View Full Version : How to help an extremely picky eater?
04-19-2010, 01:10 PM
My almost 3 yo DS is an extremely picky and nonadventurous eater. He eats 5-6 things: chix nuggests, maybe pizza, hotdogs, fruit, french toast, applesauce. No vegetables. And drinks rice milk instead of cow's milk because of mild allergy. I'm embarrassed to say that I have no idea how to improve his diet. It really worries me and I'm looking for ideas on how to get him to eat better and new foods to try. Thank you so much!!
04-19-2010, 02:29 PM
Great thread; I hope to see some ideas too!
DD is a super-picky eater. Her diet primarily consists of three things: mini-chicken "sliders" (homemade), couscous and milk. Here's the trick that sometimes works for me; we call it the "white sauce." I steam cauliflower until CRISP-tender (not mushy, and not smelly), then put it in the blender together with some goat milk and goat cream cheese (DD has a milk allergy too - you can use rice or soy equivalents), then pulverize it, so it's a frothy white substance, with no vegetable chunks or telltale smell. Occasionally, I put in a tiny bit of other (non-white) vegetables, but the milk and the cheese mask them well. I often use frozen veggies for that, by the way, and just microwave them instead of steaming - takes me all of 30 seconds. It works as a pasta sauce (of course, DD doesn't really like pasta), or she'll eat this by the spoonful, if she's in a good mood, or dunk things in it (like those chicken patties) and pretend they're drowning and she's saving them. I know it's pathetic.
Because I make those chicken sliders at home and grind my own meat, I add as many veggies as possible to my meat grinder - onions, carrots, celery, but you have to be careful - if she seems something suspiciously orange in her meat, she won't eat it. I once added cooked mashed-up beans, but she did not like those.
She used to eat veggies in her soup, but doesn't anymore.
04-19-2010, 02:34 PM
How is his weight/growth? If his doctor says it's OK, then less to worry about, it's totally developmentally normal for kids that age to be picky eaters. It's called "neophobia"--fear of new foods.
Here are some tips to try that can help. One is to keep offering new foods even if they are initially refused. It can take ten or more exposures for a child to accept a new food so don't give up. But keep things low pressure, because if you insist they eat it/finish it they'll automatically refuse. Just put the new food on their plate along with their usual favorites and either don't say anything, or you can say something like, "Taste it and see if you like it, if you don't you can put it back." My daughter is often more willing to try something new if I tell her she can just lick it instead of taking a bite or if I tell her she can spit it out if she doesn't like it. Don't worry if he doesn't taste it...just picking it up or looking at it increases familiarity with the new food.
Another concept to try is food chaining. Give them something that is something they like, but with a slight twist. It may take a while but once they accept the change, keep pushing their taste buds a little further. If they like cheese pizza, try sausage pizza. Then you can move on to spinach and mushroom pizza. If they like fries, try sweet potato fries, then mashed potatoes. If they like chicken nuggets, try fish nuggets, then pieces of salmon.
Or give them new things to dip their food in, like mayo or sweet & sour sauce in addition to ketchup. Or cheese sauce for veggies. Dipping also works well for introducing new fruits & vegetables...give yogurt to dip fruit in or ranch dressing for veggies. Crudites are great toddler appetizers to offer while you are trying to get dinner ready. Some veggies that my daughter will eat are: grape tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, edamame (she likes to pop them out of the shell), corn on the cob, green beans. Some fruits she likes: banana, avocado, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, those mini Cutie oranges, cantaloupe, pineapple.
There's a book called Deceptively Delicious that talks about hiding vegetables in other food, but I never tried that because 1)I don't believe in the concept of hiding food...I'd rather they learn to like foods for what they are and 2)I never have time to cook!
Another thing that works is making the food into funny faces on their plate (like olive slices for eyes, broccoli for ears, grape tomatoes for a nose and red bell pepper strip for a mouth) or using cookie cutters to cut pancakes/sandwiches into fun shapes. Also serving food in divided dishes or bento type boxes makes it more fun and appealing for them. Here are a couple that we use:
Skip Hop Palette Plate:
Don't worry/stress too much. They usually grow out of being picky. (I was very picky when I was younger--the only vegetable I liked was corn and I claimed I was allergic to broccoli!) As tough as it is, try to be relaxed about his food choices. You can control what you serve him, but you can't control what or how much he eats. If it becomes a power struggle, his pickiness will become much more entrenched. Finally, don't give up on offering a variety of foods, and don't prejudge what you think he will eat based on what you like/don't like or what he has eaten in the past. If he ever asks to try something, go ahead and let him and don't say "Oh you probably won't like this". He might surprise you!
Good luck and hope this helps!
04-19-2010, 07:16 PM
^^ good stuff!
see if you can check one of ellyn satter's books 'how to get your kid to eat - but not too much' or 'feeding with love and good sense' out of the library or get from amazon. the basic ideas have a lot in common with goldenpig's suggestions. main theme - you decide when & what to serve, kids decide whether and how much to eat. have *something* every meal that you know they like even if its white loaf bread, and *totally no pressure* to try things. she's also big on pretty planned times for meals and set snack times, too.
good luck! it takes some steely resolve to not give in, but unless they have serious problems you'd very likely have known about by now, children won't decide to go hungry for more than a meal.
04-19-2010, 08:41 PM
I think you've gotten great suggestions, but I just wanted to encourage you by saying that it is often just a phase.
DD#1 used to eat anything...then she got really picky. Chicken nuggets, cheese, applesauce, deli turkey, olives and mandarin oranges pretty much made up her diet.
She is now 5.5 and has slowly started adding more and more things to her food selections. She would never eat hamburger in any form (though she did occasionally have it in lasagna/spaghetti sauce!) but we kept just offering a hamburger as an option instead of chicken nuggets...and lo and behold one day she said she wanted a cheeseburger just out of the blue...and she scarfed the whole thing down and has eaten them ever since.
School is also kind of a good influence in this area because she has seen other kids her age eating a wide variety of foods and she's just curious enough to give them another try now.
Just keep offering from time to time and you might be surprised.
DS is 5.5 and has always been super picky. He has issues with textures and smells. He eats the following:
sometimes chix nuggets
occasionally potato chips
He will not eat chicken (unless a nugget), beef (unless a burger), fish of any kind, or anything vegetarian.
What I do is make sure each day he gets a variety of the foods he likes to eat. The ped isn't worried about his weight (he is on the same curve he has been on since birth). I'm hoping as he matures he begins to try new things. Occasionally I can get him to taste something, but not often.
04-20-2010, 08:22 AM
have *something* every meal that you know they like even if its white loaf bread
This is my problem with Satter. I just refuse to do this. My kid is the one that would choose to only eat bread if given that choice. There are fruits and veggies that she will eat if offered, so I continue to offer her those things because I don't want her to choose to only consume carbs.
OP, if your child will really only eat 5-6 things, that is a bit of an issue. I would make a list of everything that they will eat. Everything. If it's only those 5-6 things, then I would ask your ped for a consult with a nurtritionist. If it's really a longer list and those are only the things he "loves" then that's different. I would continue to offer new foods in a non-pressuring way and he may surprise you.
If it becomes a power struggle, his pickiness will become much more entrenched.
This is very much my experience. When I let it go and am more relaxed, she does much better.
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