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February 17, 2010



My supper rules were: Eat everything on your plate (note: make sure the servings are kid-sized) or no dessert AND no bedtime snack. (If I was serving something new, they had to eat three "honest" bites.) My son would choke down just about anything because he was not going to miss dessert. My daughter, on the other hand, preferred to go without. I respected their wishes, and they have both grown up with no eating disorders. Whew! Most meals were fairly simple meat-starch-vegetable-salad affairs, but if something was particularly unpopular, I shelved that recipe for a while. I guess the primary lesson is to stick with sane rules, but not make an issue out of mealtime. If they see you enjoying a wide variety of foods, they will eventually emulate you. Probably. Oh, and don't overdo the milk or juice - sometimes kids fill up on that and are not particularly hungry for real food. Good luck! You're doing a fine job with James!

Shelly Kang

Ahh, the frustration! This is a problem all moms share. There is a solution, but it takes time and a lot of patience. Keep offering him what you're eating. Put a little bit of everything on his plate, but don't insist that he eat everything. Don't even insist that he try everything. Act like you just don't care. Toddlers love a good power struggle, and you don't want to make one about food.

Meat is hard for little mouths to chew, so make sure his pieces are miniscule and very tender. Don't offer too much carbs - give him very small servings of those.

Also, cut way back on the mac n cheese! My kids get it for special treats only - maybe a couple times a month - otherwise they start to expect it all the time. Also, smaller lunches and snacks mean hungrier kids at dinner time when you've worked so hard to prepare the meal.

Having kids involved in preparation in some way helps - he's a little small, but you're working on that. Also, serving "family style" with the food brought to the table in bowls or pans and not already plated makes kids feel like they're involved in the choices. I don't understand that one fully, but it was offered to me by a pre-school parenting teacher and it's worked for us.

Oh! for afternoon snack, just put a plate of sliced/cut up raw veggies out - or if you're worried about protein, kidney beans from a can rinsed and ready to eat as finger food. Don't push it on him, just put it where he can graze if he's hungry.

You're doing great by setting a healthy example, eating the yummy variety of homemade foods in front of him and eating together at the dinner table. Also, I've talked my husband about making sure to say nice things about my meals in front of the kids and always eating a serving of veggies whether he likes them or not, with a smile!

My kids still try to go all picky on me sometimes, and I have to refresh my methods, but when I compare my kids' eating habits with most moms I know, we're doing pretty well. Hang in there! I hope at least one of my tips helps.


Welcome to another chapter in the joys of motherhood... I have a 25 yr old son who can still spy 1/32 of an inch of broccoli or a speck of a mushroom in ANYTHING and then go into the death scene from Rigoletto. My kids used to eat anything up to a certain age (different for each) and then they shut down on what they would or wouldn't eat. I had small plates for them, put a teeny tiny assortment of food on each one (so they wouldn't feel overwhelmed) and instead of insisting they eat it all - I set time limits. We wouldn't rush through a meal - but when meal time was over - I would calmly remove their plate without any fuss. They soon cought on that if they wanted their tummy full - to eat when it was time to eat and I never made seperate meals for anyone. Now you have to understand - it has also been approx. 23 years since I have made a tuna casserole too :-) It's one of those choose your battles things. If you can just make sure James is getting some kind of protein, veggie, and whole grain anything. If he likes bread - have you tried Ezekiel Bread and the other things made by them? It's made from sprouted grains and is a meal in itself. Tons of protein in the breads (burger buns, English Muffins, etc) and peanut butter or hummus on those is good! Does James like oatmeal? I sometimes put a tablespoon of peanut butter in my oatmeal (I use the instant Cinnamon Bun kind) and with the 2 together it makes what is called a complete protein. Do you have a juicer you can use to make a "dipping sauce" for his veggie nuggets? Maybe this spring and summer you can let James have his OWN garden and let him plant and take care of all - maybe he will eat what he grew and belongs just to him? But it will pass and he will start experimenting with food again. Have you tried one of those nutrition drinks? Anyway relax - this is just a stage. Wait till he's 15 and you can't keep enough food in the house at any given time :-D


It's been a long time since I raised my
children, but I remember my pediatrician
telling me that they were eating what their
bodies needed and to leave them alone as long as they were eating a healthy diet.
His tastes will change as he gets older,
just like yours did. I'm sure that there
were things that you didn't like but started
to like them later in life. I found when
we tried to disguise the things that we
wanted them to eat, they wound up upchucking
everything that went down. Those little
guys are smarter than we know. He's really
very cute and looks very healthy.

