Picky Eater Strategy - Too Mean?

Updated on January 13, 2011
L.C. asks from Boulder, CO
43 answers

My original question about our picky eater is here: http://www.mamapedia.com/questions/6192128186936066049 but I wanted to ask a question on a strategy that I've heard on that forum that we've started implementing.

We've been starting the rule that when we make something for dinner she has to try some of it and if she didn't like it she could have something else. If she doesn't try it then she doesn't get anything else. We did this with the cucumber rolls sushi we made and it worked, though she said she didn't like the cucumbers.

However, that doesn't usually work and some nights she will eat very little. Last night was one of these cases. The whole ride home she was talking about how hungry she was. For dinner I made a tofu and rice dish and spaghetti squash. I gave her one piece of tofu, one small spoonful of squash and one spoonful of rice. We said that if she ate the tofu and squash she could have as much rice and whatever else she wanted like an egg or hot dog etc. She eats the small amount rice that we gave her without even trying the other stuff and suddenly she's "full". So we enact our other rule is that if you're "full" then you don't get anything else till the next meal and can't come and say you're hungry. But she was, she did say she was later, though the man was firm. She went to bed without dinner.

Is that too mean? How will she learn to try new things from that? I've heard that it has to be consistently done at all meals, but what if she just doesn't eat? Will that happen?

Also, I've heard that we should save her dinner and feed it to her again for breakfast and so on till she eats it. How long can that go on? I worry that she's not getting enough nutrition if she doesn't eat veggies or meat but technically she's not getting them by completely not eating too. Thoughts?

Oh and she's almost 5.

EDIT: Cleared up the scenario of the tofu/squash and rice thing. The "full" comment was after literally, 1 bite of rice. The main issue currently is to get her to try new foods first. Later we'll worry about her eating things she doens't like.

EDIT: Also, her dad is vegetarian and I am pretty much vegetarian at home because cooking one meal is easier than two. She is in between but very picky about meat. Only really liking hot dogs, chicken nuggets, bacon and sliced turkey (sometimes) so she's mostly veg too.

Last EDIT: Comments about tofu, seriously? It's got no flavor, is prepared just like chicken and is eaten more regularly in our house. I shudder to think of the comments if I'd said "tempeh" or "quinoa" or something. Plus, the content of the dish is not the point of this post. And she recently wanted to share my sesame tofu and said she liked it. .

What can I do next?

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answers from Honolulu on

Considering that my 9 month old would (and does) eat everything you stated I am not thinking it is a far stretch for you to make her try it. But then again my kids asked for steamed broccoli for breakfast this morning...

If you are worried about nutrients get a kids multi vitamin and give that to her.

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answers from Albany on

Tofu, sspaghetti squash, sushi, and even rice are VERY sophisticated flavors and textures for a 5 year old child. There are many kid friendly ways to get the nurishment she needs without going gourmet. Whole wheat pasta, sub fruits for veggies if need be. What's wrong with eggs? Full of protein and a zillion other things good for small children. What about a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat, grilled cheese, etc?

We are foodies here, I LOVE to cook. I respect we all have different tolerances for different things. When the kids were little I did not force anyone to eat anything (to TRY yes, like you have) but then they were given the (healthy) thing of their choice.

I like peace at the dinner table and conversation and enjoying each others company. Eventually kids branch out, mine have, all three of them.

There are so very many choices I don't see the point in making a huge deal over what they will or will not eat. They get what they need nutritionally after all.

Maybe you could engage her more in the planning, shopping, cooking, watch a cooking show together get excited about making something you saw.

Just sounds like a lot of stress where there doesn't need to be.


15 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm sorry, but from the last post and this O...this seems cruel.

It seems like she has things she likes but it's not what you "want" her to have.

Give her some stinkin yogurt for breakfast already!

There is such a thing as MAKING mountains out of molehills and that's what this seems like to me.

Some examples of mixed messages she's getting from you:

"She also eats yogurt but, again, will only eat the Yoplait or other stuff that's high in sugar. "

"For dinner I made a tofu and rice dish and spaghetti squash. I gave her O. piece of tofu, O. small spoonful of squash and O. spoonful of rice. We said that if she ate the tofu and squash she could have as much rice and whatever else she wanted like an egg or hot dog etc. She eats the rice and suddenly she's "full". (Big surprise there! Ooooo I can have an egg!)

"If she doesn't try it then she doesn't get anything else. We did this with the cucumber rolls sushi we made and it worked, though she said she didn't like the cucumbers. " Well--wasn't that the deal? Eat it (try it) and then you can have something else?

"will do multi-vites, but only the gummies . Though we found some all-natural sugar vites which supposedly aren't so bad. But we are bad about giving them every day." ???!!!!! You've got a child that allegedly eats "nothing" but you can't give her a vitamin everyday? Really?

"she won't do Pediasure (but we haven't tried in a long time.) Again--could ya try here?

