As Anyone Actually Tried the Starvation Thing, for Picky Eaters?

Updated on May 18, 2011
V.M. asks from Conneaut, OH
52 answers

Feel like i have tried all the suggested things, such as having them help cook, or the try one bite rule etc. The line about them having to try something so many times doesn't work if they never try it. I wouldn't actually starve my child to the point of death, but has anyone actually served brussel sprouts for every meal until they eat them, I'm pretty sure my kids would puke repeatedly, be scarred for life and never actually learn to like them. so does it work? anyone else desparate enough to try it?

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So What Happened?

Just having a frustrating night, DH is rarely home for dinner so i'm battling this on my own. lots to think about and I have heard that brussel sprouts are great roasted but .....

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answers from Washington DC on

If my kids don't like something they can go hungry for that meal. Breakfast is in the mornign and I would make something more appealing the next day at dinner.
Serving a food that they won't like anyway, all the time until they eat it, is just cruel. I am assuming you wouldn't serve them brussel sprouts more than once in their lifetime.

Try foods that are not so strong.
Broccoli with cheese melted over it.
Mixed veggies, then let them choose two colors
Pasta and sauce dishes with veggies in it.
Meatloaf with grated zuchini or carrots
Fresh veggies with dip, or just Ranch dressing

Why set them up for an eating disorder?

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answers from Washington DC on

We always had an alternate meal that the children could eat:
Peanutbutter on wheat, milk, no dessert.
They made it themselves.
If they didn't want dinner, they didn't have to eat it... But we make one meal and only one meal. Eat it or the alternate meal... No complaints, thankyouverymuch!
Do NOT make food an issue. It's not worth it.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I make one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner for the family. Sometimes my kids say they don't want it and I explain that this is what we are eating. Its up to them to decide if they want to be hungry or eat the food that I prepared. They will never starve. Its worth it.

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answers from Honolulu on

As kids, my Mom would make liver.
She made it many times.
We didn't eat it.
Hated it.
Went to bed hungry.
Why on earth, would she keep making it, and then expecting us to eat it?
Even my Dad didn't want liver.
She thought she was teaching us a lesson.
Yah, not a golden lesson.
Just a resentful hateful lesson.

I am an adult now.
Still will not eat, liver.
Why should I.

In grade school, I had a Teacher that monitored the cafeteria. Admonishing any child that did not eat EVERYTHING on their plate. She'd scold them and slap the table with her stick. Made many kids cry.
Awful woman. The kids could NOT leave the cafeteria, until they ate EVERYTHING. She did that to me too.
Well one day, my Dad invited her for dinner at our house. She came. My Mom/Dad served her dinner. She ate. They conversed. She did not eat everything on her plate. My Dad questioned her about it. Asking her why she did not eat everything on her plate that was served and that she is rude. Well, she was all aghast. Then my Dad told her, She CANNOT leave our home, UNTIL she ate EVERYTHING on her plate, that was cooked for her and served to her. He gave her a piece of his mind. Then, did a formal complaint to the Principal about her hatred toward the kids. This Teacher, come to find out, had MANY complaints about her and her cafeteria behavior and rules.
She was severely, disciplined. At work.

Then, why the heck, does dysfunctional food habits, develop?

I really don't understand, why kids have to be forced, to eat.
My son is picky.
Has been since he started solids at 6 months old.
We don't battle it or force it.
I cook what I cook. I cook balanced and healthy.
I know he will eat something from it.
He is healthy and tall and strong.
I don't serve junk. We don't have junk in the house.
So my kids eat fine.
As he has gotten older, he has NATURALLY, expanded his palate. Naturally. Not by force or battles.
My kids, know their body's cues- they know when they are hungry and full. That is good.
That is normal.
Not dysfunctional
My kids do not eat out of boredom or for emotional reasons or to "please" someone or out of fear.
They eat.
Not like me, nor do I expect them to.

Me? I don't like fish. Never have. That and liver.
I didn't eat it as a kid, and still don't.
So what.
My Husband and kids like it. I don't.
I don't expect them to dislike the same foods I dislike.
And conversely, I don't expect them to like what I like.
But I cook what I cook, and everyone eats. Because I know what makes my family tic, and what they like.

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answers from Houston on

I have one that is super picky, he will be four in about a month. Here are the things I do: I give him something to drink right off when he gets up and then don't even say anything about breakfast etc. About an hour later, I give him a choice like would you like a granola bar or cereal for breakfast, I let him think on it. Sometimes he will say he wants fruit snacks. I say sure!, right after you eat your bar or cereal! Then I don't bother him about eating again until lunch. I usually have something on hand that he will really want or an activity he will want to do after lunch. Like I might say hey, after you eat all your lunch you can have a marshmallow for each hand or hey, after you eat all your lunch let's do an art project etc. Just something to look forward to that getting eating out of the way will get him to. Dinner is a family time so I just serve it and we sit down together, usually! I do make him stay at the table until he is done if he is going really slow. But I personally don't serve him things I know he hates. Like this kid will just not eat a bean, he just won't do it, so I don't give him beans, simple. I don't try to break his will over personal preference, we have enough things I have to force compliance on, so I skip that in the food dept. I know that he will eventually eat and he knows that there will be no snacks and certainly no sweets unless he eats his meal, which I will save for him. Sometimes I will put a little protein powder in his milk, I will give him apple slices to cart around in a baggie and eat while he plays, I give him dry cereal in a bag, granola bars etc, all kinds of things he can eat on the go. So that is my basic strategy, hope it helps!!

