Picky Eater - Harleysville,PA

Updated on February 23, 2009
J.M. asks from Harleysville, PA
18 answers

Hi mamas,
I love this site because the advice is always useful and supporting. Well, I have an issue that has come up before I am sure. I have a 7 year old son. He is an extremely picky eater. He has been since he was 3. Before that he didn't eat everything but ate a variety of more things. He then had his tonsils out and more items went off the list. Now the items are few, Dairy ~ yogurt, cheese,drinks plenty of milk, Peanut Butter, Low sugar starwberry Jelly, Wheat Breads,Chicken Nuggets, Hot dogs, (Which I have switched to Turkey dogs with low sodium and msg), No veggies, 1 bite here and there of few fruits. We have tried in the past of he has to have a bite or no dessert, he chooses no dessert without a problem. We tried that for a few weeks since the new year. Now my husband is pushing this more than I ~ he gets 1 thing (usually the meat or pasta) on his plate and he needs to eat it before he gets anything else. We started this last week. He threw fits from the time he knew dinner was being made. He would even talk about in the morning. He panics about it. I do give him snack of goldfish or yogurt, cheese when he comes home from school. But as soon as I start making dinner he starts in. Yesterday he was too the point where he is just not going to eat dinner. Now Me, being the softy I am is cringing unbeknownist to them when they argue about it. I just want to say what is the big deal, I can't see him eating this way when is 20. Part of me whole heartingly understands that my son needs to eat what others are eating. But part of me hates arguing over food. When He rarely tries something and says he likes it but then doesn't want more. Like he tried a Kiwi at school he said he liked but "But don't buy any" We have done this for about a week now and I hate dinner time now. It is so exhausted from hearing the crying and arguing. Then part of me gets mad at my husband for forcing this. It doesn't inconvient him in any way. I make the sandwich or the dog. Please give me some ideas.

What can I do next?

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answers from Philadelphia on

Coming from another picky eater I say expose him to new foods but let him eat what he likes. Trust me it may be a sensory issue I have no clue but I like what I like and I am so tired of expailning myself to people. I like what I like and when I go out to eat I find what I know I like on the menue. Not to say I don't try things a bit diffrent, I have found I now like salsa but I don't like it spicy or chunky I will now eat it though. I will now also eat brocoli.

If I can try someone elses food I will try new things but I know I don't like fish or anything seafood, that isn't going to change, although I like a good tuna sub.

Good luck to you guys. I don't like the popular choice of don't cater to the child, these people never had issies like I have faced all my life. I was VERY thin as a child and I would have starved myself if forced to eat foods I knew I didn't like.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Hi J.,
I found this article on the new york times website. It is titled "6 Food Mistakes Parents Make." I have incorporated some of the ideas with my toddler and found it helpful.


Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

The more you push, the more he will resist. Stop talking about what he eats, stop pushing things at him, stop making it an issue to fight about. Serve what you're eating yourself, kids can't starve themselves long enough to do themselves any harm. If he really won't eat what you're serving, he's old enough to make his own pb&j. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I think you'll find it a lot less stressful in the long run. You are probably getting attitude becaues he's pushing back against you and your husband pressuring him...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lancaster on

My daughter is picky too. Try Weaver's Honey Batter breast tenders. The sodium is the lowest of any of the other brands. Most spaghetti sauces now contain veggies and kids don't know that. Some of the V8 juices taste great and that has veggies in it too. Have you tried putting peanut butter (I use Simply Jiff) on celery or carrots or apples? Since he likes cheese, melt cheese over broccoli or other veggies. Just make sure you use good cheese, not cheez wiz. My pediatrician says children grow out of that, but it's a pain until they do. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi J.,
I am blessed to have a 6 year old who will eat just about anything and eagerly wants to try any new food he sees. That said (and we all have our crosses to bear!), he hates to take the TIME to eat! Ironic, huh?
What I have learned over the past few years is that I do not want to argue over food and the more of an issue you make it, the bigger issue it will be. If I were you, I would put all of the meal's food on his plate and let him go. If he doesn't eat everything, it's not the end of the world. Maybe you could have a "2 bite rule" or something like that. He needs to eat 2 bites of everything on his plate.
Have you tried giving him the Harvest Surprise juice that has veggies in it? My son really likes that. Also make him yogurt smoothies w/frozen yogurt and fresh fruits--most kids like those. Good luck! And remember--he will not be eating chicken nuggets at his prom!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My advice? Don't let your husband do the one item at a time. He is just adding fuel to the fire and it is not necessary. Give your son what everyone else gets for dinner, being sure that there is at least ONE item that he will eat. Let him eat (or pick) in peace. You and your husband decide if he eats enough for dessert, encourage at least one bite of each item to "try." Then drop it! If he only eats a little, so be it! If he doesn't get dessert, so be it! But vow to stop arguing with him about it, it will only make it worse. Good luck.

