She Likes Bread And Butter

May 25, 2010

jasper's b-day 231Emilia is the world’s pickiest eater. You probably think that I’m exaggerating. I’m not. There might be a child somewhere in Germany who will only eat bratwurst and cherries, but I’d be willing to bet that that child would eat a whole chocolate chip muffin if coaxed. Not Emilia. She’d remove the muffin top and pick three or four chocolate chips from around its edges and then discard it, saying that she didn’t like how it felt in her mouth. And that would be on a good day.

Emilia prefers to stick the basics: bread, cheese, pickles, tofu, spaghetti noodles (only spaghetti) with butter, chick peas, corn on the cob, yogurt, cheese pizza (only cheese), hard-boiled eggs, ketchup, strawberries, cake icing (not the cake itself) and candy. And watermelon, but only outside, and only if it’s seedless. That’s it. Sometimes, she’ll eat only one or two of those things for days, and then reject those same things for weeks – “I don’t like them anymore, Mommy” – only to return to them once she has us convinced that the only thing she’ll eat is chick peas and ketchup. She once shocked us by eating a poached egg and declaring it delicious, but that was only once, and she never did it again. And she went through a brief Vietnamese noodle soup phase when she was a baby, but all babies do that and we didn’t think much of it at the time. She does not like macaroni and cheese or fries or chicken fingers or hamburgers, unless by ‘hamburger’ you mean ‘ketchup on a bun.’ I’d say that she was a vegetarian, except that she doesn’t like most vegetables. Feeding her is – what’s the scientific term for this? – a pain in the ass.

Jasper, on the other hand, will eat anything, as long as it's outside, and he's naked.

Jasper, on the other hand, will eat anything, as long as it's outside, and he's naked.

Some people would probably say that we’re not trying hard enough, that we should be able to get Emilia to eat anything. That seems to be the argument of New York restaurateur Nicola Marzovilla, who, in speaking out against the pernicious evil of children’s menus at restaurants, says that he has always forced – yes, forced – his kids to try a variety of foods because “I’m their parent, I’m not their best friend… I have a duty to mold and teach.” Right. Because friends don’t force friends to eat rabbit ragout.

I could care less about whether or not a restaurant has a children’s menu, although I admit that it makes life a little easier when they do. Smaller portions, simpler menu items – sometimes I want to order from a kids’ menu. But it’s not necessary: as long as we can order a small plate of spaghetti noodles, plain, with a side of bread, we’re good. But I do take issue with this idea that if you aren’t forcing your kids to eat whatever is on their plate, you’re doing parenting wrong. We should encourage them to eat a variety of foods, sure, but force? I’m not even inclined to argue strenuously about whether Emilia should try foods that she’s not interested in, never mind force her. Even if I thought that I could – and I’m about 115% certain that I couldn’t – I don’t see the point. If a little enthusiastic encouragement doesn’t get her to try a piece of California roll, I’m not going to push the issue. Attempting to force her to try something that she doesn’t want to isn’t going to make mealtime a more pleasant experience for either of us. That, and there’s one more piece of California roll for me.

I was a picky eater as a child. I didn’t like red meat and would only eat pasta with butter and cheese and went through a long and happy lima bean phase during which the only non-dairy protein I would eat was – you guessed it – lima beans. My parents encouraged me to try a variety of foods, and sometimes they were successful – clam chowder! – but mostly they weren’t and this never got in the way of us having happy mealtimes together because I was never stressed about what I ate. Mom would make sure that there were always at least a few things on the table that I would happily eat if, say, I developed a sudden aversion to creamed corn or refused to try the pan-fried trout, and so mealtime was always a relaxed and happy time during which I could focus on explaining my theories on why Barbie could run faster than Holly Hobby (stronger legs and aerodynamic hair) rather than on worrying whether I’d be forced to clean my plate.

Of course, I didn’t eat my first mushroom until I was twenty years old and living in Spain and didn’t know how to say ‘what’s in this paella?‘ in Spanish, and I suppose that there’s an argument to made that my life would been more fulfilling if I’d eaten more than just cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches during seventh grade, but still – I never got scurvy and I eventually came to love such strange and fascinating foods as raw oysters and pico de gallo and ceviche and asparagus and tuna sashimi and apple pie (I never once touched apple pie during childhood. Fruit-based desserts seemed to me to be a travesty against the dessert gods, who, everyone knows, are gods of chocolate and caramel, with some exceptions made for desserts involving meringue. I am still a patron of this church, but have been known to enjoy a heretical slice of apple pie, but only if warm and served with ice cream, which makes it less offensive in the eyes of those gods.)

Being a picky eater as a child didn’t prevent me from developing more adventurous tastes later in life, and I like to think that my parents’ refusal to fight food battles made all the difference in me growing up loving the social aspects of dining – the fun of dinner-table conversation, the excitement of going out to restaurants and spending the evening together, the joy of lingering over our plates and caring more about the words coming out of our mouths than the food going in. I grew up a foodie who didn’t care all that much about food, and, apart from missing a decade or so of quality sashimi-eating time, I think that it did me more good than harm.

I’d love it if Emilia discovered the joys of curry and the pleasures of tempura and the bliss of creme brulee earlier rather than later, but I’m not going to force the issue. I’ll limit my anxiety to worrying about whether what she does eat is healthy enough and in sufficient quantities and that – most importantly – sitting down at the table with people she loves is always a pleasurable experience.

And I’ll enjoy, for now, the extra pieces of California roll.