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answers from Redding on

S.H. said it almost exactly as I would. My younger brother didn't like peas and jelly. Our parents made him stay at the table forcing him to eat the peas. I was so upset, crying in the other room as they forced his mouth open and shoved peas in and made him chew and swallow. He was crying, gagging, and threw up everything else he had eaten. A lot of good that did. M. made our lunches and would give him jelly sandwiches. He woudln't eat them and would come home hungry and then be forced to sit and eat jelly on bread with dinner. He ended up weighing 500 pounds and had gastric bypass and is still over weight. He has huge issues with food and we can blame them on parents who had no feelings for what kids like and dislike. Why is it so important that he eat peas and jelly? You can live a perfectly healthy happy life and never eat a single pea. And jelly? Why would anyone think it was important to eat jelly? He ate meat. He ate eggs. He ate rice and potatoes. He ate salads. He ate brussel sprouts, broccoli and carrots. He loved fruit. Why did he have to eat peas and jelly? I remember hearing my M. yell at him, "I cooked that for you now eat it".. She opened the can of peas and set it on the table,,yes cold in the can! How much work was that? Why did he have to eat it? No wonder 4 out of 5 of us ended up with weight problems. He's 55 now and still hates peas and jelly. And he is still angry at our parents for forcing him to eat them.

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answers from Lincoln on

I am a Senior at the University here and I recently took a behavior management class from Dr. John Maag. If you google him you will see that he has written a few books and travels all over the country to different schools to teach about behavior. This is what he says:

Behavior always has a purpose. So, perhaps as some moms have said, the flavor is too strong for their sensitive tastebuds or they simply do not like something. I remember my dad forcing me to eat green beans. I have hated green beans my whole life and still do. If they will eat other veggies who cares about the stupid green beans?

He also says that reinforcement is always stronger than punishment. So rather than keeping the meal time sort of a power struggle of you sit there until you eat, perhaps try to reinforce when they DO take bites of good, healthy foods. Anything is more enjoyable when you feel like you are having a positive experience vs. Mom getting upset about dinner.

That being said, I think many of the moms on here have also given you wonderful advice!! Good luck with your little eater!

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answers from Kansas City on

I like a modified plan..

Say you have 3 things on the plate every time. The rule is that they can't have seconds of any one thing unless they eat everything. It's your job to make sure that 1 thing on the plate is a sure winner, 1 thing on the plate isn't his/her favorite but they eat it, and the 3rd thing is a stretch or a no at this time. Your child will eat what they like. If they are hungry they'll eat the middle of the road food. They are not starving. They'll see the 3rd thing and someday they'll decide to try it.

Now, the next meal comes a long and you do the same. Do this 3 times per day and if they repeatedly don't eat something and don't even try, teach them to be polite about it. If they don't make faces, groan, or say rude things, they can have a healthy snack. If they are obnoxious in any way, no between meal snacks.

Isn't it better to make them learn to be polite, be sure they are eating something, and keep putting a variety in front of them WITHOUT the fighting?

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answers from Joplin on

No, I would never try the starvation thing or keep offering the same offensive food. I realize that other moms will not agree with me or say that I am making excuses but for one, I have a child on the Autism spectrum, and trust me I do not know if it is out and out stubbornness, but he can go a long time without eating. Children can have a real issue called Sensory Integration Disorder as well.
My daughter is picky too...I try the one bite rule a lot in my house...but sometimes it is not worth vommitted carrots at my dinner table...


No, I would never try the starvation thing or keep offering the same offensive food. I realize that other moms will not agree with me or say that I am making excuses but for one, I have a child on the Autism spectrum, and trust me I do not know if it is out and out stubbornness, but he can go a long time without eating. Children can have a real issue called Sensory Integration Disorder as well.
My daughter is picky too...I try the one bite rule a lot in my house...but sometimes it is not worth vommitted carrots at my dinner table...

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answers from Dallas on

I think people might not be so mean on here if they actully under stood, I have the worlds pickiest eater and I understand. I cant do the starve or the eventully theyll eat it thing Im a sap. I have tried lots of other things like ill buy you any toy in the store if youll even lick a luck there I ve even bought the toy and had it at the luck. she is five and just stared eating pizza last year..other than that it was bread, crackers, yogart, bananas, fish sticks, baby cearal, bisuits thats it. no juice nothing cold no veggies no mac n cheese nothin...but the nutrionist said it was ok...i gave up and she takes probiotics and a vitamin and I do my best to limit junk. ill pray for you and your family.