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answers from State College on

All my kids are relatively good eaters so I don't have that problem but have friends who do. Here we had a couple years where they ate nothing but PB&J sandwiches and milk. my husband also had the problem with it but once he eased up it worked it self out--slowly. Don't make a special meal for your son. Have him try each thing on his plate but doesn't have to eat all of it. Even put on veggies, and have him do just one bite. Here, if you don't eat what we have for dinner you make a pb&j and have no dessert. They have to do it themselves, not you. Contacting a children's behavorial therapist may help for you. If you get a good one, they can give you little tips to try over time which will relieve this problem. Also, have him pick an item a week to buy at school and not pack. My kids every now and then were willing to try something new. Sometimes they liked it, sometimes they didn't--but it had them trying something new.

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answers from Harrisburg on

I am writing to tell you that I sympathize 100% with your dilemma. My daughter just turned six in January, and she is an extremely picky eater who also ate a greater variety as a younger child/toddler. Right now her variety really paralells your sons: just swap out milk, which she won't drink, for apples, peas and banannas, which she can't get enough of. She will also eat kidney beans, refried beans and lentils as long as there are no "hidden" vegetables in them.

When I have the time and energy I puree veggies and mix them in with something that she will eat, like a potato pancake, but she is supernaturally adept at sensing changes in texture, flavor and oolor (probably why she is such a fussy eater to begin with). We have been through the dinner time battles -- exactly where you are right now -- and I have to say it is just not worth the heartache. I feel what you are going through -- you want to do what is best for your son. But phobias about food are not healthy, and I believe strongly that mealtimes should be a time for families to reconnect and enjoy eachother. There is an element of ritual and connection around food that I believe we have lost in the U.S., and our obesity epidemic and fad diets are evidence of this. (Sorry to get up on my soapbox -- I'm just VERY passionate about this).

This week, I have peacefully instituted a "no special meals" policy. There is no fuss, and there is no fighting. I make sure that there is at least one element of the dinner that she enjoys eating (cheese, bread, mashed potatoes, etc.). If she doesn't at least sample everything on her plate and eat a good ammount of SOMETHING from the main course, there is no desert. No one fusses, coaxes or yells. I am also trying smoothies with a cocoa protein powder that has no additives, preservatives or sugars: hopefully that will help.

I've found in the past that the more we push as parents, the more she pushes back. It's a zero sum game that costs way too much. I wish I had a better answer for you. It sounds like your son is a pretty anxious kid -- much like my daughter. Meal time battles will never have the effect you intend: he will be too worked up to try anything new. You are right: eventually he will open up and try new foods. He will most likely not be eating this way when he is 20. At least you know know your not the only one! Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I would suggest talking with your husband first and deciding on what you both want the rules to be so it does not become a source of frustration and resentment between the two of you. You need to face this as a team with your son. Once you decide on the rules, and I think there were some good examples below (like serving him one thing you'll know he'll eat with the rest of your family's 'regular' dinner) then you and your husband need to stick to those rules.

At 7 years, your son really needs to at least sit and have dinner with the family even if he isn't eating a lot at first. Also, you may want to check with your ped just to make sure he isn't having reflux or other tummy issues and that it is just pickiness. Just an idea.

Good luck!

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answers from Altoona on

Some advice that a mother once gave me that I shall now pass on to you. :D

If he doesn’t want to eat it for dinner, then he gets it for breakfast.

If he doesn’t want it for breakfast, he gets it for lunch. If he doesn’t want it for lunch, he gets it for dinner. (Wash, rinse, repeat cycle.)

And before anyone gets bent out of shape, this isn’t ‘child abuse’ in any way, shape, or form.

You are providing healthy nourishment to your child. You aren’t starving them, or making them do without. You are not hurting them or damaging their ‘fragile’ little psyche in any way.

The kid is 7 years old. At that age they CHOOSE to eat it or not. If not, then tough turkey nuggets.

I guarantee they’ll eat it come day two. ;)

If this goes on for more than a day, then prepare something they love, like pizza or whatever, and eat it in front of them, and tell them that if they finish their dinner from the previous night, they can have some pizza, and watch those leftovers disappear before your eyes.

Pizza is just an example by the way. Find whatever he loves best, and include it for dinner, and have everyone in the house eat it in front of him.

Once he does eat his leftovers, he’s welcome to partake of the yummies.

Trust me when I say, this is the most HUMANE way you’ll ever get over this problem. It will get exponentially WORSE as the years grind on.

