7 Year Old. VERY Picky Eater

Updated on February 27, 2008
V.P. asks from North Port, FL
10 answers

Hi there,
I was just wondering if anyone else has a picky eater and what they have done to correct it. When my 7 year old was a baby, I had no problem getting him to eat his baby food. He ate everything I put in front of him. When we started moving to solids, he became very picky. We have had a problem ever since. I should mention too that he had a gag reflex that caused him to throw up a food if he didn't like or wasn't used to how it tasted or the texture. The gag reflex seems to be gone now, but he will still spit food into his napkin if he isn't used to the taste. I feel like his taste buds need to have a chance to acclimate to different foods before he totally writes them off. Anyhow, it is very hard to get him to try anything new. His pediatrician told me that I should be serving him the same meals the rest of the family gets (don't make anything special for him)and if he doesn't eat that, then he doesn't get anything else. For the most part, there is always at least one thing that he likes on his plate, so he isn't going to starve, but he absolutely won't touch anything else without a lot of stress. I would really like our meal time to be less stressful. He will not eat beef at all. As far as ground meat goes, I only use ground turkey, and he won't try that. The only chicken he will eat are McNuggets (which we don't go there often at all). He won't eat any other kind of chicken nugget because they don't taste the same. He won't eat hot dogs (truth be told, I am fine with that one). He won't touch fish at all. Basically, he will only eat a handful of things. He will eat spaghetti as long as there is no meat in it and it can only be the spaghetti pasta, not another kind. I have tried taking dessert away if he didn't eat, and it doesn't bother him at all. He would live off of peanut butter sandwiches, cereal, and yogurt if I let him.
Does anyone have any suggestions?

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answers from Tampa on

Dear V.,

I have 3 children, they are all adults now and one of them was a very picky eater and still is to this day. It is very frustrating, all you can do is try to get him to eat the foods he is not found of, I think some children are more sensative to the textures in the different foods. I just made my picky eater what he would eat, every on told me I was crazy, but I felt that was what he needed. I continually asked him to try the foods he said he did not like and some times he would decide he liked them and some times not. Just keep trying, maybe I should say coaxing. There is nothing wrong with peanut butter, cereal and yogurt.



answers from Tampa on

V. -
I totally sympathize as this seems like a very stressful situation for you! I would have to agree with your pedi though. While I agree with the previous post that spicy foods may not be a good idea you never know what will end up tickling his fancy! Fix what you are going to fix for dinner and don't make a big deal about it but serve him a plate and let him know that he needs to take at least one taste of everyting on the plate - he doesn't have to eat a full portion and if he tells you he doesn't like it tell him that's fine thank you for tasting and leave it at that. We have always done this with my son who is now 10 and I am constantly amazed at the things he ends up liking! (Like hot wings!) If you just make tasting a fact of life and don't make a big deal about it, it won't be a big deal! And believe me if he is hungry he will eat! The fact that you are concerned and trying shows just what a great Momma that you are!! Good Luck!



answers from Sarasota on

Hi V.. Mom of an EXTREMELY picky 5-year old here. He has always been fairly picky but worsened as he got older (between 2 and 4 probably). He tends to eat more variety at school, so I purchase the crazy expensive school lunches for that reason. Here it's spaghetti, sausage (odd for a picky eater I think), cereal, bread, yogurt, some cheeses, PBJ, chicken nuggets, most every fruit, and SOMETIMES fries (if they are the PERFECT size, texture, etc. whatever that is). There's occasionally something else he'll eat, but he's pretty set on likes and dislikes. Potatoes are the devil, rice smells funny, beef makes him vomit, green stuff is green... sound familiar? He has a LOT of sensory problems, so texture and smell particularly are difficult challenges for him.
We supplement using vitamins, and he grows normally and has no health problems. He's a picky eater, and that's that. I have had to learn not to stress over it too much, especially because I have a 3-year old who wants to be just like big brother, so fighting over it just shows him that food is a big enough deal to fight over.
I have heard/read that a lot of kids avoid foods that they have allergies to/sensitivies to (milk, meat, eggs in particular) and that it is not necessarily a conscious thing. Their bodies just know they shouldn't eat it.
My other issue comes from the "preparing different foods for mealtime" argument that you said you got from your pediatrician. I have heard the same thing from peds, teachers, parents, friends. But my husband and I also love hot/spicy foods like buffalo wings, chili, and Mexican food which I would not expect little kids to like or eat. So I have NO problem preparing something different for them. I think it's ridiculous to expect that we not eat foods we like at our only mealtime together just because we don't want the prepare something different for them. I eat EVERYTHING and so does my husband. Our kids see that and are still picky (again, particularly the oldest). My hope is that by seeing us eat such a variety of foods, textures, flavors, they will want to sample them and learn to like them rather than us just serving baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans (blah!) because they are "safe" family foods that we can all eat together (not that either of my kids would touch any of it!). You're right, he's not going to starve whether you prepare foods specially for him or not. But I know in my house I've realized giving one carrots (he does like raw carrots, although he'd rather die than eat cooked) and the other broccoli (little one loves broccoli, hates carrots) means I have both for myself (I love BOTH!), shows them that you actually CAN like both (modeling the behavior), and also shows my big boy that I'm not dismissing the idea that it may be the texture/smell/etc. that is pushing him away not a desire to just refuse the food. No stress, the kids eat, we supplement with vitamins, I know that tastes change in kids like they change their socks. Also, we have gone through phases of NutriPal bars and shakes to supplement their eating especially when there is an EXTREME pickiness phase.
Hope that helps a bit. Good luck!