(I’m not the only one with an insanely picky eater, right? How do you cope? Do you fight it, or just roll with it, or what? Also, would you ever boycott a restaurant without a kids’ menu, or does that seem a little fascist to you?) (NOT JUDGING.)

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    Julie at MDMA May 26, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I’m only repeating what everyone above has already said so well but my 7 year old has never eaten a vegetable and eats no meat at all anymore. My mom and dad forced me to eat some godawful stuff that still makes me gag as an adult (beef stroganoff, anyone? Disgusting …) and for their trouble they have a daughter who has had a (shall we say) adversarial relationship with food all her life. Good times!

    Anyway, my son basically eats any variation of bread, cheese and peanut butter. And fruit, thank God. I make a separate meal for him at dinner every night. It makes my husband crazy but I’m not backing down on this one. I just won’t force him to eat something that doesn’t sound right to him … hopefully the dad above is right and his tastes will develop in spite of all this.

    Thanks for the post. Sometimes I feel like the only mom going to “don’t force” route!

    Kate @ UpsideBackwards May 26, 2010 at 2:52 am

    I wrote a year ago(!) about a disastrous visit to a dietician with our son, now 3 1/2. He has not improved at all. He will eat breakfast cereal, pasta and cheese, and white rice reliably. Well, not so reliable on the rice. He will sometimes eat pistachios, crackers, yogurt, raisins, or bananas. He will usually eat cake or sweets, but not always. He will sometimes eat a “hot dog” (deep-fried red sausage, ugh!) from the take-away shop when we have fish and chips.
    We have been offering him taste-sized portions of the family meal for EVER, he never touches it. He won’t take a taste, and I won’t force him (for all the excellent reasons people have given above).
    But. His daycare teachers have told us they are worried – he is listless, irritable, and becoming even more restricted in what he will eat. So we are about to ask for a referral to a paediatrician to check (a) that he is well-nourished (I am amazed that he doesn’t have scurvy, quite frankly), and (b) that there is no underlying physical reason for his lack of eating. He will go an entire day on two bowls of cereal in the morning, then three raisins during the day, sometimes.
    I know that at least 80% of the problem is behavioural, I just wonder about the other 20%.
    I have found the comments above tremendously heartening – thank you all!
    .-= Kate @ UpsideBackwards´s last blog ..We have no idea where he gets these ideas =-.

    Catherine May 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    @Kate @ UpsideBackwards, I worry about iron deficiency/anemia with Emilia. There are days when she just looks so PALE and I think, well, that’s what an all-bread will do to you.

    But, she’s generally healthy, and active – too active sometimes – and I think that until there’s an actual problem, I’ll just keep a watchful eye and try to not stress.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..She Likes Bread And Butter =-.

    Ali May 26, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I was a picky eater as a kid and now I look back I wish my mum had tried a little harder. Not forced me to eat or anything like that but she never offered me anything other than the things I liked. For twenty-two years. In fact it wasn’t until I moved out that I found out I liked stuff because she wasn’t looking over my shoulder going ‘oh, you won’t like that.’ I understand why she fed me stuff I liked — I put myself in hospital when I was seven because the only thing I ate in four days was a small cocktail sausage. I was never asked questions though, most of the foods I didn’t like (and still don’t) were due to texture. No-one ever asked me why I didn’t like something and as a mother now, that frustrates me.

    Now on to my picky eater! We have two rules: 1) if you ask for something you have to try it 2) if you don’t try it you don’t eat. I make him stuff he likes, I let him try anything he wants, he gets to pick stuff out in the supermarket (he saw mini beef burgers the other week and demanded them, ate them and loved them) but if he suddenly decides he doesn’t want it, well, then that’s his problem. He will only eat ‘real’ chedder, not cheese strings or babybels, he will only eat carrott and potato mash, not just potato, he will only eat spaghetti if it’s called wiggle worms (he doesn’t like spaghetti, you see…) and will only eat fruit cucumber and not salad cucumber (why yes, they are the same things. Lying is a viable form of parenting.) I try not to make a big deal over it, and I tell him that I’d like him to try things so that I know WHY he does and doesn’t like things. I’ve tried to put a stop to ‘I don’t like it’ when he hasn’t tried it and told him to use phrases like ‘I don’t like the colour/ smell/ feel so I don’t want to try it.’ In the last six to twelve months (he’ll be five in July so a little older than E) he has come on in leaps and bounds. He will try almost anything now. There aren’t many things that have worked but he will eat beef burgers and ravioli and mango and has discovered that sometimes, when he tries something, it is absolutely delicious and becomes his favourite thing in the world. If he doesn’t try it, then he’ll never know. And my kid doesn’t like thinking he’s missing out on anything!

    Catherine May 26, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    @Ali, lying is indeed a viable form of parenting. If it weren’t, I’d be lost.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..She Likes Bread And Butter =-.

    Mary Lynn May 26, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I was an extremely picky eater as a child, but grew up to be an adult with fairly adventurous taste in food. Sometimes I look down at the meal I’m eating–maybe something with onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, tomatoes, interesting spices–and I think how my 6-year-old self would be absolutely horrified to see what I now eat of my own free will.

    My parents didn’t push the issue, and I really do think that helped me gradually accept new foods on my own as I got older. That’s not to say they didn’t encourage me to try new things, but they didn’t let it become a battle if I said no. I do the same with my kids. I offer new foods to them regularly. They almost always say no, but every now and then they surprise me by saying yes. Sometimes I’ve even bribed a bit, but not as a regular habit. “I’ll give you a nickel if you try this avocado.” If the reaction I get is, “that wasn’t SO bad.” then I figure it’s a victory. Every bite they take of something new helps to expand their tastes, so that maybe a year or two from now they’ll actually have a more interesting diet. I can see that starting to work with my older child, who at 6 is finally starting to eat more foods.
    .-= Mary Lynn´s last blog ..Dance addendum =-.