Judi Kennedy

We have both children and grandchildren. They all have likes and dislikes. At this age, we put the food on the table and if they don't want it, that's okay. When they get hungry, they get whatever we had for the last meal (within reason). I'll reheat and make it as close as possible to the first time. They don't get snacks in between if they choose not to eat what's being served. I've learned that it's just as easy to train them as it is for us to be trained BY THEM. It doesn't take but a few times for them to get the message. I'm known as the unforgiving but loving grandmother who has no patience for picky eaters. I know we all have likes and dislikes, but I'm not serving poison.


Here is what I know. It may help. Children have WAYYYYYYYY more taste buds that adults. (We lose them as we age). Therefore, as a rule, children like foods that are more bland. They also, in general, do not like foods mixed together....again because of the taste buds. It is just too much of a 'jumbled' taste for them. The plainer the better as far as their tastes are concerned.


I read somewhere that children are pickiest between 2 and 5 years old and its to protect them from eating all of the new things that they encounter in the world as they become more mobile and independent. Of course, what worked for evolution doesn't always mesh with the child-proofed, modern world, but does explain why previously adventurous eaters stop, and also why the toddler that I took care of would spit things out when he tried eating non-foods and then realized it wasn't supposed to go in his mouth. (I was quite grateful for that)

Something to also make a point of doing is to inform James about what it is that you are serving. Not necessarily to get him to eat it, but to prevent surprises. My sister, when she was little, was in her seat at the table when she was served what she expected to be chicken because it was breaded and baked, but was, in fact, halibut fish that my father had caught in Alaska (so good, mild fish). She took one bite and announced to my mother who was still preparing the last parts of dinner, "Mom, I don't like this kind of chicken." It was very matter-of-fact and she was/is still quite an adventurous eater, but she just didn't like fish, especially when she was expecting chicken.

She hasn't willingly eaten fish of any sort since and is now 24 years old.

Debbie B

I remember the worries over my picky eater. They were at the worse right at your son's age. The pediatrician assured me it was normal and despite my thinking I was doing something wrong all turned out well. Michelle was taught we eat with our tongues, not our eyes. She has to try, not finish, what was on her plate. To this day, she will pretty much try anything. I never associated food with good or bad behavior, therefore, no punishments or rewards. Just know that he will grow out of it and will develop his own tastes.

April Stephens

I have two young adult sons who enjoy a wide variety of food and the oldest has taken an interest in learning to cook beyond the usual grilled cheese sandwich. They lived on chicken nuggets and spaghetti when they were toddlers. I learned to take a more global view of eating, making sure they ate a balanced diet over the course of a week rather than a day. I could count on 1 good meal a day. Also, I remembered having to sit at table long after the meal was finished, made to eat food I still dislike. I was determined our family table wouldn't be a battleground, so I just didn't worry about it and we concentrated on enjoying our time together. The guys were and are healthy and we still enjoy eating together the few times we can. Enjoy your little boy and think about him driving or dating, that puts food issues in perspective.


Allison - don't know if you've seen this website yet...

I would have liked these tips when my kids were that age...


Diane, that's good link and definitely puts things in perspective for me- James eats most of those things.
Maybe it's just part of motherhood- the second guessing and guilt?


Allison - you're doing a wonderful awesome job of raising James and being a mother!
No guilt necessary on your part. For James - let him eat what he will eat and for YOU - go knit :-) or whatever else makes you happy today!


While I don't have any children of my own yet, I have encountered friends children and my sibling's child. My understanding of the situation is that this is very normal behaviour for a child - that it is an off shoot of evolution and a survival mechanism. He will eventually outgrow it. What always seemed to work was blending favourites with new things, so that the change was slow over time and almost unnoticeable.


I swore I wouln't blog about anything but knitting, but I do have an opinion on feeding children. While cooking for, feeding and raising 5, I muddled through the same frustrattions and made the same mistakes as you any many parents. My advice: Meals: enjoy the time together and don't make it a battleground or anything serious. Just prepare good, colorful, nutritious food and talk about other things; sunlight, planets, puppies, socks. Its almost impossible not to let your opinions on food and eating come througrh but try. Your child will learn quickly how to control if you focus on treats. Have variety of things available and save treats for special occasions. The only time I cooked special items were when one of my teenagers became a vegetarian, soon others followed and I made sure there were meat and meatless sources of protein at each meal. I wish I could re-do all the happy years raising my children and mealtime struggles would be the first to be smoothed out Best of luck Mary

Erin Walsh

I have four, including one with autism (severe food aversions) and I say this quite often: "I am cooking one meal. If you don't like it, you can have PBJ or starve."

We got through a LOT of peanut butter.


my first child (my son) ate everything and really loved meat! My daughter, now 3, ate only fruit and veggies, not much meat. Just within the last few months has she shown any interest in meat at all. I wouldn't worry, even if he liked meat, he would only eat what he wanted. I just keep giving my daughter what she wants and I don't panic if she dosen't eat her chicken. (I don't make special meals for her either.)


