Kids Won't Eat; Getting Deficiencies

Updated on September 10, 2011
J.O. asks from Novi, MI
21 answers

My kids won't eat food. They will happily eat cupcakes and ice cream all day, or anything that's junk. And they only want to eat on the living room floor, which is getting dirty.
I got fed up. So I've been making wholesome meals that have to be eaten at the table, figuring they'd eat if hungry enough. And I cut out the other junk.

Nope. All it meant is at the last Dr's appt. there were some nutritional deficiencies, iron and more. And I imagine they are deficient in things not tested, too. This wholesome meal thing is not recent, either. I didn't just change overnight.

When I say they don't eat, they DON'T EAT. They will, however, eat stuff that comes in a fancy package, like Applesauce Squeezers but NOT applesauce. That's too expensive.
They are very wild and roar like animals and bounce during the day. And don't eat. Refuse. I am tired of cooking and even wasting food. And if I DO offer choices, they don't like any of it.
UPDATE: They are not eating junk. :) So this is really annoying because they are not getting their way, I promise. But they just don't care to eat anything at all now, b/c it's all boring. Dr. says dietary tweaks, but if they don't eat...and yes they take vitamins but that's not doing the trick.
They are toddlers and older preschool.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I guess at this point you need to come up with some creative ways to get the nutrients into their bodies. I've never tried the cookbooks that "disguise" veggies in other recipes (such as but you might give it a try. Good luck!


answers from Rochester on

They aren't going to starve themselves. Do not BUY the fancy packaging, the junk food, etc...don't have any available for them. Continue to offer healthy options and they will start to eat.

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answers from Dallas on

This is getting serious mama, time to change your plan of attack. It sounds like this is turning into a battle of the wills. You don't say how old your children are...I am guessing school age? I think the first thing I would do is get everything they are wanting to eat out of the house. Hide it, stash it or trash it. Whatever you need to do. Do it while they are sleeping, so they don't know it's happening. If you offer up applesauce and they see a Squeezer (??not even sure what that is ;) ), then of course they are going to beg for it and refuse the apple sauce. Get the fancy packaging out of the house.

I would first have a serious meeting with the family. At the dinner table. Explain to them that all food will be eaten at the table. And don't give in. Even if they are eating something that's easy to clean up or you just don't want the arguement. Explain that you expect everyone to sit at the table at meal time. You must be there too. Show by example. And let them know that you expect them to sit with good manners. "Yuck." "That's Gross." and other mean and impolite comments are no longer allowed. If you don't like what is cooked, you don't have to eat, but you need to sit here with us and talk. Start some sort of tradition to keep them at the table even if they don't want to eat. Ask them their favorite part of the day. Ask them to tell you one bad thing about the day and then three terrific things. Count , ABCs...whatever it takes to keep them at the table. The longer they sit with you, the more likely they are to eat. Whether it's cleaning their plate or nibbling.

Get them excited about food. Let them help make the menu. You'll have to compromise on this, but give them some input. Have them help you shop. Start a garden. Grow some herbs they can pick for you. Take them to a farm. Anything to get them excited about the idea of good for you foods.

Some kids are just picky. It happens. I was one of those kids. You could have shoved broccoli on my plate every day for years and it would have made me gag every time. So after years of arguing, my mother got smart and learned to work around my picky behaviours. Obviously they eat something...time to build off that. Plan your meals around the few things they like. Are they fans of pizza? Sneak some good stuff in the sauce. I have a friend who was shocked her some was eating our "white pizza" because it had spinach in the sauce. The kid had no idea and happily ate it. Then when he was going in for the third slice, my son spilled the beans and the kid suddenly thought it was "yucky". You can hide a lot in spaghetti sauce. :) Do they like chicken nuggets? Fix that with a healthier veggie. They can "earn" extra nuggets by taking bites of other foods.

Sometimes presentation is everything. I know lots of people that can get their kids to eat things by letting them dip it. Try yogurt to dip the fruit in. Make fondue in a crock pot and let them dip things in cheese. Sometimes I am truly amazed what my kids will eat if I let them use toothpicks instead of forks.