    Lori at Spinning Yellow May 26, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I was a very picky eater as a child & my parents fought me on it all the time. I remember thinking, “I don’t like this food, why do they act like I am not eating it to be mean to them?” I think when you force your kid to eat something (asking them to try it is fine b/c they might like it, & asking them to try it even if they have b/f is also fine b/c they might now like it), the message is, “you can’t make your own decisions or have your own preferences”. It is demeaning and counterproductive to having your child make choices appropriate for themselves.

    My kids are really good eaters and although I’d like to take credit for it, the truth is, I can only claim that I try to feed them real food, & give them options. The real reasons they are this way, I believe, has more to do with their taste preferences & sensitivities. My son is under-sensitive & can eat spicy, sour, chewy, crunchy things, all at the same time & hardly notice the taste, whereas I can’t even smell cooked broccoli without gagging.

    I wish more parents understood how much sensory preferences play into eating so that they could take the blame off themselves. She’s healthy so my guess is that she is getting what she needs from food & her palate will expand as she gets older. You are doing the right thing by not making meal times a fight, I wish my parents had understood that.

    Jean May 26, 2010 at 10:36 am

    My son refuses to eat hamburgers, will not eat ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing…nothing except mayo. However, he loves broccoli (he will eat a ton) but god forbid a piece of chicken has a mark on it from the grill, i must slice it off. He hates “crust” on any meat that I make, but will eat chicken nuggets and chicken fingers like it’s no big deal. He likes potatoes, but if they are different than the kind he’s used to eating he will claim he doesn’t like them. Like potatoes with cheese…omg it’s cheese…what is bad about cheese? Don’t get me started, it’s crazy with these kids! although lately i’ve started with the “you must have one taste of everything that’s for dinner” and that usually gets him to taste it and discover “oh yes, potatoes with cheese = deliciousness”…ugh!

    Melissa May 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Ruth is two and eats pretty well but is reluctant to try new things.

    We neither force nor relent. Breakfast is a quick toaster waffle fried egg or whatever as we both run to work. Lunch she gets at daycare. Dinner is whatever we’re having, perhaps slightly modified.

    She’ll eat pasta but doesn’t like sauce so we serve it on the side of her plate. I’ve deluded myself into thinking that one day she’ll eat it. She gets some veg too, whatever we’re having. Peas, carrots, cauliflower are hit and everything else is mostly tried and rejected. We always serve fruit too, which is scarfed down, and milk.

    We go out to restaurants very occasionally and she’s usually better there about trying things than at home. Maybe the novelty?

    She’s growing and pooping so I don’t worry too much. I just don’t have the energy to fight about it. No kid starves when food is available so we present her with options.

    Sarah May 26, 2010 at 11:26 am

    My mother was from the school of “You’ll sit there until you eat it”. I have memories of sitting in front of a bowl of tomato soup until 10:30 one night rather than eating it. When my mother finally left to go to the bathroom, I was up in a flash and dumping it down the drain. That’s the one childhood promise of things I will never do to my kids that I actually kept. I will not make separate meals for the kids, but I always made sure there was something they would eat included. If they didn’t want what I was serving, they didn’t have to eat it, but there was nothing else to eat until the next meal. My son has a thing about carrots. He will only eat them raw. It’s a simple thing for me to leave a few uncooked for him, so I’ll do that. Both my kids have a few things they absolutely will not eat, but for the most part, they outgrew the picky phase. Don’t worry, I had a cousin who would eat only peanut butter and Ritz crackers and Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries (separating the berries first!) for a year. He eventually opened up to new foods, they all do.

    Catherine May 26, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    @Sarah, my grandparents, my mom’s parents, were ‘sit there until you it’ types, and it was that that turned my mom into a ‘I’ll put it in front of you but you don’t have to eat it’ type. I’m kind of grateful for that.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..She Likes Bread And Butter =-.

    Violet May 26, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Mine are both picky, drives me crazy!  I just roll with it; I don’t want them to grow up with food issues.  I was also a picky eater, so I’m not too worried about it.  Neither of them is big on sweets, and both love fruit, so I figure they’ll be ok.  And I couldn’t care less about kids’ menus; we can almost never order off of them anyway.  Bread, small plates of noodles (not spaggetti – no long noodles!  Sheesh), tortillas.  Carb overload!  So far eating out is not any more expensive, right?
    Interesting (to me) sidenote: my mother gives me a hard time about not making them eat better.  She seems to forget my summer of nothing but hamburgers, or our cross-country trip in 3rd grade where I ate chocolate cake for breakfast because I hated all breakfast foods.  My grandmother was with us, and lectured my mom, who cried and said “but she has to eat SOMETHING, and it’s the only thing she’ll eat!”  Funny how memory works.

    monstergirlee May 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I like having a kids menu to choose from (smaller portions and smaller prices are a bonus), but wouldn’t skip a restaurant without one.

    When I serve something new, I usually coerce my kids into eating at least one bite. If its something they’ve eaten before happily, but now they turn their nose up at it, I coerce them into eating one or two bites.I try not to make it an issue because I really don’t want food hassles. And I don’t let things escalate into a fight because no one will win. But I will heavily “suggest” they try it.

