#Moms- how the heck do you get your picky kids to eat?

I am having some serious feeding issues with Hayley. The trouble with her and feeding started when she was a newborn. She hated taking her bottle… from there on, she hated taking any type of baby food. It was hard to get her to eat baby food, so we switched to table food at an early age. However, there were very few items that she liked and we mostly stuck to those common food staples.

I blame myself now for not allowing versatility in her diet. I wish I exposed her to different types of food, but alas I did not not. Now, I am having huge problems with her eating! It is extremely aggravating to get her to eat. I am not sure if she has food aversions or she is just downright stubborn with eating but here is an example of our typical dinner conversation.

Mommy to Hayley: Hayley, you need to eat some of your vegetables to make you grow strong

Hayley to Mommy: No Mommy, I don’t like the peas

Mommy to Hayley: Okay, then try the carrots

Hayley  to Mommy: No Mommy, I don’t like carrots either

Mommy to Hayley: We’ll then- have some chicken

Hayley to Mommy: Okay I will eat some chicken

After she eats 2 bites of chicken, Mommy to Hayley: Hayley you need to eat more chicken. Two little bites in not enough

Hayley to Mommy: No Mommy, I don’t like chicken

Mommy to Hayley: If you eat five more bites, you can have a special treat of ice cream

Hayley to Mommy: Maybe tomorrow, I will eat more. I don’t want ice cream tonight.

This is our daily conversations in some form or another at mealtimes. I can’t for the life of me get her to eat food. It really is so frustrating for my husband and I because we try so many different ways to get her to eat. I recently bought Jessica Seinfield’s book, Deceptively Delicious, in the hopes that I can incorporate “good foods” into my recipes. It does not work- she will not eat anything that I cook! (disclaimer: I am not Martha Stewart but maybe if I was, she would love my recipes)

I have brought this up to the doctor and he is not overly concerned ; her weight, while being small, is not off the charts. Her blood tests are right up to par with normal levels for her age.  She is a perfectly healthy girl with some serious food aversions.

Let me tell you, it is very hard! Everyday is a constant battle but I need to keep chugging along to get her to eat. One day, I think it will take. She does love her pancakes and deserts though…. A diet of pancakes and deserts- I think NOT!!

Have you ever had these problems with your children? Any suggestions- I desperately need some! Thanks!

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  1. says

    We have been relatively lucky to not have picky eaters (well not regularly anyways) since we already deal with food allergies. I highly recommend sneaky chef cookbooksh thoug. It is a great way to add more nutrients for any kid. they have lots of kid favorite (macaroni, chicken strips, etc…) that have some “sneakiness” in them and kids are none the wiser. There’s also a food allergy one, for your man, and more varieties of cookbooks!

  2. says

    Does she like macaroni? You could always try and sneak things into that..Im lucky with Bre she eats pretty much anything…hope it turns around soon!

  3. says

    I’ve actually just watched a Supernanny programme on the exact same thing, weird!! The only difference was that they offered food in between meal times to compensate for the loss of eating. Supernanny stepped in lol, no snacks and made to sit at the table until the child ate 2 things without spitting it out, took an age but worked and gradually 2 became the whole plateful. x

  4. says

    Ugh I know your pain. My fiances daughter is 11 and has always been a picky eater. Her mom always cooks her a “special” meal of whatever she wants and the rest of the family eats a normal dinner. At our house we don’t do special meals and now that she is older if she doesn’t want what we are eating – she can make something else herself (with our supervision). She likes easy mac or the velveta shells kind that come in the package like easy mac. She likes perogies which she can just pop in the toaster oven. She likes french cut string beans. So thoes are the 3 main “food groups” she eats at our house. She goes through pizza fazes – sometimes she wont it the cheese – just the dough then the next week she tells us she hates dough she only eats cheese. She wont eat the bread on a hamburger. She hates most fruits, she doesn’t like chicken nuggets. We only have her weekends so we have to pick her battles. At least if we are eating a regularly scheduled meal and she is eating her own thing she gets curious now and wants to at least try what we are eating. Thats how we realized she hates pears, cheesecake, watermellon and a million other foods that kids usually love. I should mention she did eventually eat the cheese cake because we were all raving about how good it was!

  5. trisha says

    Jac is the worse eater ever. She almost 11 and doesn’t eat fruit or veggies. The only veggie she will eat is corn. So frustrating. I have learned to just live with it. My brother was the same way and now he eats everything. As long as they are getting thier vitamins and plenty of fluids, the doctors don’t seem to concerned. It will get better with age. I hope anyway.

  6. says

    I wish I had more advice for you. My little man hasn’t refused anything but kale so far (and can you really blame him? :D). I agree with trying to sneak it into macaroni though. When I make macaroni and cheese, I always put dill green beans in it. I do it because we like the flavor, but it might be a good way to incorporate some veggies.

