My 3 year old will hardly eat other than a few selected items, please help!!!

Jessica - posted on 03/18/2013 ( 19 moms have responded )

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Hi I have 4 kids, 2 of them toddlers and this is the first time i encounter this problem. MY 3 year old has not wanted to eat anything other than a few selected items (spaghetti only home made, chidken nuggets from mcdonalds only, the insides of a hot pocket or the toppings on a pizza cheese pepperoni and sausage, the meat off the taco bell tacos, or onino rings from burger king and ofcourse milk.. lots of MILK!) this has been going on for the past year now!!!! i give him what he wants just to make sure he eats something but he refuses to try anything else ( he used to eat everything when he was under 2). he will not even try a french fry, or a cheeseburger nevertheless a veggie!! I really dont know what to do, I work full time and thankfully my daycare provider is nice enough to give him the things he wants just to try and make him eat, and even the things we know he likes he will sometimes refuse too :( i am getting worried about him and worried about next year when he goes to preschool as I know no one else will give him things he will actually heats to accomodate him. Any advice, input, experience you may have with this is helpful I am desperate now. My daughter who is 2 now is started to try and copy my son and not eat different foods now too. HELP!
jessica

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Karie - posted on 03/24/2013

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I don't think anyone here is trying to lecture you, just offering the advice you asked for.

My middle son who is now nine, has been a very picky eater all his life. Very leary to try new things though he is getting better about it. Part of the reason for that is, we do not allow his picky behavior to dictate his diet. Fast food restaurants are occasional treats, not every day meals in our house. Like most people here, I cook one meal. You eat what I cooked for you, or you don't eat. Believe me, I've delt with crying, tantrums, and my son going all day without eating.....and not because I didn't give him food. Hard as it is to hear, if you want to change his eating habits you have to change what you're offering him. And you have to stand by your decision. He is still a toddler, so expect more than a few tantrums. Right now he is used to eventually getting his way. He is in fact testing his boundaries and trying to control the situation. He's old enough that he knows you cannot physically force him to eat. Is it hard to watch them cry and throw a fit, yes absolutely. But you are not being cruel, you are being his mother and trying to keep him healthy.
You can make him feel like he has some control by offering him options when and where it's possible. Like, "mommy's going to make a sandwich, would you like peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese?". Allow him to help decide what is for dinner and if possible allow him to help in the kitchen. I've found my kids are more likely to eat and try something new if they had a hand in making it.
It's going to be a struggle for awhile, but once he realizes that you are not going to back down, things will start to get better. I wish you the best of luck! =)

Marilyn - posted on 03/26/2013

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Try getting a cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld .It tells you how to add all important fruits and veggies and disguise them in your recipes. Give it a try. They dont even know its good for them. Like the one where you grind carrots and cauliflower into tomato sauce and pour over spaghetti. Its simple. Good Luck!!!!!

Carla - posted on 03/25/2013

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My son just turned 4 on 2/20. He stopped eating at 10 months when he started walking. His diet consists of yogurt, any kind of crackers (saltine, animal, goldfish, or graham), V8 splash, any kind of fruit, and fries. He will not eat meat at all. I tried the putting out the same plate as ours method but he lost 5 lbs from not eating. I started making him homemade hash browns (latkes) and putting finely mashed carrots and cauliflower in them. I also have to make him fruit and veggie smoothies outside of his V8 splash. I try to get in any kind of veggies and protein where I can with him. I use to cry over him not eating but then after all the tears, I decided there are picky eaters and it's ok. I give him a multivitamin everyday and put tofu in homemade chocolate chip cookies. Kids really can not tell the difference. Dont upset yourself too much because some kids are jusy picky eaters.