"I'm concerned of her not getting enough protein and especially not a lot of iron since she doesn't eat much meat or greens." You & BF are veg so how do YOU get your protein and iron? Oh....that pesky multivitamin might come in handy here.....

A little advice. This child is 4. Don't expect her to eat cucumber sushi rolls and sugarless yogurt.
I have a kid who eats ANYTHING and I've never made such a huge deal out of eating that it takes the joy from his day. Sorry--that would be the day I sent my kid to bed hungry. Can't you see this is NOT working? Lighten up. Get her eating--you can tweak the standards later.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Yes, you and your husband are being too mean! Kids do not enjoy tofu! Tofu really is an adult food and an acquired taste. Your daughter is not trying to piss you and your husband off by not trying your foods - she really, truly is not interested in eating it! Please don't send her to bed w/o dinner again!! Even though she said she was full after taking one bite, you knew that she wasn't, so please don't send her to bed hungry again. I could never do that to my kids - that would break my heart. Also, please don't give her her dinner that she did not like for breakfast, what a bad and mean idea! Give her whole wheat blueberry pancakes for breakfast (for more fruit, you can make her a fruit smoothie), a sandwich with yogurt or more fruit for lunch, and a kid friendly dinner. The veggies that kids usually like are: corn on the cob, carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli (cut up small) with shredded cheese. Give her all natural chicken nuggets for dinner with one of the above veggies, with brown rice or mac n cheese. You need to feed her foods that she will like. Give her a daily vitamin and fish oil, and she will be just fine.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I was a very picky eater as a child and even a young adult. Other than the rice I wouldn't have eaten any of that. I outgrew it on my own in my own way. In my opinion it makes it worse to force feed or force new types of food. I agree with Theresa - these are very sophisticated flavors and textures for a young child. The more you force it the harder it will be. If you have mainly stuff she will eat and then try one new thing at a meal then that's maybe more reasonable. Also try to get her involved in the menu planning, shopping and food prep. My 5 year old is a lot more willing to try something new he helped with than something that just shows up on his plate.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

Just one question that came to me recently while dealing wth a similar issue. Do you force yourself to eat food you do not like? Is getting her to eat tofu worth sending her to bed hungry? Yes, in my opinion you are being mean to a five year old child and setting up struggles about something that is not vital to her safety and well being.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

It sounds like you care very deeply about your child eating well...yaaayyy! Unfortunately, in order for children to eat well, it can't can't can't be an emotionally negative experience! If it is you are setting her up to HATE eating healthy because she's associate healthy food with negative emotional experiences. Studies have demonstrated high starch and fatty foods biologically make us feel better. If this is true, I see a day when your daughter will seek out unhealthy foods to feel better about food in general and to feel emotionally better.

Make it fun, make it enjoyable. Introduce your child to the beautiful aspect of food as an experience and if she doesn't like it, please don't make it so negative. 'Tough love" isn't about only being tough, the word "love" is in there for a reason. If she isn't eating what you offer so doesn't eat...I mean this in a nice way...this is neglectful of both her physical and emotional needs. Cook with her. Shop with her. If you are eating the same thing, make hers look like a boat or bear or something psychologically fun. If she doesn't like it, have something else on hand you know she will eat.

I'm all for healthy food, but very much opposed to creating negative feelings about food...particularly in girls...because the last thing our kids need is to have a negative relationship with the food that sustains us.

Be creative and let her have fun with it.

I keep imagining her as a young teen hoarding cheeto's in a secret box under her bed. It's not too late mama!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

because I spent a long working with children of various ages, please keep in mind that she may NOT like the same foods as you at the age of 5 years old, or even at 10 years old. Yes kids sometimes grow up to eat as their parents, but their palates are still developing, and she may not like it!

But why are you punishing her just because she doesn't like it. If she doesn't like it, rather than punising her or allowing her to go hungry as if it's a punishment, why not offer her some fruit, grilled cheese or a yogurt.

I had to read twice through your words to fully understand the intricacies of what you stated.. It sounds as if you are giving her mixed messages:

"We said that if she ate the tofu and squash she could have as much rice and whatever else she wanted like an egg or hot dog etc."
And then:
"She eats the rice and suddenly she's "full". So we enact our other rule is that if you're "full" then you don't get anything else till the next meal and can't come and say you're hungry.

These are mixed messages! Because you are inducing a power struggle over food, it can eventually lead to an obsession and a control issue.
Yes rice is filling momentarily, but rice alone is not enough sustanence unless you are in a 3rd world country and there is nothing else to eat.

And then you stated that:
"Also, I've heard that we should save her dinner and feed it to her again for breakfast and so on till she eats it."

Sorry but if she didn't like it the night before, she'll probably not like it the next day.

So I feel I must ask what is causing such a control issues over food:
Are you very poor, thus the food you serve is prepared with your last pennies, and if she didn't eat then she would have nothing more for the rest of the day?

