13 Questionable Things We Do to Get Picky Eaters to Eat

toddler eatingAny parent of a picky eater knows the stress that comes along with it. And I don't just mean a kid who won't eat broccoli. I mean picky to the pickiest degree of pickiness. I have twins -- one eats like a champion and has given me more grey hairs at mealtime than I care to admit. Sometimes a whole day goes by where he refuses everything except milk and a few peanut butter sandwich crackers. And then I try calming myself by saying, Well at least it was some protein.

When I talked to our pediatrician about it, she did calm me by saying how we have to look at a toddler's food intake by the week, not the day. If they don't eat well for one day, but then eat better the next, we shouldn't worry. In fact, a couple of days could go by with some major pickiness and food refusal and your child will likely still keep up with the kid who eats everything.

Still, parents of picky eaters get desperate. And we do things to get our kids to eat out of desperation. Questionable things ....

And we parents of picky eaters ... we aren't proud of all these things. But in our worry about our children potentially starving themselves, we do some wacky things. Things some of us wish we never attempted. Things that created new, bad habits. But gosh darn it, some of these things worked even just for one meal and in that moment it gave us hope that these picky eating days were over.

A day we cannot wait for. Until then, these are some of the things parents of picky eaters have done to get their kid to eat. Even just one more bite. Judge not lest you have a superbly picky eater as well.

  1. Feed them cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because it's the only thing he'll eat.
  2. Keep the TV on for all meals because for some reason watching Super Why gives your kid an appetite -- or just zombie enough to open mouth when you put food in front of her.
  3. Let them sit on your lap since that's the only way they'll eat.
  4. Try the Alicia Silverstone "ABC" food method
  5. Make the characters in books "eat" the food first so child thinks it's cool when the Lorax "munches" on fish and so she eats it as well. Just be sure to wipe book off after.
  6. Dip everything in yogurt since yogurt is the only thing the child will eat.
  7. Dip everything in ice cream.
  8. You've heard of hiding broccoli in things like pizza, but when that doesn't work, you get creative and hide things in cookies.
  9. Painstakingly cut food into fun shapes or arrangements.
  10. Call spaghetti "worms" or beans "fart machines" and laugh your way through hopefully at least a few bites.
  11. Stay at the table for an hour or more if that's what it takes to get child to eat.
  12. Make up elaborate stories about the food complete with song, high fives, and dancing if that's what it takes.
  13. Not flinching when they eat something off the floor only because hey, she's eating something!

Remember, I'm not saying to try all these things, but these are things parents have tried, mostly to little long-term success. Picky eating is just one of those stresses we may have to wait for our kid to grow out of.

Fess up! What questionable things have you tried to get your picky eater to eat?


 Image via CarbonNYC/Flickr


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Sierr... SierraLynn

I'm lucky to not have a picky eater. But we do require her eat portions of each meal so she has a balanced diet. We use a "super special surprise" for after dinner to get her to eat sometimes. Usually ends up being a kiwi, banana, carrots and if she eats super well a fun size bag of m&m's.

I hope this baby due in Aug takes a cue from big sister to try just about anything. ;)

crbloom crbloom

I have 3 kids, and out of the 3 only 1 is a picky eater. We have tried so many things that have not worked at all. The hardest thing is that she is almost 11 years old and refuses to eat almost everything. Her diet consists of pizza, hot dogs, spaghetti o's, and mac and cheese. We have even tried the old rule when we grew up "If you don't want what I made for dinner, then you don't eat at all". She has gone multiple nights in a row not eating dinner because she does not like what I made, then she just gets sick and throws up because she is so hungry but yet still refuses to eat.

nonmember avatar colette

Or you know, god forbid tell the kid 'this is what we're having for dinner and if you don't like it that's fine you can eat at the next meal.' I asssure you, the kid will eat eventually. I was an extremely picky eater as a child and am still a fairly picky eater as an adult. I never starved.

nonmember avatar Kim

@Colette - It's not always that easy. Some kids are picky due to having aversions to a food's texture, smell, color, etc., due to sensory issues. It's not the child just trying to get their own way or whatnot. I know a child who despite being 8 years old will only eat babyfood, because the texture of other food makes him gag to the point he vomits

nonmember avatar colette

I am not referring to special needs children. I do want to clarify that.

MsRkg MsRkg

I would never do that whole "if you don't want this for dinner, you can eat at the next meal" thing. It's cruel to send a child to bed hungry simply because they're a picky eater. What if they don't like what's for breakfast or lunch the next day? How long are you going to make your kid wait for something they want to eat? The best way to deal with a picky eater is to simply ask them what they want to eat and then tack on some other healthy items with the meal. For example, my son went through a baked fish phase for like two weeks, and I would add rice and broccoli. or pasta , or potatoes , something else with the fish , but there was never any pressure for him to eat it, it was there if he wanted, and he would surprise me and hubby, by taking a random bite here and there. Or you could always compromise with your child by saying if you eat a bite of X at breakfast, then you can have Y for lunch, and make the Y something that appeals to them. You don't have to be a short order cook or starve your kids to get them to eat, just communicate with them, find out what they want and then make a balanced meal around it. Very simple.

nonmember avatar Jonnie-girl

Oh my goodness, please contact a pediatric dietitian. These problems can be so stressful for the family, and detrimental to your child's health and growth long term.

Eques... EquestrianMom

Yeah, I fianlly cut my stress level, I cook good foods I know my son will eat, and if one night creamy chicken breast, veggie rice and a fruit is not to his tastes that night, or he says he's full thats peachy. I make his plate up, he eats what he wants, but he gets no seconds or snacks until that meal is cleared up. Because I got sick of him telling me he was full, then two minutes later (before I've even cleared diner) he asks if he can have a yogurt or a fruit snack. Nope, you can sit down and eat the chicken I spent 45 minutes making just like you like it. Or you can starve. Darned if he doesn't eat his diner. Oh, and I HATE that his daddy will feed him WHATEVER he wants so baby boy doesn't fake cry. Cause yeah, if your too full to eat rice,  you don't need ICE CREAM! 

Maias... MaiasMommy619

Hahaha ur list sounds about right to me

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

Make dinner, put it front of them. Problem solved. The only time I make something different for my kid is when I'm making something I know he doesn't like, usually that means something too spicy for his tastes. I ask if he wants to try it again, sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't, and then I make something quick and easy like a veggie burger or a tofu stir fry for him.

Everyone has foods they don't like and especially kids have foods they don't like the texture of. For me, peas are evil. The way they pop when you chew them just disgusts me. It is very rare for a kid to have so many textural aversions that they can't eat a balanced diet or regular food. The vast majority of kids who restrict their diets are just doing it because they know they can get away with it.

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