    I wonder if I’ll ever stop worrying about what my kids are eating. Maybe when they move out.
    .-= monstergirlee´s last blog ..Orange Orange =-.

    Terresa May 26, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I am lucky that my guys aren’t very picky at all. The little guy had a phase from 3 to 4 years old where he wouldn’t eat any type of ground beef, no tacos, no hamburgers, nothing like that but that was an easy work around. This makes my “I make one meal and you eat what I offer or you don’t eat/make something yourself” philosophy pretty easy to stick with. My sister on the other hand has three girls and each of them has various and conflicting likes and dislikes so with just about any meal she makes several versions – i.e stew with tomatoes, without tomatoes/corn/green beans, without potatos/corn, etc.

    Haley-O (Cheaty) May 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Two picky eaters over here. So I cheat – I puree spinach in popsicles and in tomato sauce, and I puree all sorts of healthy things in smoothies…. I also try to give them the non-pureed version of foods I sneak into smoothies, etc., too, in hopes that they’ll like these foods over time.
    .-= Haley-O (Cheaty)´s last blog ..New Nephew, New Dog, NEW JOB: The Deets =-.

    Catherine May 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    @Haley-O (Cheaty), okay, how do you get pureed spinach into a popsicle without them noticing?
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..She Likes Bread And Butter =-.

    Haley-O (Cheaty) May 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    @Catherine, I’m glad you asked because I love sharing this trick. Just make a regular smoothie — strawberry and banana is great because sweet — and add a handful of frozen/fresh spinach. Sometimes I even use KALE, but of all the greens, spinach hides by far the BEST. It is trial and error, though: if the smoothie doesn’t taste good, add some orange juice to sweeten it up.

    I’ll add omega 3 oil to it, too, and sunflower seeds give it a nutty taste, added protein and other nutrients. Just add one ingredient at a time. Try a regular strawberry-and-banana smoothie first. Then, next time, add spinach. After a while, get more adventurous.

    They won’t suspect a thing! You can also freeze your smoothie in a silicon muffin tin for (odd-looking) popsicles – just add popsicle stick. ;)
    .-= Haley-O (Cheaty)´s last blog ..New Nephew, New Dog, NEW JOB: The Deets =-.

    Elizabeth May 26, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I have 2 daughters, currently 23 and 19. Both were extremely picky eaters growing up. The oldest once ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 3 weeks solid. The youngest seemed to survive most of middle school on bread and milk, plus occasional helpings of cheese.

    We tried very, very hard to not make a big deal about it, with varying success depending on how crazy it was making us. I was scared that if we made it a fight we would end up with girls with eating disorders.

    By the time the oldest was in middle school, her friends considered her a very adventurous eater. What the..? When did that happen?

    The youngest, who is very stubborn, was a very picky eater *almost* all the way through high school. Even she, however, is becoming quite adventurous now.

    At least for us, the “don’t sweat it and make sure they have reasonably healthy choices available” approach worked in the long run. I highly recommend it.

    norm May 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Well, they went through phases … wait, what am I saying, this is not past tense — my 19-year-old recently went vegan … but all periods of pickiness came to an end. We did however manage to gently convince them at a young age that they at least try everything presented, and they have always done so. This has resulted in some surprising negatives – like, oh my gosh we have had to share our lobster and oysters with the kids! Why didn’t we just let them be picky!?!

    Cristin May 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I thought I was the only kid in the world who liked lima beans! I would pick them all out of my vegetable soup first because I thought they were so damn good.
    Anyway, it sounds like Emilia will be fine. You have a great attitude about food and not forcing anything and that is awesome.
    If you had said all she will eat is Kool-Aid and Slim Jims, it might be a problem, but she seems to be just fine.
    .-= Cristin´s last blog ..I Have Arrived. Now What? =-.

    Catherine May 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    @Cristin, I didn’t mention her taste for beer, did I? (KIDDING. DUH.)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..She Likes Bread And Butter =-.

    Judy May 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I wasn’t forced to eat at home, but we were in school. This was about 500 years ago, but it seemed to me that I never got to go out to play after lunch because I was sitting all alone in the cafeteria with a plate of something called “meal in a dish” in front of me. Seriously, what WAS that? My favorite foods were melted Velveeta and canned chicken noodle soup. I grew up reasonably unpicky. I still like my carrots raw, don’t like cauliflower, never ate broccoli until I was 35 (but love it now) and I can’t bear the texture of a mushroom so I mince them for my recipes, because I do like the flavor.

    I never really pushed the kids. They were supposed to try a bite, but often that slid past. There was always fruit around if you didn’t like the veggies, and if you hated the meat, go microwave yourself a hot dog.

    All of us are grown-ups (with the possible exception of yours truly) and everyone has fairly eclectic appetites, the two females more than the male, who still can’t abide two different foods touching each other. Nobody ever had scurvy or rickets. I think relaxed enjoyment of dinner is far more important than making them try all the foods.

    Marinka May 26, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I’m sorry, but if your kid eats chickpeas and tofu, you’re automatically out of the running for the pickiest eater. But there are some nice consolation prizes on your way out!

    (because I have the pickiest eater and he’s 8. The only vegetable that he will eat is Avocado. And yes, I do capitalize it because I admire it so much. And yes, again, people have been telling me that avocados are fruit. I refuse to budge on that one)
    .-= Marinka´s last blog ..Friendship Probation =-.

    Another Suburban Mom May 26, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    My children are both on the choosy side, and I recently gave up on the two sets of meals plan, unless I am making something very spicy. However my husband is also picky so I am fighting an all around uphill battle.

