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The Picky Eater

The Picky Eater

February 22, 2008

The Picky Eater

I guess every family has one. The child who seemingly exists on air. This is mine.

I swore that I would never be the parent who forced their child to sit at the table and eat food they hated. And I don’t. But every once in awhile I insist that he just takes a bite. FOR. THE. LOVE. OF. ALL. THINGS. HOLY. Just take one bite. Just one.

This was a chicken curry with sweet potatoes and coconut rice. He likes chicken. He likes sweet potatoes. He likes rice. But somehow when they all were place upon his plate at one time they were offensive. Perhaps the most offensive meal that has ever been thought of. Well, aside from spaghetti sauce. And uncooked broccoli. And onions. And whatever food has fallen from grace lately.

Posted by Chris @ 1:28 am  

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  1. Lilly says:

    Well, somehow he’s looking very healthy on his picky diet. The chicken curry with sweet potatoes and coconut rice sounds yummy. It’s gotta be hard to appeal to the whole family at once. But in your photos they all look happy and healthy so they must be getting the right nutrition.

  2. Laura says:

    Hehe, I’m the picky eater at my house. Don’t worry. We get better with time.

  3. bombaygirl says:

    Want to share that recipe? It sounds yummy! My son is a picky eater…things he likes one day, make him gag the next. I just take out a second mortgage on pediasure and hope he doesn’t hate that soon!

  4. Maddy says:

    Oh Chris, look at him, he’s all on his own. I did that when I was a kid, I hated everything too. Did he eat anything?

  5. marta says:

    Is this my impression or this son of yours looks actually quite chubby in his cheeks ;) ?

    That’s climate change for you: air is food!

    My 5 yo daughter, by faaaaar the pickiest eater of my 3 children, has chubby cheeks, a 3 yo tummy and thick, muscular tighs. She lives on salad, a bite of bread and lots of water. And no self-image awareness at all - for those of you who might be thinking she’s picky BECAUSE she’s strong built!

    Marta from Lisbon

  6. suburbancorrespondent says:

    My children have caused me to hate food and mealtimes. I cannot believe the angst that can be generated by a single item of food.

  7. Brigitte says:

    Sometimes I do to my daughter . . . well, kind of what Miles did to your son the other day. I say “C’mon! Just taste it! One bite! OK, just poke it with your tongue!” as I lean over her with a spoon or fork, until she thinks it’s funny and does poke it with her tongue. Then she says she likes it, but still refuses to eat it. Oh well.

  8. Cara says:

    That sounds like a recipe I’d really like. Where did you find it?

  9. Nicole says:

    Seriously? You never make your kids eat? My daughter is one of those “exist on air” types. It’s been years of frustration, trying to get her to eat anything healthy. I would love to hear your take on this. I know you’re not much on giving advice, but could you write about how you manage getting your kids to eat healthy foods?

    Chris says: It is my job to provide the healthy food. It is their job to eat it. I do not keep junk food in the house, so their food choices are limited to things that are on the whole pretty healthy.

  10. Nicki says:

    I know, it is exasperating. My 5 YO loves raw carrots, and even steamed carrots. But somehow, cooked carrots contain traces of something offensively inedible…

  11. Melanie says:

    My son doesn’t eat ‘regular’ people food. He is 13 and loves Ramen noodles, pizza, chicken, you know ‘kid’ food. I have noticed that the older he is getting (and growing) he is willing to try other things. I guess when you have only one child, it is easy to fix what they like then to just make them eat what you have cooked. I feel your pain.

  12. Another Chris says:

    I’ll never forget the Brussell Sprout that sat congealed on my plate for HOURS while I steadfastly refused to eat it. From that point on, my mom gave up trying to force me to eat things I didn’t like. She learned that my will on the matter was much stronger than hers, I guess. Now I find myself bribing my kids to eat a few bites of the good stuff so they can earn the bad stuff. UGH! Didn’t I swear I wasn’t going to be that kind of mom? Isn’t it terrible to set up the sugar foods as rewards? Oh well. Add that to the list of things I “knew better” about before I was a mom.

    Is he smirking at you in the reflection in the window? ;-)

    Chris says: He is laughing.

  13. deanna says:

    well….did he try it in the end? Did he like it?

    I have a picky one too…he doesn’t eat bread. Who doesn’t like bread?!?! Lunches for school were such a challenge.

    Oh and noodles. Seriously, do the little curly ones truely taste any different than straight spaghetti noodles????

    I’d love that recipe too if you care to share it :)

  14. wookie says:

    My cousin had an air plant-kid. I have one who goes through phases where she’ll eat anything that’s not nailed down and then eat nothing for a week.