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answers from Hartford on

I was a picky eater as a child and had some, ah, parental issues that contributed to an eating disorder through high school and college that I now have to struggle with for the rest of my life.

I also have a daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder (as related to Autism) who has some serious food sensitivities and intolerances to begin with but because of the SPD she also severely self-restricts her diet. She's pickier than picky has any right to be. ;-)

We "test" things. You know how babies like to test new foods with the tip of their tongue? G likes to do that. She's testing flavor but is also testing texture, temperature, and whatever else she's testing for. Firmness maybe. Most of the time she won't eat the new food, although sometimes we have a winner. And sometimes that winner lasts a short time before she decides she can't have it any more and she goes back to her stand-by favorites.

Therefore we don't force the food issues with her. We always have her favorites on hand and since she doesn't eat much at all I let her graze (ie. she's allowed to eat a full meal whenever she asks me to make one and she's allowed to snack any time she asks me to get her one). She's allowed to drink soymilk, water, and lactose-free milk at any time. When she asks for a particular new food to try I make it a point to get that food if it's on her "safe foods" list and we prep it together and she gets to taste test it several times if she chooses during preparation/cooking. It's often a strike-out for trying, or she'll change her mind as soon as it hits the plate and never try it at all, but it's all open.

Luckily my other two daughters are very open minded about trying new foods and are only mildly picky.

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answers from St. Louis on

What the heck is the starvation thing? If my kids don't like what I am serving for a meal they can skip the meal but I don't keep recycling the meal. Eventually they will eat what is served since it is the only meal served for that period of time.

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answers from Tulsa on

My MIL did this. She even got food out of the trash can and forced my husband to eat it. He begged her to let him eat tuna plain or on crackers because bread gave him stomach aches. When he went in for his shots, he told on her. The doctor screamed at her and said "He obviously has an allergy and there is no reason he has to eat bread that causes him to be sick. You are not being a good mother."
I would not do this. Why create food issues?

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answers from Minneapolis on

I encourage, but never force more than a "no thank you bite". Eating a meal should never cause tears. I will never force feed my child or make eating a power struggle. I suffered for years with an eating disorder, and will not do that to my child. Food is just food.

I ate a limited diet growing up, because my father was a very picky eater. I now enjoy all types of foods, with a very short list of things I don't like. I didn't try new foods until college because the rural area I grew up in had no restaurants other than the Grill Cafe. Elementary aged children with limited diets are not destined to a life of lack of food variety, really.

My daughter requests brussel sprouts - steamed with butter and salt. She loves tomatoes, sauteed green beans in olive oil with salt, asparagus. She won't eat carrots or peas (or french fries). Some veggies that normally aren't liked go down quite well when purchased fresh at the Farmer's Market (so yummy!).

Because it is just the two of us, we can be more democratic about meals. If I had several children, I would need to operate differently. There were four of us growing up and my mom would just make sure that there was something onthe table that we would eat, if only bread and cheese.

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answers from Boston on

My rule is you don't have to like but you cannot be excused unless you try one bite because how can you know you don't like it if you don't try it. I have gotten my very picky eater to eat brussel sprouts he actually asks for them when it's his day to pick the veggie. He also found out that he likes peas and potatoes. I don't believe in you can't leave the table until you clean your plate but you have to at least try it before you start with "I don't like itttt"

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answers from Reno on

When my sons were little, I did "short order" cooking dinners until they started kindergarten. Then, once the were "big boy" enough to go to school, they were big boy enough to eat what the family ate for dinner. You had to try a small bite of everything. I tried to make sure at least one part of the meal was something they liked along with a new food or taste so they wouldn't starve. Additionally, I impressed upon them that if they were guests at someone's home, they were to smile, say they loved everything and eat up. It would be rude to do anything else.

My youngest is still fairly picky but he eats everything we eat (maybe just less of it). I hear from all his friends' moms that he eats everything without a problem. Our "negotiations" are a source of nightly laughter, particularly over mashed potatoes and baked beans. But, things he hated at 5-7, he loves now, like spaghetti sauce, seasonings, steak, pepperoni, taco meat, even salad.

Good luck.

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answers from Austin on

I NEVER made our daughter try anything that she did not want to try. The reason? When I was a child my father made me do this. One night I told him "No, I would not take even a tiny bite of liver." He told me to take the "GD" bite. So I did and then started to gag and then threw up all over the table..

I knew that the smell was so bad it would make me ill.

Remember many young children have a very heightened sense of small and taste. Strong foods with a slight bitter taste can be very undesirable to them. I liked to offer what we were having and not make a big deal out of it. If our daughter tried it great, if not, that was also fine. If she ate all of something on her plate I gave her more.

As she got older she was more willing to try things. She also learned that it is rude to make faces or make ugly comments about food. She learned to be discrete.

She turned out to be an adventurous taster.. Meals are just not a battle ground to us. Sometimes it was the only time we were all together for the day. I wanted it to be a good time, not a dreaded battle.

