For a long time I was proud of what LB ate. We had a large portion of garden burgers, tofu, peas, green beans, mango, grapefruit, plain yogurt. She had a “treat” of organic whole wheat crackers and milk at Starbucks and never ever had a muffin or other processed sugar-laden baked goods. We held on to the theory that she’s so pure starting out, she wouldn’t know what she’s missing and we wanted to give her the best chance at being healthy and not the junk-food-craving Americans that we were. That was the theory, that is, until I got pregnant and we moved and we started eating muffins on a regular basis. Now she wakes up from nap saying, “Starbucks, Mommy? Mommy get coffee? LB get muffin?” and, well, it’s such a good idea I say yes.
Unwittingly, I’ve completely corrupted her taste buds. She knows the goodness that is The Scone (queue the chorus of Angels). She’s had a bite of mommy’s ice cream, she demands crackers and cheese and refuses most anything green or green tinted.
My big fat mouth up and bit me in the ass again.
I found out recently, by a complete fluke, that most of my behavior problems (read: tantrums mixed with screaming and hitting) in the afternoon comes from a very hungry child. Internet, I’m starving my kid. It’s a battle of wills, actually. I place food in front of her, good food, and I say, “You can eat your cottage cheese and grapefruit with cheerios or nothing at all.” She’ll eat three cheerios and then choose the “nothing at all” portion. Which is fine with me. Really.
Next I’ll give her a snack with oranges and yogurt. This usually goes well, but lunch will not, and she will heartily refuse whatever it is, and I’ll march her up for a nap with nothing more than two bites of some meatless patty or piece of bread.
Then it gets hard. She is so hungry she wakes up screaming. She’ll cry and refuse all food, even things I know she likes. She’ll go in to convulsions, which I assume are a product of the terrible twos but now am re-thinking my previously labeled “devil child” for Mary-Kate of the Olson twins. Sorry, LB, my bad.
Monday she had a good day at preschool and I got a report that she ate her entire lunch. In fact, they tell me, she ate her whole snack, plus some, and her whole lunch, plus some. I brought home a child who asked for a snack before nap. I happily gave her the uneaten breakfast from that morning and watched her polish off the french toast and peaches.
She hasn’t been that happy in a long long time.
I’ve been keeping her fed the past two days and notice a remarkable difference in her temperament. I’m not being quite as stubborn with the food but giving her “kid friendly” things like noodles with sauce, mac and cheese, peas, and yogurt with apple sauce. The only problem I have with this is my own attitude that I did not want her to eat KID FOOD. I wanted her to eat what we eat. Salmon with Lemon and Butter, Asparagus and Sweet potatoes. Garden Burgers. Tofu. You know, “grown up food”.
So what do I do?
How do I solve the “you eat what we eat” problem when she’ll watch us have green beans and turkey meatloaf but still turn up her nose? How do I get her to actually eat, for the love of god, because she’s just so much easier when she’s fed? What. Do. I. Do?
Peanut butter and jelly is my friend.
I make a lot a lot a lot of these. A lot.
No, it’s not what we’re eating. But frankly, I’d rather have peace at the table than kicking and screaming. I use whole grain bread, natural or organic pb, and low sugar jam, so it’s not junk food. I microwave baby carrots, cut up an apple, and call it a meal.
By Marie on 2007 01 17
Hey it’s a good day at my house if I don’t give into J when she says she wants a brownie for breakfast
By brandi on 2007 01 17
I know toddlers not eating things or only eating certain things is pretty common - part of their exerting control over their environment. I serve my daughter what we’re eating and encourage her to try things, but often it’s far from a balanced meal. She usually has either a well-eaten lunch or dinner, but rarely both.
Tried and true - Dino Nuggets from Costco!
By AmyM on 2007 01 17
I think it really helps when kids get to be involved in the process. That is to say, letting them measure the water for their mac n cheese, or even cutting the tofu with a plastic knife, helps them ease into eating it rather than have it magically shoved in front of them with a “Here, eat!”
Another thing you could do is simply start telling here she’s “not allowed” to have the “grown up food” until she starts begging for it. LOL!