    I let the kids reject foods, but I make them explain exactly why they don’t like it (I get better answers from the 9 year old than the 4 year old)

    Then I find different ways to prepare the item. For example, my kids would not eat broccoli or green beans-until I put fresh grated parmesean cheese on it. DB won’t eat cucumbers unless I remove the seeds.

    I also find that with my princess that if I put a big piece of food on her plate that is not cake she gets overwhelmed, but will eat it if I put smaller portions on her plate.
    .-= Another Suburban Mom´s last blog ..Random Dozen =-.

    lizneust May 26, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I agree with those who say that is actually a pretty good range. My 6 year old will usually eat the following: unfilled pasta with butter, wheat bread/bagels, faux chicken nuggets, peanut butter, sun butter, grape jelly, cream cheese, ramen noodles, frosted mini wheats, apples, pears (if very ripe), veggie booty, chocolate milk, Vitamin Water, chocolate or vanilla ice cream and cake. Popsicles are on a case-by-case basis.

    She will occasionally eat: yogurt, half a baby carrot, a few pieces of corn, french toast, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin pie, pretzels, corn bread, pudding (chocolate only), actual chicken nuggets, bacon.

    She will scream to the point of sobbing if offered: any thing red (watermelon, cherries, strawberries, red popsicles and lollipops, tomato sauce), pizza, blueberries, bananas, oranges or orange juice, french fries, beans, hummus, red meat, fish, any vegetable that isn’t a carrot or piece of frozen corn, and anything that looks different, smells different or is new.

    This kid actually gagged on vanilla ice cream when her grandma told her vanilla was made with beans (thanks, Mom).

    All of which is to say that I *get* your frustration. This is really, really normal. And a SERIOUS pain in the ass.

    Amy K May 27, 2010 at 12:07 am

    I have kind of the opposite problem. My young toddler will eat almost anything you put in front of her, but was recently diagnosed with allergies to cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy, eggs, tree nuts and sesame seeds. Feeding has suddenly become a huge challenge because so many of her favorite foods are now out of the question. I’m not much of a cook, but it looks like I’ll be doing a lot more of it since there are almost no prepared foods without dairy, eggs, soy and nuts. Gah. At least she dodged the peanut bullet.

    Tammy May 27, 2010 at 6:17 am

    Oh, my child eats alright. Just eats stuff in fingernail-size portions, drinks a lot of water and then announces he’s full. Dude. Why don’t I have those tendencies? I get all cantankerous because I have Run Out of Ideas, and I’m tired of seeing every single one of his nearly-five-year-old ribs. I shouldn’t complain: he eats chocolate ad nauseum, and then there are the cheese puffs–really any snacks in a brightly colored bag. Just not nuts (not even things that may potentially resemble nuts). Inhale deeply, exhale. I’m thinking your baby eats more than my baby. Please post a Solution that will save those of us who insist on worrying!
    .-= Tammy´s last blog ..Burgundy break. =-.

    Julie May 27, 2010 at 8:23 am

    OK, I’m printing this post and framing it as a reminder that my daughter is not the ONLY child on the planet with such a restrictive pallet…

    Cali is just over 4. She will eat DRY (ie no butter or spread of any kind) bread, rolls, biscuits, crackers etc – sometimes….. She eats potato crisps, but only plain / salted flavor (and preferably in a RED tube or bag). She will occasionally eat a FRUBE Yoghurt tube – squeezed into a bowl, but NOT regular yogurt in a bowl. She does not eat ANY fruit (altho I buy loads and give her a fruit in her lunchbox for Kindi every day (makes me feel better lol).

    So her typical daily intake is:
    - Mango juice for breakfast
    - Lunch of crisps, pretzels, maybe yogurt. Sometimes cheese but it’s a crap-shoot as to whether I have guessed in advance what “shape”she wants – sometimes it must be cut in chunks, sometimes grated and eaten with a spoon.

    For dinner there are a few staples I can rely on (although these do go in and out of favor):
    - nuggets and chips (I know, I know)
    - pasta with basil pesto (MUST mix it herself or WILL. NOT. EAT)
    - Fried egg, but only the yellow, and only if it’s PERFECTLY ROUND, and VERY ORANGE (as in free range, as in !@#$% expensive) – can sometimes get a bit of hash brown in her mouth with the egg
    Rice or Mash, but ONLY if it is completely drowned in OXO Lamb and Mint Gravy (which I have to import specially, as it’s only sold in the UK)
    As a special favor her creche actually feeds her Spaghetti Hoops every lunchtime (which she only eats if they are referred to as “Princess Rings”….
    - She USED to eat peas, but now refuses to do so, ditto bananas.
    She USED to drink chocolate milk, till we moved country, now it “tastes funny”
    - She ices cookies or cupcakes, then eats the icing with a spoon.
    - She loves Ice Cream, so I try to find “healthy” or at least organic ones – ONLY VANILLA – but hey, that’s the closest she gets to a dairy product.
    I thought I was onto a winner with cheese pizza, until I ordered one for her a few evenings ago and had to throw most of it away…

    When people comment on how little she eats, I reply that she gets her nutrition via osmosis…..

    MommyNamedApril May 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    we do a LOT of compromising. the kids need to at least take one bite of the regular meal… often times they end up liking it and will eat, other times it’s one bite and then we give them a cheese sandwich. whatever – at this age (2 & 3) it’s not something worth fighting over.

    re the restaurant thing? i wouldn’t boycott it per se, but we would be less likely to visit a restaurant that doesn’t have one, just for the sake of convenience.
    .-= MommyNamedApril´s last blog ..In Somewhat Disturbing News, It Appears Google Knows Something We Don’t. =-.

