Fun Food Ideas for 2 Picky Eaters!!!!

Updated on November 17, 2008
K.H. asks from Floral Park, NY
10 answers

I Have 3 kids 15, 3 and 2. My oldest was a dream when it came to eating. However my 2 lttle ones don't like to eat. My 3 yr old daughter is just below the 10th percentile for her weight and 50th for height. The doctor says not to worry bcse she is following her own curve. The problem with her is that she doesn't like food period (unless it's junk such as candy, etc).
My little guy loves to eat, but only a few specific things. Everyday for breakfast he has Kix or mini waffles and fruit. Since he won't drink milk I give him Dannon Danimal smoothies 2x a day. Lunch is ham rolled up and sting or american cheese and more fruit. He will not eat bread or crackers. He actually cries if u try and give it to him!!! Dinner is usually fine since he is meat and potato freak. His weight is fine, he is actaully on the chubby side.

My problem is that I feel like a short order cook for every meal. I also end up throwing away a lot of food (which in this economy is something I cant afford)> Does anyone have any fun food ideas to get my kids on the page of the menu. I'm in trouble whent they start school!!!!!

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answers from Louisville on

Hi K.. I struggle with meals every day. My daughter (9 months) eats anything but my son (22 months) is picky and inconsistently so. I stopped worrying so much about it. My son can't afford not to eat - he's in the 15th percentile for weight (85th for height) BUT he used to be in the 85th for both so he's not on a curve that's good.... So I serve at least ONE thing I know he will eat, at each meal. Things that have helped: I never comment on whether he's eating or not - no praise except for tasting something new (and I don't go overboard), no encouragement to eat. When he says "all done" I let him be done. I serve the same meal several days in a row and change just one thing. I use those compartment plates (this actually made a huge difference).

Sometimes if I can't get my son to eat a good dinner, I'll give him a bedtime snack of a banana or crackers and cheese or a bit of peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But I have very much relaxed about food and whether he eats, and this has helped tremendously.

By the way, my kids are in daycare where they don't get to be picky (they eat what they're offered or they starve). When my son transitioned to the toddlers and saw all the other kids eating food he found offensive (like pizza), he started to be more adventurous and the report I get every day says he almost always eats his entire lunch. So I learned two things: I should let him be exposed to other kids at mealtime (ones who aren't picky and eat what they're given), AND that when he isn't given choices, he will just eat what he's given. Good luck!

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answers from Albany on

Hi K.,

I'm a lunch lady at a school that caters for children aged 4 to 12 years, and trust me, your 2 little ones are by no means unusual.

While it seems that both of your children have different "problems" when it comes to food, I believe you could solve both problems at once :-).

Take the foods that your son will eat, such as the ham, and cut it up into shapes - to temp your daughter to eat it also, try making the ham candy shaped (you can use several slices of ham layered to make the thickness).

Then, gradually, add different foods to the shapes (such as make a house with a ham base and a cheese roof!), or (to tempt your daughter more!) layer ham and cheese together to make it (again) look a little like candy.

Make sure that the pieces are fairly small and candy sized for your daughter.

Also, encourage them to get "hands on" in the kitchen. While chopping vegetables (ones that are edible raw!), hand a piece to each child and ask them what it feels like. Ask questions such as "Do you like the way this feels?" and, eventually "What do you think it will taste like?" - when they do take a taste (even if they don't like it) praise them for trying.

In my view, especially in schools, adults spend too much time discouraging children from "playing" with their food. We have to remember that it's all a learning process for them, and every child will handle it in their own way.

As your children get older, encourage them to do more to help in the kitchen - passing you ingredients, etc. This will also help build co-operative skills, and eventually help a lot with their reading skills too.

I hope this helps a little.


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answers from Utica on

Hi K.
First of all I want to say that I think you are doing great.
Asking questions and trying hard. Your statement that your child doesn't like bread or crackers troubles me. It is a sign of celiac disease when kids that little refuse a food, it is usually causing a problem. Allergy to wheat gluten is a serious problem. In my child it stopped her from eating, and in the other it caused overeating. It is the reaction to serious stomach problems.
I would say try rice crackers, or oat. Gluten free and see if they are willing to eat them. Think about it and see what you see.
As for fun foods: kids usually love pizza-- when they were little I did a meatza which had a meat crust(meatloaf into which I could hide anything) topped with whatever they like on pizza(tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms) It was filling so had to make sure the pieces were small. With the girls I spread it onto a real pizza pan and even cut it like a pizza.
We had to adjust our eating to our children's and at first that was difficult. Some like more spices than others, so I chose to take some out for those that were not spice eaters. Chili, spag. sauce and the like, which freed up the short order thing and mine loved spaghetti. I bought gluten free spag at health food store when we found that was a problem.
Mine all loved to see what they were eating. None liked gravy, and none liked sauces, so letting them choose helped.
I will tell you that I didn't make many short order cook meals, they ate what I fixed adapted to their eating habits, until our daughter was hospitalized for lack of growth. After that she fixed her own meals and ate what she wanted. It was a difficult adjustment.
I will tell you straight it is easier to figure out the problem when they are little and not be guessing. My big advice is don't think they are going to outgrow it. Our MD too told us she was fine, til one day she wasn't.
Since I am old enough to be your mom, I try to say talk to your mom she may have some great stories to tell too & it might encourage you that no kid is easy.
God bless you and all you do
K. SAHM married 38 years --- adult children 37 coach, 32 lawyer he and his lovely wife had our only grandbaby this summer, and our twin girls 18 ---after homeschooling they are now in college --one majoring in art, the picky eater, and the other majoring in journalism the overeater.



answers from New York on

When I read your son likes rolled up ham, i thought you can try using flour tortillas which can also be rolled up with whatever he likes inside. You can also make quesadillas with them. But maybe call them pizzas if the new idea could turn them off.



answers from New York on

It might sound mean, but the will to survive will over ride their preferance for foods. You eat what you are served or you don't eat--- it will take alot of tries since they are used to you making all these meals, but you are going to make your self crazy if you continue that. If for lunch you give them a healthy meal and they don't eat it, then I bet at dinner when you serve another healthy meal- they will try some of it.

