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Readers Respond: Strategies and Tips for Coping with Picky Eaters

Responses: 33


Picky eaters can make any parent want to sneak vegetables in kids' food. Do you? Do you have a two-bite rule? Do you make separate meals for your picky eaters or require them to eat their vegetables before getting dessert? Share your best tips and ideas for coping with picky eaters.

Some what disagree with you.

Ms. Stephanie, I some what disagree with you. My son has SPD and so we do not have "food battles" I do enhance our smoothies and home made fruit pop so that my child with get the vitamins and minerals needed to help boost the growth of his brain and body. My husband and myself drink the same smoothies and eat the same fruit pops. I do offer him the same veggies and fruits in solid form. We very if the veggies are stir-fried, steamed or baked. We do not deep fry any thing in our home. We home-school our son, planing our meals, shopping and preparing our meals are part of his education. We are teaching our son every thing in moderation because of diabetes and heart disease. Thank you for your time. Mom of a SPD GAD loveable son, Stacia
—Guest Stacia

Tried It All

I think we have tried nearly every approach for our 6 yr old.Sneaking, not sneaking, encouragement, punishment, eating in the living room as a distraction, etc etc! I am convinced that she will eat when she is hungry. However, she has become anemic from her lack of food intake (it's not just healthy food, it's any food), and has recently started on a prescription vitamin to help her. She is very smart, beautiful, and tall child. Her weight is only in the 50th percentile, but she is built just like my husband;tall and slender! I offer a veggie at every meal, and just try to encourage her the best I can. Recently, she tried some broccoli and cheese, and surprised me when she said, this is really good momma! One small victory, that I was extremely happy for. Thankfully, she will eat whole grain anything, loves most fruit, drinks lots of milk,and is an avid breakfast eater (most of the time)My advice, is to offer the foods, encourage them, and make a HUGE deal of it when they take a bite!
—Guest Erika

Who's the adult?

As a grandma with no children of her own, I remain puzzled why kids get this control. OK - fuddy duddy that I am, I was indeed given a choicer - eat it or not. Period. No substitutes, nothing more. We did NOT fight about it - we got what we got and ate it or starved. No bargains. My mother was a very good cook. By age 7 I was eating broccoli, brussel sprouts - only mushrooms remained off my list, but I could not be rude about it. So why are picky eaters given adult power? The point of parenthood is to teach - and I can't see why we keep giving in. No kid ever starved over having food on the TABLE - choice IS theirs, but it's to eat or not eat, NOT to drive Mom nuts with special demands and catering.

mom of three never had to sneak

I agree with the writer. I have 3 children and one of my children was particularly picky. Making another dinner for her was not an option. I feel that praising any efforts worked. Enjoying vegetables myself, preparing them in the way that we all liked, and giving all of our kids options. Letting the picky eater choose the vegetable portion for the dinner was also helpful and empowering.
—Guest jess

Sneak and still serve

I think what the writer of this article is ignorant to is that BOTH Jessica and Missy advise to sneak veggies and still serve veggies at dinner. How can it hurt to have all of get extra veggies, whole grains, fruits and nuts?
—Guest Dana

Sneaking? I don't think so

As a picky eater myself - even though I am 16 - my parents never had to force me to eat vegetables, but meat. I eat pasta, cheese, chicken, and vegetables but can't stand much else. The "sneaking" tactic won't work. Kids are smart enough to realize when they're being tricked - how about you try different vegetables? Have them drink V8 instead of high sucrose drinks - because we can tell when you "surreptiously" put pureéd vegetables in our food. My parents never forced my brother or I to eat food, as our pediatrician insisted that if were hungry enough well eat it whether we like it or not. This of course means that there should not be alternatives to meals, but kids are resillient and when they realize that their parents won't obey their whims, they'll suck it up and eat.
—Guest Kate

Younger Children

It's very well and good trying to explain to your child the healthyness and benefits of eating fruit and veg, but try doing that with a two and a half year old who's favourite word is 'no!' It seems to me that this article was written aiming at older children. Either that or some kind of extraordinary toddler genuis. I have a two and a half year old and no matter what kind of vegetable and most fruit I offer, he always refuses to eat it. The only way he gets the nutrients he needs to thrive and grow, is if I 'sneak' it into his food. My little boy's pickiness is extreme to the point that he won't eat any kind of potato other than roast or chips, and mash potato is completely out of the question. Even when grating vegetables into his food he often clocks on and refuses to eat what I have made. I've tried roasting carrots and sweet potato in with the regular potato, and he still refuses. My point being that without 'sneaking' in vegetables he would most likely be a very poorly little boy
—Guest Elicia

Veggies + treats = Success

My two-and-a-half-year-old doesn't like vegetables, but she love chocolate, so I use that to get her to eat. If she eats her serving of vegetables at dinner, she gets a Hershey Kiss after. I figure the small amount of chocolate is worth it to get her to eat healthy.
—Guest Gretchen

Like Hell!