And yes, if you don’t get this taken care of NOW, they WILL have this problem when they are in their 20’s. I know people with this problem who can’t eat a grape or any kind of fruit to save their lives, and if they don’t change their eating habits, will have major ulcer problems in their late 30’s and 40’s from eating nothing but carbs and sugars all their lives.

It all boils down to what is truly best for them. Who’s the parent? You, or the 7 year old?

Put your foot down, and stand up for what you know is right, and the kid will naturally adjust. Kids NEED boundaries and they WILL respect you for it in the long run. If they always get what they want, and can run ragtag, you’ll never have their respect.

Both you and your husband need to be onboard with this, and present a united front to the child, or else it will not work and he will play you off of each other to get what he wants or to get out of eating something he doesn’t like.

And if the husband refuses to be onboard… you can always hint that he’s not going to get any until he supports you on this, and this eating problem of the 7 year old disappears. That’s one heck of a motivator for ANY man to make a positive effort. ;)



answers from Pittsburgh on

Food issues aside, your 7 year old should not be throwing a fit. You and your hubby should sit him down and explain the way he needs to behave at the table. If he can not behave properly, he should go to his room and come down when he can act appropriately. Second, so you don't have to fret about starving him, which won't happen, let him choose between a few reasonable items for dinner (ex- rice or pasta, chicken or beef, or whatever), then you put the dinner in front of him, and he can choose to eat or not. It will be a bit rocky at first, but you can not give in. He eats differently at school because he knows that's what he has to choose from and that's it. You should do the same at home. If you need a dietitian, I work at pediatric alliance.



answers from Scranton on

I hate to say it, but I think your husband is on the right track. It's important for your son's health that he learn to eat a variety of fruits and veggies. He may still be eating this way when he's 20 if you don't force the issue at some point. Can you think on any teenagers who willingly choose carrot sticks over chips? However, I would get your husband involved with the saga of getting him to eat. Start with easy stuff - strawberries, bananas, pears, apples, apple sauce (unsweetened), sweet potatoes. My boys love carrots and cucumbers with ranch dressing. I'm willing to give them the dressing if it means they'll eat their veggies. My oldest (now 7) was a bear when he was around 3 with eating but we withheld dessert (still do) if he doesn't finish his meal and that still works for both our boys. Good luck, I know how frustrating this can be.



answers from Philadelphia on

I just wanted to mention to watch the portions when you put food on his plate. Children can't eat as much as adults and when he sees this huge plate it is overwhelming. Give him a spponful of each item, and let him ask for more. I also wouldn't put one thing at a time, as that could be the thing he doesn't like as much. Many kids also hate foods mixed together so keep it simple. He sounds like he is having so much anxiety over this that by the time he sits down, he is exhausted and doesn't want to eat. Stop talking about the food. Have a topic jar of paper suggestions on the table if you need ideas, but talk about anything else to get the discussion off food.
Good luck.


answers from Allentown on

Hi J.,

Check the web for picky eaters.

Good luck. All the Best. D.



answers from Philadelphia on

I also have a very picky eater. My 8yo is very stuborn and only wants to eat what she wants. I don't fight anymore. I make dinner, at least one thing is something that she eats. She gets a normal portion of everything. If she tries the other foods, she can have more of the thing she likes. If she doesn't eat she goes without food. If she tries everything but doesn't like it, she gets something else. Something from every food group offered needs to be at least tried before dessert. It does not always go smoothly, sometimes she refuses to eat things he has eaten numerous times in the past, some nights she tries everything new. The thing I have found is to set the rules, explain them to him, as a family, at a non-meal time. Then when there is a problem during dinner refer him to the rules. But most of all try to keep your self under control (thats the hardest for me) when it doesn't go well, but eventually it will go smoother. He may never like a variety of foods, he may always choose not to try the new foods. But occasionally he will. My daughter likes bland food, and texture is very important. But she loves rye and pumpernickle toast! go figure. Some things she doesn't love, refuses to eat, but when she is hungry and wants the prize from McD's she can eat most of her plain hamburger without any problems, she just makes sure I know she is not happy about it! Another option is getting him involved the dinner process, let him help. Or the opposite of not talking about it. She used to get upset after I would tell her what was for dinner, so I stopped telling her, if she wanted to be in the kitchen to see, I put her to work. That has really stopped the pre-dinner discussions ("I don't want that!")

Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

I don't know if your child is anything like my 7 year old, but traditional converional wisdom never worked with her. At 3 she was a picky eater and everyone said "Give her a few choices and nothing else. She'll conform. She won't starve." I know she is in the extreme minority, but turns out she actually came close until our pediatrician intervened. We thought it was a question of will, or control, and it probably is, but that was only the beginning. She is a delightful, bright, happy child who has many friends and seems "normal" (whatever that is) but also worries a lot and gets "stuck" with certain issues like food, and a few other things. She is seeing a counselor who has diagnosed her with Asperger's/PDD-NOS that only effects a few areas of her functioning. The point of this is to say there are exceptions to the rule and parenting tactics don't work for every child. Go with your gut and seek help or an opinion if you aren't sure. Good luck.



answers from Reading on

Experts say that children will eat when they are hungry. The more an issue is made of this, the longer it will go on. Maybe if you supply a LITTLE portion of each food you've made for dinner on his plate and attempt a relaxed family dinner conversation (no mention of eating, but talking about what everyone did that day, future plans, etc...), he just might eat some of his food if the attention is drawn away from his eating habits. If he doesn't eat anything the first night, so be it. When dinner is over, it's over. He'll learn that he must eat when it's dinner time and he must attempt to eat what is on his plate. It is a good idea to give a nutritious snack after school to tide him over until dinner. When our kids were young, they had friends who only wanted pizza or hotdogs when they came over for dinner. They wanted you to make that instead of what you were making.
My husband and I have always liked mexican and chinese stir fry and our kids grew up eating those foods in addtion to chicken, ham, beef, etc. You're always going to find some foods that each child does not like (one loved pork chops, but not ham and vice versa for the other), but I made sure I supplied potatoes and vegetables when I made the meal so that they could eat most of what was on their plate. You need to make dinner time a relaxed atmosphere. Good Luck!


answers from Williamsport on

It sounds to me like it might be more important to you to keep your son from getting upset than to really fix this, but I respect your asking advice, and it can be fixed!

Deep down you know it actually is important to his health that he gets good nutrition before he's 20, especially vegetables, and he needs to learn how to behave at the table, and to respect his parent's rules and his mom's cooking. 7 years is a long time not to have to do these things. It's totally normal that he is putting up a good fight. But it can be done! You can do it!

If you really want this fixed, it's good your husband is willing to enforce, this will be a huge help to you, as he is the male role model. As with any discipline or teaching, you have to make sure you are a united front, and that one of you isn't sabotaging the other. Decide you are both on the same page, and act accordingly together.

This is what works in my family: We don't discipline directly for the not eating. You don't want trauma associated with nourishing yourself. But you should DEFINITELY discipline for any fits or tantrums. Don't let them escalate, address them at the first signs of trouble, and don't back down. Be absolutely consistent enforcing table etiquette.

Footnote on the tantrums, you can't enforce tantrums only at dinner if he's allowed to throw them at other times. Gage your system and do what will work in your home.

As for the eating, here is what works for me. My daughter was always a very picky eater, but has greatly improved, and never cause drama at the table, even if she doesn't eat much.

Take the vegetable of the meal you have chosen (one at each meal), make it as tasty as possible, garlic, seasoning, tiny bit of soy sauce or pasta sauce, whatever makes it yummy. Cut it really small, and just give him a TINY TINY amount. like three pea sized cuts of asparagus, or half a broccoli floret cut in pea size chunks. Basically one small bite's worth. You must give it to him first, while he's hungry. Tell him he has to eat that before he gets the stuff you know he'll eat like all the carbs and dairy and meat stuff. If he doesn't, he just gets water until the next meal and no snacks.

Enforce behavioral discipline for any tantrums, but don't force the food itself too much. Explain, "You do not scream at the table, etc" along with his firm consequence, but don't say, "You have to eat this," other than in an instructive way with no consequence. If he's calmly not eating, let him be and don't give him anything else.

Remain calm yourself, and never get upset in both cases. If he throws a tantrum, only address the tantrum. He won't starve himself. Before long, he'll eat the tiny green bite on his plate so he can get to the "good stuff".

You can gradually increase the size of the veggies and fruit as he's no longer scared of it, and knows the rules never bend. being consistent is essential, if you ever give in, you'll make the problem bigger.

Don't entertain any drama whatsoever about what you're fixing. If he's crying while you're cooking, address the tantrum right away with a firm consequence. Choose a good meal, stick by it, don't explain yourself, and don't let him boss you around.

One thing that helped my daughter was explaining what each thing was good for, even if it was totally random like, "Anything green gives you your long eyelashes and pretty hair and makes you have fun! It's very good for your body!" This would not have worked on it's own though, she learned she had to eat it anyway with the other table rules, but it made it more fun. Now she tells other people what to eat and makes up reasons why. She loves vegetables, and she used to be terrified of them.

If you secretly don't care what he eats, and don't want to face the drama, just tell your husband your decision and don't fight it. Your son is exercising control and winning the way things are now, and the fights aren't accomplishing anything. Best wishes and I hope you have peaceful family dinners ahead!

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