19 answers

My 5 Year Old Refuses to Eat

Hi, my 5 year old refuses to eat nearly everything I put in front of him. He likes Hamburger Helper, PB&J, Hamburgers, Tacos, Macaroni, Chicken Nuggets and fries. Other than that he won't eat. I have made him sit there "until the food is gone" but he will just put the food in his cheek and let it turn to mush. I finnally will just let him spit it out. I have taken things away, and I will not make him a seperate meal. He will gag at the table or even puke on his plate. He will tell me he doesn't like what I've made before he even knows what it is. He also tells me how disgusting my food that I do make is. I have two younger children a girl 3 and a boy 2. The 2 year old has started repeating things my 5 year old says. I don't know what to do!

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Featured Answers

Another great book addressing the issue of picky eating: "Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater." The website is very helpful as well> http://www.BabyBites.info

The book corporates multi-sensory learning with mealtimes.

More Answers

My son has done the same thing at times. I just make sure his portions are smaller then what I would eat. He will tell me he doesn't like something and I will ask him to have 4 bites of each thing on his plate. Most of the time he will eat everything. There are times he doesn't but he knows he can get anything else unless he has eaten some dinner. I would try having your son eating so many bites each time. Good luck.

Have you tried having your 5 yo help out with dinner? Maybe if he participates, he will be more apt to eat the food. It's worth a try. Plus, it will be an opportunity for bonding time between you two.

Here are my 2 cents (for what they're worth!). If you have dinner ready on the table & he doesn't want to eat it... fine. Excuse him from the table, but remind him to behave while you (and everyone else) are eating. No disruptions - play quietly, read books, etc in another room. No exceptions!
He can eat (what you made) or not, but make it clear that it is his choice. Make up a plate for him and put it in the fridge - if and when he wants food, there it is. Basically, put him in charge of when he eats but keep control over what he eats.
Maybe sit with him sometime without food and say something like 'I love you and was worried about what you eat. But I decided that I'm not happy when I bug you and you're not happy when I bug you so I'm going to quit doing that. You don't have to eat with us, but I won't make special food. You will have to behave better - no more disrespectful comments or xxx.'
Do not give in and make something different. Do not allow misbehavior - the talking badly about your food thing has to stop before your other kids really start to take after him. Make sure he understands that the consequences (time out or whatever) are for talking disrespectfully, nothing to do with food!
Whatever you decide to do, good luck! :)

A., It is time to teach your son to respect women. It start with mom. You have 2 issues. First, he doesn't give you the respect that you deserve. You are his mother and he does not have the right to say ugly things about you or the foods you prepare. At our house, children are allowed to say, I wouldn't care for any. If it is a new food, they are required to eat (and swallow) one tsp. of it, with no nagging. They absolutely may NOT say "This is Yucky." or "I don't like it." Only, I wouldn't care for any. This makes meal time SO pleasant. And it teaches them an important life skill.

Secondly, I see that everything your son likes has MSG in it. Please research the dangers of MSG, It is a long term toxin and it is addictive. I would suggest getting him and the rest of your family off of MSG. Then, cook some good foods, that are home made. Offer your son food for 30 minutes at meal time. Have everyone at the table and set a timer. After the timer goes off, no more food is served. They may finish what is already on their plates. (I know this seems regimented, but it is temporary and it WORKS)
Anyway, after the timer, nobody gets any food until the next regular mealtime, except raw veggies and water. Keep a cup with raw veggie sticks in a bit of water to keep them fresh, allow the children access to these veggies all the time and when they want juice or milk, give them only water, between meals. Within one month, you will find that you will have no whining or complaining about food, the msg addiction will be gone and your children will have healthy appetites.

Note: If your child says that the food is yucky, sweetly take it away, saying,"We do not disrespect mommy by talking badly about the food. I will take your food away now. you may have all the raw veggies you would like until
(Next meal time)" Be absolutely consistent, absolutely kind and I guarantee you will see results.

Also, when your child stops fighting you with food, you can lose the mealtime timer. Only bring it back if he relapses.

