Friday, February 5, 2010

Picky Eater?

The Question:


I have a sweet wonderful, terrible 2, picky eater! She has been picky since she was born. She was a fussy nurser, weaned herself at 8 months, refused formula and milk and basically left us pulling out our hair!! Still she is the same. The catch though is that it's not that she doesn't always Like the food, it's that she has an incredibly STRONG WILL. I consider myself and my husband to be strong willed people but she has us beat! I try to pick my battles carefully because they can be such a disaster. Is eating a battle I should pick? I do worry for her nutrition, Ive tried to disguise fruits and veggies in shakes but now she refuses those too. She won't touch meat, and literally she will sit at the dinner table all night if we tell her she has to eat something. Then what when bedtime comes around? Is she too young to pick this battle?

Oh one more thing, sorry I know this is long. Pediatricians always say " kids won't starve themselves" which when I let her get hungry enough rather then eating what I offer she will just get really grouchy and ruin the feeling in the house for everyone. She doesn't understand that if she would just eat she would feel better.


The Answer:

Dear Emily,

This is a controversial issue and my opinion is just that--my opinion. But I've never been one to make a big deal about eating. I'm uncomfortable with parents turning mealtime into a stand-off or hovering over their children and counting every bite. If your daughter is within the normal range for height and weight and your doctor is not concerned, then just ease off. Steer away from too much sugar that can kill the desire for fruits and vegetables. Find things she likes and let her eat them. I remember one of my daughters eating peanut butter sandwiches for two weeks straight. I asked my doctor and he said, "Great, no problem." Gradually, she turned into a normal eater.

I wonder if we ask for trouble by making food such an issue. Little children are rarely hungry during our three designated mealtimes every day, but sometimes, mid-afternoon, they'll come in for a snack...and they'll really want to eat. I just always fed them-- and catered somewhat to their schedule. I know it sounds completely without structure but it's ok. Mealtimes are very important to me and as my children grow up, they fall into the pattern. It's just while they're small that I am more easy going. This method seems to work. So far, everyone has grown up strong and normal, not very picky and no eating disorders.

I hope this helps,



  1. I always love the practicality in these responses, Jane, mixed with love, consistency, and hope. Thanks!

  2. I think, especially at age 2, the less pressure on eating the better. I love the book How to Get Your Kid to Eat, but Not Too Much, which I read for a nutrition class at BYU. Basically, the book breaks down feeding into what's your job and what's your child's job, while including helpful research and reassuring ideas.

    Your job, according to Ellyn Satter, is to provide healthy choices. It's your child's job to determine what and how much they will eat. Many kids need to be introduced to a food a dozen times before they will even try it, so she says not to be caught up in whether or not your child eats everything the first (or even tenth time). She also says pressure to eat never works and can end up messing up a child's eating habits, turning it into a battle of wills instead of a simple matter of maturing taste.

    Another thing to consider is that a healthy diet for a child needs to be looked at over the course of a week or two, not the course of a day. Your child may go on a food jag and eat only oatmeal for two days straight, but as long as over the course of the week, she'll also eat bananas and toast and string cheese or whatever, it all balances out.

  3. My daughter was the same way. She would refuse ANYTHING new that I gave her. I would tell her that she just had to TRY it, and if she didn't like it, she didn't have to eat it. So she would put a sliver of a bite in her mouth, and before it had a chance to touch her tongue, she would spit it out.

    A trick that I discovered that worked wonders...

    One day I sat her down (away from the table, food, and meal time in general) and explained to her how taste buds worked. I also told her (which is kind of true) that your taste buds fall off every so often and you grow new ones. So your old taste buds didn't like the soup, but maybe your new ones will!

    She would suddenly put any food I gave her in her mouth and she was so focused on what part of the tongue was tasting it that she forgot she hated it.


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