  7. says

    Jude will always eat mac and cheese – could you sneak some peas and carrots in there? We are really lucky with Jude because he adores fruit so i feel like if he eats fruit he is okay! Does she eat fruit?

  8. says

    I found the book “Food Fights” to be really helpful for my little picky eater. For example, one thing the book says (no criticism to you- just thought it might be helpful) is not to offer junk food as a reward for healthy food- basically it helps solidify in their minds that the healthy food doesn’t taste good, because you are trying to motivate them to eat it.

    It’s interesting that studies have shown this to be true for chores, jobs, or really anything. The more you reward someone for doing something (especially kids) the less they enjoy it. Even if they liked it before.

    I do recommend the book Food Fights if you are having these battles, and I think just keep trying. Don’t take any foods off the menu because they don’t like it, but don’t force them to eat anything. Wish I could be of more help!

  9. says

    Has she been tested for allergies? My mom tells stories about grandma forcing her to eat things when she was little and how much she would cry about it. As an adult some 20 years later she found out that all of the food she used to “hate” or “avoid” as a child she was actually highly allergic too. She never reacted to it in a way that my Grandma could see because she never ate more than a bite or too but internally must have known that these things were toxic to her body.

  10. Tiffany says

    I have an extremely picky 3 year old. She has been TINY TINY since she was born~ not even on the chart at times. She had troubles feeding, too. She wouldn’t breastfeed, choked on all pureed food from day 1 and still does not eat much. We did all kinds of tests, the feeding team at the childrens hospital, OT, etc. However, she was meeting milestones and very intelligent so we eventually just let it go. She still gets weighed every 3 months at the Drs office, but we have decided she will eat when she is hungry. It’s not even a fight anymore. If she eats, she does and if she doesn’t we figure she will the next day. She has finally reached 30 lbs and is smart as a whip so I think we are doing everything right. Just keep an eye on her at the Drs and try not making it a fight. They won’t starve to death!!

  11. KatD says

    I have a very adventurous eater but as a chef and a mom, I’ve picked up some ideas that have helped my other mom friends.

    Involve the child in cooking. They are often more willing to eat stuff they have made or helped make themselves.

    Have a “tasting event” and make a game out of trying new and interesting foods. Make sure they are all nutritious and that you aren’t sampling junk. This can help with meal planning in the future.

    Experiment with seasonings. Some children just don’t like certain flavors ON the food.

    Take your child/children grocery shopping. Make sure you aren’t rushed for time and have them explore the aisles and find interesting foods. Make sure to take your smartphone along to answer any questions about how to prepare the foods and the nutritional content of them.

    I am not a huge fan of “sneaking” foods into dishes. If you get caught, everything you serve will be scrutinized even worse!

    Hope this helps!

  12. Kassie says

    Aiden is kind of a picky eater. Lately he has resorted to telling me that he is full, but then a few minutes later he is back in the kitchen looking for a snack. He knows the drill and we remind him every day that if he doesn’t eat his dinner, the dinner that he asked for, then he does not get any snacks later. If he is still hungry then he can eat what is left of his dinner or he can have a bowl of cereal. My kitchen is not a restaurant and if you don’t eat what I make then you don’t eat. You will eat it if you are hungry enough.

  13. Mary Beth Elderton says

    I always shake my head when this question comes up. I taught for years in a Montessori Primary class (3-6 YO,) helped out at a daycare, and spent a few years as a nanny. The plan for small kids is breakfast, snack, lunch, quiet time, snack, dinner, bedtime snack. The snacks are just that–small, not meals. Each meal includes a small portion of each food served with a half glass of milk. The rule is that nobody gets seconds on anything (including milk!) until they eat at least one bite of everything.

    There is almost always a pattern–first, the picky child thinks he can get through the whole day with only the milk, knowing that Mom will cave in with french fries or macaroni later. Some kids can hold out for a surprisingly long time. The next thing is to drink the milk and eat the one food he likes. This phase can last a good while–remember: no seconds without the bites of everything. Complaints about being hungry are met with: “We already had breakfast/lunch. We’ll have snack at snack time.” Within two or three weeks, the picky child is eating at least one bite of every food in order to get seconds on his favorites. Not long after, he is usually eating almost everything. ***NOTE: Parents continue to cave in to the picky eater at home, so they are amazed to see their children eating whole healthy meals at school. Also note that even as adults we have food preferences, so there will be times when the child really does not want that bite. It’s okay, snack time will be soon.

    About “sneaking” healthy foods into traditional dishes–do this for everybody! It’s healthier.

  14. says

    I am still in the toddler stage so I have no advice…but man who knew it would be so hard to feed kids? My boy is pretty good but he knows what he will and won’t eat just by looking at it. Some days he’ll eat broccoli and some days he doesn’t…but I just keep trying. I can imagine your frustration!

