6-Year Old Is a Picky Eater!!!!

Updated on March 07, 2012
L.K. asks from Lafayette, CA
16 answers

I'm very frustrated with my 6 year old son who ONLY wants to eat junk. It drives me nuts. He has such a limited menu of food that he will eat. It is very frustrating.

Today, while he was at school, the teacher expressed to me that my son is "fussy" when it comes to food. Today was Dr. Seuss day at school and she served "green eggs and ham." She also had biscuits with jelly, some fruit, etc. He wouldn't eat anything. He told me he's not used to eating at school. UGH.

I'm frustrated because I don't know how to help him. He will not eat things if they look "different" from what he's used to. He won't eat chicken unless it's breaded. He won't eat bananas, but he'll eat banana bread. It's so confusing.

He LOVES mac n cheese, hot dogs, grilled cheese, corn dogs, breaded chicken, yogurt, plain noodles, toast, apples, grapes, mango, and some other random things. He is not interested in condiments. I've asked him if he'd like to dip plain chicken (not breaded), but he won't. He used to eat broccoli when he was a toddler, but now won't get near it. He pretty much won't eat any vegetables.

Of course, he has NO problem eating any ice cream, cake, cupcakes, etc. He doesn't care what they look like.

He WILL NOT try new food.

How do I deal with this? My other kids will eat pretty much anything. Do I set up a rewards system? Do I let him eat what he likes and not push him to try new things?

If you have a child who is like this, please share your experience.

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answers from Boston on

Mine too and I wish I hadn't struggled with her so much about it. I would give him the mango and grapes with every meal. Mine will eat one vegetable- raw red pepper but only a few bites, so that's what I give her. I offer other foods but I no longer do the "two bite" rule that a nutritionist (without kids) told me. Not worth harassing her and dinner is much more pleasant.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Limit his junk and dessert intake... I was a picky eater w sensory issues so I have a whole post on ways to help, but on husbands phone and can't copy paste. Pm me and I will message you.

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answers from Los Angeles on

when i child got like this at 2 only eating pbj, mac and cheese and chicken nuggets i had it. i just simply told her this is whats for dinner eat it or not but if you dont do not complain you are hungry. i would give her a little of each and she would need to clean her plate to get a dessert. shes 4 now and i rarely have trouble with getting her to each anything.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I let her eat what she'll eat. The items you listed are not unhealthy. Of course the actual junk food is limited I am sure. The other things are not bad foods. They are normal kid foods.

He will not eat odd things. He may not even do it when he is an adult unless he is trying to impress a girl on a date...lol.

I do feel your stress though. I have an 8 yr. old girl who has geographic tongue. She may eat mac and cheese for dinner every night for a month then take a bite of it and gag then puke it right back out. I do not feel that when she dislides something that much that it is MY job to MAKE her eat food if she says she does not want it.

I used to be a dictator, I would force the issue and tell her should could not have anything else, that she had to eat what I fixed. All that did was make her go without food for days. She would literally not eat. I finally realized that I was wrong.

If I cannot teach my child it is okay to say no to an adult, even if it is me, then how will she ever be able to say no to some other adult, maybe one who is telling her to take off her clothes and do unspeakable things. Teaching kids they have no choice or voice is not right. I finally decided to listen, she is often the one that chooses what we eat for dinner. When she does she is always able to eat it and there are no fights. What a nice way to have a meal. Everyone eating and visiting.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

All I have to say is the parents who do not have a child like this do not understand and are not helpful in saying you have made your child this way. That only serves to make you feel bad. Then if they go on to say how great of eaters their children are it only seems they want to make the point that they are so great at this parenting thing while you are not. Well, don't let that kind of comment get to you! I have 2 kids and one is exactly like your child and the other eats just about everything. I have treated them both the same and I always offer healthy dinners with variety. I LOVE love love different foods and tastes and trying new things, so it is crazy to me how my son is so disgusted by so many foods. My son is almost 8 and we have tried everything. EVERYTHING!!! He has not really expanded the foods he eats and maybe he has even gotten a bit more picky as he has gotten older. I just keep giving him what we all are eating and we praise him for trying new foods. He never likes them though. He has tried things most anyone would find delicious over and over and over again but he still hates them. We have tried pushing him and it never worked either. He would rather eat nothing than eat something he does not like. We do make him take one bite and this is very very hard for him. We praise him each time but he acts like we are feeding him dog poo (the look on his face). I just keep putting those foods on his plate and all I can do is hope that one day he will start liking more food. I wish I had better advice for you. Our other child will happily eat all kinds of vegetables and seems to enjoy new foods. She sees me cooking something new and gets excited and says Yum! She's happy to try all kinds of foods. It's a relief really. This is proof that it is something in our son's genes and not something we have done to make him this way. I say keep it positive. Try setting up a rewards system and see if you can get somewhere. We have done this in the past and it did not work for us, but maybe it will work for you. Always encourage him to try new foods. Make the one or two bite rule. Have a big talk about how he is not to say negative things at the table and the rule is he has to take a bite and he is not allowed to say gross! disgusting! I hate this!, etc. He can just say, no thank you. We keep telling our son his taste buds will mature as he gets older and he will start to like foods he previously did not. We also talk to him about nutrition. He seems like he wishes he liked more foods, but over time nothing has ever really changed. Let me know if you ever make some progress!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