    Cynthia McIntyre May 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    For about 4 years from age 4-8 my daughter sat down at the dinner table everynight and proclaimed “I don’t think I like this” I responded in the same manner “well, last time we had it you did.” She would then eat it. You would think that she would catch on after awhile! I felt grateful every time it worked because I know how frustating it can be to have a picky eater.

    Tina C. May 27, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    OMG, i thought I had a picky eater; that must be frustrating. the best is when they eat the same stuff at grandma’s they won’t touch off my table!!! i find it hard not to get upset only because i’m tired of making 2 meals at every meal. i can’t figure out how they get enough calories to grow — imagine how tall they’d be if they actually ate a square meal on a regular basis!!! my idea of a family-friendly restaurant is the one that brings the meal about 3 minutes after i’ve ordered no matter the menu.

    Miss Grace May 28, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I think Gabriel’s pickier. CHALLENGE!

    He’s also chronically underweight and it’s stressful and I sneak butter everywhere onto everything just to maintain the child’s size.
    .-= Miss Grace´s last blog ..PENIS =-.

    red pen mama May 28, 2010 at 9:21 am

    That menu of foods that Emilia will pick from sounds just about right. I am solidly in the camp that you do not force your children to eat anything. I provide a wide array of foods to choose from, and, frankly, I don’t absolutely forbid anything (although we are vegetarians — I don’t know that choosing that lifestyle now for my kids constitutes “forbiding” food). And my kids eat just about anything. I feel very lucky — they love fruits and vegetables, pasta and tofu, yogurt and cheese, beans of all kinds, as well as mac’n'cheese, veggie nuggets, and, you know, chocolate, cookies, and ice cream.

    Stress-free is good. Force feeding is bad. (negotiation to try new things, OTOH & IMO, isn’t forcing.)
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Oh, The Humanity =-.

    Issa May 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Catherine? My five year old doesn’t even like bread. No joke. She’s insane. I wonder where she came from some days. She doesn’t like pizza, or mac and cheese, or cheese at all really. She won’t eat chicken nuggets. Or burgers, because she’s not a fan of beef, bread or cheese. But holy cow the girl can ingest an entire container of salsa. My other two will eat just about anything.

    I have a try rule. You have to try a bite. One. I offer fruits and veggies. I offer meats. Dairy. In the end though, I just have way too much to worry about, than what exactly my kids are eating. They are all three healthy.

    I was a super picky eater. I’m laughing a bit, because I suddenly realized at 26 years old that I liked tomatoes. Truth. So? Live and let live. They all eat new things eventually.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Picture Postcard Memories, #3 =-.

    Rebekah May 28, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I can’t comment on kids who are picky eaters but I do agree with you that fruit desserts (e.g., apple pie) seem kind of fraudulent. Don’t try to pass that stuff off as “dessert.” If you must, create another category, but reserve DESSERT for all things divine like chocolate and cream and caramel and batter or dough. Fruit. Puhleeze.
    .-= Rebekah´s last blog ..Grateful Sunday =-.

    mythoughtsonthat May 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Your girl, she has picked some healthy foods for her diet. Can’t beat that!

    And, no, fruit is NOT a dessert.
    .-= mythoughtsonthat´s last blog ..I Laugh Nearly Every Day =-.

    Juli May 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    i can only comment from the stand point of the picky eater as i dont have children, but rather numerous nephews. i was and still am an insanely picky eater. my mother, being a single mom of 4, gave up long before i was born. she adapted everything to suit me. to this day the pasta does not touch the sauce until i put it there in the correct manner. 2 of my smaller nephews,3 and 13 months, are also picky eaters. the 3 y/o eats mac and cheese (only if he stirs it), yogurt(only yocrunch, and not the granola kind), milk with strawberry syrup, toast with butter and sugar and the bagel with “his” cream cheese.

    the baby is a creature of habit. scrambled eggs, but only with his mimi in the morning, toast with butter and sugar, crackers, chedder bunnies, fruit flavored baby food, chips of any kind, and for the lazy baby he still uses bottles and wont even hold them himself. i think he knows that one day he’ll have to do it all himself and if he finds someone willing to hold him and his “baba” he will take full advantage.

    at the ripe old age of 24 i turned out just fine. i am college educated, have a good job doing what i love. i am still the picky eater, i dont do dips or anything with “dresings” on it. sandwiches are still taken apart and eaten a piece at a time. i love kids menus, i dont eat very much and they are sometimes the perfect size. there is a restraunt in my state called eat’n'park, they have this great thing called seniors portions, the things i like in child size portions, score for me!

    no worries in the end as long as she is healthy. i have even branched out, mushrooms and garlic rock!

    Juli June 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    ha ha ha I won a small battle, I got the 3 y/o to eat some
    chicken that I was having. Apparently
    if it is on my plate and I am enjoying it then it must be good! Score one for the bed auntie!

    Jaelithe May 31, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I am late to this because I have been sick, but I just wanted to say, there IS a child who is a pickier eater than Emilia, or at least, there WAS a child who used to be a pickier eater than Emilia, and he doesn’t even live as far away as Germany – he lives in my house. My kid was such a picky eater that as a toddler he actually made himself sick from not eating. Really. Actually. Starved himself sick. So.

