I've Had Enough!! My Patience Is Gone...

Updated on October 25, 2011
R.D. asks from Richmond, VA
23 answers

My 22 month old son is the PICKIEST. EATER. EVER. I've been extremely patient with him... when he had his developmental evaluation, the doctor said he thinks that there is some kind of correlation between his picky eating habits and his severe speech delay. I'm at my wits end. My 2 older kids are GREAT eaters, so maybe I've been spoiled, but I am DONE with throwing out food and wasting food because this kid's picky.

He literally has only a handful of foods he'll eat.

With my older kids (both girls), if they didn't eat dinner, I wrapped it up and gave it to them for breakfast. If they didn't eat it for breakfast, I'd give it to them for lunch... NO snacks in between. Eventually they learned that if they were hungry, they'd eat whatever was in front of them.

I'm at my wits end here.

My husband isn't 100% on board with this... maybe 60% on board.... but he's not the one who needs to deal with this all day, every day.

So what do I do?! I'm thissuperclose to buying baby food, so he gets his fruits and veggies. He takes a daily vitamin, and drinks 1 thing of pediasure every day (per his pediatrician)... but I've had enough. I'm not a short order cook. He doesn't talk (as mentioned, severe speech delay), so I don't even know what he wants. He only eats like 6 things... and I'm over it!!

ANY suggestions or advice is appreciated... or share your picky eater story and let him know I'm not alone :(

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So What Happened?

He eats apples (whole, not sliced), cheese (American or mozzarella), mandarin oranges (fresh, not canned), cheese pizza, fish sticks (only with lots of ketchup), goldfish, and graham crackers. THAT'S IT!!!! OH, and sometime's he'll eat yogurt (vanilla), applesauce, 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich (if I try to sneak meat in he screams)....

@Marda, he's getting his speech therapy through Early Intervention :)

@Stephanie, he does drink V8 fruit fusion juice, in fact, that's all I give him :)

There's definitely a texture thing going on... like he won't eat bread unless it's toasted, like grilled cheese.

I am the MASTER of hiding 'good' foods with the 'bad'... I'll shred zucchini or squash and hide it in pizza... my son seeks and destroys these things. I try to hide meat in his grilled cheese... if there's something on his plate that's 'offensive', he automatically won't eat anything else on the plate, and screams until I remove the offensive item :(

ETA: I'm disagreeing, to a certain extend, with 'feed him what he eats'... how is he ever going to develop a palate for other foods if I'm only feeding him the same 7 things all the time? That's where the wasting food comes in... it's a vicious cycle.

Featured Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

Sounds like he is getting some good food in there. Stop making dinner a battle. It only leads to other issues later on. He will not eat no matter how many times you try and force him to eat food he doesn't like. He will win this war so decide to stop. Stop making meal time a battle. Let him eat what he will and tell him the words "I don't like it" are not words he can say, he can say "No thank you" and other polite responses but not anything about the food not being food. I choose to not battle over food and meal time is much more pleasant.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My daughter (now 12) was a picky eater. The Doc said "let her eat what she want's, when she want's. He said her tastebuds will come around and it sounds like you're taking care of the nutrition side. So... LET THEM EAT CAKE! Just trying to lighten things up, he will be fine, at least he's eating.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

My grandson is what one would call a picky eater and he has a major speech delay. He's been diagnosed with apraxia of speech and has sensory processing issues.

I also suggest that your son's picky eating is related to his speech delay. I urge you to get help from a pediatric occupational therapist.

You can get help thru the school districts, Early Intervention Program. A severe speech delay is considered to be a cause for concern about school success. The program is for babies birth thru 3 years old. Call you school district office for more information. The program is paid for by the Federal Government and is mandated by law.

Often a speech delay is caused by poor muscle control and/or a misfiring of nerve messages between the mouth and the brain. This can be treated and over come. I'm surprised the pediatrician didn't tell you about treatment and how to get it.

Your insurance may pay for occupational therapy if prescribed by your doctor.

This is something you need to get treatment for now. The school district program aimed up to the age of 3 has more resources available to you.

In the meantime, I would agree with giving him baby food or to mash up his food so that it's in much smaller pieces and easier to manipulate in the mouth. If his muscles are not working properly this might help.

Offer him food in small amounts. You don't need to throw a lot of food away. Put the food on his plate and let him decide whether or not to eat it. There is no way you can force him to eat. You may also be in a power struggle with him.

I urge you to let go of feeling like you have to get him to eat. I understand your frustration but it's hampering getting your child to eat. He feels the pressure and may be too tense/anxious to eat. He will not starve. Try to take a more laid back attitude. I suggest you stop looking at this as him being a picky eater but instead think of him as having a disability. There is treatment for it.