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answers from Columbia on

I think it's good to keep offering new foods, but, and this might sound silly... do you prepare foods for your meals that you don't like? I mean, aren't there things as an adult that just don't taste good to you, or maybe have a texture you don't like? I know there are things I really don't like the taste of, and I don't make them unless the kids want them, and even then I don't eat them. At my house, I prepare a meal and if it is something someone doesn't like they are welcome to fix themselves something else. (I know that's tougher when they are younger, but even a cheese sandwich works.) I think it takes time to develop your palate (sp), so keep offering lots of choices but don't beat yourself up if they don't eat them now. When they get older they will be curious and try new things. I'm in my thirties and just had my first brussle sprout a few months ago!

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answers from Evansville on

No. Sometimes it just takes patience. :)

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answers from Phoenix on

I serve my kids whatever we eat. Fish, salad, shrimp, etc. If they don't eat, no big deal, I am sure they will like the next meal. However, I probably wouldn't expect them to eat Brussel sprouts, I really don't like them either. If it is something really out of the ordinary, then I probably give them a pass and make them something else.

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answers from Provo on

My gag reflux is amazing. It can handle being swabbed at the dr for strep, but certain textures and smells will make me gag and sometime full on throw up. So no, I don't think the "starvation" or force feeding like other mom's pointed out, is good. Like Kelsies Mom, my parents made me eat things that made me gag and throw up. I am now overweight. Not morbidly obese, but I am obese. I do attribute it (some of it) to my parents forcing me to eat foods I just couldn't swallow.
So as you said yourself, you think they would puke. Forcing to puke is not a good think in my mind. I would just offer an aray of other healthy foods and have for example peas there if that if they want to try and/or if you like them.

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answers from Cleveland on

We actually thought about trying that with our 4 yr old, but decided not to torture him! Really, he has always had a texture issue with food, so trying new foods is a great triumph for him. (he still kind of gags a bit when he eats bananas!!) So.....he usually gets an alternative meal for dinner (lots of fruits, a dairy, a protein, etc.). Then our 3 yr old, of course, sees what he is eating and wants it, too! So to avoid a power struggle, we allow him to eat some of what we are eating and some of what his brother is eating. I only cook one meal and offer a few alternative foods that are nutritious. No biggie.

I do not believe that someone has to finish everything on their plate. Why teach your child that, even if they are full, they still have to cram more food into to their little bellies? They should learn now to listen to their bodies and stop eating when they feel full. This will only lead to problems later on in life. Like you said, they will not starve themselves. Maybe one day all they want to eat is a bite or two. Who cares.

What we do at dinner is if they no NOT eat a good dinner, they are not allowed to have any snacks afterwards. Period. Yes, I feel preety badly when my child says how hungry they are right before bed, but I just tell them that they need to eat some dinner next time and they won't be hungry. (we eat pretty late, too) Their dinner choices always have things that they enjoy, so there is no excuse. However, they never have to clean their plates.

Good luck!

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answers from Atlanta on

What is the starvation thing? In my household noone get a special meal. You either eat whatever I cook for dinner, or dont eat at all.

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answers from San Antonio on

I had one who refused to anything but mac and cheese (from a box), hot dogs and cereal. I would make dinner and if he didn't like it, he didn't eat. It got to the point where I questioned if my son was going to starve to death...

...then he started eating what was made. Some things he still doesn't like, but he'll try it at least. I don't care if my kids don't like something. (Meaning, it doesn't bother me if they won't eat it cause they don't like it.) But you can't look at something you've never eaten and tell me you don't like it. You have to try it to know whether you like it and if you won't try it, I don't want to hear it.

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answers from Chicago on

I also think there is a happy medium. We have an "I don't want any" portion rule, so basically she has to 'try' a 'reasonable' amount (like a biteful) of everything that is served. Since it's always been that way I don't have a fighter on my hands......

While I am not a short order cook, I do recognize that there are things she (10 yo) doesn't like - so I don't make her eat them. Like tomatoes. Has never. probably will never. so, I don't really do an "I don't want any" portion of that (but I don't 'cook' them for dinner.... I just leave them out of her salad bowl.

However - if I (or we are somewhere and they) make something that she has never had - black eyed peas is a perfect example. She HAS to try it. at least an "I don't want any" portion. I just have always done it and it's something I happened to be consistent on, so she doesn't argue (now, cleaning her room.... THAT she argues, cuz I'm not consistent with that). So, if you're trying to CHANGE behavior it'll be more difficult.

I do think if you're a harda$$ about it, it will build resentment as one mom mentioned below. But I think you can have a rule that they have to try one bite. But then, I don't have a picky picky eater... she just likes to "flex" her kid muscles every once in a while.

Good Luck!

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answers from Seattle on

The key is: variety...variety...variety....

