Fussy eaters. What did/do you do?

Here’s a little conversation that took place one day on Facebook with the names taken off to protect the innocent.

A friend of mine put this:

I need help. What do you do with kids that don’t like what you make for supper? Do you make them something different or do they get nothing else? Very puzzled and sick of everybody complaining. This one likes this and the other doesn’t. I quit, where’s the take out menu!!!

Someone else:

don’t make them something special. I never did. If my kids didn’t like what I made they would have to make their own (and clean it up). yes they ate a few PB sandwiches.. (Peanut butter sandwiches are good for you.) But no junk food b4 bed!!! worked for me.

Someone else:

i still follow the not anything different rule. they’ve gotten better

Someone else:

Here’s the scoop Lori listed above ate everything in sight when she was young and I on the other hand didn’t. My loving mom would always make me something that I did like or when she would make things like hot dish she would put it all together but the hamburger then she would dish me a plate and then add the hamburger to the rest of it. I ate a lot of grilled cheeses when I was young cause I was never a big meat eater. Do what works for you but remember, don’t let them fill up on junk foods. Even a peanut butter sandwich is better than nothing…..

I said this:

Boy, I don’t know. I let my boys make something if they didn’t like supper but I didn’t do it. They are both grown and the oldest one is still fussy. His poor wife. The youngest used to eat almost anything and is still like that. I’m not sure you outgrow that. Just out of curiosity, would you eat something you didn’t like? I hate it when kids won’t try something new but if I know it’s something they “really” don’t like, yes, I let them make spaghettio’s or something.

Someone else:

I have the same problem!! I have tried “tough love”, they don’t eat anything-I hate that!! Tell me the answer if you find it please!!

I will usually let the child have a bowl of cereal but they have to at least try the food first. It’s generally my youngest who doesn’t like anything. My husband gets mad, but you can’t let your kids starve! Especially Kenzie – she hardly eats the way it is. But… I won’t make the cereal for her – she has to do it herself.

I said I’d put it here on the blog and see what you all had to say. Did you make your kids eat or did you let them eat something else if they didn’t like what you made for supper?

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22 Responses to Fussy eaters. What did/do you do?

  1. SKL says:

    As my kids have grown, I have had to swallow a few of my words on this one. My eldest has never been a big eater, but at least she would generally clear a modestly filled plate. Until about 6 months ago. At this point, there are many days when she finds 90% of the food she’s offered objectionable. Sometimes she can force herself to eat part of it; other times she literally gags. She doesn’t generally ask for substitute food or snacks later. She’s almost 3.5 and weighs 27 lbs. (which is not due to weight loss – just short stature and a tendency to be slim).

    So I was brought up on the theory that “they’ll eat when they are hungry.” And this is generally true. My kid tends to be hungry – even ravenous – when she wakes up. So I make sure she gets plenty of bang per bite at breakfast. The rest of the time, I serve very little and tell her she can have more if she asks after clearing her plate. When she really can’t eat what I serve, she is allowed to substitute plain whole-grain bread (which she happens to enjoy). At day care, I keep them stocked with cereal bars and applesauce cups which she likes, for times when she finds lunch completely objectionable.

    I have this big hang-up about wasting food, so I strategize to avoid that. Some people think it’s strange that I serve my skinny kid so little; they think I ought to fill her plate to overflowing, in the hope that she’ll eat it. But she gets overwhelmed if the plate is too full. In fact, she eats best if everything is served buffet style. Of course it’s psychological, but as they say, it is what it is.

    Things seem to be getting a little better. She has started voluntarily eating apple slices, with the peel even. But I think it will be a while before I can feed her the same way as I used to.

    In the mean time, I don’t think it’s causing any real harm. She is quite athletic and has tremendous stamina. She did start losing a little hair when she started daycare (before I stocked them with snacks), so I started her on a daily vitamin, and that was the end of that.

  2. Laura says:

    I’m pretty lucky, as far as this topic goes.

