How can I get my 7 & 9 yr old stepdaughters to eat "real" food?

Teri - posted on 08/12/2009 ( 10 moms have responded )

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We have the girls 50% of the time - every other week and weekend. We try to eat dinner as a family every night, and when the girls are at our house we do what we can to make kid-friendly meals (chicken, turkey, rice, veggies, burgers, etc.)... nothing crazy. It's usually very basic stuff. We just want them to eat a variety of foods. They, however, refuse to eat just about anything we prepare, unless it's chocolate chip pancakes, grilled cheese, or one particular kind of mac & cheese... and even then they complain sometimes. Once in a while they'll eat dinner with minimal complaints, and sometimes they even say they love it, but the next week time we make the same meal they "hate" it and won't eat. It's a constant stuggle... the first thing they say when they get home from school or camp is, "what's for dinner?" with a scowl, and then very clearly show their disappointment when we tell them what we'll be having.



When they're not with us they've told us that they have mac & cheese, pizza, and go out to eat a lot, and that, "Mommy says it's perfectly fine." When they're with her, they tell her what they want for dinner and they get it. What kid wouldn't love that? But we would really love to find a way to let them enjoy their time with her, but also to have fun with us and not stress over dinner. We just want to teach them healthy eating habits and to appreciate what they have. We've thought of taking them to help serve food at a homeless shelter... maybe that would help? As much as I'd like and try to be, I'm just not very optimistic.



Any thoughts or suggestions would be great! Thanks!!

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Teri - posted on 08/13/2009

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Quoting Kimberly:



Quoting Teri:

Thanks for all the suggestions! The problem is really that we've tried everything that's been suggested here (seriously - everything!) and nothing works. I really believe it comes down to their mother manipulating them, and there's nothing we can do about it. We decided today, though, to start having them help us make the menu for the week and they'll go grocery shopping with us to pick stuff out, and they will even be in charge of choosing and preparing dinner for us (with our help, of course) a couple nights a week when they're with us. That'll give us an opportunity to praise their efforts and tell them how great the food is and how much we appreciate them making it for us... maybe they'll like how that feels and will reciprocate. I'm actually not feeling very optimistic about it (we discussed it with them at dinner tonight - we were very excited about it, but the feeling wasn't mutual, obviously), but we're going to try and see how it goes. It can't hurt!





That seems to be the best course of action. They need to know abou the resposibility of going food shopping and coming up with ideas for dinner. They may get more excited about it when they realize they have some control over the menu (because they had no control over the divorce).






You may, however, want to make some guidelines, if you already haven't. Like, the meal must include one vegetable,  or something of that nature. Good luck!





I actually made a chart yesterday with a column for proteins, one for grains and one for fruits & veggies... told them that there has to be one thing taken from each column, AND that we'll cross them off the list as we choose them so we won't have the same meal every night.  ;)  I also printed a color picture of the food groups (looks like they're on a plate, to show what size portions of each type of food we should have in a meal).  Hopefully they'll be more excited about it and will feel like they're really putting something good together.  One wonderful thing is that their dad and I are completely on the same page.  That really helps. 



Wish us luck!  =)

Kimberly - posted on 08/13/2009

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Quoting Teri:

Thanks for all the suggestions! The problem is really that we've tried everything that's been suggested here (seriously - everything!) and nothing works. I really believe it comes down to their mother manipulating them, and there's nothing we can do about it. We decided today, though, to start having them help us make the menu for the week and they'll go grocery shopping with us to pick stuff out, and they will even be in charge of choosing and preparing dinner for us (with our help, of course) a couple nights a week when they're with us. That'll give us an opportunity to praise their efforts and tell them how great the food is and how much we appreciate them making it for us... maybe they'll like how that feels and will reciprocate. I'm actually not feeling very optimistic about it (we discussed it with them at dinner tonight - we were very excited about it, but the feeling wasn't mutual, obviously), but we're going to try and see how it goes. It can't hurt!


That seems to be the best course of action. They need to know abou the resposibility of going food shopping and coming up with ideas for dinner. They may get more excited about it when they realize they have some control over the menu (because they had no control over the divorce).



You may, however, want to make some guidelines, if you already haven't. Like, the meal must include one vegetable,  or something of that nature. Good luck!

Joyelle - posted on 08/12/2009

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Hi there my step daughter Brianna would not eat. So finally I told her to at least take a bite and try it before she says she doesn't like it. It worked for me so good luck. She loves to try all the snacks I have now.

Ashley - posted on 08/12/2009

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My step-son is 7 and he was this way at first because his mom is not much of a cook. I simply taught him that if he tries things that I cook he usually likes them. We still have some things he doesn't like, but he is doing much better!

Megan - posted on 08/12/2009

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Honestly I don't see an end to our problem, which is similar to yours. We have tried everything. My 10 year old SS is just so stubborn. I have come to the conclusion that it is a control issue with him since he doesn't even know what most foods taste like so it isn't possible for him to "not like" everything. He eats a lot of fast food at BM's house. In fact SD will stop at three different places if the family wants different things. We think its crazy.



It used to cause a major struggle at dinner which I hated since we have the boys EOW and it would ruin like at least 1/4 of the meals we ate together.