This process has totally reformed our mealtimes and the health of our children. I hope you can try it. Remember, never feel guilty for offering fresh raw foods and clean water to your child, that is the premo stuff, in spite of what we have allow them to get accustomed to.
Mom of 8 ages 5 to 25

Poor kid-- sounds a lot like mine. If his jaw strength is weak, or his tongue isn't helping the food process, he won't be able to eat more textured food. What worked for us was getting "Feeding Therapy" from a speech language pathologist. In some areas, an Occupational Therapist offers this service. I suggest you call around and see if there is anyone in your area who works with kids and schedule an evaluation. Made a huge difference for us!

I have a very similar 6 year old who has a very limited idea of what foods she likes. However, I have recently had much success. I have been serving her very small portions (1-2 bites of everything) and requiring that all the food be eaten before she is served anything else. I do not make her eat it, I even tell her she doesn't have to eat it, HOWEVER, I will NOT give her anything else to eat until she has finished what is on her plate. I then continue to serve that plate of food until she has indeed finished everything on her plate. We have been doing this for the last 3 months and while initially it was rough; she once went 2.5 days without eating anything as she did not want to eat 3 bites of eggs, that was the longest and only multi-day battle we have had and she did indeed eat the eggs of her own free will and now is a huge fan of eggs (go figure). In the last few days I am happy to report she has happily tried chilli, chicken tortilla soup, potatoes au gratin, salmon, garlic bread, and a new cereal; all without even a world of battle. The key was to take the fight out of the situation. I never once told her she has to eat it, I simply didn't and wouldn't serve anything else. We also discussed how I have never once served anything to make her sick and how I really attempt to serve healthy foods so even if she doesn't love the taste, it is good to eat foods as times because they are healthy for her. If you do try this you have to be totally committed and willing to let your child go hungry, he won't let himself starve, he will eventually eat. Make the portions small, you can always give more if they like it!!

Another great book addressing the issue of picky eating: "Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater." The website is very helpful as well> http://www.BabyBites.info

The book corporates multi-sensory learning with mealtimes.

My 4.5 year old eats even less - or so it always seems. Rice, beans, chicken nuggets, and other "kid food." Anything new he is presented with he will respond "I don't like that" and refuse it. Our rule is he has to have one (very, very small) bite of everything on the table. I don't expect him to like it, and I don't ever ask him to clean his plate, but he does have to try it. We also enforce no nasty comments about food until after he tries it - so if he says "I don't like that" I ask him if he has tried it and he says no, and then I respond with, "then you can't not like it, as you just don't know." We try to make sure at least some portion of every meal he will eat - so if we make chicken we also make rice or some side that he will eat. He tries the chicken, and mainly eats the rice. We will not make him a separate meal and do not allow snacks if he flatly refuses to eat the meal.

I tend to think of it as, if he was an adult and he refused a meal because he did not like it, would you push him to eat it anyway? Even if it made him sick? I know I have refused some things for dinner because they don't taste good, and I want to respect that my children have opinions too. Just so long as they try it first! Oh and a good book we found on trying to get kids to at least try new stuff was Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.

My 7 y/o used to be this way. So I told him no nasty comments, and he doesn't have to eat but meal time is family time too so he does have to sit at the table. Most nights he will eat something off his palte with no comments. He knows that if he doesn't eat a good dinner he gets nothing else. Stick to your guns om this one. If he goes to bed hungry a few times he might suprise you with what he will eat.

I know a lot of moms really like the Love and Logic way of handling things like this. We use it on our 5 year old DD with varying degrees of success.

Basically, when she tells us that she doesn't like something before she's even tried it, we tell her that that is rude and that she needs to at least try it before she can tell us whether she likes it or not. Then we don't make a big deal about her complaining or whining.

When she refuses to eat, we make her sit there while the rest of the family eats dinner. We also tell her that this is what dinner is and if she doesn't eat it, she will have to wait until breakfast the next day. We also tell her that she will not get anything else. No dessert, no snacks, not even milk to drink, she will get water.

When she complains of being hungry, we ask her if she ate dinner. A sullen "NO" is usually the response. (Ignore the attitude, otherwise you'll just get mad.) Then we tell her that not eating wasn't a very good choice and now she'll just have to wait till the next morning and have breakfast.

If we are having something really special for dessert or a treat and she REALLY wants it, we will relent and let her have a second chance to eat her dinner, which she usually does as fast as she can.