    Josh will eat pretty much anything, but there are a few dishes that Steve and I like that he doesn’t. When those things come up in the menu rotation, I’ll make an alternate dinner for Josh – usually something simple, like chicken nuggets or a hot dog. He still eats the sides that we eat – salad, cooked veggies, etc. Because otherwise, he has a pretty adventurous palate.

    I’ve also found that when I respect his likes and dislikes, he’s much more apt to try new things. For example, he’s a veggie-holic. He LOVES broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, about anything. But he HATES green beans. So I don’t serve green beans. And I let him know that I’m respecting his opinion in this.

    He gets to help with the monthly meal planning, so he knows that if we’re not having his favorite tonight, we will be tomorrow. And I also have him help make the meals, which gives him ownership.

    I agree completely with SKL on the portion thing, and the “more at breakfast, less throughout the day”. Josh is overwhelmed if I give him too much on his plate, and absolutely freaks out if he thinks that I’m not going to save whatever is left over on his plate. So I only give him tiny bits – and he’s 6!! (I tend to plate everyone’s food at the stove b/c our kitchen table is really tiny) He knows that if he wants more, he’s welcome to help himself to seconds, even thirds, but he has to finish all of his firsts, first. And I’ve also noticed that, on some days, he will eat three, four, even five bowls of cereal, and then not be hungry for anything at dinner. So I tend to go with it.

    As I see it, kids need to learn that they have to make their own food choices – the more we make it a battle, the more they, too, will battle. If we work with them – give them a *little* power (“you pick the veggie tonight, honey” or “i’m making the dinner schedule, what would you like me to include?”), they’ll be more willing to venture out of their comfort zone.

    • SKL says:

      My skinny kid also abhors beans – beans of all kinds. So like you, I let her see that I respect that. I still make beans as part of mixed veggies and other dishes, but I make a show of picking all the beans out of her portion and giving them to her sister (who loves beans and almost everything else).

      It’s interesting that God has blessed me with one very picky eater AND one little gourmand. Between balancing their different wants/needs and dealing with well-intentioned, over-indulgent aunties, I sometimes worry that my kids will develop eating disorders when they get older.

    • Joy says:

      I agree with giving kids the appropriate amount for their age. I think a lot of people put to much on kids plates and it’s impossible for them to eat it all. I always let them take their own food and what they took , they had to eat. If they didn’t want to eat, say, green beans, I never made them and I don’t really see a problem with making two of something like that. We were all brought up with the no wasting and I don’t think young people now care about wasting food.

      I also cooked all day on Saturdays and froze my meals so I could just come home from work and it would be almost ready to eat so we would all decide the menu together. One of my most hated things is to decide everyday what to eat.

  3. Laura says:

    I also think that we, as moms in particular, get sucked into the “they’ll starve” mentality.

    Whether we wish to admit it or not, we’re all constantly looking over our shoulder whenever we make a parenting choice that isn’t “PC”. Spank your kid? do it in private where nobody will see you and report you. Use a little tough love, and call your kid’s bluff when she says she will NEVER EVER EAT THAT FOOD EVER IN LIFE??? We worry that she’s going to then go to school the next day and say, “mommy didn’t give me dinner last night.”

    But the thing is… yes, she will eat. No, she will not starve if she misses one meal. Even two. Because the next meal that comes around is likely going to include food that she likes. And if she comes between meals and says, “I’m hungry,” the response will probably be, “there’s an apple and a banana in the bowl on the table. help yourself.”

    I am willing to bet that *most* of the food battles exist because we allow them to. It always amazes me that we, as adults, defer to one another’s preferences… don’t like pepperoni on your pizza? Fine, we’ll order half without. Don’t like corn? That’s fine, I’ll heat some peas for you.