  15. Sarah says:

    Our only mealtime rule is that they have to try everything on their plate. And sometimes they need to have two or three bites of dinner before getting something else, like a second glass of milk. I don’t know how they do it, but air must be very filling!

  16. Rachel May says:

    This is driving me crazy at my house too, and I only have ONE - and he’s three. His favorite food right now is cheese, but too much kinda stops him up (if you know what I mean).

    I’ve finally taken to letting him leave the table, but he gets no other food during the evening. I leave his plate on the table with that same food on it, and tell him to go back and eat it if he comes to me after dinner, whining that he’s hungry.

    Sometimes I think he’s not really hungry; when he IS really hungry, he usually goes back and finishes his dinner.

    I know it’s gross to leave food on the table for an hour and then go back and eat it (FDA is going to storm my house any day now), but… It seems like he’s starting to learn that the dinner that I put on the table is the only thing available to eat — he’s not going to be allowed to not eat dinner and then snack all evening.

    Plus, I always make sure to have one or two things (side dishes, at least) that are something he SHOULD like, because he’s told me BEFORE that he likes them…. *sigh*

    Sorry for hijacking your comments.

    Chris says: If it makes you feel any better my three year old is the same way. His lunch or dinner routinely sits on the table for an hour or two before he comes back and finishes it. I don’t think it is gross at all. And he certainly doesn’t.

  17. Courtney says:

    We always called it a “no thank-you helping”, just a mouthfull, you had to taste it. My mom was like you in the you don’t have to eat all of it, you just have to taste it mind set. My sister and I have made it to adulthood, we mostly subsisted on milk. I still take a no thank-you helping at parties for food I’m not familiar with. There are foods I enjoy now that I didn’t like back then. I didn’t like macaroni and cheese, homemade or boxed, it was a texture thing.

  18. smocha says:

    I have 3 sons .They are now grown and the picky one’s STILL won’t eat the foods they hated as babies.

    My youngest was the worst. He hated everything.
    One day I tried to make him eat a hot dog and he said “I’m awerwgic to hawt dawgs”
    And promptly puked on his plate.

    The other one…no rice
    no eggs
    no bar-b-q

    Ahh the joys of motherhood. :)

  19. jody says:

    I have one of those. We too insist on one bite of each thing on their plates.

    If they don’t eat dinner, then the kitchen is closed for the rest of the night and they wait until breakfast to eat again. I figure if they were hungry, they would eat the food on their plates.

    Love the idea of coconut rice.

    Chris says: Our kitchen closes after dinner too. Unless we had a special dessert planned for the night, which isn’t often.

  20. Mrs. F.P. says:

    I can more than relate to the picky eating. My 8 year old son was diagnosed this past fall with sensory integration disorder, specifically oral sensory defensiveness. He would only eat 5-7 things all “kid food”, all white, all carbs. He would gag on anything other than his preferred foods and would rather starve or be punished that eat. He hadn’t eaten a vegetable other than raw carrots since the strained baby food as an infant and his fruit was limited to applesauce. All the doctors had been telling me for years, he’s healthy, he’ll grow out of it…he never did. We’ve been going to an occupational therapist for 6 months as well as a special feeding clinic. It’s amazing the difference. He gone through an oral desensitizing and has learned how to handle the different food textures in his mouth. He now eats 5 different vegetables, 5 different fruits and 3 different “blended foods” (pot pie, pizza, sloppy joes)while it’s not chicken curry, I’ll take it.

  21. gorillabuns says:

    I tell my kids, you can have water or nothing at all - when they don’t eat their food. I know I’m quite mean.

    Chris says: I am mean too. I refuse to make another meal.

  22. Carrie says:

    My son exists on air, too. It’s very frustrating, especially when as he walks to the table he will already have that “I hate that” look on his face. Frustrating.

  23. Karly says:

    Its so nice to see that I’m not alone in leaving my daughter’s plate sitting on the table for her to finish later. But, is it bad that I also do this with her morning bowl of cereal? She never eats it right away and comes back for it about a half hour later when its this soggy mess. I just don’t get it, but I’m not about to stop it.

  24. Ruth H says:

    I have a son who was not a picky eater, just a non-eater most of the time. But on the days he had an appetite there had to be plenty of food on the table, he ate everything in sight. I MADE him eat breakfast before school, then I found out he threw up everything he ate on the way to the bus stop.
    My feeling now is that if they don’t want to eat, they should be allowed not to eat. When they eat, have plenty. In the family of seven I grew up in my dad always said, “okay, if you don’t want it, that makes more for the rest of us.” He called it hog phsycology. (did I spell that right?)