Funny you mention brussel sprouts....I don't know any child who would stomach those. I only learned to enjoy them as an adult.....Keep your meals simple for kids, don't add spices beyond S&P, soy & vinegar, sugar, and ranch dressing, etc.

I thank God and Mother Nature who made so many food options for us to choose from and am ever thankful because my own tastes have changed significantly in my own life. Foods I loved as child, I would not eat now.

Keep your food preparation healthy and simple, meat, veggie, carb....add applesauce and cottage cheese on the side, or lots of easy to slice veggies and peanut butter...they will pick and choose and not starve.

This is the interesting thing about the Korean diet as they always serve a variety of interestingly spiced and seasoned vegetables and meats with rice and depending upon the individuals tastes at that particular meal, you can always fill up with what you like.

I always plan my meals around the 4 basic tastes: salt, sour, sweet, and bitter. Of course, in a child, sweets overwhelmingly win out...but you can sweeten up meats with terriyaki sauces, and serve fruits...along side kids will eat that combo anytime.

Good luck, and no, don't starve and reheat food too many would become spoiled after a few reheatings.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from San Francisco on

I don' t think starvation is the answer! I have EXTREMELY picky eaters and the way we have become sucessful at the dinner table is to make eating fun. We create pretty cool plates of food with familiar items that they like and then will add something new as well. My kids will eat whatever they want from the plate that they like and is familiar to them and then they will at least try the new food. If they have done that, then I am satisfied. I will continue to offer it the next couple of nights so they get accustomed to it. It works well. I don't struggle with the please eat something all the time anymore. When you give your kids choices and make the plate look fun to eat, its much easier. Like creating dipping cups of different sauces for them to dip veggies in or tell an elaborate story about broccoli trees and have the carrots be little people eating the trees etc. Make it fun. When you stop forcing and start allowing them to make the choices themselves, then things get better.

If they refuse to eat at all, then you say ok- you can eat when you are hungry. I am always ok with making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the end of the night if they are really struggling with the dinner issue. Hope this helps you.... I know its hard!!!


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answers from Oklahoma City on

It doesn't work. They just don't eat until they get sick. If I ordered you to eat spinach every meal until you ate every bite and you absolutely hate spinach then how many times are you going to simply sit down and eat it. What about the right to make choices. Kids learn as children that they have no power to make choices. It follows them through out their life.

I choose to not battle over foods. As a child I had little choice. I ate what was served even if I puked it back up. As soon as I got in college and out of my parents house I ate nothing but candy bars for breakfast and lunch. I ate fast food for dinner because it was finally my turn to make the choice. I had been deprived of the ability to choose what I wanted to I went overboard and didn't eat anything that I had eaten as a child.

If you want your children to grow up and make good choices you have to empower them as children to do so. That's not "You can choose Spinach or Brussel sprouts". It's reasonable likable choices they would like to choose from. I feel bad for so many kids these days that have no ability to choose normal food that everyone else is getting to eat. They are going to go crazy and eat nothing but McDonalds when they grow up.

Kids need to eat good food. They also need to be able to choose foods they like and not have to eat grown up food all the time. Kids like mac and cheese, spaghetti, chicken nuggets, french fries, etc...and there are lots of ways to cook those foods where they are not as fatty and unhealthy. Using whole grains is a good example of making stuff healthier but still kid friendly.

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answers from Omaha on

No shortorder cook here. I serve what we are eating, they choose to either eat or not. No child is going to starve themselves. I usually offer something I know they will eat in a small portion (for example, two grapes) and the rule in my house is if you want more of something, you must eat everything on your plate. I have never had a child that didn't eat everything eventually.

My kids are all "tryers" and have a wide palate!

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answers from Cincinnati on

I have tried this to get my son to eat what I cook (I can not afford to make two meals!) he still wouldnt touch what i made, he went three days on nothing but a cup of milk and 1/2 cup of juice (and one cup water) each day before I cracked and fed him mac and cheese.

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answers from Chicago on

My kids (age 4 and 5) pretty much eat everything, happily. Including brussel sprouts!! I like to think that we helped influence this...but maybe we simply lucked-out.

From day #1, here is how we have handled every meal. Kids eat what adults eat. No exceptions. I make one meal. If a child does not want to eat it a particular food on his/her plate, s/he does not have to. But there are never additional food choices offered. If the child is hungry later (between meals or around snack time), s/he can eat the remainder of that meal. No replacement food or alternative snack will be offered. Yes, there have been evenings in which one has gone to bed complaining that s/he is hungry...but that only happened a handful of times until s/he learned that this is how our house works.

However, by the next meal, that previous "uneaten" meal/food is gone and "off the table" (literally!) Each child is given exacatly what the rest of us are eating. I do NOT keep the old plate of food. Again, the rule is "you eat what we eat."

We have tried to avoid the dinner table becoming a battleground or power struggle. I like to think that my kids have learned they are empowered to make their own decision about eating...and they know the consequences of their decision.