    But when it comes to our children, we don’t want to give them that choice, because we can’t “let them win”. I completely understand that, with a family larger than mine (2 parents, 1 kid), it can get dicey when you’re trying to juggle different palates. But the answer, to me, seems obvious. Leave out the allergens – obviously, you’re not going to make your kid eat something that makes them sick – and then make dinner. If there’s something that your child doesn’t like at this meal, let her skip that one dish, but she has to eat everything else. It’ll all balance out in the end.

    (I once read a book called “Momfidence: An oreo cookie never killed anybody and other secrets of happy parenting,” where the author related the story of a kid who was in something like middle school, and refused to eat anything but Tyson’s Chicken Nuggets, and another who only ate PBJ at every meal. They both survived to be happy, healthy adults. Give them vitamins… they’ll survive)

    • Joy says:

      I agree with you Laura about people “having to win.” What in the world is wrong with asking them what they’d like to eat sometimes?

  4. Mabs says:

    I was always of the mind to “do the best you can” with what’s on your plate. If my kids pulled the “I’m not hungry” card at the dinner table, I’d just remind them not to come looking for desert in 10 minutes because if they didn’t eat their dinner, they wouldn’t get desert. If they got hungry later, they could eat something healthy.

    I tried to make things that they liked. I often found myself making something that the hubs and I loved, but knew the kids weren’t that fond of- so I’d make something else for them. I didn’t mind. I was a stay-at-home mom and looked at it as my job.

    When my daughter decided to be a vegetarian at 10 years old, then it became harder. My kids are not that picky though. Probably because I didn’t force feed them. Who would want something shoved down their throats that they didn’t actually like?

    Just my own personal experience.

    • Joy says:

      I can’t see force feeding either Mabs. I think it’s mean. I did like them to try new things but I never made them eat something I knew they didn’t like.

  5. Just a Mom says:

    When I grew up my dad made us eat what was on the table no matter what. We were not allowed to get up until our plates were clean. I spent many nights sitting at the table with a plate that had spinach or squash on it.
    I swore I would never make my kids eat stuff they did not like. Yes they have to try a bit of it but that is it. My youngest daughter does not like burger. If I make spaghetti I either make meatballs or add the burger after I have dished out her plate. If we have hamburgers I make her some fishsticks. My oldest daughter does not like chicken drumsticks or thighs so again if I have that I make her some nuggets. To me it is no big deal to add something to the oven especially if I am already using it. I have bigger battles to fight then what’s for dinner!

    • SKL says:

      I agree with taking everyone’s tastes into account when planning a meal. Only problem with that is, what was eaten contentedly last week/month becomes provision-non-grata the next. It is twice as aggravating when I’ve planned a meal she normally likes and she still turns up her nose after the first few bites. Ugh!

      • Laura says:

        SKL, your daughters are three, right? Trust me on this one…. it’s a phase. And I know how frustrating that phrase is, “it’s a phase”. Because when you’re in the middle of it, it feels like it’s going to be forever.

        But I know that when he was three, Josh would love something one week, and the next he’d hate it, and vice versa. I did notice, however, that there were always constants – fruit, for example. He’s always loved fruit. so I made sure to have fruit at every meal, which gave me a nutritious way to get him to eat something while allowing him his likes and dislikes for the week.

        Eventually, he gave up on the flip-flopping, and settled into just a few dislikes, and has moved on to other, more frustrating phases. The fun never ends!

      • SKL says:

        Wouldn’t you know it, my daughter has now decided she can’t eat corn, of all things. One of the few things I could always count on her to eat. Why? Because it has “seeds” in it. The seeds are gross and the skin is gross and I belong in Mommy Hell for insisting that any of it go into her mouth. Ugh!

    • Joy says:

      When we were young we had to eat what we took but we didn’t have to take anything we didn’t want. That’s pretty much what I did with my boys too. Jason ate an awful lot of Toni’s pizza’s and spaghettio’s. I just couldn’t make him eat something that he didn’t like. I wouldn’t eat something I didn’t want to so I just never made them either.

  6. mssc54 says:

    One of my daughter’s Facebook friends asked the same question just a couple of days ago. I have cut and pasted my wise response to her.

