18 answers

3 Year Old Picky Eater

My son, like all 3 year olds, has a very short list of things he likes to eat. His is probably shorter than most. (chicken nuggets, turkey and cheese, grilled cheese, pb & j, corn dogs) He won't eat any type of pasta, mac and cheese or even a hamburger. Most of the time what my dh and I eat is a one dish meal (spaghetti, chili, chicken fettucini, etc) I am not a vegetable eater, but am trying to change my ways. My question is how do I get my son to try new things? We usually fix him one of the things we know he likes to eat so that he does eat. We have also tried giving him only some of what we are eating and he refuses to eat. Should we give in and give him something to eat or just let him go to bed hungry? I've heard the idea of giving them something they do like and something they don't like, but I feel if I do that, he will eat the thing he does like and not eat the new item. I would like to find a happy medium.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My son is very picky, as well. My friend whose son had severe eating issues suggests trying one new food at a time. For instance, she started with broccoli, and they had it every day for lunch and dinner. He first had to hold it in his mouth for up to 30 seconds, then when he could do that he had to chew it. When he tolerated chewing it, then he graduated to swallowing. The next step was increasing the number of pieces he ate. My son already like broccoli, but he is now up to six slices of cooked carrots!! Yea! Next we will probably try a fruit he doesn't really like, then another vegetable. (I do try to fix one or two foods he does like at each mealtime to go with the new food.) Good luck!

Try Deceptively Delicous, by Jessica Seinfield. She has creative ways to add veggies to everything.

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My son who is now 7 years old, was a picky eater as well. One mistake I've made with him that I will not make with my future children is not exposing him to new things often enough. I just didn't want to deal with the fights and tantrums, but if I had started introducing him to new things when he was younger, it would have been a lot easier. I used to do the same thing you are doing, which is making my child a separate meal than what I was eating. Now I only make one meal, and I know he's gonna try to resist, so I bring him in the kitchen with me and he actually helps me cook (he loves it!) and he actually gets to see what goes into the food and takes pride in the finished product. It's worked wonders every time I've wanted him to try a new food. And if you are concerned about him not eating any veggies, I would try one of those cookbooks (or look for recipes online) for ways of sneaking veggies into certain foods that they will not notice. That will work in the meantime until you can get him to open up to trying new things.

I refuse to be a short order cook. I have a 5 and 2yo who eat salads, most vegetable, can tell you what is healthy/unhealthy, and know that if you don't eat what's put in front of you then I guess you're just going to be hungry. I also make sure they have milk with their meal or water. Both my husband and I try to make sure that we set good examples too. I hate peas but I make mixed vegetables and will let my girls see me eating the peas too. I tell them how much I don't like them but I will eat them because they are good for me and just mix them with other things to make them better to me. One thing I do is make it a game. We eat green trees, snow covered trees, etc. I also will make it a game. Big girls eat 5 trees. I bet you cant do that. My daughter picks up the excitement and will take the challenge and often eat more than I've asked. We also have the one bite rule. I don't care if you think you like it or not you have to take one bite and try it. I don't normally push how big of a bite. Needless to say my kids eat spicy orange beef, stir frys, vegetables, and other things most kids won't. having them help in the kitchen makes a difference too. I will let her help me pick some of what I cook. I also have given the 5yo her "shopping list" at the store to help me find what we need. I put pictures of the vegetables on a paper and hand it to her to find for me. Hope all this helps. Most of the time (not all) picky eaters develop because they are allowed the control and not just because they don't like how things taste.

My oldest has been a picky eater his whole life. So we didn't force it and let him he what he wanted and we had what we wanted. A little bit of a pain at dinner time, but no big deal. The problem comes in when you have baby #2, etc. So my littlest one will eat anything, but because his bigger brother gets something special, he needs something special. From a time standpoint, this is where the problem comes in - now I am making 3 separate meals for 4 people. I am going to take some of the suggestions you are getting to see if I can't just make one meal. Good luck!

I have a baby but I have older children too. I can tell you from experience that you better start NOW with vegetables and good stuff for him to eat or you WILL regret it later. My oldest eats really well. My middle eats really well. My youngest, I babied and didn't have time to cook as well when he was little so I let him eat ONLY what he wanted which were only a few things. To this day, my 2 oldest eat anything and everything and are super super thin. My youngest (of the boys) (16 yrs old) still is PICKY, picky, picky. He has trouble with his weight because of it and it is hard for him to go to someone elses house or out to eat with anyone because he won't eat anything, then if he does, he comes home starving.
My oldest boys' girlfriend is really picky and she won't eat with us ever. She will come over but won't eat. The only things that she likes are chicken fixed a certain way and pizza without sauce and I am not ordering her a pizza like that for one person.
So you can see that it really isn't good for them. You want him to eat. What I would do now if I had it all over to do again is, give him what he likes but I would keep frozen peas and things like that in the refrig or freezer and fix that along with what he likes with every single meal. He may not eat it so I wouldn't put alot on there but just put something on there at all times. Let him feed himself and chose to eat it. He really needs to see you eat it too. Anway, one of these days he will get curious enough to pick it up and taste and he may do that many times... but he will soon eat it, if you are lucky.
But... if I had it to do over I would do whatever I had to do to get him to eat everything.

Try Deceptively Delicous, by Jessica Seinfield. She has creative ways to add veggies to everything.

I have a 4 y.o. little girl who is pretty picky herself, and my 2 step nephews OMG!!! They only like processed foods! No regular old fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I can't afford to buy all that nasty processed food (that I WON'T eat) and all the real food. I have a rule, you have to try everything once before you can say you don't like it. I had my nephews this past weekend and made fried chicken strips, corn, peas, and Mac and cheese. I had to fight with one to eat his corn and Mac and cheese (and this is food they will eat with no complaints) he ate the chicken just fine. The other decided that he didn't like the chicken (it was seasoned with garlic powder, salt & pepper, and onion powder, things they aren't use to), so I asked him if he would like some ketchup. Gave him the ketchup and I heard not another word about how they didn't like what they were eating. It may sound harsh, but it's eat it or starve in my house. I have a limited budget. I wasn't raised on all that quick foods (like hamburger helper YUCK!!!, or processed chicken and beef patties) and I will not buy or eat them now. My child eats what is served now, it takes her a while sometimes but she does. It'll probably take a little while though. Good luck.

A little bit of what he likes, and a litle bit of what he needs. Eat that, then he can have more of what you likes. If he refuses to eat anything, then all he gets is water until he eat it. If he is as stuborn as my little man was at that age it might take a day or so of nothing but water. I know is sounds harsh but you have to do it only once. My son is seven and know if he wants more of what he likes just eat that very little bit of mixed veggies.

I'm probably much meaner than most. I have five kids so if we let them all be picky there would be nothing I could make for dinner than would satisfy everyone -- which would mean that I'd have to make 3 or more meals a night for everyone to be happy.

We started this when our sons were teeny. We would serve them what we were having and they were expected to eat it. If they didn't eat it, we would cover and refrigerate it (they wouldn't get something else) and it would be served again at the next meal.

I know that sounds harsh, but we also let the kids all have a short list of a couple of items each that they really don't have to eat (when we have cous cous, my son has something else or has his meal without it...if it were a main dish item, that child would have a sandwich instead of that item).

They've all tested it out to make sure we're serious and we've shown them through the years that we are and we get very little guff about food now.

Our kids are 17, 17, 16, 13 & 10 (bio, foster, bio, adopted, adopted).

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