Later; Then I'd ask about adding occupational therapy. We've learned that we need to be actively advocating for further assistance. It's true that the "squeaky wheel" gets oiled.

After your SWH: Your son is at an age when it's common for them to have particular likes and dislikes. His mouth and his tastebuds are still very immature. I think you'll find with time that he will branch out. He sounds like he's better than most at finding the "offending food." This makes it hard to sneak in extra nutrition.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. I'd focus on finding out if he'll benefit from some occupational therapy that will help him eat more foods. If you make expanding his repertoire of foods an issue it will distract from the therapy.

As I recall, part of the therapy will be learning how to get more food into his like list. I urge you to get an evaluation from an OT.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

I have 4 kids, and the first 3 were great eaters. Then came number 4. He didn't care about eating so it didn't work to wrap up his food for later, he just wouldn't bother eating at all. He lost weight and was diagnosed with failure the thrive. He was difficult in other ways, too: he cried nonstop for the first few months or his life, screamed on and off for the next couple of years and had baffling food preferences. For example, he loved cheese but if it was melted or in a sauce, he'd cry, "Waaah, I don't like that wet cheese" and not eat it.

He's 15 and now we laugh about the "wet cheese" complaint. He still prefers his cheese cold, and likes frozen shredded cheddar straight out of the bag. He still forgets to eat if not reminded. But over the years, he's learned to eat a variety of healthy foods (even if he doesn't love them). And I learned to go with the flow. Sometimes it's not worth fighting about these things. If your son only eats 6 things, great, make them up in large batches, freeze and defrost as needed. At least he's getting calories that can provide the main part of his diet. You can suppliment with vitamins, pediasure and whatever the rest of the family is eating. That way he gets some variety and a taste of something different, maybe try 2 bites.

By the way, my son was a late talker and a late reader (8 1/2) but he's getting all A's now that he's in high school, so a late start doesn't necessarily mean late in everything forever. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

You know, many selective eaters actually fall within the category of having Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Disorder. This isn't unusual since he's getting Speech Therapy for a severe speech delay. He could very well have some tactile aversions when it comes to food and it's not his fault that he's a selective eater. These things are very often connected.

The best thing you can do for him is to offer him foods that you know he'll eat. Offer him categories of foods you know he'll eat, textures he's likely to eat, and flavors he's likely to eat. Have him "help" shop for food and prepare meals so that he's more invested in what he's eating. Yes, he may still have a limited diet but when you have a child that self-restricts due to Processing issues, you take what you can get.

My daughter has SPD and will drink V-8. If she didn't have lactose intolerance I'd let her have Boost. She gets daily Gummi Vites (when she's willing) and I keep foods in the house that I know she'll eat and is able to eat. I don't force the food issues because I don't want to create even more disordered eating. I know what disordered eating does to someone, and food should never be a battleground or a minefield. I'm a fan of sneaking pureed foods into things like pancakes and muffins, but I had to make a conscious decision that her eating would not stress me out. I just make sure that what she WILL eat is available at all times.

EDIT: R., it's not about expanding his palette right now. It's about getting him to eat, period. It's about helping him gain and maintain his weight and helping him grow. You have to lose the mentality of helping him learn to eat a wide variety of foods like typical kids right now because that's not where he is.

Occupational therapy might help him with textural and sensory issues if he has a Sensory Integration Disorder, and THAT is what needs to be worked on and it takes time. So in the interim your focus would away from the whole "expanding the palette" ideal. Yes, introduce new foods subtlety and when he asks for them... but the waste of food isn't coming from him. Not when you know what he's perfectly comfortable and happy eating at this point in time.

He has a lifetime to learn to like new foods. He's so little that he doesn't need a wide variety yet. Give him time. He just needs some tools to help him with the textural problems.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Make him smoothies with greek yogurt, a scoop of ice cream and fresh fruits. And always add a half of a banana in there too.

Take the 6 things he likes and try to build off of them...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Well in regards to the food, you are actually lucky. My grandson quite literally eats bananas, one kind of cereal only, and yogurt. We can coax him to take a spoon full of peanut butter maybe. None of these things will he eat everyday. He's very thin and doesn't seem to eat anything much period. We've tried being hard on him and he will eat if he gets hungry enough. But that seems to be every third day or so. I only wish he had 6 things he likes. He doesn't seem to really like these other foods either. He would of course eat ice cream, chocolate, and french fries daily. But we DO NOT give into these.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

I know this doesn't help your food issue...but have you tried getting him to drink the V8 fruit fusion juices? It may help in getting some fruits and veggies in him. My Mom just brought over a new flavor and it seriously tastes just like grape juice and it even comes in Light.