  25. Angie says:

    One word: CURRY. I know I should never show my face again in my house if I put it in anything. I actually have a house full of picky eaters, so I understand the curry aversion.

  26. NoMasNinos says:

    I have two kids both picky eaters ages 18 months and 4 years. One minute they can’t have enough of a food, the next minute they don’t want it anywhere within ten feet of them. The oldest won’t eat a vegetable or fruit of any kind or form. My youngest will only eat veggies and fruit out of a jar all runny-like, which is the only reason I am still buying it, because if I strain it and make it the same consistency myself, it’s just not the same to him. Argh! All they basically both eat is some variation of milk and bread : macaroni and cheese, alfredo pasta, quesadillas, grilled cheese, cheese sandwich. See what I mean? I have tried giving him vitamins with iron on occasion which he will eat, but I haven’t been able to find any without any artificial junk in it. Do you do vitamins at your house? My biology teacher said vitamins were for those who wanted expensive pee.

    Chris says: Nope I don’t give my kids vitamins. They eat well overall. And mostly I decided to let go of the guilt of buying them and then forgetting about them after a couple days.

  27. Meg from Georgia says:

    My son has eaten PB&J- EVERY DAY- in his lunch box for the last 4 years!!!! and sometimes he asks to eat it for supper!! I think I might sign him up for Big Brother–he should do well on the PB&J only diets they all seem to get tired of!

  28. smarty says:

    I would put my 10 yr. old up against any picker eater. He will only eat 1-2 things at any given time. (Now popcorn shrimp and fries) ( it’s always some fried food) Now I am not eating popcorn shrimp every night, so there are alot of nights he goes to bed hungry. It breaks my heart, but somehow he is still walking around. I try to make it his problem not my problem and just keep putting food in front of him and later throwing it away. Every morning I pack his lunch and every night I throw it away. I really do think they can live on air and water if they get a little popcorn shrimp once a week. (I do supply metamucil wafers for fiber)

  29. Common Mom says:

    The rule in our house . . . you eat what you take, and you MUST at least TRY one bite of everything. So when you “fill” your plate, be sure to take only what you’ll eat. You can always go back for more if you like it, and if you don’t like it? Then you’re off the hook after one bite :-)

  30. Lisa says:

    What is the deal with spaghetti sauce? Spaghetti was my #1 favorite food as a kid. I would eat it every night if I could. My kids HATE it. So we never have it. And I miss it!

    My kids are weird. They will eat salmon like it is going out of style but won’t touch spaghetti.

  31. Headless Mom says:

    Oy! That is my 8yo to a T. I sometimes wonder what they put in his ‘air’-I want some because he somehow exists and stays thin to boot!

  32. Kim says:

    Hee-hee. I thought my brother was the only one that hated speghetti sauce. We found out later he just didn’t like the cut up peppers and onions in it (although he LIKES both peppers and onions). He won’t eat food with “chunks”. He will eat it if they are chopped very fine. Ditto for salad, he will eat it if everything is cut up tiny, but if the cucumbers or peppers or whatever are diced large, he still picks them out…and he is 38 years old now. My mom and dad used to let him trade his food in for a banana because he would eat those.

  33. Jennifer says:

    I have one (or two) of those. My rule is eat what I make or don’t eat. I’m pretty sure they won’t starve to death.

  34. Girlymom4 says:

    I need to be more like him and be a tad more picky and choosy. I love your table, I am now looking at my dining room trying to figure out how we could do that…hmmm we don’t need that wall there~ right?!

  35. Rae says:

    He doesn’t look too sad about it, in that reflection there. Let’s not feel too sorry for him.

  36. Mary W says:

    My almost nine is the pick one. Our rule is take at least one bite. If he makes a fuss or says he doesn’t like it he gets a normal serving.

    For a while I’d make him eat his bite of what ever was offensive and then he’d get the rest of the meal.

    I always wonder what the school linch people think because he has the same thing day in and day out - peanut butter on wheat (he won’t eat jelly) , pretzels, baby carrots, and a banana.

    He doesn’t look like he’s starving either.

  37. Another Susan says:

    I lost this battle long ago with my now 6 year old. When he was 11 mos old and would eat nothing (not exaggerating but put cookies and crackers in front of him and he’d gobble them up). One day out of sheer desperation I sat the phone on the counter, the bottle of benadryl and handed him a PB&J sandwich. Luckily he wasn’t allergic and he ate it like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. I’d like to say things have gotten better but they have not. He takes a yogurt tube and apples slice to school for lunch everyday. And yet somehow, he’s alive.