It might reassure you to know that just about every parent of a child James' age worries about this. Children's appetites seem to disappear at about age 2 - for one thing they are no longer growing at the rapid rate of infancy & for another, they are so interested in exploring their environments that they just are not as interested in eating (it is beginning to be old hat - they want new experiences.) I think that forcing or coercing children into eating can cause problem eaters (they get attention for not eating so they don't eat.) One tip I read was to just put a small amount of whatever you cook for a meal on the child's plate but not make a fuss about their eating it. Frequently, their natural curiosity will lead them to try the new food - esp if they see Mommy or Daddy enjoying it. We also rarely had dessert - my mom never served it so I was not in the habit of eating it myself. A child who has eaten a meal really shouldn't be hungry for dessert. Any sweets in our house were generally home made & organic - frequently fruit based & served as snacks mid-afternoon. Many years ago (25 or so) a study was done, mainly because so many parents were seeking advice on how to get their young children to eat nutritiously. The researchers found that, if you serve a child a variety of healthy nutritious foods, they will eat a balanced nutritious diet - maybe not in one meal or day but over the course of several days. The researchers were actually surprised at how nutritionally complete the children's choices were when considered over several days. The important thing, of course, is to only offer healthy food.


Allison you remind me of my oldest daughter so much! Her daughter is 2 months older than James and she is going through much of the same things you are! My granddaughter will eat strawberries and that's about it. So you are lucky that James will eat A nice variety of food.See how smart you are for letting James be James!

Nathanne Verner

My kids are all grown up now, but back in the day when they were little, I would put out a tray of kid sized snacks, like cut up fruit, cheese cubes, cheerios, things like that, and I set the tray on their play table. They could graze all day long on decent snacks. It worked pretty well. They went through phases when they would only eat one thing for days at a time, or they would eat so little I thought they would get malnutrition. Looking back on it I realize they were going through growth spurts when they ate well, and then naturally cut back during low growth times. James is a beautiful little boy, looks fine, and he will let you know what works for him. My 6 year old grandson is living with us now, and he is a meat eater. So I give him a kid's vitamin, those Spiderman gummy ones that are all natural, nothing artificial, which he loves. He has some ADHD, so we give him Omega 3 chewable gummy ones for that. Dr. Sears was my salvation 25 years ago, he is wonderful, and I trust what he says.


I so know where you're coming from - a rejection of food that you've lovingly prepared can seem like a rejection of you, and it can be hard to take a step back, take a deep breath and look at it rationally.
I think most kids go through a fussy stage. Both mine were completely unfussy when first weaned and I've heard that so often before. Then, once they hit 15 months or so, they start to show preferences or dislikes for certain foods. My daughter as a baby couldn't get enough of bananas - absolute favourite food. Then one day when she was about 18 months, she didn't like them anymore and now she won't touch anything with banana in it.
My two are completely different in their likes and dislikes - she doesn't like meat at all and almost refuses to come to the table if I eat fish, the other is a real carnivore but doesn't like veg (but adores fruit). And then they both have fussy phases and easy phases. I just ignore it all, I cook family meals, I try out new recipes on them regularly, and some days there'll be something that one won't like, some days the other won't like something. I just think 'I can't please them both all the time' and they just have to learn to live with it. If there is something they really don't like (after having given it a good try!), then I'll make some allowances, but they have to try everything.
My consolation is that I remember having to eat things like celery as a child and hating it, and now there is very little I won't eat. I do think your taste changes as you get older, so I'm sure my two will be quite similar.


At the moment it's a battle of wills but, trust me, your boy will not starve. He's just showing his current preferences. Don't get into a fight with him because you won't win.

My boys are adults now and long left home. One has always loved meat, the other has never liked it and prefers fish. The latter can still spot a mushroom at 20 paces - I swear one has never passed his lips, he just doesn't like the look of them. He is 31 and a schoolteacher - where's the logic?!

I repeat - James won't starve!


When my little one was first starting to be picky, I found a book that really helped me to live with it. "My Child Won't Eat!" by Dr. Carlos Gonzalez. It doesn't give any fixes, but emphasizes that a child will, over time, choose a balanced diet from healthy foods offered, and that a toddler really doesn't need as much food as a rapidly growing baby does.
Hang in there! :) hugs!


I'm really late to the party on this one (just getting caught up on my blogs), but don't stress over this.

My brother and I were (obviously) raised in the same environment. He's always been someone who eats anything. I've always been a very, very picky eater.

My parents didn't make a big deal out of my pickiness (house rule was if I didn't want what my mother served I could make myself a peanut butter sandwich) and today (at 38) I'm still a very picky eater, but I don't have a complex about it. :)

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