Are there over-weight issues in your family, and you are trying to avoid he from becoming obese?

Also please consider that the 2 of you may be unconsciously inducing power issues, and subtly teaching her how to play the 2 of up against each other. "MOM said" " BUT I said NO"

Just remember, she is only a very little girl, not a little adult. And her taste buds will grow and expand with age!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I do cater to my kids. I do it because I prefer to have us all at the table together and if that means I need to make a separate meal for them, I will. They will help me make their meal and I feel that the positive family interaction far outweighs the nutritional value of tofu.

My children have never been forced to eat anything. Dinner is a pleasant experience in our home, even if it means doing additional work. They get plenty of healthy choices and are allowed to make their own decisions about what they eat.

I do think you are being too hard on a five year old child. Have her help you make the meals, ask her what flavors she likes. Ask her to help you make dinner- it just seems like there are too many "rules" in your kitchen. Try working together and I'll bet you will see an improvement. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on


I want to ask you an honest, sincere question...do you yourself have a food disorder?...Because you are obsessing on this 5 year old as if you do. I have read the previous posting and I think that the girl has a broad array of healthy foods(that you listed)in her diet. It has been my personal experience that most of the mothers I have met who obsess over their child's diet have some kind of food disorder themselves...whether it be anorexia/bulimia...or obesity...fad dieting...or even just a general lack of knowledge on childhood nutrition.(which is completely different than adult nutrition needs)

You have received many responses about the path you could be setting this child on...which I agree. Food should be about nutrition for your body...not a deal-making emotionally scarring ordeal....you are wasting what could be positive social exchanges at the dinner table by dictating/demanding/ultimatum what she eats. Would you belittle a guest at the dinner table if they chose not to try your main entree and just nibbled on the side dishes? Probably not. Would you yourself eat a rare steak(I assume you are vegetarian)if it were served at a dinner party?

The best thing you can do is to make your one healthy dinner, and offer it...the same way you would to a guest by the way...with GRACE. And if she declines that is fine. If she needs a snack later, give her a healthy snack. I hear so many parents say that they will only give a snack later if the child eats the dinner. I think that is insane. If it is feasible that the child could be legitimately hungry after eating a dinner...then I think it is borderline abusive to starve them later(on a consistent basis) because they skipped dinner.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

I'm a picky eater and used to be as a child. I used to hate when people shove what I do not like down my throat. My dad used to stand over me until it was done. I got to the point where all I did was hold it in my mouth for hours and never swallow. Today I have picky eaters and as frustrating as it is for me now that I am the M., I try to give them choices...food that they like from the list of foods I want them to have. They win and I win. I don't think food should be a battle. All of us have different tastes. If you are fighting for nutrition and healthy foods, that is different. There are healthy choices for kids that you can camouflage..ex: make it into a shake, blend it with other foods, mash it up or serve in increments until the taste is acquired. You might want to try giving her your choices when she is hungry, but don't force her. I don't like tofu, I am not sure which 5 yr old does, but each household has their rules. Make eating fun, not a chore.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

This seems overly complicated to me. My youngest (5.5 years) has always been picky, and our rule is, you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit. We serve one meal to the whole family, and she can either eat it or not. That's it, that's the whole strategy. The only concession I make to her pickiness is to put sauces on the side.

Some days, she eats, some days, she doesn't. I don't comment or make a big deal either way. If she says, "Eeeeew! Gross!" she is sent to her room. She can have whatever opinion she wants about the food, but she knows it's impolite to say rude things about a meal that someone worked hard to make.

The only thing I would say is this: if she has a consistent hatred for a certain food, she may have an allergy to it. As a kid, I would eat anything but bell peppers. As an adult, I discovered that I am actually allergic to them. But if it's just pickiness about everything in general, I wouldn't go out of my way to make different food for her than you do for the rest of the family. That's a slippery slope, mama.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

picky eaters are very difficult to live with, but your negative strategies could easily lead to eating disorders later (you can Google the research). At 4, many "normal" kids are picky - it is not a disease or disorder. We have always allowed the kids to choose cereal and milk for dinner if they don't want to eat the main dish - but they have to try a "no,thank you" bite before they reject the food. I'm a child psychologist, btw, but also as a parent of a former picky eater, I found a low-key, positive approach worked much better - the kid gets praised for taking the "no, thank you" bite, gets something halfway decent to eat, and meals are much calmer. The research also says you must present new foods multiple times over time - not all in one day - before anyone likes a new food.
lastly, why punish the child by serving the unwanted food next day? in terms of teaching behavioir, this will cause a child to avoid that food, and also come to resent you and carry over the bad feelings to the food, all around a no-win situation.
good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'm with AllyJ on this one. My mom raised me and my three younger sisters with strict rules about food that had little to nothing to do with enjoying the food or each other's company. We all grew up with "issues" and struggles to work through.

