Extreme Food Preferences in Teens - How Much to Ignore?

Updated on March 05, 2019
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
13 answers

Have any of you moms of older kids had teenagers whose food choices were extreme or limited? I've never been one to make food a battle ground in my house. My kids for the most part have different palates and cycle through preferences like everyone does, but we make it work. I have dietary limitations due to food intolerances so we usually eat different dinners anyway, where I'll serve a protein and veggie to everyone and they'll have a starchy side or something with foods that I can't eat if they want while I'll have more vegetables, etc. My kids who are still at home are 13 & 14 so everyone is responsible for making their own breakfast, and packing their own lunch, and they are free to use the kitchen to cook for themselves, etc. We have a normal variety of healthy foods and some snack/dessert options.

So...my 14 year old is very lean. He's athletic and can perform well despite the fact that he eats very little during the day. He takes medication that curbs his appetite during the day and then eats a lot at night. Because of his lack of appetite and my overall approach that by the time you're a teenager you shouldn't need your mommy to oversee your food choices, I tend to be hands off with his kind of weird food preferences. Additionally, my two older kids had some weird preferences as teens as well (one ate French toast twice a day for weeks) and as young adults eat like fairly normal people so I generally think that these phases come and go and all balance out in the end.

However...what's putting me over the edge is his cookie dough habit. He'll make 1/4 of a batch of Toll House cookie dough (without the chocolate chips), scoop it into a bowl like ice cream and eat it. That's enough cookie dough for 12 cookies. And he eats it in one sitting. Just writing this makes me nauseous as it's just so gross. I'm not going to lock up the ingredients or anything but is this something you would step in and try to put a stop to? Or just look the other way and know that this, too, shall pass?


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So What Happened?

Just to clarify - I love cookie dough! But I wouldn't eat 12 servings of it at once. That's like sitting down and eating an entire package of the break-and-bake kind or almost an entire roll of dough in one sitting. When I used to buy it pre-packaged for him as a snack or dessert, he would break off a piece or spoonful here and there but he decided that he likes homemade better. This mix up a batch and eat it all at once thing is where I'm like "um, that's maybe not normal." He's eating that much dough almost every night.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Is he eating it after eating a relatively normal dinner? Or is it his only food for the evening? If it's in place of any regular food, I'd be concerned about nutrition.

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answers from San Antonio on

This is a hill my husband would die on....I on the other hand just roll with the weird food things. Grilled cheese for dinner every night for about two weeks, uh, okay I'll eat the nice potato soup I made us or chicken packets with veggie sides...you eat toasted bread and cheese that you made yourself.

My son can live on pasta and Parmesan cheese. He cooks it in large batches and reheats it one plate at a time. Uh, okay...although I was late to figuring out he was having some acid reflex issues and bland foods were his thing until I got him some OTC prilosec. Now he has become more adventurous and spicier foods no longer bother his stomach.

I would mix up and eat the weirdest things as a teen and into my early college years. Now I fix healthy well balanced meals for the family and my husband will help batch cook. So I figure it will work itself out...as their age they know what healthy eating looks like, so their palate will get more sophisticated as they age and they will get better as they age.

That cookie dough mixture actually sounds great if it wouldn't but 3-5 pound on me as soon as I finished the bowl. Good luck!!

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answers from Washington DC on

ha ha!! when i was a teenager i could easily do that!

now, of course, i know how unhealthy it is (although it still sounds delicious to me) so i don't do it any more. but my teenage metabolism could handle just about anything.

i dunno, hon. your overall sensible attitude toward food in your household will prevail in the long run. no problem with letting him know why this is gross, of course, but i think i'd just keep your philosophy intact.

:) khairete

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answers from New York on

Haha - google "Dō"!!!! Do you not have a place like that in Boston?! Dō is a VERY popular place in NYC that scoops cookie dough, serves it in bowls or cones like ice cream!! It's truly delicious!! You can order it online, salmonella-free. Get some delivered, birthday gift for your son.

(safe link: https://www.cookiedonyc.com)

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answers from Boston on

Apparently if you buy pasteurized eggs, risk of food poisoning is low. So I find it gross too but I guess if he has no weight issues, not that different than a bowl of ice cream so I’d try not to watch and let it go. But had to reply as yes - ew!! I like a bit or two but that’s it.

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answers from Boston on

You're so sensible and you've chosen the right battles. I get that this is nauseating though, and a bit over the top. I think your choices are 1) let it go (which is hard), 2) stop buying the ingredients (which I know you said you don't want to do), and 3) having this athletic kid work with a coach or a trainer to build up his muscles for his sport(s). What kicked my son into gear was a track coach who worked with kids on all kinds of things, including the science of oxygen intake and lactic acid build-up in muscles, and who designed a lifting program in the school weight room for my very lean son. Somehow, having a neutral party work on nutrition (kind of "on the side" and not as a main focus) flipped a switch in my kid, and he started asking for and at least trying new foods. He started making these power granola bars with a recipe from Whole Foods - cost a fortune but it was full of things like cashew butter and oats and dried currants and I forget what else. This mushroomed through the last years of high school and all through college. Now he's the most adventurous eater, putting my husband and even me to shame. And his athletic performance has gone through the roof (you can track him at the Boston Marathon LOL!). Anyway, you might go the route of muscle development and stamina for sports.

