Need Help Feeding a Picky 5 Year Old!

Updated on June 20, 2012
J.C. asks from Daly City, CA
15 answers

How can I make my 5 year old eat new foods without him throwing an uncontrollable fit? He won't try anything! HELP!!!

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So What Happened?

First of all I would like to thank everyone for the helpful advice and tools I can use to help not only my son, but also my sanity. I have felt so alone with this problem and felt like I have hit a dead end. I will post an update on this issue soon. This is going to take some time to see what works for him and I definitely am going to try each of your helpful suggestions everyday. I am so glad that I found a group of parents that feel like family that give honest and helpful advice and do not pass judgment on such a difficult problem.

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answers from Columbia on

I see two issues:

1) uncontrollable fit - I would suggest stonger enforcing of the rule against uncontrollable fits.

2) New foods may take up to 12 times of introduction before you can cross it off the list.

3 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Austin on

FYI, when I was a child, we were made to eat 1 or 2 bites of all foods. That ended the night, I vomited all over the dinner table. I do not recommend this, unless you are willing to deal with the consequences.

Stop forcing him. He is fighting because you are trying to make him try.. Instead ALLOW him to try new foods.

When you are eating something really good express it.

On his plate, place a very tiny portion of new food on his plate along with everything else. Do not say a word and no comments. Eventually in the future he will try it. When he does, place another small amount on his plate no comments no words.

Some children are not adventurous about new foods. Some have a very strong sense of smell and taste.. And some can have texture issues. Cooked onions and black pepper can seem as spicy as a jalapeno feels to me and you.

Children need new Foods introduced many times. Stay calm.

Our daughter used to have her food simple. No casseroles, no sauces on the food, not even butter or melted cheese, it had to be in seperate piles on her plate, but now she eats things that would make your hair curl...
Meals should not be a battle. They should be fun family time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I like to take my boys to a buffet restaurant once in a while, and let them pick what they want. They usually find a new food they are willing to try, and have expanded their "repetoire" this way.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I totally agree with Dad...

My daughter (41/2) must try at least 2 pieces with out any noises, gagging etc. If she does not she loses something she values like story time etc. Or even going to bed with out dinner and no snacks. We only had to do that once by the way...

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My son is a picky eater and has been since he was a baby.
We have NO battles about him eating.
Because we don't make it a battle.
He is healthy and grows like a weed.
His Pediatrician has no problems about his picky-ness either.
My son has naturally, expanded his palate. He even eats asparagus and artichokes and salads.
I cook what I cook and there is always something there that he will eat.
We do not punish/reward/manipulate him to eat.
He KNOWS his body's cues for hunger or fullness. AND that, is key. Thus, he does not eat out of boredom or for emotional dysfunctional needs.
We never force him to eat. He eats according to his body's cues.
He is fine and healthy.
My son is a "grazer" and eats throughout the day, according to his hunger or fullness cues. He sits at the table at meal times and eats.
My Husband is a grazer too. That is just the way some people are.

I also do not expect my son, to eat like me or to like or dislike the same foods as me. He is not me.
If I like raw fish on my sushi, and he doesn't, I ain't gonna force him to eat it.
I don't like raisins... and if someone or my Husband forced me to eat it, I would hate that and I would have a fit, too.

Here is an interesting article, from ABC news, about picky eating kids:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I would buy cookbook for kids... look it up on
there are many books and i have picky children but, they like anything that has mashed potatoes in it.. or if i try to cut it like an animal if i say that another kid had this last night or something..



answers from Sacramento on

In looking through the answers you've received, I noticed a couple of my own suggestions are absent.
One thing I've noticed is that if the adults fill the child's plate, they often will put on too much food. Try using a salad plate size of the same kind of plates you use. That way, you are showing your child that he is being included, but his plate is more to his size. Then, put no more than one tablespoonful of each item on the plate. That way, he won't be as overwhelmed by what you are expecting him to eat. As long as you serve family style, he is able to get more of whatever he really likes.
Second, do serve family style, and when possible pass the dishes of food and let him pick what he wants.
Third, always include a plate of raw veggies, raw fruits or a combination of the two. Most kids will eat those and they are probably better for them than most of the things we prepare anyway. The bigger the variety of this sort of thing, the better.



answers from Cleveland on

I can't say I completely agree with letting them eat whatever, as a friend of ours has a 13 year old that subsists on McDonald's - Coke, fries, and chicken nuggets. By age 4, had all his teeth capped due to the Coke. Now he is insulin resistant and overweight and needs counseling, which was recommended long ago. Keep putting everything on his plate!