    It was bad there for quite a while. I HAD to “make” him eat things, as far as that is possible, or he quite frankly would have needed a feeding tube to live. And the whole experience was quite devastating to me, as a foodie who really has never met a vegetable she couldn’t get along with. I was convinced, before parenthood, that I would have any child of mine eating sushi and Thai curries by three. I didn’t have your experience of having once been a picky eater myself to draw on for comfort – I was never picky. So it was hard.

    But the kid is better now, in that he will permit small amounts of cheese sauce on his pasta, and will eat a bite or two of a hamburger, and has become somewhat less suspicious of cake. Oh, and carrots. He eats carrots. I nearly had a heart attack when he decided to eat carrots.

    And I am not sure if it is all my careful intervention that did it or not. I have learned that there are some areas of parenting where we parents really simply do not have control as we (and our critics) would like to imagine. Sometimes kids just are who they are and there is not much you can do but roll with that reality. That tabula rasa idea is the cruelest sort of myth to foist upon mothers.

    Saartje = nazi-mum June 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    My children are not picky eaters. Until they are one (or a bit older) they are breastfed, and get mashed food (veggies and fruits mostly, only some meat). After that they can eat as much or as little of what’s for dinner as they like. I never force them to eat anything (how can anyone force a child to chew and swallow?), but I’m not going to try offering different foods until they do eat. I reckon if they’re not eating it’s because they’re not hungry or they don’t like what’s on the table, and that’s fine, I’m not always hungry myself, and when I don’t like what’s being served I don’t eat so much either. My eldest is very easy going, eats almost everything, and likes trying new things. The youngest is ‘pickier’, she will sometimes skip a whole meal because she doesn’t like the color, texture, smell or taste of what’s in front of her, or just because she’s got it into her little head that she only wants chocolate paste on her bread when there’s cheese on the table. But, my kids are both happy at the table and healthy, so I guess this approach works, for them and for me!

    As a GP I’ve never seen a child starve itself because it didn’t get the food it likes. (One major ‘exception’ is children with multiple food allergies, who will sometimes instinctively ban all allergens from their diet and who will lose weight in doing so if too many offered meals contain these allergens.)I have seen many children with constipation, stomach aches, gastritis, obesity, bad teeth and even diabetes due to unbalanced diets, whose parents, when confronted with the fact that they are making their children sick by not allowing them to eat right, always use the argument that their children are picky eaters. This is just an excuse!

    Your daughter will not starve if you don’t feed her bread, cheese, pickles, tofu, spaghetti noodles (only spaghetti) with butter, chick peas, corn on the cob, yogurt, cheese pizza (only cheese), hard-boiled eggs, ketchup, strawberries, cake icing (not the cake itself) or candy for a few weeks. She’ll throw a few tantrums, because she’s used to getting what she likes food-wise. She’ll feel hungry for a bit. If she’s really stubborn she might even lose a bit of weight, and then, hey presto, she’ll eat what is in front of her! Maybe she’ll even like it (hunger is the best sauce), maybe not, but it won’t kill her.

    I’m not saying you should change the way you go about eating and mealtimes in your family. That’s really up to you. But I really couldn’t be bothered to provide taste-specific foods for all my family members, they just have to make do with what’s on the table today. So call me nazi-mum!

    Most of all I really wish that when a child develops a diet-related disease, the parents wouldn’t hide behind the picky eater myth!

    Jaelithe June 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

    @Saartje = nazi-mum, actually, I had a very well-meaning, well-respected, experienced child nutritionist give me the same advice that you just gave Catherine regarding my son, and he DID refuse to eat. For two weeks straight, while we followed her advice, he ate no solid food and consumed about 100 calories a day in milk. He was already underweight when we started the “no preferred foods” program, and he lost weight during it to the point that we had to quit for the sake of his health. Later we found he had a very severe case of Sensory Processing Disorder, which was probably contributing significantly to his eating problems. But we did not know that at the time. All we knew was that people were telling us “a child will never starve himself if he is regularly offered food” and yet ours was.

    Just because you have not SEEN something before in your practice does not mean it never happens. I know your advice works beautifully for many families, but every time I see someone who has not actually thoroughly examined the child in question tell parents they are just not trying hard enough to get their kids to eat well, I get a little sick inside remembering my own family’s experience. No one can know what is causing a child not to eat well until that child has been thoroughly checked out. And casting blame – even gentle, constructive-criticism-style blame, on a mother who is already at her wits’ end may not be the most productive way to solve the problem.

    Saartje = nazi-mum June 3, 2010 at 3:00 am

    I’m sorry you had to go through such hardships to find out what was going on with your son.

    However, you have to admit that his case, or the case of the child starving itself in an attempt to avoid food allergy for that matter, is very, very rare! Much rarer than the number of ‘picky eaters’ and their frustrated mums cooking two hot meals a day, every day. Much rarer also than the number of children with diet-related illness.

    So I would still say, give it a try, try the ‘nazi-regime’ (I’ve chosen a very, very bad term for this, because it’s not at all cruel, just common sense). It won’t kill your child, nor will it do unrepairable damage to you relationship, and it’ll hopefully bring you closer to a solution of, or at least an explanation for, the picky eating. It’s much easier, cheaper and less traumatic for the child (and its parents) than being ‘thoroughly checked out’, with samples of blood, stool and urine, skin tests, sweat tests, ultrasounds, X-rays, scans, gastroscopy, colonoscopy and psychological tests of child and parents… (I’ve been in and out of hospital with my youngest until she was 18 months, so I know what I’m talking about, not as a doctor, but as a mum. She’s a happy, healthy two year old now, luckily.)