Try getting them in the kitchen to help. First they will love it. And most kids who cook are excited about the food they made. Make a big production about them cooking dinner. MY daughter is 2 and even she helps me cook. Our favorite "kid cooking" dinner is simple. We cook up pasta, they choose the shape. Then they help me roll turkey into small meatballs. We just add a little bread crumb and some italian seasoning to the meat. I buy mozarella balls that I let them cut in half. This can be done with a butter knife. We add cherry tomatoes to it and sometimes cooked veggies from our garden. Top it with a little parm. It can be as simple as letting them crack an egg for you.

I also would not do dessert regularly. One night when you notice them eating or behaving well at the table. That's when you pull out a dessert. "You guys did such a great job, let's celebrate!" My kids never know if there will be dessert and it didn't take long for them to realize that it doesn't happen often when you ask for they rarely ask.

Hang in there mama. Stand your ground on eating healthier, but compromise a bit too. Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tallahassee on

Just curious, how old are your kids?

My daughter just turned 5 a little over a month ago and at her well child doctor's appointment her doctor wanted to know why I thought she hasn't gained any weight since November of last year (9 months). My response - she doesn't eat if she is served food that she doesn't want. I've tried to get her involved in picking out healthy foods and even preparing them, to some degree, but it doesn't work. We've tried reward charts to get her to eat and that didn't work either. My daughter would rather starve herself than eat something that she doesn't want and when she doesn't eat she is horrible to be around (we deal with this frequently). I try not to make an issue out of it because then we would just get into a power struggle. I tell her that it's my job to provide food for her and it's her job to decide weather or not to eat it. I don't argue or plead with her to eat anything. I just put her food on the table and either she eats it or she doesn't - her choice.

Wish I had an answer for you, but I'm kind of in the same position. I give my daughter daily multivitamins too but she hasn't had any tests done to see if she has any deficiencies. I wouldn't be surprised if she did have some though. We even had her tested for allergies to make sure that wasn't part of the reason (thinking that maybe if she had an allergy to any particular foods that was why she didn't want to eat them). I try not to worry about it too much but it does concern me a little bit that she went from being at the 50th percentile for weight last year to the 37th this year.

* It is so frustrating to hear people say that you must be giving in with the junk food sometimes or your child wouldn't be that way. Or, they won't starve themselves ... they'll eat when they're hungry. While that may be the case with some kids, it's not that way with all of them. I don't feel that discipline is the issue either. Although I can and do provide healthy food for my daughter, I can't force feed her or hold her down and make her eat.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I have a non-eater, too, so I share the frustration. We also eat healthy and shake our heads in frustration at the teeny-tiny list of things our son will eat and how they're not on our list of great ideas. He will gladly skip meals entirely. He's stick thin. Some kids won't starve themselves, but ours would.

It's simply not true that if you keep introducing healthy foods to kids they'll eat them. Anyone who says that hasn't met our son. He gets ANGRY if we persist and he's as stubborn as can be about eating anything at all afterward. (Meanwhile, we have a daughter who eats just fine)

We've had to follow the doctor's advice and try to give him fatty foods to help him continue to grow. Whole milk with Nesquick in the AM to go with his Cheerios. Certain brand of cheese pizza for lunch and dinner. We're lucky if he'll eat a snack of any type. We give vitamins, too, but hate that our son's diet is the way it is. Again, meeting with doctors just like you and going along with their advice.

Please know you're not alone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

See if you can't get your pediatrician to refer you to a nutritionist. Also, TALK to your kids. Let them know that you aren't going to buy junk, but you DO need some help from them. Get them in the's easier to get them to eat what they've made themselves. Work out menus with them based on healthy eating.

It sounds like you're making good changes. Just stand your ground, don't give an INCH. They'll come around. Until then, vitamins.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Try this:

Find a Food Network show you all like to watch. Alton Brown is popular with the kids.