sorry - I've never had picky eaters. My kids love spinach, broccoli, aspargus, avocados....the list goes on and on.

YOU are the parent. DO NOT buy him the junk. Tell him what is on the menu, he MUST try ONE BITE. That's what we do with our kids and new stuff. They MUST try one bite. And guess what?! They like it!! Even Beets!! Nicky likes cold beets over warm beets - fine. Greg was OKAY with it. he'll eat them - not his favorite - that's spinach.

I refuse to be like my girlfriend who is, in essence, a short order cook, she had picky eaters and "has" to make 2 to 3 different meals at dinner time. When they come to my house? they eat what I present them with. If they don't. Sorry. This was the menu. You knew it. I asked for input. You said "sounds fine". To many that's considered mean. It's a fact. I give kids a choice in the menu for meals. And you know what? Those kids eat at my house and their mom comes and says "what did you do? She ate that?" Yes!! She did!! How did you get her to eat it? I told her what the menu choices were and she agreed. I cooked. She ate.

People say "pick our battles" - sounds like he won the battle on this one. You need to take the control back. Buy the foods you want him to eat. Model the behavior you want. You don't want him to eat junk - don't have it in the house so it won't be a matter of do as I say - not as I do.

Tell him this is the menu - if you want to give him two choices - fish or chicken - fine. You can bake fries instead of deep frying them - so you can give him that option. let him feel like he has some control. But in reality - YOU are in control. You give him a choice of two things. Fix it. If he doesn't eat it? Thanks. Go take a shower and get ready for bed. But I'm hungry!! Well, I've fixed you a good dinner. You had a choice. You chose not to eat it. He will NOT let himself starve. NO child will ever let themselves starve.

You are the parent. Set the rules. Don't let him dictate what goes on in the house.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I agree with Jacy B's way of handling this. Have only the foods you want him to eat available. He will eventually eat what you give him. He won't starve. Have one thing you know he likes at each meal and give him a small amount of the rest of the dinner. He doesn't have to eat but he can't have a snack later.

Most picky eaters are that way because they've "trained" their mother to give them only what they want. lol I know this because my grandson is a picky eater and his dad fixes him special food when he doesn't like what's for dinner. In essence he often fixes two meals.

When my grandson is with me, he eats what I give him or not. We don't have the hassle over food that they have at his house. I do give him healthy versions of the foods he likes.

I suggest that much of what you've listed is good food. Although perhaps not the healthiest I suggest that breaded chicken is OK as is hot dogs, mac and cheese. Use quality ingredients. Use real cheese in mac and cheese. Frozen (Stouffer's) mac and cheese is good nutrition. And include fruits and veggies along with them.

You can mix in some veggies/fruits with other foods. For example you can put blended veggies into spaghetti sauce. You can make your own breading which will be healthier in your own chicken nuggets.

Deceptively Delicious is a cook book that "sneaks" healthy food into everyday dishes. You'll have healthier meals for the entire family.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Stop buying the junk.
We had an alternate meal that the children could make for themselves, BUT if they chose the alternate meal, there was no dessert.
Our alternate meal was peanutbutter on wheat bread with a glass of milk. I gave my children vitamins. The veggie thing was not something I was willing to fight. I knew that eventually, they'd eat veggies.. and they do.
Snacks - fruit, almonds, banana bread, small salami and cheese on crackers, etc.
Lunches - left overs of what they like. My kids liked home made chicken nuggets, so I'd make extra, heat them in the morning, and send them in a thermos. Ditto for spaghetti, or whatever we had for dinner that they liked.
Dinner - we made dinner. Eat it or don't. If you choose not to eat it, then you may have the alternate meal.
I did not fight about food.
I knew that eventually, they'd go to other kids' houses for dinner and eat it all. And they did. There was a rule, though.. if they got invited to a home for dinner, they were to choke the whole meal down and tell the mom it was delicious. End of subject. They did - they learned to eat new things - they are now decent eaters.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have a child like that and another who will try almost anything. At 8, he is finally starting to willing to try new things once in a while, but it is still hit and miss.