:) so he is getting 'some' fruits and veggies. I was thrilled when my oldest started drinking it b/c he is horrible about eating his fruits and veggies. I pretty much shred carrots into everything!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I think you just have to meet your child where he is. I'm sorry you are having difficulties but so is he, and you're the mom.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

My father did that to me once with a BLT, at the time I wouldn't eat tomatoes or mayo. I sat through lunch, dinner and breakfast and still didn't eat it. I now eat tomatoes, but I can't stand mayo. My father learned I could be as strong willed as he was.

Do you think it might be a texture thing? Or sensory? My daughter used to eat everything I gave her, and then around 2 she stopped. She does drink Bolthouse smoothies, her favorite is green goodness. She doesn't know it has spinach and broccoli in it since it is sweet. She does try different foods now, but doesn’t always eat them. I know it is frustrating, but I don't think he will be like this forever. He just may be stronger willed then your daughters.

My step daughter only ate PB & J, cheerios and maybe some chicken nuggets for about two years, she is almost 13 and just now starting to try new stuff.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

I can only tell you this 1. you are so NOT alone (my son is the worst eater) and 2. I have brought this up repeatedly with my pediatrician and he keeps telling me not to enter into a food battle. He said every time he sees parents push, the child pushes back and gets that much more insistent about not trying new things. He swears it will come with time. I hope so b/c I feel like the worst parent ever for letting these bad food habits slide. He also said not to worry about meat unless he isn't getting any protein (my son would not eat ANY meat for almost 2 years - just recently he started eating chicken nuggets and now that's all he wants). Will your son eat eggs or peanut butter? I cover scrambled eggs in cheese to get my son to eat them.

My suggestions, for what they are worth, are to give him the very best quality of the foods he will eat - REAL cheese not processed cheese food; whole grain bread, anti-hormone chicken (we can actually sneak soy chicken nuggets through as well; try Quorn nuggets out on him), organic milk, organic yogurt - you get the point. Keep going with the vitamins and presenting new foods and telling him how delicious they are. Continue trying to sneak pureed foods into his meals (I have been known to dump organic baby food into our spaghetti sauce on more than one ocassion!). I have also been searching for books that show a rainbow of foods in a fun, kid friendly way. There seem to be 1 or 2 on Amazon.com. I'm going to order those and see if reading about all of the foods might spark something.

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answers from Dallas on

the pickiness could definantly be correlated. he's always been like this (such pickiness?)
I'd do food therapy/ OT to help it.
My son is the same way..he doesn't have a speech problem (yet that i know of) but he had torticollis and his jaw is a little misaligned and it's harder for him to do it, so he just doesn't. in the last two days, instead of eating baby food (yeah, i;'m still buying those so he gets something good in him) he actually ate some chicken nuggets, potatoes, and pop-tarts. not ideal, but i'll so take it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

My son is 9 and is still a picky eater. We saw a nutritionist when he was 1 because he had failure to thrive. She suggested adding mayo, powdered milk, and peanut butter to his food. But he has texture issues and won't eat pb, mayo, smoothies, mashed potatoes, avocados, white bread, hotdogs, hamburgers, or most things with sauce. When he was younger we tried all the tricks with making the food cute, using cookie cutters, toothpicks, food coloring, and dips. I have always tried to get him to at least taste one bite, even if it's something he's tasted before. He actually does keep an open mind and is at least willing to try new things, the weirder the better. He has even talked us into trying new things(grasshopper, anyone?)

I usually make a modified version of our dinner for him. If we're having spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna, he gets plain spaghetti with parmesan cheese. If we're having pizza, he eats just the toppings off the pizza plus a salad. If we're having grilled salmon or fishsticks, he has shrimp or some other plain seafood. If we're eating ice cream, he has whipped cream with fruit. We have mashed potatoes, he has boiled. We have chicken fajitas, he has a cheese quesadilla. We have stir fry, he eats only the water chestnuts. We have sandwiches, he has bread and butter and lunchmeat separately. We have cooked carrots, he has raw. I try not to waste too much- I save leftovers he likes to go in his lunch the next day, and the things he didn't like can be MY lunch.