    It’s quite maddening and he will try NOTHING. He thinks it’s great he recently added popcorn to his list of acceptable foods!

    For comparison? My 3 year old will eat basically anything. Including tilapia.

  38. Fina says:

    I’m sure he loved it too when you took that picture.

  39. Another Susan says:

    And to Meg from Georgia … my son was the same way. He ate PB&J at least once a day from age 1 to age 5 and now he won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole! The same with pancakes - he ate them so much for breakfast, he can’t look at them anymore.

    Thankfully he likes fruit. He’s mainly living on that, yogurt and Perdue chicken nuggets … lol

  40. Javamom says:

    Completely off topic: do you remember the name of the colour on your wall? You can email me if you prefer. Thank you.

    Chris says: Barley by Benjamin Moore

  41. Janet says:

    When my children were small we also had the one bite rule.

    I told them that I didn’t care if they swallowed whole, like a pill, as long as they had their one bite. I also strongly suggested that they eat the food in question fast, while it was still hot.

    I was also a mean mother and now grandma …… I truly don’t care if you didn’t like it last time you tried it.

    At 13 my daughter went vegetarian. I thought it would be a passing phase. 21 years later she is still a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) raising their son the same way.

  42. Nextcommercial says:

    I like how he’s watching you in the reflection of the window. He doesn’t look to distraught. Obviously he was hoping you would feel bad. Not take a flippin picture!


  43. WOW! Women's World says:

    Boys…can I relate. Sometimes I think being so finicky is a sensory thing. Unfortately, I will eat almost anything so I can’t relate. My strategy is to keep a constant supply of favorite nutritious snacks my son, middle of three, will eat. At present, his favorites are Polly-O cheese sticks (wouldn’t touch anything other than 2% — must be the consistency), DanActives, scrambled eggs, apples dipped in peanut butter, chocolate pudding, Mulitgrain chocolate chip bars (!) and chewy oatmeal raisin cookies. Of course, he is also a big fan of greasy, fried chicken tenders and tater tots.

    The one meal he would eat every night is my grandmother’s American Chop Suey. Here is what you need: 4 pieces of bacon, 2 pounds ground beef or turkey, 1 jar favorite spagetti sauce, 1 lrg. can crushed tomatoes, 1 diced onion, 1 diced green pepper. Then all you have to do is cut up the bacon, saute it with the onion and green pepper in a large pot until soft, add ground meat, cook until no longer pink, drain if desired, add sauce and tomatoes, cook until thick, add 1 box prepared Barilla Plus (high fiber one) elbow noodles.

    Many boys have eaten “American Chop” at our house over the years. Hope your son likes it too. Julie for WOW!

  44. Jan says:

    My childhood memory: Me sitting at the table for what seemed like hours having to finish my creamed corn. And my mom wasn’t nice like you- the whole thing had to be finished. To this day, I find it hard to even look at a can of creamed corn in the market.

  45. nancy alv. says:

    he looks so healthy he survives on love mom he doesn’t need food!!!! LOL!

  46. judi says:

    everyone has to have a picky eater.mine is my 17 year old daughter who swims 4 hours a day, so i have to keep a good food supply in because she is always hungry. but eats only vegetables,fruits, boneless skinless chicken breast. no dairy and as little fat as possible. the girl can live on hummus and carrot sticks and then one day- they have fallen out of favor and she thinks i am crazy for having bought them. ah well. she is old enough to prepare her own supper and sit and eat with us- wincing as we eat our rare cheeseburgers.

  47. Joy H says:

    My picky 9yo girlie gave up complaining about dinner for Lent. It has been beyond hilarious to see her expressions about what I am serving w/o her voicing her distain.

    She’s still picky but getting better.

  48. kathleen says:

    I feel better reading the comments, misery loves company. My 8yr old would rather be punished and go to her room for life than try one bite. She just can’t do it…I was hoping she would out grow it but then again my mother inlaw is just as bad. Going to a resturant with her is a nightmare. I’m blaming my husband’s side of the family…luckily he’ll eat anything. I love the giving up complaining for lent idea, brilliant!