It seems you are digging in your heals and fighting on this one. Relax, make it no big deal with your kids to just suggest they 'try' it. They can always make themselves a PBJ. There are some good books on this and I highly doubt you want the repercussions that come with making an issue out of food. Read one of the books suggested to help you not worry so much. It is easy to feel bad when the kids complain about our meals. I tell mine that I created it and when they tell me it is gross, it is like me telling them one of their pictures they colored is ugly. It hurts feelings. Good luck.

We don't give our kids a choice. The only time I make something separate for them is if I make something spicy. I always have veggies on the plate, protein and usually a side dish. My dd likes to eat the side dish and is full for the veggies. She sits there until they're eaten. If they don't eat a good dinner, they don't get anything else.

My brother used to puke too - I don't know if it was ever on his plate, but my mom never gave up having him eat his food. There were some big fights but they made it through!

Good luck!

Sounds like he is workin' ya. Classic! As wonderful as kids are, they certain make us crazy and the last thing you want them to do is share their bad habits with siblings.

Here is what my mom did with us;
- She put what she made for dinner on the plate, period.
- If we were disrespectful about the food and not thankful, our dinner was removed and we were sent to bed, period.
- She did require that we try everything on our plate at least once, if we didn't or again was disrespectful about it, we went to bed.
- We gave thanks for our meals and were reminded how lucky we were to have our food at every meal.
- She did actually take into account "realistic" dislikes to foods. I couldn't stand tuna from a can and my brother hated asparagus, therefore she didn't prepare those items very often if ever. Everything else went on the plate and we made the decision as to whether or not we went to bed hungry.

I think the biggest thing she did was she never caved! EVER! She did not allow disrespect or lack of gratitude. In other words, if your son is acting this way about food he needs to be removed from the situation and really see what it is like to be without not only the food but the family time. Believe me he will not starve and his siblings will see that he does not get to join the family with poor behavior. Everyone will get it real soon. Within a week or two you will have a happy comfortable dinner table.

I have adhered to my mother's ways, the only thing I do differently is she made us eat the food on our plate and I will allow my kids to take a bite but they do not have to clean their plate. I have never had a dinner time problem, nor did my mom.

Good luck!

Hi A.; he might have some sort of Sensory Processing issues...the textures or smells might really make him sick. :( Check out this checklist...


Wow. If he's making comments about how he doesn't like what you prepare, don't make him eat it. Instead, he can go lay on his bed while the rest of you enjoy your meal without his hurtful comments. Hopefully a time or two going to bed hungry will cure the nasty remarks & show the younger two that if they follow in his footsteps w/the comments, they'll follow him right to bed.
Be strong! It really sounds like he's testing you to see if you'll do what he wants (which you kinda are, when you let him spit the food out-I wouldn't want to eat it either but you told him to get it gone...)
He's 5 years old, have him take 5 bites-use a small spoon & a grain of rice per bite doesn't count as a bite (I've gotten that before)-before he can push it away & wait for everyone else to be done. If he's not eating his meals though, there are no snacks afterward, even if the family is eating popcorn w/a movie or something after dinner.

Sounds like all the stuff he likes is loaded with preservatives, sugar, salt, and other processed junk. While that stuff is easy to make/serve/etc., it desensitizes the tastebuds to expect a ton of sugar and salt. Stop serviing the processed stuff. If he says dinner is disgusting, then tell him he is welcome to not have dinner that night, but he is expected to sit at the table. After a few nights of no dinner, he'll get the message. Stick to your guns --- this is your son's future health in the balance!

There are several cookbooks for kids out there. I have bought a couple at Barnes & Noble in the kids section... Emeril, Rachel Ray, etc. This would be a great way to get him 'involved' & even excited in what he is eating since he would be instrumental in what ends up on the dinner table & it would give the two of you some great time together! Who knows... you could end up with a budding chef on your hands!

I have a 9 year old that tells me that after she taked 3 bites she gets cramps and her abdominal bones hurt... This is a child whom 2 months ago was eating me out of house and home. I am concerned that she may be developing anorexia, and it really scares me. She is 91/2 years old and she weighs 59 LBS... Help I don't know what to do!!!!! A concerned mother of 2. Whom ever is out there and has some knowledge about this please write back. Thank you

Hi A.,

There is a great book I would recommend "Eat Healthy, Feel Great" by Dr Sears.

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