There has been one food that, for some unknown reason, my children will not eat -- tuna fish salad. They will eat all sorts of fish, including tuna steaks...but not tuna fish from the can. Unfortunately for me, I love tuna fish. But, to be honest, I just don't serve it anymore as a meal. Since they eat absolutely everything else, I don't feel the need to push the issue. I make myself tuna fish on the sly, when they are not around! :)

Is it really important to you for the kids to eat brussel sprouts? If not, why don't you start with the majority of foods that the entire family likes and ease them into this? Once they learn the new table/eating rules, you can begin introducing more exotic foods.

PS...fresh brussle sprouts can be very bitter, and it's difficult to tell if what you are buying is bitter or not. This is a veggie I purchase frozen -- the name brand frozen brussel sprouts are really good.

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answers from Kansas City on

I make her try at least two bites of everything and then if she doesn't like it fine; however, I don't fix a different meal. If it's something I know she likes, she just doesn't for that meal, it sits there until she eats...sometimes she doens't ever eat, but when she gets hungry she does. I still giver her the regularly scheduled snacks, but no extras and if she hasn't eaten it's not a "treat". Has to be fruit, carrots with dip, yogurt, cheese or something healthy (which she actually enjoys).

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answers from Toledo on

I did with my oldest. She was a really picky eater around 2-5 years old. I refused to offer her something other than what I was making for the meal. If she didn't eat it, she was hungry until the next meal. There were many nights of crying and gagging an even some puking. It wasn't like this for every meal, but the majority of dinners were a struggle. Now, brussels sprouts? Honestly, there are many adults that refuse to eat them. Maybe you are just using that as an example, but if you're serious about it, I would suggest you try to fry a smaller fish first. Start with something that is widely enjoyable to people.

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answers from Tucson on

If your child will eat everything else, I would simple understand that some children don't like certain foods. My oldest will not eat mushrooms, she doesn't like them. She will pick them out of everything. She will not eat sandwhich pickles. But she will eat almost everything else i put in front of her. Wait a few weeks and try again. if she still doesn't then wait again. if she continues not to eat them then let it be.

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answers from Nashville on

No I have not done that. My dad would make me eat everything on my plate when I was a child and even if it meant I would fall asleep at the table. To this day, I eat everything on my plate and that is OVER eating! We make things that our children DO like. If they don't like brussel sprouts, then we give them peas or green beans. If they did not eat ANY veggies, then we would have to find a way for them to eat. I would suggest that you start with some veggie or fruit that MOST kids like, ex: peas, corn, carrots with brown sugar melted on them, etc then I would make them eat at least 3 bites. If they did not eat at least 3 bites, they don't get dessert. We have to keep in mind too that children have different taste buds and just b/c we thinkg something tastes good doesn't mean they think so too. If they truly gag, try a different veggie. I think you will be able to tell if they are being picky and stubborn or if they really don't like it. You can also try casseroles and mixing veggies in. You can puree veggies like sweet potatoes into foods too. You should get the cookbook by Jerry Seinfeld's wife..can't remember the name, but she tells you all ways to make regular kid food healthy by adding pureed veggies, etc don't starve them, or even fake it. ;o)
Just take away things they DO like until they agree to try veggies and good food. Like, ok, tomm for lunch you will not have cheese until you eat this, or you will not have ice cream until you try this, etc. Good luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

so don't serve brussels sprouts constantly - but don't cater to their "pickiness" either. make what you make, if they eat it, great, if not, great. they can learn that when we don't eat, we get hungry. and maybe next time they'll decide to eat. offer healthy choices and let them be. take the drama and the battle out of it. YOU will be happier and calmer and more relaxed.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I have been desperate enough, but not disciplined enough . . . I assume by "the starvation thing" that you are describing what leading children feeding experts say (e.g. Ellyn Satter, I'm guessing you read her book?) Fix one meal, don't fight about food, the child can eat it, or not, but no cooking a separate meal just for the kids. You offer WHAT to eat, they choose WHETHER to eat. Period. Oh, just try to put something they like on the table, like bread. This clearly works for many families, below, but I'm pretty sure that my six-year-old would then have a year of nothing but bread. Still, this summer, I plan to give this advice a genuine try, and will let you know.

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answers from Dover on

Here's my rule: you will try everything I make. I make an enormous variety of foods from numerous ethnicities so nobody can ever claim boredom due to my food. If you try something that literally makes you gag, you do not have to eat any more of it, ever. But you still have to eat the rest of your food until you're full. For instance, last night's dinner was meatloaf, mashed potatoes & lima beans. Limas are not my daughter's favorite veggie, but she can tolerate them so I gave her a very small spoonful. If this was her first time eating them & she had gagged, she wouldn't have had to eat any more of them, but she still would have eaten the meatloaf & mashed potatoes. You will not get a 2nd dinner, even if it is a cheese sandwich.



answers from Fort Wayne on

We do the "no thank you bites" at our house. It does work, it just takes time, persistence and consistency. My daughter (4.5) knows that she has to at least try the things on her plate before she can have anything else. That means no seconds of the foods she loves and no bedtime snack. The rest of us go about our normal routine, which usually includes dessert or some other type of snack. It only took a few times of us eating dessert in front of her before she got the hint. Now she'll at least try things. There are things that she absolutely detests though.