    So try it, and if after 2 weeks your child starts losing weight, THEN go and get you child checked out to find out the underlying cause, be it physical or psychological.

    Alternatively, do nothing. Cook two meals a day if that’s fine for you. Smuggle the necessary vitamins and fibers into cookies and shakes. As long as your child is healthy and happy and you are sane, who cares what he eats and how you organize your meals?

    The Grown Up Teenager June 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    @Saartje = nazi-mum,

    I think Saartje has some valid points about the truth behind picky eaters. I don’t think its necessarily a myth that children can be very picky eaters, but parents are often huge enablers of it, which just makes it way worse.

    It always blows my mind when I see my friends making one meal for the grown ups and another one for the kids on a regular basis. My mom never did that with me. She made dinner and if I didn’t like it, too bad.

    She was never evil and made multiple things she knew I didn’t like, but I was given the same food everyone else got, like it or not. Sure, its about picking your battles, but it was never a battle at our house. This is supper tonight; if you’re hungry, eat it. If not, oh well.

    Of course kids will start throwing temper tantrums if you stop catering to things they love, if its what they’re used to, which is why its a bad habit to get into in the first place.
    .-= The Grown Up Teenager´s last blog ..It’s That Time Of The Year =-.

    mrsgryphon June 2, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Small glimmer of hope from the picky-eater camp here… our 4 year old refuses to eat most dinners and wants only ham and crackers for lunch each day, but tonight we made homemade pizza and she declared it the ‘best pizza ever’. Not sure how she’d know that, since she’s refused to touch pizza for at least a year, but hey. Small victories.

    Grace @ Sandier Pastures June 2, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    My daughter won’t eat the following: Pizza, pasta, anything with cheese. We’re Japanese (living in Dubai, UAE right now) but we don’t want to think she has anything against Italia!

    Also, she doesn’t eat cakes, even the cutest cupcakes wouldn’t do or cookies (unless it’s baked from home). What kind of kid doesn’t love cookies!?
    .-= Grace @ Sandier Pastures´s last blog ..WW – Language melting pot =-.

    britt June 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I don’t care who has a PhD in what, my kids CANNOT be cajoled, bribed, forced, starved or in any other manner convinced to eat a darn thing unless its their idea. My oldest has been this way since birth. FEEDING TUBES because she wouldn’t eat. She eats just enough to sustain life, even now at 4 years old. My son used to eat anything offered to him, until he turned two. Now he “can’t yike” anything. I’m at my wits end.
    .-= britt´s last blog ..Irrational Fears =-.

    Melanie June 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    My son was a horribly picky eater when he was a child…actually up through his Jr. year of high school. He would starve himself rather than eat anything he didn’t think he would like. Sometime during that year something just clicked and he started trying new things. He is 22 now and he is the one that orders unfamiliar foods when we go out to eat and eats anything offered when he is home. He is also an awesome cook himself.
    I don’t really have any advice. I guess I just want you to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Kristen June 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    To put it simply, I think that turning meals–or snacks, or any food-based activity–into a battle with children sets them up for a potentially lifelong unhealthy relationship with food. Yes, we should encourage our children to “try new things.” But this doesn’t mean that we have to do so through bribery, force, or deprivation.

    I mean, is it really that much of a stretch to think (and respect the fact) that children *do* have their own unique tastes and preferences?!

    On the other hand, I should also acknowledge that parents *sometimes* set their kids up for their eventual pickiness. (And I’m not suggesting at all that anyone in particular here has done so.) But if a child is mainly *given* white bread, mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets, then s/he will probably develop strong preferences for those things!
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Words for Thought: What Does it Mean to Value Family Values? =-.

    Monabookgirl June 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    When my son was a year old he stopped eating almost everything.He would eat grapes, popcorn, apples, eggs, cheese, and bread. Not much else. After a few trips to the doctor and a few tests, he was pronounced a very picky eater by the doctor. I was told not to try and force him to eat anything. Just put the food in front of him, let him decide if he wants to try it, and make sure to have 2 or 3 things on hand that he did like, and stock up on pediasure. Now my son is 10 yrs old, and is still a picky eater, but much less so. He will eat sushi, even the kind with fish. He eats some chicken now, and not nuggets. He even eats broccoli. So I say just let your picky eater be who she is, and feed her the healthiest choices she will eat. She will decide when it’s time to try new things. And don’t let the nay-sayers get to you.

    Tina June 2, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    My son (4) is sort of a picky eater, but he does love vegetables and fruit. Go figure. (I’m super lucky with him) Anyway, the only “rule” around meal times for him is this: He can choose what he wants to eat, but he has to have something from each food group.
    He does pick some strange pairings, but it’s up to him, so he eats it. :)

    frugan amy June 12, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Ah, how nice to read. I am suddenly feeling a lot less stressed about the fact that my daughter pretty much has eggs for dinner every night.

    One of the many things that annoyed me about that article was that it wrongly assumes that if you order off the children’s menu at a restaurant you’re also mindlessly serving the children’s menu at home. How about offer some butter and pasta so my daughter, her parents, and your other customers can enjoy their meals? No, okay then have a frustrated, cranky baby, parents who will hardly finish their glasses of wine (let alone prolong the experience with dessert), and sashimi all over your floor. We can struggle and coax at home but if we’re treating ourselves by going to a restaurant how about making it a little bit easier? Or at the very least not judging us if we skip the fried rabbit for our kids.
    .-= frugan amy´s last blog ..We went to England and went on swings. Or, travelling with a 16-month-old. =-.

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