So I am concerned when I hear the amount of coaxing, bribing, guilting and lecturing you describe using with your SD on the subject of food. Most child development researchers believe that choice and control of their own bodies is terribly important to young children, and that preschoolers need frequent small meals, and that their appetites can vary from day to day and meal to meal. Offering a variety of healthy and appealing foods (perhaps even keeping sugary or fatty snacks out of the house) generally ensures that they can choose adequate nourishment while deciding for themselves how much to eat, and when.

A child may not have much of an appetite at dinner, especially if she had a snack less than two hours earlier. But she could still be hungry an hour later. Cleaning the plate should never be the goal; rather, that they be in touch with how their bodies feel. Rules at this age are simply not more important than a healthy relationship with food. Lectures about the growth and strength they'll achieve in some nebulous future are almost meaningless at four or five.

I read your earlier request, and was fairly impressed at the range of foods your SD will eat at the age of 4. She WILL become more adventurous and willing to try more flavors and textures over the next few years. "Making" her try new things is more likely to make her resist and decide she doesn't like the food, but preparing and enjoying those foods, offering her a casual bite, will do the trick a lot faster. Also, if she can be involved in choosing and helping to prepare meals, she may be more invested in eating them.

When food choice is not a source of stress, and when the natural appetite has not been spoiled by too much processed "food" with artificially-enchanced flavor and texture, it all works out, usually by six or so. Until then, give her a multivitamin, perhaps an Omega-3 supplement, and notice that, in spite of your concerns, she goes on growing, playing, learning, and staying generally healthy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

kids will get enough food and nutrition. We worry way more than we should, and they are the ones smart enough to know what they should and shouldn't eat. You are doing fine. My son tried saying he doesn't like this or doesn't like that and he had had it before and loved it. It is, in his case, a phase.

What we do is tell our kids that they have to at least try everything on their plate. If they truly don't like it, we don't make them eat it. However, they do not get an option for any other food. In our house what is at the table is what they eat and if they don't want to eat it or don't like it, tough. I am not a short-order cook and I don't have the time to fix a million different dishes, just because one kid wants a hot dog while the other kid wants a hamburger, etc.

One of my son's does not like raw tomatoes and my other son does not like cooked zucchini, so we don't make them eat those.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

You guys got to find some middle ground between tofu and spaghetti squash and a hotdog. I don't cater to "kid food" however, I also don't just make things that I know my kids won't like. How about if you are doing spa squash, also do some chicken and stemed brocc or some veggie that she does like. Have her try the spa squash, but if she doens't like it, she can still survive on the rest of her dinner. Sounds like from your previous post that she will eat a somewhat varied selection of veggies and fruits, so offer those and whatever meat/tofu she likes and then ONE new food or thing she might not like. Have her try a few bites of the new thing and then move on.........

FYI - most kids don't like sushi rolls and spa squash. Mine don't, and we often serve both, but they do eat peas, brussel sprouts and a slew of other healhy foods.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Food should NEVER be a reward or a punishment. Period. It creates an unhealthy relationship with food - full range from anorexia/bulemia to obesity. This is a way they maintain control. Please do not set up a lifetime of struggles!

Children's tummies are small (your stomach is the size of your fist, her stomach is the size of her fist). Sometimes they are full, then get hungry again later, especially if they have little or no protein to sustain them. Rice is a 'filler' food with little to no nutritional value (unless it is whole grain - not white - even then it is fiber and not a lot of vitamins). I give my son very little starch until he eats protein and veggies, or else he will fill up on the bread, noodles, rice (or whatever) component of dinner. Once he eats some of that, then I will give him some of the bread.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

DH or I cook one meal for dinner and that's what we all eat. We try to make sure we include a vegetable and a fruit for dessert or side but we do not cook more food if someone doesn't like what is served. That said, DS (just turned 5) does have preferences (so do adults). Some meals he will eat lots of brown rice and asparagus and completely ignore the chicken on his plate. Some meals he has seconds of everything and some meals he does not eat much.

Children do not starve if they chose to miss a meal or eat less at one. We try to avoid making food an emotional battle, punishment or reward - he does not need to eat anything on his plate, just - this is what there is. We do not use dessert as a reward and generally when we have dessert, we have fruit (failed a bit around the holidays)

I do disagree with the idea that there are 'child friendly' foods. There are adult expectations about child tastes. DS LOVES seaweed salad, sushi (cooked and veggie), mussels, lobster, olives, most cheeses including blue, pear, grapefruit and artichokes likes salmon, broccoli, asparagus, beef, pork, most other fruit and does not like mango (since he was 6 months old), mushrooms, chicken.

Many of the foods marketed as child friendly are simply appealing to all human beings because they are loaded with fat and salt (chicken fingers, french fries, pizza). Just look at the HUGE overlap between a fast food menu and a children's menu.

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answers from Springfield on

I was a very picky eater. If there was something that I didn't like that I was told I had to eat, I would eat the absolute smallest amount that I could get away with and then fill up junk food that I had bought with my allowance. I still do it.