My 2 year old is much like my other two, picky about veggies. I often will include either whole grain pasta or brown rice, steam some broccoli and cut the tops off and mix in so she can't help but eat it. When I make peas, I mix those in too. I've also picked up the Nurtureme (Babies R US, Whole Foods, and Target carries it, and there is a dot com for the site) dried powder veggies (peas, sweet potatoes, and squash) and mix those into many dishes, especially omelets in addition to adding peas or broccoli.

I'd also make sure you're not letting him fill up on juice, one 4 oz juice a few times a week is plenty as its full of sugar. I personally never give mine juice as I found it problematic with my first two, so I only give her mostly water and some milk. You could make up a small fruit smoothie on occasion, though, and toss a veggie in there. Freeze well too.

He'll eventually get used to the flavors and textures and seeing everyone else eat them. Good luck!


answers from San Francisco on

This really shouldn't be an issue.
You make the meal and offer it to him.
If he doesn't like it or want to try it, that's fine. Go ahead and eat and enjoy it yourself.
There's never a reason to force feed a kid anything.
He won't starve, and over time his tastes will change and expand.
I'm no short order cook, and I do NOT believe in making separate meals for picky family members, but the kids (and hubby lol!) always had the option of helping themselves to a piece of fruit, or a cheese stick, or making themselves a simple peanut butter or turkey sandwich if they didn't want what I had prepared.
Don't turn food and mealtime into a battle, it just doesn't need to be!



answers from Kansas City on

Well, I don't really know, but here's a few things I've learned. First off it takes an ungodly number of times to be "introduced" to a new food before a kid will like it/try it/recognize it. They've done studies and it's something like 20 times...ugh. Secondly, our "house rule" is that my kids have to try everything I make, just one bite. They can eat more or not, but they have to have a bite. Most of the time my daughter (4.5) will take one bite and declare it unfit for her mouth, but I really think it's mostly just a game to her. I'm confident that eventually she'll eat it. I also don't look at her while she eats b/c then I won't "catch" her eating something she "dislikes"! ;) And if I do see it, I certainly never comment on it! LOL!

My Parents as Teachers lady got me onto the "house rule" thing because it takes the owe-ness (sp??) off of you and puts it on this other being...the house! Hey, kids it's not MY rule it's the HOUSE rule kind of thing! It seems to work, but I only reserve it for stuff really big like this.

The other thing that helps is to have him involved in the grocery shopping and/or cooking of things. It helps a lot of they pick it out, grow it, prepare it, etc. Maybe he can help you make the menu for the week and tell him it has to have at least 2 things in it for the whole week that he has to be committed to tasting. It's okay if he doesn't like it, but he has to taste it. He could also help you choose between 2 recipes for the same ingredients. He could choose which way to make the chicken or which way to prepare the broccoli so that maybe he'll take it better!

Good luck!


