Picky Eater or Just a Stage??

Updated on October 08, 2009
A.H. asks from Riverton, UT
8 answers

Okay so I have a 23 month old son who doesnt ever want to eat what I make for dinner, like EVER! He wont really try new foods unless they are very simple. The dishes I make for dinner are colorful and very tasty (not to toot my own horn) but he wont even try a bite, he ate veggies great while they were baby food form but now that they are in pieces he wont try them. I usually end up making him chicken nuggets, corn dogs or other "toddler foods like that". What I want to know if this is him being a picky eater that I need to try and change, or if this is just a stage. Thanks!!!

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answers from Boise on

This is a tough one. My son ate so great when he was little, but now he doesn't like much. It drove me nuts. But one thing I refuse to do is make him something totally different for him. I probably get his favorite leftovers out of the fridge for him too much, though.
I have a friend whose son is 5, and he won't eat anything but hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and Kraft Macaroni. None of that is healthy! We sometimes have chicken nuggets or Kraft Macaroni, but it's not every third day, you know? How can he build a healthy body with fuel like that?
I don't have any magic answers except that you really probably don't need to worry about him eating every night. You'll get him into bad habits. And when he finally gets hungry enough, he'll try something you've made and just might find out that he likes it. My son, for example, discovered one night that spaghetti really does taste good! And those "green things" on his garlic bread aren't "yucky" after all.

One thing I've done is not get out his favorite part of dinner (the fruit, usually) until he's done trying some of the other stuff, or he'll eat all of the stuff he likes and decide he's not hungry enough to try anything knew.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

My daughter was the PICKIEST eater I knew!!! Her diet consited of only 4 items (including crackers and pretzels)!

I started force feeding her (I know, doesn't sound great does it). I would tell her she couldn't leave the table (high chair) until she had eaten X number of bites. I also tried to make sure there was at least something that she could fill up on that she would tolerate.

ex/ She used to really HATE mashed potatoes of all things, but now as a teenager they are her favorite food!

Kids take exposure of around 8-12 times per food item to change their palette and even then as they grow their tastes continually change, so the exposure number could be even greater. Eventually he will come around and like some stuff, and maybe never for others, but he'll definitely have a greater menu of "likes" to choose from.



answers from Missoula on

I'm going to guess that this is more than just a stage, simply because you stated that you fix him toddler foods when he won't eat what is served to him. Your son has figured out that all he has to do is refuse to eat the dinner you fix and you will make him something else. This is clearly working for him, so why would he change?
My son is also 23 months and he eats the same meals as my husband and I when we are at home. I don't prepare special food for him, if he doesn't eat dinner, then he will be good and hungry for breakfast. I don't want my son growing up thinking that I am a short order cook. I also don't want to give him the notion that the dinner table is a good place for a power struggle. I don't coax him to eat, or fuss over how much he has eaten. I give him his dinner, he eats and asks to get down when he's done. If he asks for something to eat later, I offer more dinner. He does like to help me in the kitchen and loves to eat food he helped prepare, so that might be something you could try with your son.



answers from Great Falls on

I'm in a similar boat. I used to make my 32 month old a separate meal, but now with our tight budget, he gets what the rest of us eats, or he doesn't eat at all. He's willing to drink milk, which does fill him up but only for so long. He's also been very picky at daycare. I've told her to keep him at the table until everyone is done eating. I've lucked out with my 11 month old daughter - she eats everything in sight, and even if she's full, she'll want what mommy and daddy are having.

I agree with the other moms, work gradually into new foods, keep exposing him to those foods,and be consistent in whatever method you choose.

I hope you find a solution that works for you!




answers from Boise on

My son is the same age, he will be two the 29th of this month. I have also been a nanny for ten years.

Do you make the family dinner then if he does not eat make him something else or do you just make the toddler dinners more often because when you make the family dinner he will not eat?

If you are making the toddler dinner the same night as the family dinner just after he has refused the family dinner he knows he does not have to try the family dinner, that if he waits he can have his favorites.

Maybe try to make a family dinner with one of his favorite sides, so he will eat something, and if he finishes the side he may try the other foods.

If you start making just one meal, it may take a while to convince him you are not making two his and the family. Consistency is the key.

Good luck

mother to Kai



answers from Denver on

Sometimes picky eating is a stage, often it's not. Because you are allowing your child to eat food he prefers, I'd say it's more than a phase.

Giving your child "toddler foods" (which are junk foods) is telling him, loud and clear, he can decide what he will eat.

We need to teach our children about food, first. They need to experience it, talk about it, help prepare it, etc. When all the senses are engaged (not just taste), children are more likely to eat whole foods. I know you'll find tons of helpful info on this site: http://www.BabyBites.info



answers from Provo on

Don't cater to his wants. It's really that easy. Unless your child is seriously underweight and missing a meal would cause physical harm, missing a meal won't do anything but reinforce the message that you have to eat what was made for dinner. When you make him prepackaged food to eat instead of the meal you made, you tell him that being picky is ok in your house. My 17 month old was refusing to eat what we made for dinner. She is by no means underweight (falls right in the average range) so I started clearly telling her that she can eat what is for dinner or she can go without. We do the same with our 4 year old. It took a few times, but now she gets it.

Also, make sure your toddler isn't "grazing" all afternoon so that he is HUNGRY when dinner is ready. That makes a big difference too.



answers from Grand Junction on

Hi Amber,
What we have learned and implement as parents of toddlers is that we serve one meal during our eating times. If our children don't like it they don't eat till the next meal. This means no snacks in between either.We have never catered to our kids and we have virtually no problems with picky eaters.They eat pretty much everything we serve them. If there is something they don't like we make sure they eat a small portion of it anyway. You are in control of your childs eating habits so you need to be the one to say, "this is dinner...take it or leave it". It probably sounds cold but I will ask you this..are you going to crater to every little whim and at what age do you stop giving in? Others will tell you this is probably a stage. I say this is part of becoming the authority in your childs life that they need you to be. Blessings, L.

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