I totally cater to my kids. As long as they eat some fruit, some veggies and some protien each day, I don't care what it is. We always have leftovers in the fridge, yogurt, cereal, pb&j. Doesn't bother me. I just keep a mental note of what they've eaten that day. If they had fruit at lunch, I make sure they get a veggie at dinner.

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answers from Denver on

I would continue to expose her to all food types, then have a couple healthy alternatives for her. With my kids if they didn't like our dinner, they could have yougurt, or a banana or apple or cereal. Some weeks I think that was all they ate for dinner, but I didn't push it. I don't cook two dinners, but I do offer easy healthy alternatives and don't make too much of an issue out of food as it will only come back to haunt them later in life.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Dinner time is important in our family -- it's the one time of day we are all together. And ever since my kids were babies, in our house there is one dinner. Even when the younger 2 were really little, they ate what we ate -- I just wasn't together enough to deal with commercial baby foods. We expected our children to at least try everything. There were certain things we pushed at times (veggies, protein -- not pasta, potatoes, rice, etc); at others, we allowed the kids to taste a bite or two and be done. If they didn't eat dinner, they didn't get to replace it with something else. If they didn't eat much and were hungry a little later we'd offer dinner again. If it got too late at night then they had to wait until breakfast. We respected certain intense, true dislikes. For instance, one of my girls can't stomach lamb; another is totally tomato-averse (including ketchup & pizza sauce). We're respectful of these limits -- they tried the lamb and the tomatoes repeatedly and genuinely don't like them. BTW -- I've heard of the idea of keeping an uneaten dinner over until the next day but that was a step I wasn't willing to take.

My "baby" is now 17; my oldest is 30. All my girls are adventurous with food, receptive to new food and other new experiences and comfortable in the kitchen. They have healthy attitudes toward food & good body images. We have good, loving & positive relationships with each other. My kids have travelled around a bit and felt very comfortable eating cactus in Mexico and some rather unusual cured meats in Italy, among other things. They'll eat pretty much anything from strong cheeses to any kind of fish or seafood to game meats to things they can't pronounce or identify -- and enjoy most of it.

Additionally, a bonus is that they learned that parents are in charge -- at dinner and in other things. I agree that authoritarian parenting can be way over the top. Authoritative parenting, with love and respect shown on both sides, is our job.

Hang in, mama. You're doing a great job.

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answers from Pueblo on

I have to laugh a little cause I am not all that picky but if you put that dish in front of me I wouldnt eat it lol. Maybe try and balance your meals a little to add in a kid friendly item. It can still be healthy but it doesnt have to be a overwhelming adult type meal either. Maybe adding in one of those new foods at a time. I would be overwhelmed having a whole plate of new weird looking foods set in front of me. If you did something familiar with it the new wouldnt look so scary. If she does eat the new food on the plate then you can enforce your rule of not getting anything else to eat and you could even save that new food for her next meal and she has to at least try it then. I use to save my kids plates and really it only took once or twice but new foods were introduced one at a time and slowly.

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answers from Houston on

Tofu would make me sick eating it for breakfast. It's pretty cruel to continue heating up the same thing, quite "Mommy Dearest" ;)

I save the dinner and then reheat it later if they are still hungry that night or for lunch the next day, but I don't carry it on for breakfast, they need good positive things to eat to break up the negative battle.

Otherwise, I do the same as you. I don't make extra dinner. You have to try everything, if you don't like it, that's fine but you have to eat either 3 big bites or 10 little bites. If you do that, then you can have another serving of what you do like, and you get a simple dessert after dinner. Just continue to offer healthy options, that taste good as well.

This is one reason why I make food I know they like, with something new they don't like as much... it guarantees they will eat something from their plate and will have a better chance of eating the new thing at least a few bites. Also, some kids don't like texture or tastes of certain foods, so it can be legitimate they don't like the food. Keep experimenting with it until they learn to like it. They foods you offered her are a little grown up for a 5 year old... acquired tastes even for me who as a 30 year old, who eats quite healthy and feeds my children healthy options... has a hard time eating.

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answers from Columbus on

I've never met a four year old that would eat anything more than chicken nuggets, fries, mac & cheese, etc. I think they are notoriously picky at that age.

Our two year old will only eat toasted ham sandwiches and cheese sticks. So that's what he eats every single day. In an effort to get some other nutrients into him we puree veggies meat and fruit to hide it.

I say give her whatever she will eat! I would be thrilled to have an eater!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think that your strategy at dinner was a good one. I would not feed her the same thing for the next meal. Think about what your objective is; I presume that it's for a) her to eat a healthy diet and b) for you to not serve as a short order cook. Honestly, there's really nothing you can do for A except encourage encourage, but you can address B. You made dinner. She ate what she wanted and said she was full. Done. Breakfast the next day is a different story.