So now, I make dinner. I will make grilled chicken for B. I give him a piece of vegetable, like one kernal of corn and one pea (not joking). He has to take a bite of one of them. If he doesn't then he can clear his plate but he doesn't get anything else to eat all night. No dessert. No snacks.



I have talked to my husband and older SS and we have made a pact that we won't make a big deal out of what he eats. Above is what we do. Now, his dad doesn't need to make a big deal and escalate something until he feels like his only choice is to send B to bed without dinner. Now, I know that he has been given a choice and he has chosen not to feed his body or brain.



So far, he refuses to eat a bite of corn or anything else. And, I don't know if he will ever give in. However, now the pressure is off of me somewhat.



Anyhow there are lots of good ideas, but if they don't work, sometimes you just have to go for consistency and accept that they may or may not eat. But, you have given them the choice to eat.

Teri - posted on 08/12/2009

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Thanks for all the suggestions! The problem is really that we've tried everything that's been suggested here (seriously - everything!) and nothing works. I really believe it comes down to their mother manipulating them, and there's nothing we can do about it. We decided today, though, to start having them help us make the menu for the week and they'll go grocery shopping with us to pick stuff out, and they will even be in charge of choosing and preparing dinner for us (with our help, of course) a couple nights a week when they're with us. That'll give us an opportunity to praise their efforts and tell them how great the food is and how much we appreciate them making it for us... maybe they'll like how that feels and will reciprocate. I'm actually not feeling very optimistic about it (we discussed it with them at dinner tonight - we were very excited about it, but the feeling wasn't mutual, obviously), but we're going to try and see how it goes. It can't hurt!

Betty - posted on 08/12/2009

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Make whatever you want to make and if they don't want to eat it than tell them they can have a bowl of cereal instead. Eventually they will get tired of eating cereal every night and be more willing to try things. Also, have dessert ready for anyone who eats the real dinner and if they don't eat the dinner than you and your husband should eat the dessert right in front of them and throw theirs down the garbage disposal. It sounds mean but they shouldn't be so rude about dinner.

Angie - posted on 08/12/2009

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Maybe you could give them a choice between two meals that you're willing to prepare. When kids are allowed to choose they feel like they are more in control and whine less.



Also, maybe you could have them help you make dinner. Maybe they wouldn't complain about something they made and it might make them feel proud.

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When I went through this with my SD, she was much younger. She had just turned four and was a very picky eater. She got away with only eatting chicken strips and nuggets and french fries when she was with BM. We had only started getting her on a regular bases and SD threw a fit about a very simple meal that she shouldn't have had a problem eatting. I believe that it was a chicken/pasta/veggie meal with bread and butter. She ate her bread (but not the crust) and wanted more. I said she had to eat her other food and she started crying. It ended up turning into a huge fit. She ended up going to bed that night without any supper. She ate two bowls of Cherrios the next morning and we've never had a problem since.



I think what really made SD never try the stunt again was that she could see that her dad and I were NOT going to budge on the issue. We knew she wouldn't starve if she missed one meal, but I know that she wasn't happy missing that meal. To my surprise, this even has never become a problem with her BM.



Since your girls are much older and much more manipulative, the advice that I would give you is to just be consistant while they are at your house. It may take awhile, but they should soon learn the routine differences between your house and BM's house. Make sure that their dad is on the same page as you, so that there isn't a manipulation of dad during that time.



I would say, offer them the meal. If they don't eat it - they don't eat. Period! If they talk trash about the meal - they are done. Those are the rules in my house.

Kimberly - posted on 08/12/2009

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My step-daughter lives with us full-time and it was a struggle to get her to eat real food at first because she was used to snacks (chips, cheese puffs, toast) all day long until her dad came home to fix a real dinner.

Have them assist in preparing dinner, if they don't already do so. Give them a job so they feel a part of everyday things at your house. The part about liking something one week and hating it another is probably based in their feeling disloyal to Mom. If they like what you do then it means they don't like what their Mom does..kid logic. Their father may want to tell them that what happens at Mom's is different from what happens at your house. Different house, different rules. Just don't say Mommy's rules are bad. Once they know what is expected of them, you may have an easier time of it. And as far as refusing to eat something, well then they may need to go to bed without it a time or two before they realize that what you cook for dinner is it and they don't get whatever they want just because they want it. Trust me, it won't take long for them to get the picture. Especially if their Dad tells them how wonderful the meal was.:)

Show them where their food comes from - take them to a local farmer's market, if you have one. Take them grocery shopping with you if that's possible and tell them you will not get any junk food (and stick to it). Once they understand the junk is no longer available, you should start making some headway.

It may take some doing, but their father needs to support you in this as well. Who knows, maybe all of you will start eating healthier as a result.

Then you can start introducing things they've never tried before. Tell them they don't have to like it but they have to try it. My step-daughter volunteers now to try new foods, especially if my fiance and I are enthusiastic about whatever food it is.

Hopefully this will give you an idea where to go. And yes, taking them to a homeless shelter to help serve food might be good for them. Not just to teach them a lesson, but to think of others before themselves. Make it a family thing. Kids learn most by watching and emulating their caretakers. "Do as I say and not as I do" (as my parents did) is no longer an option.

Hope this helps. Let me know how you do!

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