Saturday, April 2, 2011

Feeding A Picky Eater

Do you have a picky eater in your home?  I do.  I am definitely not an expert on the matter, but I have a few thoughts to share.  The picky eater in my home shall remain unnamed (but she's 3 and has curly hair and her name starts with Ju- and ends in -lia).  We have struggled tremendously with her eating habits and have tried many different approaches.  I understand what an issue it can be.  Here is some of what has worked for us:

- Do not allow junk.  Junk food simply isn't an option.  I do not buy food that I do not want my kids to eat, and even sweets are very limited.  Peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, oatmeal, or scrambled eggs are all things that Julia eats well and that we rotate between.

- Get sneaky.  Deceptively Delicious gave me some good ideas for hiding veggies in foods that we already eat.  I keep ice cubes of pureed carrots in my freezer and add several of them to macaroni, spaghetti, and anything else I can think of.  (Annie's whole wheat macaroni can hide 3 cubes and you'd never know.)  For a child who otherwise hates vegetables, getting little bits of them into her over time is better than nothing.  Also, I figure it might help her taste-buds adjust.

- Serve Smoothies.  Julia loves to help me make smoothies and thinks they are a great treat.  I use kefir, frozen fruit, banana, frozen pureed carrots, and lots of spinach.  (Putting the smoothie in a colored cup helps to hide the brownish color the smoothies turn out sometimes.)  I do not lie about what is in the smoothies, but I do try to sneak ingredients in and just not mention them.  At this point though, Julia knows I add spinach and even told me "This is how you get me to eat spinach mom, because I don't like it plain."

- Make foods as healthy as possible.  Julia likes peanut butter sandwiches, so I buy organic whole wheat no-junk-added bread, and organic peanut butter.  She will eat scrambled eggs, so when we can we purchase free range organic eggs.  Popsicles are made at home from fruit juice, and so on.  Since her diet is so limited, I want what she does eat to be as nutrient packed and healthy as possible.

- Keep trying.  Although we do not force Julia to eat, I do put little bits of things on her plate in hopes that she might decide to try something new.  We refer to foods that she "hasn't tried yet" or "might like when she is older" rather than saying that she hates certain foods.

- Make it fun.  Not every meal around here is a party, but I have had some success with making food fun.  Serving a muffin tin meal or having Julia involved in choosing and cooking meals does help.  Our fruit seed counting resulted in Julia trying and liking pomegranate and avocado!  (Yes, I was shocked.)

- Have a game plan.  It really helps to have a plan in mind ahead of time.  Julia is even more frustrated and worried when I am inconsistent, forcing her to eat a bite some nights and other nights not.  Right now our plan is that we serve dinner and Julia decides if she wants to eat or not.  If she chooses not to eat, she has to wait until we are done eating and ready to make her a sandwich or other option of my choosing.  This gives her a chance to try dinner and keeps me from having to cook too many things at once.  Like I said, we've tried many different approaches including letting her go hungry.  That resulted in blood sugar drops and bedtime battles of extreme proportions.  We may change our tactics from time to time, but we try to be clear with Julia so that she knows what to expect.

- Make a list.  It helps me to have a list of foods that Julia likes.  I glance at the list when I am meal planning and try to include a couple of dinners each week that she will eat.  Writing out all of the foods that she likes also helps when I am wondering for the hundredth time: "What on earth do I feed this child?"

-Resort to bribery.  I recently made a chart for Julia.  She gets a sticker for each new food that she tries and eats well.  After 5 stickers, she can pick a prize from my stash of stickers, coloring books, etc.  So far she got one prize and then hasn't really been motivated to keep working for another.  I write under each sticker what the food she tried was and she does enjoy telling Grandma about the new foods that she likes.  We'll see how far this gets us.  We also occasionally offer dessert to little girls who do a good job eating their dinners.

- Meal time is not a battle.  This is a big one.  For a long time we struggled with meals, her refusing foods and me going through the range of emotions: frustrated, worried, mad, and so on.  Using the tactics on this list has helped me to relax.  I try to let Julia make her choices and then be calm and stick to my plan.

Do you a have great tip for feeding a picky eater?  Please leave a comment and share.  Thanks for stopping by.  (Shared with Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.)


  1. Thank you for sharing your ideas! I also have a Julia that is a picky eater, mostly with vegetables. She is 17 months old and she still eats baby food vegetables because she doesn't care for the textures of the regular veggies. At this point I am thankful that she will eat veggies at all. I never went through anything this strong with my boys so I appreciate any ideas! It sounds like you have found a balance with your Julia. Great job!

  2. pomegranate and avocado... she just has expensive taste!

  3. I don't have a picky eater, but I was very impressed by how thorough you are with your ideas! I have a few friends I'll be passing this along to, and I hope I remember to come back and re-read this if our next baby needs me to! :)

  4. No ideas,,,except I did buy the two books you mentioned...deceptively delicious and that is a way I can add veggies. There are only three things my two year old will eat: oatmeal with brown sugar, mac and cheese, pasta with butter, oh and peanut butter and honey, and of course nutella. That is it, really that is all!!! I am scared, scared, scared,don't even want to know how many nutrients his little body is missing!! I loved your ideas.

  5. Hey Christy! Thanks for sharing this. :) I added the link... wanna link back? :)

    Hope your week is blessed! :)


  6. Oh wow! I LOVE this post. Our 3 yr old is a picky eater too. We recently started adding purees to our foods too... not just because of her but because we all could use some extra veggies. Our 'secret' is to add these to the food and tell them about it. Like if we are eating D&D ice-cream I will tell them all it's colored with spinach! (use really excited voice) Then they get excited about eating these 'hidden' foods!