I always try to make one piece of a meal that my kids like, and then they have to try everything to get dessert. I think that's fair. And this rule does not make dinner a battleground at all, which I really want to avoid. Eat what you like, but you have to have healthy before you can have junk. Both my kids think that's reasonable (and they're three and five).

Don't worry so much about nutrition until her doc says she's really deprived. Young children actually have surprisingly low nutritional requirements.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

They are the same exact rules as we have in our home. My children are 5, 4 and 3 years old and they eat almost everything we put in front of them. Now it wasn't always like that, we had to do the tough love thing that you're doing now, let me tell you...stick to it - IT WORKS!!!
We have a nephew who doesn't have the same rules to live by that our children do and his diet now consists of two main foods, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. His mom and dad can't even get him to try new foods because he never really had that rule enforced as a small child. He won't even eat pizza anymore. It's really sad to me.
Children need to be exposed to different foods and made to try them. Specialists say that a child needs to try the same food at least 15 times before they develope a taste for it, I agree. You're not starving her, children can go for a long time on very little food. Please stick to your guns and continue to encourage her to eat new things, like you said she only has to try it, if she doesn't like it she can eat something else. You're doing a good job, keep it up!

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answers from Santa Fe on

Yes, I think it's a little too mean. I like that you are trying to raise an adventurous eater and I like your rule of having her try one bite of everything. Some kids really do love eating all kinds of crazy foods, but I think it's rare. I have a picky eater too and it can be a struggle! I love to cook and love all foods and we sometimes have dinners that are just not "kid friendly". What I do is if I am making, say chicken curry that I know my son will think is weird, I will leave out some chicken and cook it plain. He is required to try a bite of the chicken curry but then he has his plain chicken and rice and veggies to eat along with a glass of milk. If I am cooking a veggie I know he will balk at he has to try one bite but then I have a small side of a veggie I know he will eat. Sometimes he surprises us and will say, hey, that is good! I always try to make sure he is getting enough fat and protein along with a veggie or fruit. Maybe you will think this is catering to much to a child. We do always allow a healthy snack at storytime (fruit and crackers usually) each night no matter what he eats. Some times he will eat a TON at dinner but then be starving at storytime. I think of how my mom raised my brother and I. She was NOT an adventurous cook...we had meat, a starch, and a veggie with a roll every night (very "meat and potatoes" 50s kind of cooking). I remember I pretty much liked most meals she cooked and now as an adult I just LOVE all kinds of foods and trying new things! PS - I adore quinoa! Yum! My son will not eat it yet, although he has to try it every time :)

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answers from Dallas on

Geez! She's 5 years old. Give her a break. Feed her what she likes as long as it's somewhat balanced and healthy. You eat what you like, don't you? Make mealtime a nice family time that you get to spend together instead of a time your daughter and you dread. I just don't get the whole forcing children to eat what their parents want them to eat. Shouldn't our children have a right to their likes and dislikes as long as they're eating healthy? Make a couple of dishes for dinner and make sure one of them is something your daughter will eat so that everyone is happy. She has the rest of her life to eat tofu if she wants.

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answers from St. Louis on

It sounds like you guys eat very healthy, and that is great. But there are a lot of kid friendly healthy foods as well. There are things I just recently in my late 20's started liking, where as when I was 20 thought it was disgusting. Children are naturally picky eaters, well most anyways. I dont know too many children that are going to happily gulp down tofu.
I do agree with the, "If you dont eat dinner, you dont eat". BUT, if I am making a non kid friendly meal, like fajitas, or something kids will just not eat, I will make them something else.
If you are worried about her nutrition you can feed her foods like spaghetti, and hide veggies and healthy stuff in there. The possibilities are endless.
I do think making her eat something for breakfast that she wouldnt eat for dinner is beyond mean. You are going to give that kid food anxiety! I also dont force feed my kids something they dont like. My daughter will throw up at the dinner table.
Just remember, it takes children a long time to develope the taste for things that adults do. Good luck!

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answers from Billings on

I can understand some of your frustrations. I have a three year old who is very picky as well. We also do the at least try it and then if she doesn't like it she gets only one alternative, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

If she eats half of her peanut butter jelly and then says she is full I put it in a baggy and then she can finish that later if she pays I am hungry card. I however would never hold on to food from dinner she didn't like to FORCE her to eat it the next day!! I think she would have some issues later on for that. My grandma did this and I would get really sick at her house as I was also a picky eater. I would either starve or throw up all the time just so she would stop.

My in laws used to FORCE their kids to clean their plate. They are very over weight and my DH struggles with portions because of this!

Are you feeding her snacks throughout the day too? If you are offering a breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks and they are healthy I wouldn't worry. Does she like fruit and veggies? If she eats those I would drop the other stuff of making her go to bed hungry. Have you tried one of those cook books where they use veggies chopped up in them so that they don't know they are there?

