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To cater to picky eaters…or not?

Home Forums Family Health & Wellness To cater to picky eaters…or not?

This topic contains 6 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Blog Editor Blog Editor 6 years, 1 month ago.

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    Toya C

    Recently, my toddler daughter and 5 year old son, who were always great eaters, have become pickier when it comes to dinner time. I’ve broken down a few times and cooked additional meals, just to get them to eat. I’ve heard very conflicted advice on this. Some people are firm believers in "this is what we’re having for dinner – end of story"…while others say it’s just not worth the fight. Does anyone have experience with this and what did you do? I definitely don’t have the time to cook multiple dinners each night!

    Profile photo of Blog Editor
    Blog Editor

    For the most part, my children eat what I serve, but I do always try to have something they like.  Lucky for me, they like broccoli and carrots so that is often our vegetable.  If I make a pasta dish that has "green" stuff in it (aka parsley), I dish my daughters serving before adding the parsley.  Sometimes that’s not possible.  Like last week, we had Jambalaya.  I knew there was a VERY good chance she wouldn’t eat it, so I was prepared with an alternate option – if she tries it, she can have yogurt.  Yogurt or cereal are my only go to alternatives.  I won’t make something just for my kids. I will modify though.  Like quesadillas….  The adult version has salsa, chicken, cheese and lettuce in them, the kids get a cheese and a few pieces of chicken.  Our meals usually have 2-3 parts to it so if they eats one part and that’s it, I’m okay with that.

    A friend of mine had a TERRIBLE time getting her daughter to eat anything out of the ordinary (like strawberries) so now her daughter gets a sticker every time she tries something new.  So many stickers = something cool.  The first "cool" item she earned was light up shoes.  Once my daughter saw these shoes and heard how her friend got them, she has been super excited to try new foods since she thinks we’re doing the same thing (I need to get on that one so she’s not disappointed).  Maybe try something like that.


    I do a little of both.  If I am serving food that I know my daughter likes, or at least liked 2 months ago, then she gets what is served and she can choose to eat it or to go to bed hungry (we keep it available right up until bed time and 8 times out of 10 it gets eaten).  If it is something new and she takes a good sized bite and clearly doesn’t like it (she is not a great actor so we know if she doesn’t like it or if she just wants something else) we will make up a plate of leftovers or a peanut butter and banana sandwich or something for her.  We also try to involve her in the decision making, so we plan the weeks meals ahead of time, but ask her which meal she wants us to fix each night or let her pick the veggies that we are having with the meal.  We also have a standing rule that she eats however many veggies we put on her plate.  She can ask for more if she loves them, but she cannot walk away from the table without eating what we gave her (usually a small serving now that she has sworn off all veggies, even her favorites that make her smile as she is telling us how gross they are).  In the end it depends on your own family values and your willingness to enforce what you say.  It is easy for me to let my daughter go to bed a little hungry because I know that she won’t let herself starve and I can just give her a little extra breakfast in the morning, but it was very hard for my wife to get to the point we are at now….  Having a daughter in the top 90+% for height and weight makes it a little easier to convince her that we are not starving our child.


    At the end of the day, this is ultimately a family values decision. That said, I try and only put good for you food  on my kids plates (balanced out with things I know they like…so whole wheat mac n cheese, strawberries, etc.) and if they don’t eat it, they don’t eat it. I also supplement with a daily vitamin for both kids (ages 2 and 4) so if they skip meals that day, I know they are covered. My philosophy is this:

    1. I’m training them to try new things. They also learn that they have choices. Each kid has to have two bites of each part of their meal before they can be excused. (I think they are likely to simply wolf down the first bite without even tasting it, whereas they have to actually taste the second bite and see if they like it). We don’t have any treats in our house except after dinner. No dinner= no treats. It’s their choice.

    2. Mommy and daddy work hard and cook good meals. When the kitchen is closed, the kitchen is closed. My time and energy is more valuable than your pickiness.

    3. I try not to give the kids too much food so that 1. there is little waste and 2. the "clean plate club" doesn’t force them to eat too much if they aren’t really hungry.

    3.  Kids won’t starve to death…when they are hungry, they’ll eat! And most pediatricians will tell you that most kids don’t usually eat 1 of their 3 meals, or eat minimally at that meal. For my kids that meal is dinner. But they eat huge breakfast and lunches, so I don’t worry about it.

    My 2 cents!


    We have a "two bites, ten times" rule.     My pediatrician once told me (luckily, in front of the kids) that it can take kids up to ten separate times of trying a new food for their palate to decide if they like it or not.

    For each meal where a particular food is served, they have to take at least two bites.  After that, if they want to be done they can be done but if they don’t eat at least 1/2 of the whole meal, no treats afterwards.  (And I don’t cook substitutes.)

    If they take two bites and say YUCK, they are not off the hook the next time I cook that same thing…. until after ten different times of trying it.

    My 6-yr old son recently decided he LOVES broiled haddock after three times (over the course of maybe two years) of trying it.  Now it’s his new favorite!


    amy dempster

    All children go through stages of pickiness or what nutritionists label as "jags." I do a lot of the things that were already recommended on the board with my preschooler. We don’t make any special meals and we eat as a family. But I always make sure that we have items that she likes or has liked in the past. Like Mary, we also make adult and children version of things because I prefer spicy and the little one definitely does not. If it is something new, she has tried and genuinely doesn’t like (also no poker face for lying) I will find a substitute in the fridge like yogurt or leftovers. But I definitely don’t cook a 2nd meal – who has time for that and please tell me how?!?

    She has been extremely stubborn with trying new things lately even though she has been great about it in the past. My husband starting a fun thing of having her star rate each item on her plate. We post it on her easel that is in the kitchen and compare items from previous nights that include the same star value. It’s actually insightful to us too to know the degree of like or hate. For instance, I thought she couldn’t stand cucumbers but they got 3 of 5 stars so that was surprising. Now I know I can probably keep trying them and offer them with her favorite hummus to see if the star rating changes. As a rule, we would put them out again anyways because it can take 8-10 exposures before a child will taste something new.

    Glad to hear there are parents out there battling the same battle but also being firm on not becoming short order cooks!



    I like the start rating thing Cooking Mom.  Sort of like some make it to Vegas and some don’t. :smileyvery-happy:

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