answers from Ocala on

I think he's going to grow out of it. My aunt basically gave up with my cousin...until she was around 12 years old she LITERALLY ate NOTHING but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. My aunt gave her vitamins to try and help. I don't agree with giving up and letting them eat just what they want, and I think it sounds like you're doing an excellent job trying, my point is just that if he doesn't eat everything he should he will still be fine. My cousin turned out just fine, she's 22 now, and she does eat lots of different foods now. Just make sure to talk to your pediatrician and find a good multivitamin. Good luck!



answers from Punta Gorda on

I'm a grown up picky eater and can tell you its a whole lot easier to "nip it in the bud" now than when he gets older. I wish my mother would have had more discipline like your pediatrician suggests.

Besides pig headed discipline to "nip it in the bud" now, you might want to try "sneaking" vegetables into food he likes. Theres a book I bought for a sister in law that has the same situation-- i bought the book at bed, bath and beyond. Can't remember the name, but something like "sneaky chef". The author suggests mixing in like "squash" with the mac & cheese (they both have the same color)-- do it in small portions so they don't or can't taste anything.

Make him eat just a "speck" of something that he doesn't like, and maybe like mix it in with a spoon or fork bite of something he likes so that he gets used to seeing that it won't "kill" him ... then slowly work up, increasing the portions.



answers from Fort Myers on

your doctor is right. don't start fixing him special dinners. don't give him any sweets- juice, fruit. if you are afraid give him a multi-vitamin. and give him a full glassof whole milk. he will not starve and sooner or later he will start eating. i have had some picky eaters. and don't feed him until the next family meal. i don't force my children to eat, but they won't get anything else until they have eaten what i put on their plates. and i know what my kids will not definitely eat. i would not tell him what he is eating. my granddaughter would eat green peppers, but only if i called them peppers and not green peppers. i have also noticed my kids don't know what meat they are really eating. if i told them they had steak last night. they would say really.



answers from Tampa on

I am the mother of 3 grown children and the grand mother of 7. I now am nannie to a 13 month old. I agree with your Dr. Don't give him cereal if he doesn't eat the meal the family is having. Don't fight with him to eat it and don't give him desert. Let him eat cereal, yogert and peanut butter for breakfast and lunch. I would also limit any kind of sweets. It will pass.




answers from Lakeland on

Dear V., I had the same problem with my daughter, though not as bad. She ate everything in baby foods but as she grew to your son's age she refused to eat many veggies that she loved as a baby. I would put 1 bite on her plate of what ever she had never tried or didn't like and she didn't leave the table until she ate that 1 bite. This was bewtween 5 yrs. old on up.My grand daughter and grandson both as younger kids didn't like the texture of mashed potatoes. French fries is all they would eat. We tried gravy, everything. Now as they have aged they will eat it on occassion. My daughter never out grew her dislike of some veggies but she will eat many she doesn't like cooked raw like carrots and broccoli as an example. Good luck!M. L.



answers from Naples on

Hi V.!
My 5 year old daughter started out of the blue also with "i don't like this or that".It drove me crazy,specially when she used to eat anything,and I knew she would like it if she only tried!It was getting her to try that was the challenge.
Turns out she loves stickers,and we have a chart for 2 of our 3 children.She'll get a sticker for each thing she tries,and if she absolutly don't like it ,she don't have to eat it.But she's tried everything I've asked her so far,and turns out she LOVES green beans,that she would insist gave her a tummy-acke before,HA.ha.ha...............
She still don't like a few things,but she'll try anything for a sticker.Even if you're son don't like stickers,you can find whatever he likes and do the same thing.I think the clue is that you tell him ahead of time that if you don't like it,you don't have to eat it.It gives him a little control,and all kids like that.Good luck to you!!



answers from Lakeland on

Have you ever had him tested for sensory issues? My son (6) had sensory defensiveness (very sensitive to clothing textures, temperatures, etc.) and we think some of his pickiness may come from that. An occupational therapist could evaluate and there are things you can do to help it. There are also books on the subject as well that you might check out from the library if you are interested. It is called Sensory Integration Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder if it is full-blown or sensory defensiveness if it is borderline. This site at a glance, looks like it could be helpful - http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/picky-eaters.html
Good luck!

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