You may also want to talk to her doctor if you are worried about her not getting enough to eat. I would also speak to a nutritionist and therapist about trying to force her to eat or holding over dinners. Food does lose nutritional value over time so what was nice a healthy the first night may not be so healthy the next day.

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answers from Dallas on

I can't agree more with Kari on this one. As a kid I too was a very picky eater. It was an issue that was pushed and forced in our house. As a result I remained extremely picky until I moved out for college! And to this day I won't even cook brussell sprouts, since I was forced to eat them cold for dinner (after it being offered for breakfast and lunch too). Oddly enough, for me it wasn't necessarily the taste I hated, but the texture. I am 36 and my mother STILL says that the struggle over food is one parenting mistake she wishes she could take back. At our house I feel like we eat pretty healthy...no processed foods and lots of fruits and veggies. Our kids do not have to eat anything we make, but we do NOT make alternative foods. We also grow much of our own food in a garden. They are more likely to try foods they helped create. Our kids also both help make dinner pretty regularly. They are allowed to comment that they don't care for something only after they try it and "yuck" is not allowed...I find that really rude. It is possible to compromise on your meal like others have suggested. Mix more kid friendly foods into the new foods you want her to try. This will give her foods to eat, without you making a separate meal. I understand your concerns, but it sounds like there is a middle ground that won't be such a struggle.

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answers from Chicago on

I think you have a fair rule. You only ask her to try it, you don't make her eat something she doesn't like. I wouldn't save her dinner and heat it up later for not trying a food. I've done that, but only when my daughter refused to eat (and it was something she liked) because she ate a snack right before dinner when she wasn't supposed to and then claimed she wasn't hungry. Then I just save her dinner for later.

Your daughter might have lost her appetite from the smell or the thought or texture of the food. That happens to adults too.

I would watch what's going on during the day before you get too firm. When my daughter is really tired or not feeling well I know she's going to fight me on everything so I just don't make it a battle. In that case I would have just fixed her something else without comment. Rules can be broken when you look at the circumstance.

I think you're okay with not giving her more food when she says she's full. My daughter will refuse a meal, then claim she's hungry an hour later. Our rule is you eat meals when we eat meals.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Born in a 3rd world country, my usual reaction to picky eaters is "Oh puh-leeeze." My son, as a toddler, was not only picky but allergic to nearly everything. There were few foods that could give him a range of nutrients, but he only liked rice and tofu. Our excellent pediatrician said, "Let him skip a few meals. He won't starve."

Our motto became, "You're not at a restaurant. Eat what you get." At first, we introduced 1 food at a time. Every morning, when he was good and hungry, I put out avocado first. He had to eat some before getting the rest of breakfast. After 20 mornings (on/off), he ate almost the whole avocado. Now it's the first thing he bags in the produce aisle.

Yes, he fought hard... "I'm full," "I wanna throw up," "I tried it so many times - yeck!" Any hesitation on our part would teach him which buttons to press... "It makes my throat itchy like allergy." But after we stopped falling for excuses (with support of allergist and testing) and kept reinforcing the idea of Fun Food Adventures (fanfare music here), he eventually changed his tune. Now he'll try everything, and even like 50% right away. He recently planted Anaheim hot peppers in the garden out of curiosity.

Whether it's tofu, curry, sushi, whatever, somewhere in the world there are kids for whom it's normal food, or kids who would love a chance to eat it or any food. Letting our kids grow up picky isn't kindness, it's spoiling.



answers from Great Falls on

I went through this with not only my son but nieces and nephews..... She will eat when she gets hungry. Keep up the stratagy it will work it may take some tears from both of you but she will figure it out if you hold firm!



answers from San Diego on

when you have a child that young sometimes its best to make two meals, u can cook on a sunday everything u want, store it in glass containers and freeze them, take them out as u need them. i know its hard. i'm a stay at home mom and i do that. I cook for my husband and i and i cook something totally different for my child. and everytime i make something for my child i make a lot of it and i freeze half of it, of course i don't freeze veggies but it really helps.



answers from San Francisco on

I see you've already gotten lots of advice, but I just wanted to add one strategy. My kids also would pull the "I'm full" trick to get away from the table so they could go play when I could tell they had not eaten enough (even if they liked the food!). So we started doing this...

We talk about how food gives them energy for playing, and how their stomach needs enough in it to stay happy until the next eating time. If they still insisted they were full when I knew they didn't eat enough then we said,
"How old are you? Ok, eat that many more bites and you can go play." (Regular bites, not mouse bites!)

We've said that since they were 2 years old and had to eat 2 more bites to go play. It's worked well. I still made them wait until the next eating time (either snack or meal time), but at least I knew there was something in their tummy.



answers from Salt Lake City on

EDIT: bleh, just reread your post and you are doing a lot of what I said, lol. Sorry

At 5, I think this might be a bit harsh. I do it with my almost 10 year old, and my 7.5 year old, but she's still a bit young.