    Awww that is so cute. As you know I have many, many DECADES of daddy experience. So…

    Here’s what you do. Each time she won’t eat take the $$$ that you saved on her “fasting” and put it in a glass jar (use coins it has a much bigger impact on the little ones). Tell her, “Lookie at all the money you saved mommy and daddy by not eating. I’ll tell you what we’ll do sweety. If you keep not eating, I’ll keep putting money in this jar (jiggle the change for a greater affect) and one day mommy will take you and this jar (jiggle, jiggle again) down to Wal-Mart and we’ll buy you a brand new (insert her current favorite toy here).

    If you can train her to eat minimally now just think of the savings you will realize over the next seventeen or eighteen years!…

    • SKL says:

      Hmm, I could see this working – tell them Mom wants them to fast – that will motivate them to eat. Seriously. Only problem is how it will sound when they blab to outsiders . . . .

  7. SKL says:

    For the record, I (at 43) still believe in clearing my plate. Unless someone has obnoxiously piled my plate up with stuff I clearly did not want, I will really try to clear the plate or save the food and eat it the next day. That is how I was raised and it is a moral issue to me. Despite all the warnings we hear nowadays, I have never had an eating disorder nor a weight problem. So I don’t think it’s hypocritical for me to expect my kids to try to clear their plates, provided I show some respect for their preferences and limitations. It isn’t always going to happen, but it’s the ideal around here.

  8. Gary says:

    If I make something they have tried and I know they don’t like it then we let them have something else. That something else however is made by them. We have a VERY picky eater in our house but allow him to eat something else as long as he has tried it before OR if it’s something new that he tries it to see if he likes it.

  9. Sue says:

    Growing up, we had to at least try something, but they preferred we clean our plate and if we didn’t like what was for dinner, tough. Eat it or get nothing. We didn’t waste food and my mom saved the leftovers and we actually ate them for another meal. There were many a times I remember my sister sitting at the supper table LONG after we were done because she wouldn’t eat it, not even one bite! My husband and I see completely different on this issue so I’m going to just bite my tongue 🙂

  10. joz1234 says:

    I have two boys 5 & 2. They eat on opposite ends of the spectrum. One eats fruit and the other eats bread. It is almost impossible for me to find a dish that both of them will eat (and we will eat).

    Generally I put whatever I made for dinner on their plates and dress the plate with healthy side items I know they will eat. Sometimes my 2 year old only eats fruit for dinner, but he wakes up and has a huge breakfast and is not hungry through the night. Typically I will do bananas, apples, carrots, fruit cups, etc… to add to the plates. My 5 year old will at least try most dishes, whereas my 2 year old still refuses to try some stuff.

    It’s really hit or miss, and sometimes it is frustrating.

    If I make something that they will both not eat for sure (after lots of tries at putting it on their plate), I will cook them something different (like fish sticks, grilled cheese, etc) or they can have a peanut butter sandwich.

    I hope they grow out of it, but for now this is all I expect.

  11. Tessa says:

    Ben has been picky at one and a half years old, it gets frustrating at times, but I find supernanny’s advice helpful. I’ll have him help pick out foods grocery shopping when he is older, just show him cooking and preparing food is fun, this way he’ll be interested in eating different foods-and I cook a variety (Mexican, Italian, American). Also, if he does not want to eat then fine! He’ll know he can wait until next mealtime. Like Supernanny says, he is not going to starve! I think kids become picky eaters when parents give in and allow them to eat what they want or give them the same foods over and over. I had a friend giving her one year old hotdogs, chips, and pizza constantly…I see allergies and a picky eater in store. 😦

  12. Ever since I was about two years old, I’ve been an extremely fussy eater… The thing is, my parents tried – honestly tried – to get me to eat healthier things like fruits and vegetables, but I would gag and simply couldn’t it them. I discovered new foods that I liked on my own as I got older, but my parents always made me something I liked to eat.

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