Vote on a recipe. Involve them in every step of the way. Writing the grocery list, shopping for the items, preparing the food. Make it fun, make it interesting.

Then sit down together and try your creation. Critique your work together. Discuss how you'll do it better/change it next time. Vote on which recipe you'll try next.

Even if they're toddlers, try it.

(Well, we can all dream, right?)


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

so, they go hungry for days and days on end without eating a single bite of food????? dont buy any junk food at all, nothing that come's in a "fancy package" is good for them anyway. buy only healthy food, food for meals not snacking. allow them to have whole fruits and veggies for snacks. I am pretty sure, that unless they have anorexia, that they will not let themselves die of starvation. They have to eat something sometime.. I suspect that you are giving in to them and letting them eat junk. you need to stop the bad habits you have started them in. no eating on the living room floor, seriously? you let them eat meals on the floor. you need to realize you are the mom, the boss. not a short order cook. you need to cook the same meal for everyone, if they dont eat it then they just go hungry until the next meal. step up and be firm. sorry, but you created this mess by allowing them to eat like that and tell you what they were and were not going to do. so you're going to have to deal with the unpleasantness and be firm. how old are they?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

yikes... that sounds like a nightmare - so sorry!!

Why don't you check the book by Gerry Sienfield's wife out of the library and look into it.... it's all about hiding veggies in their food. there are also TONS of books about how to make their food 'look cool' (like cars, etc. ) that won't cost you anything but the cost of the food... unlike the fancy applesauce squeeze packs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

What does your pediatrician recommend to do? You might need to do some vitamin supplements for sure. It sounds to me like that are blackmailing you in order to get to eat junk. If you let them win, I think it will just keep getting worse and worse.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Iron deficiencies are fairly common. So, be sure they are taking the poly vi sol with iron and a daily multivitamin. Also, taking calcium with iron inhibits it's absorption, but vitamin c helps it, so take the iron with some natural orange juice.

Don't buy Applesauce Squeezers or anything packaged. You cut the junk food down, but the habit is still there and they are still manipulating it. If it isn't in the house, they can't eat it.

When my kids refuse, they go in the corner for time out. When they are ready they come back to the table. If they don't eat, the plate goes in the fridge and that is their next meal. But now, we rarely use that tactic b/c they are now very good eaters.

I have a friend who gives her kids junk all day b/c they too whine and refuse. They don't eat meals, fruits, veggies... anything. She hasn't cooked a single meal in over 2 years. If they don't want to eat, she gives them a few little debbie snacks, or a huge plate of brownies. They only eat fast food. Can you guess that her children are obese with health problems now? But, when these kids are at my house, they actually eat b/c I use the calm, time out tactic with them.

Sounds largely like a discipline issue. No need to yell, scream, beg. Just be firm and calm and lay down the law. Make a reward chart if you have to.... the reward can be a sticker, new car, playdough, just nothing junk food/treat related. They are high energy kids, give them some structure and activities. Take control of the household.

Dr. Sears has some good advice on discipline tactics:

He also has great advice on family nutrition. Scroll down the page and there is a topic of teaching nutrition to your kids. I do this, and it helps a lot, my also very active boys are 3 and 5:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

J., First off, I'm proud of you for trying and make changes now, better late than never. It's defenitely not easy to discipline and be a parent when kids seem to have a mindo f their own.
I too struggle with my son not eating well, but sounds like yours is a more serious problem than mine. When he was 1 or 2yrs old there were days he will not eat anything! and I would cry myself to sleep. So then I finally started giving him pediasure, which helped me feel better. Is it the best option? maybe not, but atleast I had a peace of mind thinking he is getting some protein,vitamin etc. So talk to your pediatrician to see if its ok to give pediasure or ensure. It is a bit exp, but I used to get it from Costco since the other stores only sold 6 or 9 per pack. Also, how about making fruit juice or veggie juice or smoothies instead of eating them? A friend of mine bought a juicer and used to try all sorts of juices (apple and Kale/ Apple and Celery etc) as her breakfast. I can find out the website address if you're interested.!
Good Luck!!!!