If i followed this advice ACS would drag my @$$ to jail for neglect. Maybe this advice has merit with a 13 year old (or maybe not) but with a 4 year old who will eat exactly 16 different foods, if I waited "over the years" for him to learn to like what I eat instead of sneaking, he wouldn't get half the essential nutrients he needs, and thus be malnourished. My son is smart but simply refuses to eat anything he does not want to. He is not to be reasoned with, punished, cajoled or otherwise, into eating if he does not wish it. I will not let him starve nor will i make food an "issue" This advice is irresponsible for the mere fact that it paints every child and situation with the same brush.
—Guest exitbravo

Sneak? YES! Healthy, Smart Kids? YES!

My children are all straight-A in gifted program and top athletes. All but one are tall and the short one is the one I used to let choose foods for himself (he only chose chicken nuggets and skittles). For the rest of my kids, I blended in everything from Kale, ground Flax seeds, salmon, and so on to ensure brain development and balanced nutrition. For desert, I use soy milk and frozen fruit smoothies and they LOVE them and I usually mix in flax seed, wheat germ, spinach in their smoothies as well; I mix up the fruits and vegetables. I make homemade oatmeal cookies with ground up walnuts (since they all say they "hate" nuts), etc. I always use healthier oils such grape seed oil, olive oil, etc. to cook. My kids are now much taller--except the one I used to let pick his own food--than what the doctor estimated they'd be and they are way more intelligent than either their father or me so which I attribute to health eating. This author is way off track with her advice.
—Guest Mother of smart, healthy & tall kids

sneak? you bet.

this is crap. if kids are old enough to be reasoned with, they can SEE what they're eating. if you're dealing with a 2 year old who refuses to eat anything but oatmeal and cheese, you bet your ass i'm pureeing anything and everything else he won't eat. i'm not interested in raising some half witted mouth breather all because he was lacking nutrients as a child.
—Guest sarah

Sticky Situation

I'm not sure what to do. Everyone's input has been valuable to me. My situation is a little different...neither my 2 1/2 year old nor my husband eat veggies. My 2 1/2 year old used to, but has stopped eating them. When we've applied the two bite rule, he sometimes gives in, choking the food down the entire way. On one occasion, I had him eat one green bean. He gagged and threw up some of lunch. Since then I don't press it too hard on him. I'm hoping he'll grow out of it like most kids, but am worried about him taking after his daddy...green beans make him gag too! That been said, I like the idea of sneaking (for both my son and hubby) and taking some baby steps for them to aquiring a taste for veggies.
—Guest aj

A little of both

Fact: every kid is different. What works for one doesn't work for another. My twins are polar opposites so I know this better then anything else! I give them things I want them to eat, things I know they WILL eat AND sneak in a few things I know they won't because "it's green, ewww," or "it's called egg plant? That's wierd! I'm not eating that". It's actually easy. If you're already preparing cauliflower for example. Put a little of it raw with some dip out if your kids are dippers or serve some cooked for them to try but at the same time puree a little and mix it into something else like mashed potatoes or spaghetti sauce. You are already preparing the cauliflower anyway it's only a little extra effort to do both. I do have one rule that works for us. Everyone must make one "healthy choice" per meal and I list the options, always making sure we have something in the house each person likes that is good for them. My kids like being able to choose their own healthy choice.
—Guest susied

Eating is Fun

Its perfectly normal when a kid turns down new foods offered to them or stops eating anything they have happily eaten before. But when eating is made fun ,kids would never feel the parental pressure running down from parents.If we really intend to feed our kids healthy foods we must make a conscious effort .I was frustrated over the eating patterns of my kid until I came to know about a resource which helped me in finding easier way, less strenuous ,to feed the kids a healthy meal and now my kid happily chooses the healthy food among other foods. You can learn more on http://www.habitchanger.com/

sneak i say

When you have a 2 year old that wont touch vegetables you have to get them in anyway u can. I am not going to sit there and fight with her every meal time to eat her veggies. you sneak them in and also offer them at mealtimes. therefore they have the chance to see the veggies and try them but if they dont eat them at least they have had some veggies through the sneaking. which means u dont have to stress as much at meal times
—Guest jessica

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