  49. Mishel says:

    I like to think I was a good eater growing up (if I was picky I don’t remember it and in my world if I don’t remember it then it just didn’t happen:) but I have always had a hatred for lima beans! Ewww to lima beans!! My Abuelita (Great-Grandmother) had this old table that had hollow legs and some of them had holes in the legs up top. When we had lima beans for dinner and I had to sit there until I ate them all or most of them I’d take my napkin or an extra napkin, take the lima beans and put them in the napkin (get where I’m going:)~, and stuff those napkins in the holes of the legs!!! From what I’ve been told no one knew about me or my brother, everyone HAS to have a partner in crime:), putting these napkins in the table legs till after my Abuelita passed on and someone came to the house and cleaned. They turned the table over I guess to wipe down the legs or fold them up or something and out came all these old lima beans!!!! Ha-ha! I even think there was other foods there. I don’t do this anymore BTW. But mainly that’s b/c my table is wooden w/no holes in the legs AND I don’t do lima beans:)

  50. Cara says:

    I have one too…The little bastard.

  51. Sherra says:

    I feel your frustration because my four kids are all picky eaters in their own right. Of course, we recognize it is because mom and dad were both picky eaters and still are to a certain extent. (Depends on who you ask–we are all healthy in spite of being picky!)

    I had to laugh though, as just this past week I posted the story of my now 18 year-old and his “Cocoa Krispie Nightmare” on my blog. We always offered cereal or a PB & J if they *hated* the meal. This kid won’t eat cereal to this day and I’m sure it’s all my fault. It’s sad but I do believe it’s a universal parent struggle even for those who eat healthy like your family and moms who refuse to be short-order cooks. Great to see someone else who can see the humor and take a picture too!

    The good news? They won’t starve if they miss a meal! You just have to decide who will be the victor in this power struggle. Sometimes it’s us and sometimes it’s them but I’m not keeping track. Our battles with three teens are way bigger now than our meal selection. Ahhhh!!!

  52. KarinNH says:

    This made me laugh, because I was the picky eater growing up. I never misbehaved since my mother was a “spare the rod, spoil the child” disciplinarian and a big believer in the “you WILL do this my way” philosophy. However, on this one issue? I wouldn’t budge.

    I sat at the dinner table for hours every. single. night. until she was no longer paying attention and snuck the food into the garbage, carefully concealed underneath other stuff. If she decided it was eat or go to bed, I got up and headed right upstairs.

    Ah, parenting. It is always an adventure. And the dinner table? I swear the more people sitting at the table, the less likely everyone will/can eat the meal. It is exponential!

  53. Noble Pig says:

    Ugh. I live with the picky-eater child…save me…I can’t even get the one bite thing in. He would sit there for three hours and refuse.

  54. Tricia says:

    I’ve discovered that one of the drawbacks to having so many kids is that there are only about four things they will all eat pizza, steak, french fries, chicken strips. This one likes noodles, this one won’t eat rice, only one will eat salad, two eat corn, one eats potatoes. It drives me nutty. I make what I make and try to include at least one food for each of the twirps.

    Oh, how I miss eating grown up food…

  55. Laura K. says:

    I didn’t read comments but any chance he has a form of autism or sensory processing disorder? My son has pddnos and is similar about food! He’s also a freak about which clothing can dare touch his precious skin ;)

    Chris says: Nope, not at all.

  56. Brittany says:

    I’m a picky eater too. I’m 21 and there are certain textures that I won’t eat. My food can’t touch each other, and I eat one thing at a time, and if I stop eating one food to try another, I can’t go back to the first food. My mom says I’ve been doing this since I was a baby. While I have picky eating methods and I’m picky with some foods, at least I like healthy foods.

  57. carrie says:

    You gotta do what you gotta do! We have one who likes to pull the picky eater card on us sometimes and I do the same thing. Even if it breaks my heart.

  58. katieo says:

    Oh yes. We have an “air-eater” too.
    All evening for One. friggin. bite.

  59. Scylla says:

    Mine was uber-picky for most of her six years.
    We had some success with calling it a “Sport Bite” (be a sport, take a bite). Our deal was, one good sized, serious bite, and then that is all.
    Finally, now at 6, she will eat some of most things, most of the time.

    We also never made her eat, but we did make her not eat. If she didn’t try her dinner, she went to bed hungry. It happened a lot. She didn’t starve, and now, she pretty much eats.

    Hang in there, it seems to go away eventually, though it may be that the food issues just change in nature, cause dinner still seems to be a pain.

  60. kyran says:

    i’m not going to read through the other comments for once, because I just know at least one of the hard-liners will piss me off. I have one of these kids too, and every once in a while, I irrationally feel the need to make a stand. It always winds up with both of us miserable with each other and ourselves. You’d think I’d have listened to enough adult sensitive eaters to have learned.

    I feel you.