answers from Detroit on

I don't have an answer but some kids seem to live on air and they usually survive. Consistency and gentle guidance and putting them in charge of what they eat within the circle of healthy choices you offer are probably the answer. Sounds like it's going to take awhile. The eating on the LR floor is something you can make a firm rule about. I'd call a family mtg, even tho they're young. Have them help you cut out pictures of healthy food from magazines or find and print them from the internet and make a poster or have each one make a poster of things they are going to try. Have them help you shop and prepare healthy food - plastic or wooden knives, etc. Make it visually fun - making their own individual pizzas, fancy appetizers on toothpicks or whatever you can think of. My kids liked to roll pieces of hot dog in bisquits from a can, with cheese in them then dip them in catsup. Baby carrots with ranch drsg are popular with my grandkids. I used to cut out sandwiches & French toast with cookie cutters and make bunny faces with cottage cheese & fruit (banana pieces for ears). Stick with it, Mama, and don't back down!



answers from Detroit on

J.---I agree that your best bet is to stick to your guns. No junk food (I say junk because there's alot of stuff out there that tries to make us think that it is) or foods that come in fancy packaging at all. They will not starve themselves. Having said that, as a mom, I understand your concern about the deficiency thing.

I work with a number of healthcare professionals in my wellness business. I can share lots of different strategies to help them learn to eat's important for their long term health. Momma L talked about Dr. Sears website. I have a great DVD that features him and it's kid friendly. I'd be happy to send that to you for the whole family to watch.

And no, isolated, man-made vitamins do NOT work. In fact, the NIH came out with a report a couple of years ago that said that one-a-day type vitamins do nothing to prevent heart disease, cancer or any other degenerative disease. Only whole food nutrtion can do that...fruits, veggies and whole grains. There is a whole food supplement, made of 17 different fruits and veggies, backed by independent research, that contains ALL of the nutrients found in the foods they are made from...tens of thousands of them. PM me and we can talk. I'd be happy to share my resources. In fact, on the 20th, we host Dr. Pamela Benitez in Troy, MI, where she shares the relationship between nutrition, or lack of it, and disease. It's about prevention, and if you are interested, I'd be honored to have you join us. We've got lots to share. Good luck. D.



answers from Lansing on


My son has multiple food intolerances, so much so that I have to make most of our meals from scratch. He was three and a half when he was diagnosed and weighed about 40 lbs. In the first week after we removed all of the bad foods he lost 5 lbs and my husband and I panicked. We made an appointment with a nutritionist and she was a huge help suggesting ways to bulk up his calories in a yummy way.

It has been six years since he was diagnosed and I have learned so much more about food, nutrition, and yummy ways to make "boring" foods taste good.

If you would like some help figuring out what your kids might eat, please message me, I know there are foods your kids will eat, it just might take a bit of detective work to discover what "real" foods they like to eat and then build off of that.

C. J.



answers from Detroit on

Could be the quality of vitamins that you are using (in addition to their eating habits). We use Isotonix. It's a powder that turns to a liquid when we add water. It is very scientific how it works, but bottom line is my son gets 90-95% absorption in 5 to 10 minutes, I KNOW he is getting what he needs. :)

Happy to share more any time!




answers from Salt Lake City on

first of all get them a dietary drink the ensure for kids or something to add to their diet and help them get more nutrients then maybe get creative-



answers from Detroit on

Oh J. O!! Remember YOU are the MOM and in charge. Get rid of all the junk and everyone will just have to suffer through. They will eat eventually. You could start with adding in some V-8 to spaghetti....don't all toddlers and pre-schoolers like pasta and sauce? Peanut butter on bananas..w/raisins.."ants on a log", they all love to dip things...try apples in yogurt, a good "walk around snack" frozen peas in a cup...not messy and really good for them. How about a smoothie yogurt, banana, some fruit with some added protein powder ??? there are alot of things to camouflage the good stuff if they really don't want to eat. Make it fun! Get the junk out of the house...make this stuff the new "junk". Good luck...they will not starve.