By laura on 2007 01 17
We are having the same problem here too. Red used to be down for anything on mommy’s plate. Now she will only eat mac-n-cheese or soup. I keep trying to mix things in like peas in the mac-n-cheese. And green beans in the soup. Some times it works, some times it gets thrown across the room. I end up looking at it like this, if she eats she sleeps through the night. If she doesn’t I get woken up for “Ilk” and “Nacks” (milk and snacks) in the middle of the night. Mama needs her sleep so as for right now I feed her what she will eat. I just hope I can get her back into tofu and garden burgers later on.
Good luck keeping up the good fight. If you come up with anything that works I would love to hear about it.
By Emily on 2007 01 17
My 3yo’s into cooking. I get him to eat applesauce, peaches and pears (if he’s being super slow) by ‘spicing’ them with cinnamon. He *loves* this. And really, I don’t care, it’s cinnamon. Is LB into kitchen stuff much yet? He also stirs noodles and such when I’m cooking, or ‘helps’ me slice cheese by snagging the odd shaped pieces, etc.
As for macaroni and cheese - get the Annie’s stuff. You can actually get it from Amazon. I eat it for lunch. So does dh if the kid and I don’t polish it off. It doesn’t have the weird preservatives and odd aftertaste that things like Kraft have.
Dip is also a big thing. If he’s waffling with his meatloaf, we’ll put a big squirt of ketchup on his plate to dip it in. (I don’t know about you, but I had a few years when I was young that everything had to have ketchup of bbq sauce on it - even spinach.) Same with carrots - he gets homemade ranch. With steamed vegetables we put a little salt in our palm, and let him ‘spice’ it. Cracks us up, but then he happily devours it all and asks for more.
And fwiw, I refuse to eat green beans unless they come from a garden of someone I know (like me or my grandma when she was alive). Commercially processed or frozen green beans are awful - at least to our family. For years after Grandma died I didn’t like any green beans until we grew some in our garden.
But then again, I’m the gal who made grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup from a can and sliced (canned) peaches for lunch. We’re not exactly living the exotic foodie lifestyle.
By Lanna on 2007 01 17
Girl, I have a picky eater too… all I can tell you is what has worked for us…
1) I still feed Ben baby food veggies. As a rule, he won’t touch a non-pureed veggie, he can even FIND them when they are buried in a casserole or something.
2) I hide veggies in things like pizza, spaghetti sauce and muffins.
3) He loves fruit. LOVES it. So I take advantage of that and offer it with just about every meal. Apples, mandarin oranges, clementines, bananas rolled in graham cracker crumbs. He also likes fruit smoothies, so I get the good stuff in that way too. (wheat germ!!)
4) Pediasure snacks. He LOVES the Pediasure chocolate milk and granola bars. I always have one on me. In a pinch, they make a halfway decent lunch, and he thinks they are a treat.
5) I cut out chocolate soymilk. He was getting it several times a day, but I discovered it was filling him up and he’d NEVER eat dinner and rarely a good lunch.
6) I noticed breakfast is his best eating time of the day, so I’ll cram a lot of good food in then.
7) I am not above bribing him to take more bites of good stuff by offering him treats he likes like potato chips and his most recent discovery, Baked Cheetoes.
8) Flinstone vitamins.
9) We have one standby meal that I KNOW he’ll eat even when he has woken up late from a nap and doesn’t want anything to do with food… Instant oatmeal. I at least feel like he’s going to bed on a full stomach when he eats that.
He only very ocassionally eats what we eat for dinner. I think that’s a lot to ask of a child his age, especially one who is naturally picky. I usually start by offering him what we are having and then move on to an old standby I know he’ll eat. Gradually, he HAS finally started to eat more of what we eat… but it has taken a long time.
Hope that helps! You just do what works, you know? There isn’t a wrong way to go about it… and as long as your child is healthy and thriving, you’re doing a good job.
By Erin on 2007 01 17
I think we all start out with the same intentions, and then we all cave. All parents are willing to pay a pretty high price for peace and quiet.
If it helps with the guilt, just know that no matter how strict you are with your food choices for them, eventually they will go to school and spend their lunch money on nothing but cookies and chocolate milk.
By Friglet on 2007 01 17
Pretty much I serve them stuff I know they will eat with stuff I HOPE they will eat. I’m not above bribing them, either. IE, if you eat those carrots you can have that piece of chocolate dipped granola bar. They eat quite a few peanut butter and honey sandwiches, but I supplement that with fresh veggies and/or fruit.