Yesterday, we celebrated because he ate a *whole* taco at taco bell for the first time(used to just eat the lettuce and cheese). I was so excited I called my mom to tell her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Can you tell us the things he does eat? (My advice correlates with that :)

Well...I only have a bit advice, unfortunately. Have your tried hiding things on the cheese pizza? Or, making a calzone? My son went through a terrible picky time, and it was the only way to get food in him. I would make or buy pizza dough and put cheese and veggies (chop them up super small) in the calzone, and he was more open to eating that. Also, when I put sauce on the pizzas, i would puree veggies and add it to the sauce. He never knew! I always added pureed veggies to the sauce. I went through a smoothie phase with him, too. I made him smoothies of yogurt, and pureed fruits and veggies. (I used plain whole milk yogurt, because he really needed the fat.) I bought those take and toss cups with lids and straws, and they were perfect for drinking smoothies. I would often hide spinach and broccoli in the smoothies. I called it juice for a long time, just to get him to drink them. Sorry I didn't have more!!

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answers from Miami on

All I can say is that my son was (is) the same way. At that age, I swear he only ate chicken nuggets. Seriously. Just chicken nuggets. As he has gotten older, he has started to broaden his horizons a bit, but he still only eats a handful of things on a regular basis. Chicken nuggets (that is the ONLY thing on a restaurant menu he will eat), fish sticks (oddly, he hates ketchup and all other condiments), peanut butter sandwiches and snack foods. He'll eat a banana now and then and sometimes grapes. Sometimes I can get him to eat ham and a piece of string cheese for lunch instead of the peanut butter sandwich. I, too, was super frustrated with his eating habits. His doctor assured me it would get better and it has....SLOWLY! I have stopped the whole "short order cook" thing within the past week or two and, surprisingly, he's taking to it pretty well. He has to try at least one bite of everything on his plate. He would never have done that before, but now, at almost 3.5, he is doing it. I would say that you may just have to wait it out a bit longer. It's so hard! Mine is finally old enough to reason with (to a certain extent) and has a good enough vocabulary to carry on a conversation about it, so that helps. I won't say he's happy about it, but dinner time has become less of a battle recently because he knows the rules and knows I'm not giving in. He doesn't have to eat, but does have to sit at the table with the family. If he wants ANYTHING else to eat (usually just a piece of bread), then he has to try the things on his plate first. He has actually continued eating some of the things because he realizes he likes them. We praise the heck out of that and encourage him to continue to try things because he might find a new favorite! Again, this would not have worked at 22 months, but I've gone through that same frustration you're feeling and we're finally making some headway. I'm sorry I don't have any great advice for you. I just wanted you to know that you aren't alone. My son wouldn't even drink the Pediasure! No yogurt, no gogurt, no applesauce. Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you to keep trying, but don't make yourself crazy. As long as he's healthy, then he'll survive and you can try to push it when his vocabulary has improved a bit. Good luck! I know it's tough, mama. Hang in there.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I had a kid who ate pancakes (McDonald's only), chicken nuggets, pizza (cheese only), and mac 'n cheese (Kraft only).

For other reasons (we finally clued in that our child was severely intolerant to certain foods) we removed milk, and then a bit later, gluten (wheat). Voila - within three days I had this same kid eating broccoli and home-made asian food.

He was about 9-10 when all this started, so it was a bit easier. He was willing to give it a go to try to feel better. We were stunned when his eating habits changed so drastically. He is now my best eater, and I frequently get comments from other moms about it ("he eats so HEALTHY!").

Good luck . . . just sharing our experience. I noticed alot of gluten (wheat) in the stuff you listed.

PS: I did work with a great nutritionist (about 10 hours) when we changed his diet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Because of my son's speech delay he was a very picky eater. My nephew did the same thing. My SIL explained to me that it was very much a texture issue. I was so frustrated!! He wouldn't even eat mashed potatoes.

He is 5 now, and he just started eating something besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, spaghetti (and spaghetti like meals - like goulash), chicken nuggets, hot dogs, corn dogs, french fries and chips. This was litterally it.

He wouldn't eat fruits and vegetables for the longest time. Last year he finally started eating bananas, then a few months later he started eating apples, but only if they are peeled and cut. He has started eating meat now, like pork chops and chicken and meatloaf. He won't eat any vegetables, but we keep putting them on his plate and offering them.

I am also not a short order cook, so I tried to have at least one thing he like on his plate that I incorporated into dinner and if he didn't eat it all he didn't. It is really slow going I know, but hang in there.

I firmly believe that it will get better with time.