  15. Jennifer Clay says

    Ok..when you figure this out please let me know!! My girls, especially my oldest is SO picky! It gets on my nerves so bad! There are times where I force one tiny bite and then Haley will be like OMG it is so good!! I am now at the point where I tell them they eat what I cook or they don’t eat. After about 30 minutes or so they will start to eat. They are at that age where they can understand that concept.

  16. says

    J has been a pretty picky eat (though recently he has gotten better). Here are some tips I have used with him:

    * he loves anything with cheese so I sneak good stuff (corn, tomatoes, black beans) in quesadillas and on pizzas
    * DIPS: some kind of sauce to dip makes everything more appealing to him…ketchup, honey mustard, ranch, etc.
    * I sneak in puréed carrots into his Mac and cheese…doesn’t even know the difference
    * he also loves pancakes….one of my favorites is to add grated carrots or zucchini (sounds odd, but if grated finely you can’t tell)
    * I also try to make it fun for him…he pretends to be a dinosaur by eating his broccoli “trees” or we sprinkle “snow” oh his food (Parmesan cheese) and he’s an Eskimo…lol
    * j also loves to help me in the kitchen…when he “cooks” something he is so proud of himself and we usually make a big deal about it. He is more likely to eat something if he has helped make it.

    Hope this helps! I’m sure she will grow out of it with time :)

  17. says

    She sounds like she would be tough to get to eat if she can’t be bribed with ice cream. I use to do food garnishing and turn food into animals. Maybe that would work.

  18. says

    Oh…does she sound JUST like my Isabel!

    Belle was born at 39 wks & never really suckled great. She just never ate well, but just like your daughter, she’s healthy but extremely picky. For nearly 2 years now, she would only eat yogurt and buttered pasta. Sure we’d get the rare bite of cheesy bread, chicken nugget, and of course she loves fruit, but her staples were unchanging.
    Thankfully, as she turns 4 this month, she has started to expand on what she eats. And this, just as everyone told me it would happen.
    While I waited, I simply fortified what she would eat. She had the Ronzoni nutrient added pasta. She would drink V8 Fusion {not that Splash stuff} so that she would get a full days fruits/veggies w/each 8 oz. And I would load her up on yogurt & yogurt smoothies for protein. I also gave her the Garden of Life chew-able vitamins as well as extra gummy calcium. Because of course, getting the kid to drink milk was out of the question too. lol.
    Long story short. Belle grew out of it just as they said she would. Didn’t make the process easier. But I also noticed her palette is extremely sensitive. Even when I was preggo w/her I noticed mine developed incredibly. So perhaps it was her simply needing to come into her own taste buds. We still struggle w/getting her to try new things. But getting her on acidophilus also helped her belly become less queasy as she learned to eat different things too.
    Shockingly enough, the things she began to eat more of, were really bland. Like bran flakes for breakfast and all-natural sweetened cinnamon oatmeal. Dips brought her out of her shell too.
    And I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but Belle has geographical tongue. Its where certain foods cause sore spots & alter the taste buds on the tongue. Its explained alot for us, and is completely harmless in the sense that it simply happens.
    But think of this way. We used pancakes and muffins w/the deceptively delicious book out there. Its really easy to sneak in healthy ingredients! You just have to be creative. :-D Good luck!

  19. says

    I haven’t read the comments above, so I apologize if I repeat. One thing you could try is including her in the meal planning. Create a menu for the week and a grocery list. Take her shopping with you. Then have her help you cook meals. Maybe if she felt involved, she would get involved in eating too. :) I hope this helps. Good luck!

  20. says

    my boy is picky too – he wont even eat cookies or crackers! I found out that he loves cream of wheat with those gerber fruit squeezes in them – even the spinach ones – so I give him that when I feed him breakfast to try and even the rest of the day out.

  21. Jordan Lardner says

    I have this problem with my son all the time. I call him my little bird at mealtime now because he usually only pecks. He will like chicken one night, but not the next! I agree it is so frustrating, and as a parent we want our kids to get enough food and nutrition. I know my sister suggested pedialyte when my son wouldn’t eat for like a week! I didn’t get to try it, but who knows you might be able to disguise it as a smoothie?!?!? Every child is different and if she is anything like my little one, she can down some milk, which can make him full! If the pediatrician says she is okay, then I think you are probably safe. Good luck!

  22. Tracie Brown says

    I have a vitamix blender and make her green smoothies and she LOVES them! At least she gets her veggies/fruits in daily, then she can eat whatever she wants (within reason)

  23. says

    We have this problem on occasion. I don’t even know what to say. I give my kids pretty much what we eat to a degree. If she doesn’t eat she doesn’t get anything the rest of the night. Keep trying! Good luck!