yogurt if he wants. I just keep offering healthy coices, and when the little one eats, he eats.
    Since I’ve taken this approach, he’s branched out a little, and he’s also gone up from 25th percentile in weight to 50th. That gave me the confidence to beleive that it works.

  100. My husband came from a large family where they sat down for dinner every night at 6. He strongly believes in this and so this is what we have always done, since our oldest was a baby – she’s six now and we have 3 kids. The expectation is that they clean their plates, and while I know that is controversial, we are very careful about portion sizes – small, you can always ask for more and mindful of who doesn’t truly like something. For instance, my daughter doesn’t like squash, but we ask that she tries is whenever we have it and she usually complies. The idea for us is that we try everything because we never know what we might like. If we don’t like something, we are respectful of those around us who do like it (“ewww, gross” is not polite) and we don’t waste food. I would say we start enforcing all of this sometime around the age of 3.But Moxie, I hear you. My husband is home full time, so he does the cooking. There is no way I could come home from a long day of work and make something that the kids may or may not like.
    My go-to meal is stir fry – I make oven baked brown rice (often on the weekends, so it just needs to be reheated). I stir fry chicken with onion and garlic, then add veggies and a sauce that’s half honey and half soy sauce. My kids will eat any veggie in that!

  101. Support answer: I pretty much think the only parental behaviours that make a truly terrible eater are: huge reliance on high fat/sodium foods to supply the flavour, and huge food battles/use of food for other parenting things (comfort, attention, etc.). Your family is undergoing a lot of stress and transition.Maybe this is your year to let the food stuff go for a bit and reintroduce cool adult food in the summer when there are amazing farmer’s markets, etc.
    Tricky answer: getting the kids to plan, shop, prepare helps. My son loves getting organic vegetable delivery (Christmas of produce!) so that will get him to try almost anything. That is vegetable.
    Practical answer: I thought of something like this:
    Sat/Sun – go with the flow, but perhaps have one Meal Moxie Wants to Make For Herself in there, because this is calm family time for trying things out. If you have energy this might be a nice time to make it fancy (in my home, this basically means lighting candles on the table.)
    Mon – serve kid-favourites because it’s Monday and Mondays are hard.
    Tues – serve one of the component meals discussed (make your own… fajitas, sandwiches, pizza, baked potato toppers, tacos, etc.)
    Wed – Moxie meal, with Tues leftovers as a backup
    Thurs – compromise meal: one kid favourite, two adult favourites on the plate (don’t let ’em touch!)
    Fri – thank god we made it; easy simple fast fun or order in
    Voila.

  102. Oh and – on practice crystal; we have obscure and wildly different china pieces from garage sales and thrift shops, and for my niece and nephews we used to have all kinds of “snobby meals” with themes and dress up and put on accents. It was fun, and we also got in a few pointers. When my son’s a bit older we plan to start with him too. 🙂

  103. This is one of my sore points.At nearly 8, D is still an incredibly picky eater. We went to two holiday parties this weekend — at one, he ate a couple of rolls and then dessert, and at the other, he asked if he could have a donut, and I said he had to have one bite of something not sweet first and he decided not to eat rather than try any of the things available.
    When I’m cooking, I tend to be on the “this is what we’re having, eat it or don’t” side of the spectrum. But we have leftovers a couple of times a week, and then I let the boys have hot dogs or nuggets or peanut butter sandwiches.

  104. No real help here–my kid won’t eat anything, although her formula days are numbered and she’s going to have to suck it up eventually! I grew up in a Chinese household, and my mom always prepared parallel meals, assuming that we wouldn’t like anything she had made for herself and my dad, but my sister and I were eating what everyone else ate by the time we were in junior high. So that’s what, only six more years for your oldest? 😉 And sis and I both grew up to be great eaters, though I’m sure that’s small consolation at the moment. Good luck!

  105. Moxie, do your kids help with the meal planning, shopping, and preparation? If not, perhaps engaging them in the whole chain-of-events would get them more interested in trying new foods.Similar to Shandra’s comments, if you do the weekly grocery shopping on Saturday, on Friday evening each kid gets to pick 2 dinners for the week and you get to pick 2 dinners, plus one day for either dining out or leftovers. Then you all shop together and help prepare the meals together…and hopefully enjoy together!

  106. I so wish I had the time/talent/energy and general wherewithall to make my children’s diet as varied, nutritious and thoughtful as so many of your commenters. But I don’t. I have one year old twins, a 3 year old, a full time job and a severely overworked husband. In a grand concession to reality, I have just resigned myself to doing what is doable for me. Which, at this particular moment in time, is a lot of chicken nuggets, spaghetti, frozen meatballs, hot dogs, you get the idea. The kids eat kid food around 5, my husband and I just graze during the evening. Its nothing like I thought it would be, but its my reality now. I don’t make an issue out of food at all. No rules regarding vegetables, trying things, or whatever. I put food in front of them, its a less-than-optimal assortment of processed convenient kid-type things. They have veggies (usually out of a can), fruit, some protein and whatever else placed in front of them each day. And they eat what they want. And we just don’t make any issue out of it. Dessert is usually 4 “Dibs” (little bit sized ice cream things) and is not contingent on eating dinner. Its just a small sweet treat that they are offered each night, not the “reward” for eating the yucky stuff. I try not to look too carefully at all the advice and books and web sites that tell me the 684 simple steps to optimal nutrition for my kids. Its simply too depressing. And honestly, my kids are fine. They are healthy and happy. Macaroni and cheese with grapes and yogurt for dinner a few times a week doesn’t seem to have wrecked them. But it I has, I think, saved my sanity. So, writing this comment feels a bit like “true confessions of nutritionally neglectful parent.” But there you have it. Another “data point” as Moxie likes to say.