When I used to babysit, since the kids were bad eaters I would plan to have dinner about 15 min past the time that they would get hungry- and during that 15 min when they were begging to eat the hogdogs or whatever unhealthy thing they were sopssed to have for dinner, I would say "If you are hungry have some carrots or cucumbers"- they were so hungry they gobbled them up

Also, it is all in the presentation and how you talk abnout food. My husband and I get so excited with new foods and recipes- so do my kids now since they copy how we act. And you also can present foods in fun ways. I served long peels of carrots to my son and called them carrot worms- he thought that was funny. As he was learning shapes I would cut food into shapes... Be creative with healthy choices. Also mix up how you make foods.

Good luck

Also their are several cookbooks out here that help you add healthy things to common meals (Deceptivly Delicious and The Sneaky Chef)



answers from New York on

Hi K.,

With my own kids, I have cut up veggies or red grapes washed & on the table before the after school snack - which is usually veggie soup. They are starved - and until the soup is ready - that's all I allow them to have. They are allowed to choose a small dessert after dinner.

Young children usually like to dip food. I buy organic ketchup and bake homemade "fries". My kids love to dip veggies in balsamic vinegarette...

I make smoothies using the blender. We love blueberries in our smoothies.

Try to cook one meal for dinner. It's a difficult task when you have very young children - but they'll learn to eat what is served. Just make sure there's one food everyone likes. When my kids were younger I would make homemade mashed potatoes with steamed cauliflower mixed in. I'd mash the floret part up and mix em' in with the potatoes. Don't overdo it with the cauliflower the first few times...

Kristen Colello
Speaker / author

PS It's always a good idea to cut grapes in half before serving them to toddlers...



answers from New York on

I feel for what you are going through. I have seen a couple people go through this with their kids. My nephew (almost 6) has had eating problems most of his life. He only eats toast with Peanut butter (one specific brand) pretzels (goldfish and a couple other kinds), whole grain waffles, pancakes, booty and of course other kinds of junk food. My sister-in-law is in a lose-lose situation. She could say 'this is what I made for dinner - eat this or be hungry'. Then he would choose not to eat, and honestly, he can't afford to skip what little nutrition he does get. The other choice is to make one of the few things he does eat. Before the age of 2 he had a better diet, but all of a sudden things changed. My sister in law has talked to docs, tried to be creative, etc. Thought eating lunch at school with other kids would help. There has been some slow progress as of late. He never liked chocolate before, now he does. She packs a lunch and often he doesn't eat it. He is so thin, but otherwise healthy. He is close with my boys and they are very good eaters (they ask for 2nds on veggies and I don't even fry my veggies) and that hasn't rubbed off on him. I am sorry if this makes you feel worse about the situation. A past neighbor's son had many allergies and also became a picky eater. They went to a nutritionist and started working with some supplements. I think the main supplement was zinc. I read that zinc is tied with appetite. That people with a zinc defiency will have an aversion to many foods and a suppressed appetite. Foods apparently taste and smell differently if your body is low on zinc. I know that she had a hard time with one of her pediatricians. They wanted her to 'wait it out' and she was not comfortable with that approach.
There is a book by Anabel Karmel called First foods. I used it when my boys were just starting to eat. It covers baby food and up. There are alot of creative recipes for older kids. Ideas on how to 'hide' veggies, ways to present regular food to make it more appetizing to kids. I hope you find a solution to your situation. Best of luck.



answers from Rochester on

Wow, you've got your hands full :)

I don't have any advice for fun food ideas (except making kid sized finger foods), but I'm wondering if it would be beneficial to rid your house of candy or junk for your three year old. I think that once you give in to giving them that stuff, they will continue to not eat whatever else is there. When I was growing up (and same goes for my boyfriend, and his parents), there was food on the table and you learned to eat it because there was nothing else, and our moms didn't want to fall into the trap you're in. I know things are different these days, and you're probably worried because of her low weight percentile, but perhaps something like this is worth a try? I know other moms that try to appease their children, but I can't help but wonder if they are getting the nutrition they need, whereas the normal "meat, potatoes, veggies" when growing up were all we had, and we ate it (even if I did sneak the dog my veggies. lol).



answers from New York on

Are they healthy and active? If the answer is yes, then dont worry. The more you worry and fuss and fret the worse they will become. Throw out ALL the junk food and serve ONE meal that you decide to have. If they dont eat..oh well..dont beg plead or scold, just let the rest of the family eat and then remove all plates. Next meal do the same. IGNORE the child that doesnt eat. They will get hungry and will eat. If you are comparing children I would say your tiny daughter is way healthier than your chubby son. As far as the crackers and bread goes, we..none of us..need grain products and many people are actually sensitive to the gluten. If you worry about fiber there are many sources of fiber, especially fruit.



answers from New York on

This may sound mean, but my kids ate what was on their plate or didn't either way - there was no substitutions. Unless I was making a special meal for myself and my husband that I knew they hated my kids ate what was served. They didn't have a choice. Serve your meal, if they eat it fine, if they don't fine, but stick to your guns they get fed again at the next meal or planned snack and they get what you serve them. They will not starve to death. They will protest at first. They will play the "I will not eat" game with your emotions. Stand firm. If they don't eat dinner they will quickly learn that the next meal "choice" will be breakfast. Hang tough!

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