answers from Detroit on

Try Trader Joe's Children's Chewable vitamins - reasonably priced and a nice 'candy' treat to start the day off with. My daughter thinks she gets chocolate milk each morning, but it's actually ovaltine made with 1 teaspoon and not 4 tablespoons - again, more vitamins and minerals plus milk. She does eat a variety of foods but one of her faves is 'cheese and crackers'. This is her choice of about 5 crackers with some chunk cheese sliced up, small tomatoes, slices of cucumber, baby carrots, blueberries, strawberries, grapes etc - the point is to have a lot of finger food with a lot of colors. They feel like the are snacking but they actually get a whole and healthy meal. You can also get the Motts Medley'ds and Healthy Harvest fruit cups (I usually put these in her school lunch) - they are cheaper than the apple squeezers and my daughter likes to 'drink' them with a straw - a little rebelious but not messy and the food goes in. Goghurt now has the healthy yoghurt squeezers (no added coloring etc), which may also get their attention.

Good luck.



answers from Detroit on

Be sure that you are not giving them gummy vitamins if they need iron. For some reason gummys don't have any iron in them.

I don't know if this helps but here are some ideas we have used with our little ones (currently 4 and 2.5, both rough eaters too).

1) breakfast popscicles (I make these with a natural yogert and blended fruit- nothing else)
2) breakfast cookies (there are some great recipes in the hidden foods cookbooks)
3) If my kids don't like what is being served they can always have cheerios. This was a compromise we began when my daughter was 18 months. Some days that was what she ate for lunch and dinner.


answers from Santa Fe on

My friend's daughter was really picky starting when she was about 2 and she became seriously underweight. The Dr was concerned and had her giving her daughter nutritional shakes daily (which did not seem to increase her weight at all but probably gave her vitamins and some calories). My friend cracked down on snacking. She made sure her daughter was not filling up on milk during the day. She had meals be at specific times each day and one morning snack at 10am. She stopped doing an afternoon snack and served dinner at 5pm. Her daughter would ask for a snack over and over from 3:30 to 5 bc she was hungry. Suddenly she really began eating her dinner. I think it is great you are cooking healthy foods. Keep it up! Don't buy that packaged expensive stuff except for a once in while treat. Don't buy junk - just don't have it in the house!!! Our oldest child is also extremely picky with food but he is so much better than he used to be. We make really healthy dinners but always make sure there is one thing he likes. He usually gets a fresh fruit and and a fresh veggie at dinner because I know he will not eat his fruit/ veggie in his lunchbox at school most days. He likes certain meats (for example baked chicken, pork chops, roasts, minute steaks, mild sausage, a plain hamburger patty, ground beef tacos) so we eat these foods often. He loves white foods...mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, white rice, noodles, french bread with butter. So I will have have a side he likes most nights. He likes 4 different veggies so besides whatever veggies/salad I make, I also give him one of the veggies he likes. He has to take a "no thank you bite" of a food he dislikes. EVERY time. It is a house rule. Just this year he finally decided he likes cauliflower after 7 years of trying it over and over. I understand your frustration but just hang in there. My son also would not eat if he didn't like the food (toddler and preschooler age) and would rather go to bed with no food in his stomach than eat. It worried me to no end. Things have gotten much better. Just keep serving good food and don't cave when they won't eat. They feed off each other's behaviors too I am sure! I just want to let you know I understand your pain. I have gone through so many years of feeling so incredibly frustrated! I finally truly believe what they say...all I can do is offer good food. I cannot make them eat. That is not my job. My job is just to prepare and offer up the good foods. Then I let all those feelings of frustration go...I just don't let it bother me any more. It also helps that as my son has gotten older things have gotten better. It will get better for you too! PS - The other thing my friend did and we do is if our child did not eat their dinner we saved it for them in the fridge. Then later that night when they get hungry, that is what they can snack on.

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