  107. @Shandra- I love, love, love the practice china idea. I’m saving that in the “parenting ideas google doc”. I’m so glad I came back to read more on this thread (slow day at work).@Virginia- if you’re offering fruit and veggies, you’re miles ahead of many other parents. I agree with your decision to cut yourself some slack on this.

  108. @virginia, I feel for you with 1 yr old twins plus a 3 year old. By the one-year-old-twins point, the elder two were four and eight. MUCH better than three. Ouchies.One of the main reassurances that the feeding clinic gave us was that given the chance to choose from any variety, even the PICKIEST kids will tend to balance nutrition. The hard part is that most parents aren’t nutritionists, so they don’t get to see ‘in’ to the food they’re serving. So yeah, maybe the prepared stuff is going to be higher in sodium and fat than ideal, but the main results are seriously good enough. And for the first three-to-six years of life (and later, too), the feeding clinic was very clear that the goal was CALORIES FIRST – after that, consider food value. Now, this is assuming the kid has a serious feeding issue, of course. But it’s reasonably valid overall – if kids will balance their diet reasonably well with ANY range (even just 12 total foods including sweets), then it’s not usually useful to fret about the exact nutrition profile. When you have time, run it through My Pyramid Tracker, and you’ll see that it’s probably way better than you’d expect (I do this regularly with Mr G’s diet when the lack of variety starts to stress me out – and find that again, he’s exactly where he usually falls, which is great except slightly low on vit A and fiber, and he has no apparent need for more fiber digestively, his calorie intake is perfect – not high or low – and he can get the vit A from a supplement every couple of days).
    We also did the ‘throw food in front of them and not worry about it’ – but we were stuck with two full time jobs, I think two schools and a daycare, and food intolerances and issues EVERYWHERE – so we had (HAD) to cook from scratch. With a little practice, it became easy (about two weeks). It’s not a vast variety of culinary delights, but it is:
    hamburgers/rice/veg
    whole chicken in the crockpot/rice-noodles/veg
    london broil/rice/veg
    salmon filet/rice/veg
    lamb shanks (crock)/baked potato/veg
    chicken breast/sweet potato fries/veg
    make-your-own-salad-night/rice-noodles/sauce/veg
    breakfast-for-dinner (oatmeal, cereal, omelettes, bacon)
    leg of lamb/rice/veg
    lamb-pork-turkey meatloaf (crock)/rice-noodles/veg
    Italian meatballs (crock)/rice/veg
    Used to do more pork, but discovered over time that the pork nights, the kids eat very little, and we end up with loads of leftovers.
    ad infinitum. It’s doable. With shakers of various herbs for the kids to try out on their food, it’s not at all bad. It’s not challenging, I know what I’m making and how to make it, and know how much time it will take, which isn’t much. I like the leftovers better. It’s not culinary genius (I do sometimes sigh for the pork tenderloin with blueberries and wild mushrooms and wild rice that I used to make), but it’s ‘real’ food. So if you want to try changing channels, you might be able to add in one or two items WHEN THE TWINS ARE THREE. Heh. Because if we didn’t *have* to because of the dietary issues, we would not have done so. At 3, maybe 3 1/2, it starts making more sense. At a year, with a three-year-old also? Make the change only if it’s a driving force for good (like, you’re seeing a lot of behavioral issues with the older one – that was one of the ways we figured out even that there WAS a dietary issue, because we had way worse freak-outs than should be happening even with twin younger siblings on the scene… change of diet changed a LOT for the better, for us – but that was less about ‘nutrition’ than it was about ‘digestion’ and ‘additives’.
    Anyway, sanity is allowed. (Oh, and the feeding clinic backs you up on not using dessert as a reward – it CAN be used as a reward, but the program should be developed by a behavioral therapist, because typical people tend to totally mess up the process and reinforce the wrong things, give in on the wrong points, etc…. er, voice of experience, there. :wince: )

  109. Heh, looks like we spend loads on meat, but we a) lean heavily on the cheaper of those dishes, and lightly cycle in the others, and b) use the deep-freeze and deep discount sales on larger packages… so it isn’t quite as bad as it looks, price-wise (helps that we also barter for organic lamb).

  110. My problem is that I was raised in a very healthy, hippie-ish family that forced lentils and quinoa and vegetable stew down my very unwilling throat, so I would gorge on pasta night, and developed what I think is a carb addiction. I really have an aversion to vegetables, but I don’t want my daughter to have the same problem. So I’m trying hard to serve more of them, but man is it hard to convince her to eat them when I don’t like them myself!

  111. So much good info.FWIW, monkeybaby at 21 months is still eating babyfood veggies in addition to everything else. He gets 2 organic veggies (room temp, out of the containers) at the beginning of dinner.
    He would once eat anything. Now we have a fairly limited but growing slowly repetoire. I was thrilled the other night and did a dance because he ate about 6 beans.

  112. И чистый это создателю не влом столько времени на написание статей тратить, мы естественно очень признательны, только вот я на таковой альтруизм не способен

  113. Merci beaucoup pour vos aimables paroles:) je prévois de couvrir ce sujet un peu à l’avenir. Le bonheur est, après tout, ce que nous cherchons à savoir si nous cherchons à changer notre carrière ou de puiser dans les vraies passions ou de trouver notre chemin dans la vie réelle.

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