answers from Santa Fe on

Our oldest is a picky eater and our youngest is not. Tonight she had salad with roasted beets along with her dinner. We did nothing different with the 2 kids...they were just born this way. I would definitely make a house rules about eating. Our house rules are: 1. no negative talk (like saying this is GROSS!). If you do not like it you don't need to make comments about the food. 2. no throwing a fit. If you do you have a time out in your room and when you are calm you can come and sit at the table again. I had to actually start giving our son consequences (like taking away his video games) at first, and I'm happy to say he never has these fits anymore. 3. You have to take one bite of the food you do not like because your taste buds are changing all the time. That's it for our food rules....we do not make him eat anything he does not like and we keep dinner pleasant. If he eats very little I just don't worry about it. We encourage him to expand his palate. Ok, now you know our house rules, but I have to say our picky eater has never gotten much better. He did discover one new vegetable that he will eat last year. In some ways he seems to have gotten worse. He does not really care so much about food and will say he is full if he does not like the food on his plate. I just keep hoping he will outgrow this as so many people tell us. We eat a wide variety of foods but I do always make sure there is one thing he will eat. If I am making a casserole I will leave out meat plain for him. He has to take a bite of the casserole but then he always says no thank you. He at least will eat the plain meat. Good luck with your picky eater. Let me know if you find anything that works!


answers from Kansas City on

fits like that at age 5 (for any reason) are way out of line. fits are for 2 year olds who don't know better. as soon as the fits start i'd send him to his room. he can join the family when he's ready to act like part of a family.

as far as new foods, don't force him. either he eats it or he doesn't. he has discovered that this is a fight he can ALWAYS win. so he loooooves this fight. he loves the control he has over you. so take the fight out of it. QUIT TRYING TO FORCE HIM. he won't starve. if you offer healthy choices - he'll eat healthy food. some he won't eat. that's okay too. it really won't hurt him. and it really doesn't affect you in any way. so stop taking it personally. it's not about you at all. it's no reflection on you one way or another, if he tries green beans or he doesn't. it is completely his choice. so let it be - and let it go mama. this is one battle you won't win.



answers from Sacramento on

I think most of the other moms have covered this pretty clearly. I would like to add that I followed my pediatricians recommendations. We give our son a small amount of all the food we are eating. If he doesn't eat it, he will eat at the next meal or when he's hungry. He would skip as many as two meals some days to wait for something he liked. Finally, I determined that my son would try more food and eat his dinner meal if he could get a treat some sort of dessert after dinner. Like a previous mom, I only serve him about a tablespoon of each item. If he wants more he can have it. If he doesn't want it he only has to take two bites to test it out then he's done, but he forfiets the treat. Sometimes he makes that choice. Also, we don't allow fits. If he wants to throw a fit he has a time out in his room. He is allowed to come out when he has composed himself and is ready to eat dinner. My son hated broccoli, now it's one of his favorite green vegetables.



answers from New York on

I'd say that you have two options of how to deal with a picky eater.
Your first option is to serve whatever you want to at mealtime and he can eat it or not. If he chooses not, no snacks or food til the next meal. He'll learn to eat what is served. Don't talk about it, argue about it, plead with him to taste it, tell him he needs to eat to grow big and strong or anything. Either he eats or doesn't but don't turn it into a control game. A fit at dinner turns into instant bedtime.

Your other option is to serve a variety of foods at dinner - for instance, chicken cutlets, brown rice, bread with butter, cheese cubes, sliced tomatoes, melon and cooked broccoli. Then, let him choose what he wants to eat. Do not suggest he try something, wheedle him into taking just a tiny bite or praise him for tasting the tomatoes. Don't let him know that you care what he eats, or it becomes a game/control issue. Kids are more likely to try something if they don't think you care, don't think you're looking and if they know there are other things they can eat if they don't like the thing. Sure,it might mean that sometimes his dinner consists of bread and butter, and melon. But he might surprise you and eat the cheese cubes and try a pickle slice too.
However, please keep in mind that kids don't really need a ton of variety. As long as he's eating a healthy diet, and has a option he likes from each food group, that's okay! It would make us crazy to eat plain chicken cutlets every night but if he does, it's a good, lowfat source of protein. If the only veggies he likes are raw carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, that's enough. A kid doesn't need to eat 6 green and 5 orange veggies and 8 types of fruit and 7 different meat dishes to get the proper nutrition!



answers from Houston on

I just read in one of those parent magazine to create a menu with pictures of his favorite and healthy foods, and then laminate it. Make one for breakfast, lunch, dinner and maybe even snack. Maybe even add prices, like a bowl of cereal or a banana = 1 kiss for mom :)

That might be a fun way to get him to eat something.

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