Last night I made one of my husbands favorite dinners. It was fresh asparagus, red and yellow peppers, onions, smoked sausage and rice all mixed together. My daughter is not a fan of onions or peppers. Per our "no thank you bites rule" she knew she had to take her 3 bites before she could get down. She literally gagged on the first bite. I thought she was going to get sick! Of course, I didn't make her finish the peppers.

There's a difference between not wanting it and it making you physically sick. I would never make them eat anything that made them gag like that.

We've learned that the bigger deal we make about the kids eating, the less they want to eat. It turns into a HUGE struggle.


answers from Jacksonville on

I have one who eats almost everything and one who is much more "discerning" lol.
For my more "discerning" one, I always have her try at least one small bite of something she has never tried before. If it is something that I KNOW she doesn't like, then I will put a TINY portion of it on her plate but not say anything or require her to eat it. Every 3 months or so, I will gently have her try one small bite of that thing she doesn't like, "to see if her taste buds have changed". . . because they really do. Over time. Not between yesterday and next week. So I don't force it on a daily/weekly basis. That is just looking for a battle I don't need.

I always prepare something for the main course that everyone will eat. We don't do a lot of casserole type dishes, because my husband doesn't care for them. We have a lot of grilled meat (steak, chicken, pork chops) or meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, chef salads, etc.
My kids (neither one) are big "sauce" the meat is relatively plain. Not a lot of breading or sauce or anything like that. We DO eat a lot of dinner salads: chef salad, salad with grilled chicken on top, etc. For my "picky" eater, her grilled chicken is just on her plate, with the salad items separate: a small pile of lettuce, with cut up cucumbers. The black olives are in another small pile. The red bell pepper strips are just on the plate (not in the lettuce). The cheese cubes are also just on the plate.
I learned with both my kids that making a fresh salad is a great way to introduce new veggies. They are all raw. And they can pick up and eat it that way, or dip it in ranch dressing. As they learn to eat them, they will say "will you put that IN my salad next time?" Both of my kids prefer most all of their veggies (except peas or corn!) RAW. And my "picky" eater has been eating lightly steamed broccoli since she was about 4.

I serve the main course (that I KNOW they will eat); a veggie that I know they will eat, maybe not love, but won't complain; something that "stretches" them a little, and maybe a fresh baguette. They love bread. But that is the LAST thing they are allowed to eat. (Unlike the way they serve it in restaurants).
Keep putting things on their plates, but ignore it. Don't make a big deal out of it. Just keep putting it on there. Maybe every 3-4 months say "You haven't tried your ____ (peas)." They'll say "I don't liiiike peas!" And you say, "Well just try one bite."
That's it. The end. No long drawn out argument, debate or fight about it. My kids respond much better to matter of fact statements/commands, than if I go into it like I know I am going into battle.



answers from New York on

All I can think when I read this is "It's Mommy Dearest and the steak tartare!" (are most people on this site too young to remember Mommy Dearest?)

We actually let our daughter "lick" things to try them, and then work up to a bite. Some nights she is more adventurous than others, and some meals are more "challenging" than others. And at 2.5 she does have a few fall back foods (mostly yogurt, life chex and almond milk). I'm not a short order cook, but I don't mind reaching into the fridge and getting out a container, as long as she's "tried" a few bites of the food on offer.

As for dinner/dessert/snack - she doesn't have to eat anything at all, but dessert doesn't happen until she's eaten the mommy-prescribed amount of dinner. If she's got enough room for ice cream, she's got enough room for more bites of veggies.

What is interesting is that I've never seen these posts (or the answers) refer to handling kids differently by age. I think i'd have very different expectations for a 15 month year old or 15 year old.


answers from Houston on

I just dont keep the bad food around, i keep a variety of the good food of all kinds then i am basically a short order cook for my entire family. But everyones eating healthy and happy with it.



answers from Pittsburgh on

We make one meal for us and DS (5). We include at least one fruit and vegetable in each lunch and dinner meal, at least 1-2 fruits at breakfast. We do not offer other food if DS doesn't love what is served. That said, there is always something he will eat even if it's not his favorite. BTW - I LOVE Brussels sprouts - try roasting them or slicing thin and sauteeing in olive oil. And everyone has something they don't like - I don't like beets or cooked carrots, DS doesn't like mango (loves beets), DH doesn't like tomatoes. DS has always been willing to try a new food or a new preparation of a food he didn't love last time.



answers from Las Vegas on

My 5 year old is picky but not as bad as he use to be. I never did the starvation thing for my son. I would give him what I know he'll eat then I'll give him something new to try. He does try new foods but I still can't, to this day, give him anything green. Even when he was a baby he never liked green food for some reason. I would back off of them trying brussel sprouts till they are a little older.