Try serving at least 1 thing you know she likes (I do that still, fortunately for me, steamed broccoli or frozen mixed veggies are always a hit) any time you serve something new. Give her an average sized serving of what she does like and a tiny bit of the new (so it doesn't overwhelm her). Tell her she needs to try the new before she can have any seconds. This way, she still has something on her plate she knows she will like, she's eating something (although, as long as she has plenty of opportunities to eat through the day, that's not a huge deal, but psychologically to her it might be), and she is more in control of when she eats it (it doesn't have to be first). Giving her this extra bit of control might be all it takes. My boys are now trying a lot more "new" (even previously disliked/rejected things), liking a few, and rejecting plenty still.

Oh, look at textures of what she dislikes/refuses. For many kids her age, texture is more an issue than taste (was for me, still is, and is for my boys). That's the only thing I can think of tofu being an issue.



answers from Minneapolis on

I think you are spot on for what you are doing. I have a picky eater, and I cook scratch, healthy whole foods in this house. We have similar rules. You must have some on your plate. You must try new things. You must eat all of something to get something else (not originally on the menu). I do try to put one thing on their plates that I know they do like though...

Example - tonight I made a curried fish stew with peppers, onions and tilapia. Each of my 3 (ages 5, 4, and 2) ate peppers, bread, and cheese. They all had some fish on their plates. My oldest was expected to try it, the others had to try it in order to request something ELSE on their plates, and in order to have more bread, they had to finish something on their plates (besides the bread - like their peppers or apples).

I try to put a fruit and a vegi on their plates at every meal. That way they can pick one or the other to eat. In our house, you don't get any desert unless you finish a fruit or a vegi. (we eat desert about once a week).

This morning I made pancakes (with wheat germ and whole grains) because I knew I was going to have 3 hungry kids. None of them ate much at dinner last night (pork medallians with a mushroom wine sauce and homemade noodles). They all survived. :)

I think you are doing fine.




answers from Oklahoma City on

My parents closed the kitchen on us after dinner, whether we ate or not, and me and my sister remember going to bed hungry and talking about picnics before we fell asleep. That's not a fond memory.

I worry about my son, because most nights he doesn't touch his dinner, even if it's something he likes! But, he's only two, so if he's hungry I give him a snack later on that night, and even if he does eat a good dinner, I offer him a snack before bed so he doesn't wake up hungry.

We had a guest speaker, a pediatric nutritionist, talk to our MOMS club. I shared my concerns with her regarding my son basically only favors a few foods, and won't try anything new. She said, all I could do, is ask him to try it...don't force the issue, and eventually he'll come around. They say it takes up to 20 TIMES of seeing/trying a food before they might like it. I've even told my son, he can try one bite....and if he doesn't like it....he can spit it out. I am thrilled when he tries it.

For the most part, I try not to worry about my son's eating habits. I don't force him to do anything he doesn't want to because I respect that he just might not like it.

He takes a multivitamin to get whatever he is missing :)

Good luck!


answers from San Antonio on

You are not too mean. When my oldest son was little he would eat a huge breakfast, and nothing else all day! But I stood my ground and the pediatrician told me that he wouldn't starve himself and not to cave in. The rule was he had to sit at the table with the family, regardless if he ate or not, and wait until all of us were done before he got up. I didn't make a big deal out of him not eating, didn't try the 'oh come on just one bite for Mommy' route or over complimenting the food in hopes he'd try it. So little by little he started eating.

We still have that rule and added, you have to try everything, at least 3 bites and if you don't like it, that's fine, but you don't get up till everyone is done. No desserts either. My youngest, who is now 12, has found many things he liked that he didn't think he would like fried catfish, cheesecake and steamed carrots.

She'll start to get it that when you say to eat you mean to eat now and she better eat till she's really full.

It's hard, but you have to stand firm.


answers from Kansas City on

I read both of your posts, I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said. But I think you are doing a great job and the approach you are taking sounds reasonable. She is almost 5, it's not too mean. I was raised by a vegatarian Mother, so I eat mostly veg too, but my hasband and 2 kids love their meat. If I could get them to eat tofu I would. We make this awesome tofu smoothie for treats instead of ice cream sometimes, maybe she would love it. Tofu, frozen fruit (any kind), and orange juice, we all love it.



answers from Provo on

Keep up the good work and stick to your guns. But, to be honest, I wouldn'd be wild about the tofu, either. :-) And that is after serving a mission to Taiwan.



answers from Corpus Christi on

Well I think at this age, she is still learning. There is only so much you can do. Have you tried giving her some form of milkshake or smoothie with nutrients. I think most kids that age usually eat that range of food. Encouraging new things is a good thing. But I have to warn you, I had a friend who had allergies so the food didnt taste right to her. Therefore she never really developed a taste for much. Encourage, but also plan for an alternative. I think its best kids get nutrition at this point.

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