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answers from Santa Fe on

Our first child is extremely picky. He 7 now and still picky. It's MADDENING. Our 2nd child (our daughter) eats great...totally normal and likes almost all foods. I really think for some kids it is genetic. There is something wrong with them. I have no idea what. I have tried everything in the book with our son but nothing has worked much. He has gotten slightly better as he gets older. What foods does your 2 yr old like? As a baby and at age 2 our son was so picky...gagged at so many foods and spit them out. Will your son actually eat baby food? Ours would not at that age. To give him his veggies you can put them into other foods he'll eat (like put pureed veggies into pancakes. cauliflower into mashed potatoes, pureed carrots and spinach into spaghetti sauce, etc) I constantly put veggies and foods my son does not liek on his plate and always have. He has to take one bite (this rule is much easier to enforce when they are older and you can reason with them). I make sure there is at least one food he will eat so at least he eats something. I am not a short order cook either but I'll leave out plain rice instead of mixing it into a casserole or take out meat from our meal so he can have it not touching/mixed with other foods. He has to eat a fruit or veggie with each meal. This is pretty repetitious for him since he does not like many. He'll happily eat nothing or take a couple bites and say he is full...day after day. If he does not eat enough he cannot have dessert which he really hates...so this will make him eat more most nights. I keep a list of the foods he will eat for my own amusement and it has gotten longer with time. I try to make things he likes quite often but one day he'll love it, the next day he hates it, and the next time he loves it again. I also am totally over it. I sometimes feel like I am starting to not care anymore...it's so hard every meal time with this kid. It's sad really - to have no joy of eating and of enjoying good foods. Let me know if you have any success with anything! You should do a mamapedia search on picky eating bc this comes up a LOT.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My 8 yo daughter is a super picky eater. She survived on cheese sticks, yogart and goldfish crackers for years. Finally at age 5 we took her to a feeding program and had her evaluated. they said she is one of those people that have tons more taste buds on their tongues so textures and tastes are magnified X 1000 for her. I also think she has some sensory integration issues. We meet with a psychologist once a month and bring a food that she won't eat. He takes her through, kiss it, lick it, chew it, swallow it. He also has different prize motivations we have used through the years. I only wish I had her evaluated when she was your son's age. Then she could have gone through the day feeding program and be done in 6 weeks of intensive therapy (it gets harder when they are in school and you don't want to pull them out). I know how frustrated you are. We tried everything. She would just not eat and then get really mean. Very stubborn. Her doctor told me that the she will eat it when she is hungry won't work with kids like her. they would rather starve. She is still very picky. And I am a short order cook. I am supposed to be serving her certain hard to eat foods at each meal, but it is very hard to whip up a lasagna or mac and cheese, when we are all having chicken. My overall goal for her is that she can go out to eat with her friends and find something on the menu to eat. Good luck to you. Let me know if you find a strategy that works.

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answers from Dayton on

Honestly...if my kids would eat that list consistently...I'd be grateful.
I have 2 super picky kids....and what they liked today, they will despise tomorrow. : /
No advice...just want you to know you're not alone.
Most days I don't have the will to feed them anything because everything is a battle.
My DD killed my desire to cook and be creative. :(


answers from Washington DC on

Have you tried some basic sign language videos? It may help with some frustration with you and your son. Sign language will in no way delay any speech but, it will give access to language/ communication. As far as food suggestions I have to agree with JessicaWessica. If you do introduce a new food make it a very small portion. Try cutting up very small amounts of chicken off of your plate or what ever your having at your meal.



answers from Boston on

Yes, there is a correlation between some speech difficulties and eating. Please request an eating evaluation from EI (done by speech/language pathologist or OT). Mean while, I'm sure you are both frustrated. The good news is that when his ability to communicate improves, so should his ability to tolerate other foods.
Now for a true story. Early in my career I did not fully appreciate how difficult certain foods were for individual children. Part of my program was to offer a variety of foods that would broaden the opportunities for children to try (yes, only a little nibble or even a lick was encouraged). One day we offered veggies and dips. Some children loved them, some tried, some ate saltines. One child nibbled for a while, suddenly looked distressed and promptly offered all his stomach contents onto the table. Of course, his Dad was walking in the door and kindly told me that his child had lots of difficulty with the texture of vegetables. Indeed! From then on, when I offered a new snack (which I kept doing), I really meant it when I said "Try it, don't try it, that's ok!"



answers from Naples on

This is super common. My son was/is the same way....he's little older than yours but he's starting to grow out of it.
Our pediatrician told us the most important thing is to get him the nutrition he needs....not forcing him to eat what we think he should, when he should. At that time my son only liked hard, crunchy things. So the pediatrician said, get him dried veggie chips so that he at least is getting veggies that way. He also recommended the V8 Fusion juice that has a full serving of veggies mixed in with fruit juice.
In other words, yes, we sort of "give in" to our son....we don't make it a battle....and some foods DO get wasted. But he's coming along. Eating more and more, and a bigger variety all the time.
And about the baby food....go for it. We did that for a long time. At least he will get the nutrition that way! And that's pretty common by the way...(for a toddler to eat baby food)
Good luck!!!

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