Also we give them one of those gummy vitamins every morning. (which are so good I have one, too!)
Especially recently we have made an effort to have healthier stuff/ ingredients. Like getting the multi-grain wheat thins instead of regular, or more Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal instead of more Cinnamon Toast Crunch, etc.
I heard about a study that shows that families with kids don’t eat as healthy as families without kids, but that only makes sense! (They were surprised.) You pretty much cook what your kids will eat, otherwise you’ll turn into a full-time chef.
By Holly on 2007 01 17
I worked for a pediatrician for 12 years. We’d get calls like this all of the time. Now, his theory was to make them whatever they liked. If they wanted mac and cheese everyday let them have it. Toddlers are finicky eaters so why not feed them what they like. And that all meals should not be crying or screaming matches to get them to eat. But, he did think that you should limit the sweet snacks. And during dinner, offer a spoonful of peas, or green beans or broccoli or whatever.
I think a lot of parents are more lenient today about what their kids eat becase they want mealtime to be a happy time. Now, I’m sure that some people wouldn’t agree with this, but you know, you have to do what you feel comfortable with. Good luck sweetie!
By Brenda on 2007 01 17
Don’t have kids, so don’t know if I am “qualified” to answer - but my 3 1/2 year old nephew will eat anything - dipped in ranch dressing. His whole family eats a lot at my folks house and mom always has a bottle of light ranch there. Chicken, veggies, wheat rolls, everything gets dipped in ranch. And if he doesn’t eat a whole lot, he doesn’t eat a whole lot. And he LOVES an ice cream cone with low fat frozen yogurt. He doesn’t know it’s not “real” ice cream.
And you know what - I’m a picky eater myself. And I am doing okay… My mom says I haven’t changed since I was a toddler.
By Margaret on 2007 01 17
I have an almost ds-5 and dd-3. We do occasionally have battle of the wills, but I ALWAYS explain WHY we eat certain foods- what is in them and how they help our bodies. I also don’t offer junk- it isn’t in our house except for special treats. I let the kids pick breakfast and lunch within reason and then dinner is my choice. I try to have something that they will like to a degree, but it is always “adult food” and quite frankly- I am not a restaurant and won’t fix more than 1 meal… they are required to eat a little portion of everything and then they can have more of whatever they want that is for dinner. I keep bringing out the same foods over and over. They may not like it today or tomorrow but next week I will get, “Mom can you make this again!” Dip of any kind can help and choice of presentation. We will eat whole wheat pasta with veggies on top and my ds will ask for his veggies and pasta seperately- fine as long as he eats both. Knowing that the pasta is his preferred food, I give him his veggies first and then he happily eats them so he can have his pasta. Veggie soups get pureed- they go down better and are easier to eat anyway. My kids scarf salmon with lemon and garden burgers. DD likes sweet potatoes ok, ds and dh don’t so we don’t have them very often as I am the only one who would eat them. They also beg for broccoli with baked potatoes (including the skin because they know that the skin is the vitamin part) and “cheese sauce with no milk” (uncheese sauce because we are dairy free due to allergies). Lest you think I am a mean mommy, we have whole wheat blueberry pancakes every saturday, oatmeal with coconut milk and raisins and blueberries, apple crisp, almond milk pudding, “ice cream with no milk” aka soy dream or rice dream on occasion, etc. Although toddlerhood/preschoolhood is a picky time, if you keep presenting the foods you want them to eat, they will eat and learn to like them. They will crave good food. My ds’s favorite food in all the world is hummus with “cado” (avocado) on whole wheat pita bread or garlic naan. He has been known to see what I am making for dinner, decide he doesn’t want it and make hummus himself before I even know what he is doing!
BTW, my kids have had muffins, cakes, cookies, real ice cream etc. When we go to a restaurant, they usually order something off the kids menu etc but they also have a taste for real food. Keep offering it and in time it will be eaten and enjoyed. If there isn’t a choice of something “better” like sugar cereal tomorrow morning, they will eat tonight and then like it!
