Picky Little Eaters

This blog is dedicated to all the picky little eaters out there and their patient, yet frustrated, parents that deal with this on a daily basis.  Whether it’s trying to get your little one to eat some veggies like tomatoes or cucumbers at dinner, or a few slices of apple in the afternoon, more times than not you will get the shake of the head and the vehement disgust coming from their little mouths.  Sometimes you relent and give your little one a handful of jellybeans or an Oreo.  Other times, it’s “no snack or dessert” if they don’t eat their healthy meal items.  Regardless, feeding your picky little eater can be a daily struggle.  For this blog, I have employed the incredible first-hand knowledge of some of my Mommy friends who truly understand what it’s like to barter, cajole, beg, plead, convince, and negotiate with their picky little eaters on a regular basis.  Here, they offer some wonderful tips and tricks that may benefit you and your family.  Read on!

My son is a very picky eater.  In order to ensure that the few things he loves to eat are as healthy as possible, we buy organic, low sodium, no added sugar, non-processed type products.  We have found that buying freeze dried fruits works great!  Our son loves them and they stay good in the cupboard long after fresh fruit spoils.  Try rewarding your child for trying new foods with something like a single jellybean.  The ones we use are also organic!  One other tip - give your child a choice.  If you offer two foods that meet your health standards, then you will be happy with the outcome, and your child will feel like he has some say in his meal.

Lauren – Mommy to Dylan, 2 ½  years old

Brett is a picky eater and I plan to do things differently with my new baby, Trevor.  Basically, babies will eat anything and as they get older, they begin to formulate their own opinions of what they will and wont eat. In this case, most mom’s back down because it is easier not to push certain foods.  Truthfully, I don’t want to back down this time.  At first you mix things in and kids don’t know it and then it becomes a texture thing.  The best way to get a kid to eat well is to keep after it – they say 10-15 rejections before acceptance is very typical.  We try to set a tone by eating well too – they mimic what they see.  We also make protein and veggie smoothies just to add to his diet (I get the powders from Trader Joe’s).  Brett loves broccoli but that is about the only healthy veggie he eats.  So we put it in his mouth and do this “two squirts” thing – two squirts of spray butter.  Or we “cheers” our food together and eat it too.  Anything that makes it more fun to eat makes it easier for a two year-old to eat as well.  Also, if it is something that doesn’t go well the first time, don’t push it too much – just come back to it later and don’t make a big deal about it.  The less that you emphasize the desire for them to eat it, the more low-key it is.  Of course, we bribe at times too – like “two more bites and you get a chocolate chip”.  J

Becky – Mommy to Brett, 2 ½ years old and Trevor, 4 months old

 My 4-½ year old son, Elijah has always been a very finicky eater (who also has never had a big appetite) since he was born. He never wants to eat and the things he wants to eat are not necessarily healthy.  I have a hard time getting him to try anything new and even if he likes something, he may not like it and won’t touch it that particular day.  There aren’t a whole lot of veggies or fruit that he likes (he does like green beans, apples and bananas).  And he is constantly asking me for sweets (which are definitely monitored).  I’ve talked to Eli’s doctor and she is not worried about this since we keep active and continually try healthy options.  And as far as him not wanting to eat…kids will eat when they are hungry.  What I like to do is play the “3 Bites” rule.  If Eli takes 3 bites of each food group on his plate, then I reward him in some way (longer playtime, a movie, a treat…depending on what he already ate that day).  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a bit frustrating and it has definitely been hard to figure out a way to make his eating habits healthier! To sum it up, it’s a work in progress!

Brandy, Mommy to Elijah, 4 1/2 years old

One of the biggest challenges we have faced with our 19-month old son is mealtime. It is something we have struggled with since putting him on solid food about a year ago. Our son is very picky and stubborn and likes to graze rather than have meals. Instead of fighting him, my husband and I have decided to accommodate the type of eater he is. We give him several small meals throughout the day and try to give him the food we feel is most important for him to eat first. For example, around dinnertime we give him the vegetable first and once he is done with that, we offer him the main meal.  If he does not feel like eating, we do not force him.  Things have been a lot easier since we started taking this more relaxed approach to his eating and we hope it doesn't have any long-term consequences.

Jessica – Mommy to Mason, 1 ½ years old

These recommendations and tricks to make meal time more enjoyable for you, your picky eater and the rest of the family, is very helpful when the frustration and upset starts to set in.  Clearly, a parents’ main goal is the desire for our children to eat the most nutritious foods and grow up with a healthy outlook on eating.  Sometimes this task is extremely difficult when they are young, yet by reading the experiences of these women, it seems as though with a little fortitude, persistence, and “trying not to fall prey to their cute little faces”, your child can, and will eat healthy foods.  It may not be all the time but at least they are exposed to what is healthy, and will hopefully continue choosing nutritious foods as they get older and begin to make their own “food” decisions.

I also wanted to suggest a cookbook I think is fabulous for sneaking in those elusive fruits and vegetables.  Jessica Seinfeld wrote a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious (http://www.doitdelicious.com/cookbooks), which includes pureed fruits and veggies in all the recipes.  I have made many of them for my family, and myself and find them to be very tasty and easy to make.    


Jill Latham, MS Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics

Throughout Jill’s life, nutrition, health, and exercise have always been the cornerstones of who she is. After a stint in the entertainment business following college graduation, Jill decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition and become a Registered Dietitian. Jill has a Master's of Science in Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics and is a soon to be Registered Dietitian. Jill truly enjoys encouraging and teaching people how to eat nutritiously and live healthy! During her four years in school, Jill realized how much she liked educating children on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, which lead her to develop a strong interest in fighting childhood obesity. Honored to be part of ChildCareInfo.com as the Nutrition contributor, she looks forward to sharing her knowledge on how to make healthy living a part of everyone’s lives, especially our children. Jill currently resides in Santa Barbara, California with her boyfriend and dog, Madison. She also loves to juice fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and exercise regularly! Please visit Jill’s nutrition, health, exercise, & wellness blog Nutrition Concierge. Jill is Founder and CEO of Vibrant Earth Juices