10 Tips for Extremely Picky Eaters

Lynn Adams

What do you think of a mother whose son eats McDonald’s hamburgers and fries three meals a day?

I met this woman through my work as a child psychologist, and I thought about calling Child Protection Services there in front of her. I never dreamed I’d end up in a similar situation.

Even though I’ve addressed head-on my son’s choosiness and so have multiple professionals, James eats PB&J for dinner most nights. And my daughter’s hardly a gourmand. But PB&J is better than a Happy Meal, right?

Sometimes success is more about avoidance than achievement. Here’s how I do it.

  1. Every night’s the same: I serve a sit-down meal, and everyone gets the same thing. Maybe different portion sizes. They don’t have to eat all – or any – of it, but that’s dinner. And if they do eat all of it, then there’s room for dessert. If anyone’s still hungry after everyone’s finished, there’s always PB&J.
  2. I’m sneaky: If my kids eat a lot of any one thing, I tweak it until it’s as healthy as possible. Take microwave pancakes. Once I noticed how fast they were going down, I started making them from scratch with wholewheat flour and an occasional injection of cauliflower puree.
  3. I keep my cool: Our dinner table is a pleasant place to be. I’m not going to get excited if my kids don’t like something. In our house there’s a wealth of taste sensations available to anyone who’ll try them, but it’s up to them to do so.
  4. I expect a return on my investment: I’ll stem and pit cherries with a smile, because you’d be surprised how many my kids will polish off. But if they’re going to eat a granola bar, they can find and unwrap it themselves, for Pete’s sake. Similarly, I’d rather slave over a healthy snack plate than put in the time required to make human-shaped cannelloni they won’t touch.
  5. Again, return on my investment: My kids eat the most at breakfast, so that’s when I spring fresh fruit and protein on them. I don’t spin my wheels with dinner, when they eat the least.
  6. I distract, then strike: My specialty is allowing my kids to watch the iPad at the kitchen table during snack time, while I casually set down a variety of bite-sized, healthy snacks like cheese chunks, wholewheat crackers, almonds, crudités, and cut-up fruit with hummus. After a snack like that, who cares what happens at dinner?
  7. Peer pressure: I recruit neighbors and friends. James is too polite, or too concerned about what his friends will think, to refuse a new food at a friend’s house. I noticed that he had a little crush on a neighbor, so I talked her into serving him brussels sprouts. He ate them.
  8. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours: If James uses a spoon and chews his Cheerios with his mouth closed, I’ll look the other way when he eats broccoli with his fingers. Sustenance requires manners. If James is going to branch out, I don’t care what he looks like doing it.
  9. I get them when they’re weak: I offer extremely convenient, healthy food when my kids are hungriest. As soon as they wake up or get home from school, I’m ready with pop-in-the-mouth goodness. I make the pancake batter the night before. If I think they’ll be hungry on the go, I pack the snack they should eat, rather than the one they will buy at a gas station.
  10. I never let up: I won’t stop serving my favorite red beans and rice, just because James still won’t try them. Sometimes, the 500th time’s the charm.

I accept that picky eating is a complex problem. That doesn’t mean I have to head for the drive-thru every time a tummy rumbles. So I’ve revised my pre-kids goal, which was to have kids who would eat anything, to this: for my kids to have every motivation and every opportunity to eat healthily.

Head to the Family Room


10 Tips for Extremely Picky Eaters - great parenting tips

 This post was written by Lynn Adams exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Lynn Adams lives in New Orleans with her husband and two children. Her work has appeared on Salon, Brain Child, and The Mid, and other publications online and in print.