By Marisa on 2007 01 17
I say always offer at least one thing you know she’ll eat - like carrots or whatever. Then tell her nothing else unless she at least takes a bite of the “new” foods. Liam likes all different kinds of foods - I’m blessed but there is no way in hell he’ll eat asparagus or spinach - hell I only started liking those things in the past ten years. But he also loves fruit and will eat the hell out of a banana or apple. But he’s still a kid and I’m giving him ice cream and golfish and homemade cookies cause really - that’s who this stuff was made for. I also agree with not making food a battle - I don’t want him at a friends pigging out on ccokies and candy because he’s never gets anything sweet at home. I don’t want to set him up to have an unhealthy relationship with food by making it the enemy or a source of big conflict. I save the conflict for “no play-doh on the rug” and “no running with your mouth full.”
By Susie on 2007 01 17
My son used to eat anything and everything…his favorite being green peppers straight from the garden. And now…now the only veggie he will eat is corn. However, he as he gets older he tries new things and just tonight I made him try mashed potatoes and he decided he likes them. So, what I’m saying, in a very long way, is I always gave Elijah the “kid” food. And now, slowly but surely, he is starting to eat the grown up food as he grows up.
By Karly on 2007 01 17
When you figure that out, please let me know!
The boys got so used to eating out so much that they think that everytime we eat at home they all can have something different. Not anymore! They are getting better with it but there are still things that we make them seperate when we KNOW that they won’t eat it. It’s much easier that way (because a 10 yr old boy who cries with real tears for over a hour is a pain in the ass).
By Nicole on 2007 01 17
My boys are 8 & 4, and quickly leaving the really picky years behind. I never planned it, but I basically gave them combinations of things I knew they’d eat and what we were eating. Just the other night, I convinced my 8 yr old to have a raw red pepper…and now I have to fight him for them. Fruit & vegetables are viewed as snacks by them, which I love.
Eventually kids figure out they have to eat what you’re offering and that’s it. You just have to keep at it.
By Refinnej on 2007 01 17
um yeah, good uck with that. I started out with the girls, both of them, trying to get them to enjoy all the foods that shan and i eat. salad is still not in their bellies ever. at least they eat almost every fruit available tho. the thing is, i think you have to kind of dumb-down food prep for them. they don’t want anything complex, and the closer you can get it to resemble fast-food (yeah, right!), the better. when our girls don’t eat supper, they are set down from the table while we finish. a few hours later as they become hungry, shan’s solution is to let them have whole grain cereal with soymilk. it works for us.
By texasbelle on 2007 01 18
Wow… could have written this post myself. I want her to eat “real food” and not pick up my cookies-for-breakfast habits, but man, it’s hard to practice what I preach! And when I’m eating leftover cake and nothing else for dinner, it’s really hard to say, “No you can’t have it, this is mommy food” without expecting her to rename me Hypocrite Mommy. What I have noticed, is that my daughter’s refusals of certain things tend to go in waves. Suddenly green beans are unacceptable when yesterday they were God’s gift to vegetables and today the only foods consumed are yogurt, bananas and fruit snacks (100% of your daily vitamin C requirement!). I can’t help but think somewhere in the back of my head that her body might be craving something it needs. So I’m slowly learning to take these moments in stride because 9 times out of 10, the refusal of green beans will go away after a few weeks and there’ll be a wholly new food she won’t eat. If she’s happy only sucking the cheese sauce off the mac and cheese and her behavior is better, than I shove a vitamin in her and hope the trend will change soon. It’s not worth the inevitable fight, right? Now eat your dinner!
By NG on 2007 01 18
I JUST posted about this very thing in a round about way this morning.
If you figure it out, let me know.
Right now we do Disney Princess vitamins daily. Caitlin weighs nearly 40 pounds at 4 1/2 and is rarely sick so her pediatrician isn’t too concerned about her picky eating habits. But it can be INCREDIBLY frustrating!
By Jamie on 2007 01 18
I always give my 3 1/2 year old daughter a couple of different choices that I’m okay with her having. That way, she feels like she has some control over what she eats or doesn’t and there’s no arguing about it. And at supper I always make her take at least one bite of something that we are eating. She also eats plenty of fruit or yogurt for snacks, so at least not filling up on junk in between meals. There are days when it seems like she eats hardly anything at all, but her doc said that as long as she’s active and seems fine, not to worry.
Oh, and those gummy vitamins are the bomb! She LOVES them and I feel better knowing that she’s getting the vitamins she needs.
By Ali on 2007 01 18