I HIGHLY recommend the book Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter. She talks about how it is the parents' responsibility to provide healthy meals and it is the child's responsibility to decide what, how much and even if to eat. Very reassuring to parents of picky eaters and gives you lots of tips for preventing the meal table from becoming a battlefield.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have to say that your son's menu sounds like a toddler's one ;) There is no veggies at all and yet there are sweets.
I think the best way is to look at what is served at home for dinners and other meals(what family eats). If he sees that no one is eating vegetables than he won't want to try.
Probably the best way would be to start with small steps. He is old enough to really be able to have 1-2 bites of new food. My kiddos have to try new food- no exception LOL. If he refuses than maybe he can go to bed without dinner? I don't know if it would work as I never have to do it.
How about baby carrots? They are crunchy and most kids like them. Apple, grapes, strawberries are great too. String cheese, yogurts, raisins are good too.
Broccoli (steamed but not overcooked is loved here), roasted butternut squash too. Green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower is also eaten here too.
I also use food processor to mice/grind carrots, part of red peppers, zucchini, and sweet onion and I add that to my meals to cook it with rice, sauces etc.
Chicken breast is "grilled" on my grilled pan (usually 4-5 min per side, it depends on the thickness of the breast- don't want to end up w/ dry meat it's not good ;-) ).
How about taco night? Mine love tacos with ground meat (again I cook it with my "hidden veggies"- not a lot but enough that I know it's there. Kiddos put also black olives in the taco and finally they started adding lettuce (I shred into very tiny pieces), shredded cheese, taco sauce, tomatoes. They don't like sour cream.
Spaghetti is great and again easy to add veggies in it.
Recently I tried regular biscuit (Pillsbury) as a calzone LOL I rolled/flattened each biscuit and added prepared ground meat w/veggies and tomato sauce (that meat had some moisture- meat was coked not pink) in the middle, folded it, closed edges (used fork for it) baked according to recipe for biscuit and my kids loved it too. Maybe this form of meal will appeal to your boy?

Good luck. Again I would do slow changes and try "new" food with him as a game:)
Sorry for the novel!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My 5 year old is just like that and I've managed to expand his food repertoire just by saying "you have to try one bite of everything I give you and then if you don't like it, then you can have cereal (his favorite)". We don't have sugar cereals in the house so it's usually a bowl of Wheatabix, Chex, Cheerioes or something like that. He was terribly picky as a baby, too, and would only eat sweet potatoes and the turkey dinner jarred food. Although he'll eat almost any kind of fruit out there. Anyway, the one bite rule seems to work with us and there have been nights when I've looked down to see everything on his plate eaten up! None of this is without him complaining, but he's a rules guy, so he'll at least follow it! Hope that helps...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsfield on

2 of my 4 are picky eaters- but in different ways. My oldest is only picky at school. He's 12 now- and it's really not better. He is bothered by the smells of the cafeteria and/ or the food of who ever is sitting near him. For some reason, there is very little he will eat @ school, but @ home, he eats great. I spent much of K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th ,and 5th grade banging my head in the wall. I seriously tried EVERYTHING- even taking him to a nutritionist and having the doctor "talk" to him. If I pack things he doesn't like, he simply won't eat- at ALL- so now after years of dealing with this, I give him what he will eat, which is a bag of Sunchips and freeze dried organic pears. I know, I get the "worst mom" award but he wore me down. When he comes home from school, he has a turkey sandwich, AND some sort of snack, like bananas or fresh pear slices w/ cinnamon sugar sprinkled on it, or slices of cheddar cheese with crackers. After all that, he still eats a big dinner- sometimes less than 2 hours later.

Anyway, my 8 yo is picky, but slowly showing a little improvement. He decided out of the blue about 6 months ago, that he wanted to try a hamburger- and loved it. What I found with him, which I suspect might be the case w/ your son, is that he is bothered more by textures of foods and the way something looks than flavor. For example, he loves freeze dried strawberries, but no amount of coaxing can get him to eat a fresh strawberry- he doesn't like the texture- it feels "slimy" to him. My husband has tried the "you can't leave the table until you try_____" He eventually tries it, but you'd think we were trying to get him to taste Drain-o or something. The more pressure that there is on him, the worse he does. I found that when we back off a little, he will eventually decide he wants to try something.