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answers from Santa Fe on

My very thin teenage son has a giant (and I mean huge) bowl of ice cream every single night. I think your son's cookie dough habit is probably about the same amount of calories. If your son was having ice cream every night would it bother you as much? I would just talk to him about how he is giving himself a huge sweet habit and he will need to give that up as an adult when his metabolism is different or else risk putting on a lot of weight. Besides that I'd let it go. (mmmmmm. Cookie dough is so good)

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answers from Norfolk on

Unless they have some sort of eating disorder I think you have to let this go.
You've never ate raw cookie dough?
Maybe it's gross to you but to others it's occasional comfort food.
I still like it every so often but not all the time.

Plenty of teens and even college kids go through food stages that eventually morph into more adult eating patterns.
They all eventually discover by their late 20's that they can't eat like a teen anymore.

If you want to do anything just don't bring any junk food into the house.
They'll have to eat what is there and if there are only healthy choices to choose from then that's one less thing for you to worry about.

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answers from Washington DC on

As long as he is eating a healthy meal, let it go.

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answers from Louisville on

Ok first of all cookie dough is amazing. But eating that much is a bit worrisome due to salmonella. Honestly though I’m a bit more concerned that he may have an eating disorder. Do some google searches on boys and eating disorders. See if he’s showing other signs. My daughter is also on meds that suppress her appetite but she eats many foods

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answers from San Francisco on

You and I have similar attitudes towards food, so I get it.
Whenever one of my kids was overindulging on something unhealthy (my youngest daughter's top ramen obsession comes to mind) I would simply limit how much I bought. Of course with homemade cookie dough that's a little trickier because it's made from staples you most likely need on hand most of the time.
Though maybe if you don't use a lot of flour in general, maybe just keep a very small amount of that on hand, not enough for a cookie recipe?
Otherwise I'd probably be grossed out but let it go. Food has never been something worth fighting or inflicting discipline over IMO.

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answers from Portland on

Ya, I'd curb that one.

Your approach (the rest of it) sounds quite similar to mine - I don't really oversee their diet too too much as teens because for lunch they take what we have in the house (we make them sandwiches and they will take it but also buy stuff) - we make them sandwiches because my husband started doing this, figuring at least they'd get something into them that's remotely healthy. The kids actually seemed keen on this which shocked me. So I do it if my husband doesn't have time.

However, my teens will cook and make soup, eggs, noodles, etc. when hungry after school or after/before games/practices or before/after work. So we just make sure to have some healthy supplies in the house and fresh produce. I instilled as much as I could, healthy eating habits when they were kids. Breakfast - is on them.

I too, don't cater to fussy eaters too much. They can eat leftovers, make an egg, sandwich, get something else .. whatever. I often have salad, or there is another sauce choice or something. I just won't be a short order cook.

As for cookie dough. No. I think that's too far as I say in our house. That's my expression. "Too far" lol. I love dough, but I'm thinking spoonful. That's nauseating (I'm with you). Lol.

I went through phase of granola heaped with sugar as a teen and I'm sure the calories in that were terrible. I love butter and PB. I used to do bananas with PB (heaping spoonfuls). I think some of this is normal for teens. I made chocolate milk with tons of chocolate (powdered) as a teen. I am very small - lean. So are some of my kids. So our metabolisms may be fast - not sure, probably were as kids/teens. I craved (CRAVED) sugar. I had highs and lows. I used to crash too. Watch it. I think that's why I would go into the kitchen and just eat whatever sugar I could get my hands on.

Then seriously, I would just pass out and nap.

What's he like after he eats it? How's his behavior?

I would nix it if it were me. Sounds like he might be crashing and wanting a fix or something. Possibly. It's like eating a tub of ice cream.

ETA * This is going to sound totally warped, but if he were a girl - this would be a reasonable question. He's not bulimic is he? Maybe pay attention to what he's doing afterwards.
My boys can down a ton of sugar though too - and they're not so it's doubtful, just occurred to me to mention it.

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answers from Denver on

I think I would be really impressed that your teenage son likes to make homemade cookie dough! I'd compliment him on that (without going overboard), because so many teens have no idea how to make real cookies (or anything) from scratch, and they're content with something pre-packaged or ready-made.

So maybe you could play to his strengths - ask him to cook something some evening, like an omelette, or homemade ice cream. If he likes tacos, get him a tortilla press. If he likes pasta, get him a pasta roller.

And if he is competent enough to make homemade cookies, you might gently remind him that ingredients matter. For example, real butter as opposed to cheap margarine. If he's already using real butter, praise him for knowing that quality ingredients are important. And talk to him about the potential danger of consuming raw eggs, and help him learn to purchase pasteurized eggs (available in better stores like Whole Foods), or help him learn how to pasteurize eggs. It's not very difficult. There are several YouTube explanations about pasteurizing eggs for safety, and lots of websites that demonstrate how to pasteurize them.

So then, maybe he won't feel like you're criticizing his eating habits, but instead you're encouraging him to improve on something he's good at. Don't make it a command, but just kind of a "so you're really good at making homemade cookie dough, and I think that's awesome. How about we look at helping you use the best ingredients?" kind of approach.

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