answers from Dallas on

i wouldn't serve my children the same plate over and over and over again - that becomes a spoiled food issue at a point, and i think we all as human beings like/don't like certain foods. however, i am not a short order cook, and i'm not cooking more than one meal in the evening. our rule is "eat it or don't eat". my 8yo and 2yo will eat just about anything, my 5yo is VERY picky. he knows the drill - he drinks his milk and either eats or doesn't. i put a very small amount of food on his plate so i don't have to throw a ton of uneaten food away. if he eats it, fine, if he doesn't, that's fine too. he knows not to ask for a snack later, etc., and actually has never asked for an evening snack(he knows we mean what we say!). i feel that my job as a parent is to present a nutritional meal to my children each night, and it's their job to eat it. i'm not going to force feed my children or make a huge stink about it, but i'm also not going to cater to whims of nuggets and french fries every night!



answers from San Diego on

My mom always said that I don't have to like everything, but I have to try everything at least once. I hated onions, mushrooms and tomatoes when I was younger. Now I love them all except the tomatoes. My mom always said that she was not a cook at a diner. There is one meal and everyone eats the same thing.



answers from Lansing on

As a kid I never could eat cooked spinach. To this day is still makes me puke. Learned recently that some people have a genetic predisposition where they literally cannot take bitter foods. I'm probably one of those people. I don't serve cooked spinach. That being said . . . I have a picky eater. She doesn't have to eat everything on her plate. She doesn't even need to eat anything on her plate. She will not get anything to eat until the next meal though if she doesn't finish everything on her plate. She needs to have one serving of everything I cook except on holidays and family functions. Those are the rules. Yes, I have seen her eat before, crying the whole time, because she hated the food, but she was hungry. I don't make things I know she hates on purpose, but I do need to serve a balanced diet, for my own health as well as theirs.



answers from New York on

My son is a very picky eater. What I have done is eliminate all snacks in between meals. I used to be happy when he was eating anything, but then quickly realized that Puffs were not the answer.

Breakfast is left out for one hour. If you don't eat it, four hours later is lunch, then a healthy snack 3 hours after that and dinner.


answers from Columbus on

What my parents did with me, and I now do with my kids is this: let the kids serve themselves, they must take at least a bit of each thing (even if it is only one pea...I HATED peas, still do,) and then if they clean their plate they can have seconds and are allowed one snack out of a few choices at least 1/2 an hour after dinner. Kids REALLY love snacks, including healthy ones, and are often willing to eat that pea in order to get it, so this is a good way to get them to eat at least a bit of everything, sooner or later they will develop a taste for a variety of things and the servings they serve themselves grow. If it is something they absolutely detest, like liver and onions are for me, then they have to take some, they don't have to eat it, but no clean plate=no snack. Sometimes if you are serving something they like, you will have to remind them that they can always get more, but they can't put it back :)


answers from Phoenix on

why do you feel "desparate" to make your kids eat brussel sprouts? I just don't get this. Kids are "picky eaters" because parents have allowed them to be. My kids have always eaten what I serve. They don't like all the veggies and I don't make them eat them. I know that will come when they get older. My kids are great salad eaters and even order them sometimes when we eat out. I guess I would just say to pick your battles. When my kids were younger and went thru a stage of not wanting to eat what I cooked so I said, then you won't eat. And they didn't eat dinner and were sure hungry for breakfast! And they never complained again. So just keep offering them a taste and one day you will be surprised that they will taste it and might even like it! My 8 yo son just did that with cooked carrots...which he has said he's always hated. Now he tasted them and said, wow, they are good, I should have had them before. I think that is naturally what happens. Just don't stress about it so much, if you make such a big battle about it, that isn't fun for anyone. Good luck.



answers from Dallas on

I am luck to NOT have an overly picky eater. My three year old eats a decent (for a toddler) variety of food and loves lots of healthy food including fruit, yogurt, cheerios, peanut butter, cheese and whole wheat bread.

Many night he will refuse to eat what we made him for dinner, which is usually something I know he has eaten in the past. I leave his plate on the table. Later, he will start demanding snacks or yogurt. I will say no unless he goes and eats some of the food.

I dont force him, or make a big battle, out of making him eat lots of different kinds of food. I offer them, eat them with enjoyment in front of him, and will let him chose when he wants to.

One thing that my kids have loved since they have been able to eat food is to get samples at the grocery store. If you go to whole foods or central market, there are samples in each section of the store. As babies, my kids were eating grilled asapargus, flank steak, sauteed mushrooms, pungent cheeses, etc. because they loved the novelty of getting something to eat in the little plastic cup at the store. Its also fun to make a little container off of the salad bar - you can get just a spoonful of lots of different kinds of food - tofu, quinoa, tabouleh, endamame - I cant spell it but my kids have eaten it...

Once again, my kids are NOT picky eaters. If your child eats only a couple of things, and they are healthy, I would continue providing those, and offering something new each night at dinner. If they dont "try" the something new, they dont get any snack or treat later.

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