I think it may help some that his 6 yo brother is a little "foodie"- with him, it's easier to list the things he doesn't like than the things he does. Doesn't like any kind of breakfast cereal, tomato soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches, but he loves brattwurst w/ horseradish mustard, for example. He loves watching the Food Network with my husband and loves going ouside with my him when he's grilling. He's also very vocal at the table with his "Mmmmm's" and you can see how much he enjoys his food- that seems to pique the curiosity of his 8 yo.brother. enough to want to try something sometimes.

Anyway, after struggling for years w/ picky eaters, I finally came to the conclusion that they'll survive. Some kids do really well with a "this is what's for dinner- take it or leave it approach and some don't (yes, tried that). I had to stop worrying what people must think because they don't live with MY child and have no idea.

So, to answer your question, if it were me, I'd let him eat what he likes. When he does try something new, but doesn't like it, tell him that you are so proud of him that he at least tried it. Try not to make too much of his not wanting to eat something, but praise his sibs when they eat well or try a new food. I'm thinking that if you try to set up a reward system, his sibs will feel like he's getting special treatment.

Anyway, HIH !!
Good luck!! :)

ADDED: Amen, Carrie T!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have a child like yours and I was (and still am) a huge picky eater. There is no quick fix. No amount of starvation will help the fear we feel when a new food is placed in front of us. Yes, real fear, in the pit of our stomachs. I never had any incident causing this, I think its just how some of us are wired. Maybe ask your son how he feels when he is asked to try new foods. See what he is thinking. Forcing will not help! I am a 46 year old smart rational parent with one great eater and one extremely picky eater. I do try new foods now but still not without a real inner battle. My son (10 years old) is slowly trying a few things. It is a journey, not a battle. Please don't make it a battle or power struggle, that will only carry over into the rest of your relationship with him. Talk with him about how food doesn't have to be scary, but don't have this conversation at the table or while eating. You can help him but it will take time and patience.



answers from San Francisco on

You should get the book "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" by Dr. Natasha McBride. He likely has food allergies and an imbalance of good/bad bacteria in his digestive tract.

My son was like that. Luckily for us, we caught it just before he turned four. We removed gluten and sugar from his diet. Basically, prior to that change, that was all he was eating. Once we removed that, he had to eat veggies, fruits, etc. He missed a few meals at the beginning, but eventually he ate what we served him. Now, he's 7 and is growing like a weed. He is not so picky any more. The rule in our house is - you don't have to eat it if you don't want to. But I'm not offering you anything else to eat and no snack before bed.

Hope this helps.



answers from San Francisco on

I'll keep this short since several have already replied - one thing that has helped us over time is requiring one bite of any food our son / daughter is reluctant to eat (even if it's one they've hated in the past) - we explain that tastes change. It has been amazing to me how both kids (each of whom went through a picky stage, one for much longer than the other) will, from time to time, take that one bite, and then later decide they actually like that food after all. We don't make it a big deal, just say we appreciate it when they try that one bite, and then if they decide they like something after all, we give them more (again, without making a big deal out of it). It doesn't work everyday, but it's brought my son back to broccoli (he went through a four year stage of hating broccoli) and back to asparagus and mushrooms as well. Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

That's funny because my 3 year old is the same way. I know this will sound negative, but the only thing that works with my son is if I threaten him with no TV or no Thomas train if he doesn't at least give it a try. It also works if I bribe him with something I know he'll like. This is how I've gotten him to love broccoli and green beans. Since my son is such a picky eater, I always make sure I have plenty of healthy food around that I know he loves to eat. So when I go to the farmer's market or a supermarket, I'd always get avocados, broccoli, artichokes, green beans, clementines, yogurt, string cheese, etc. Basically, we have the same dinner menu every week. Baked organic chicken drumsticks and organic baby broccoli, grass-fed beef or bison/buffalo patties and garlic sea salt green beans, whole grain pasta with ground turkey, fish fillets, bok choy and brown rice, shrimp wonton soup with noodles, mushrooms and bok choy, sushi night... I think my son is becoming a better eater as he gets older. It also helps to have an older sibling that he likes to follow. The other night, our 6 year old daughter (who loves vegetables) got a whole bowl of brussels sprouts for dinner and he got so excited, he copied his sister and asked for brussels sprouts too. He ate a few halves and he decided he didn't like them that much. But at least he tried them and have been exposed to them. Maybe someday he'll decide he wants to try them again. Don't give up.

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