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Diana - posted on 11/01/2013

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Kids go through phases quite often w/food. They often won't eat certain things. One of my charges (when I was a nanny) would go through periods of eating only one thing, then eat anything that you put in front of her. This could change daily. Since then, I've been teaching cooking classes to 2 1/2 yr olds to adults & many parents find that their kids try things if they see it on the table, or a SMALL amount on their plate. Parents need to be patient. It can take many times of something being on the plate before a picky eater will even try it. Trying to coax them into trying something new doesn't really work either.

As I've suggested in another post, it can also help for kids, even toddlers, to help with everything from shopping in the produce section to putting pre-cut or pre-measured ingredients into a bowl or casserole dish to 'help' make dinner. Yes, it can add time to the prep work, but in the long run it pays off.

Khato - posted on 10/29/2013

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I was and still am concerned about my 3yrs old. She wont try every food except few items which i mentioned earlier. I have taken her to the doctors but they are not concerned as her growth is above the average level and she is healthy. The doctor thinks she will grow out of it when she is ready. So perhaps see the doctor to make sure his growth is average or above and he is healthy. Good luck.

Khato - posted on 10/28/2013

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Hi, i am in the similar situation. My 3yrd old wont eat any type of meat. Even if i cook something in meat sauce, she will first smell the food and reject it. She might be vegetarian as my hubby is vegan. She only eats eggs, pasta with cheese only, potatoes, lentils sometimes biscuits and fruit. Of course milk. We have tried everything but notjing helps to make her eat. I am hoping she will grow out of being picky eater soon. My other kids love their food. Good luck to us all mums :-).

Jo-Ellen - posted on 04/02/2013

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My daughter is almost 12 and she is still a picky eater. She gradually refused more and more foods from the time she was about 2.5 years. She will not eat fruit or veggies of any description among other things. My doctor warned me against forcing her because it could create eating disorders when she is older due to a need for control. I tried it all - serving it every meal until she ate, not letting her leave the table, bribery, you name it. I even tried hiding finely grated veggies and she would spot them and stop eating. This is what I finally came to - you can lead the horse to the trough, but you can't make them eat. I have stopped planning meals around her, I only make sure they are healthy. If there is absolutely nothing she will eat, she is free to get leftovers out of the fridge - no treats or newly made food (i.e.. she can't have a sandwich) After a number of years she has agreed to eat carrots and/or corn. I am finally at the point where I can say that she is responsible for making her own choices regarding food and she grudgingly will still take the few veggies she has agreed to. It is frustrating though.

That being said, I have learned to not be finite when talking about it, i.e.. she never eats veggies. I think that has become part of her identity and it will make it harder for her to change. I offer her FruitSource bars from Sunrype to get in some fruit, and smoothies (but when I tried to do it every day she stopped drinking them). I talk about when she decides to eat fruit and veggies she will be sorry she missed out all these years.

It is normal for the 2 year old, so don't stress out too much. Just keep offering healthy choices. For both, praise the efforts - even if it is only one bite. Try not to be critical, I think that was my big downfall. It is hard. Good luck!

Kayla - posted on 03/28/2013

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I'm going through that faze with my daughter shes going to be 3 in 2 months its not as bad anymore because I started giving her little things to do in the kitchen with me Like wash the veggies in the sink or even helping me use the can opener. Ill ask her to grab the ingredients for me. with my help or my husbands we will hold her and let her help stir the sauce for spaghetti. Instead of taking away her favorite snacks I just started getting everything whole wheat like her Ritz crackers, her veggie thins have less fat. Its fortunate that i nipped her pickyness in the bud because now instead of asking for cookies she wants carrots and cheese for a snack or pickles and crackers. It took many months she stopped eating a lot when she turned 13 months. No she will try almost anything. There are still the days were she wont eat but its not pickyness its just shes not hungry so I wrap her food an d put it in the microwave. She usually will ask for it about 1hr before bed. Shes the child that will eat nothing all day until pretty much bedtime. But with help from friends and family and not letting her get away with eating junk when she does eat its healthy. Shes learned that take out is twice a month and no more then that so she doesn't ask. Ive also learned not to force her to eat because she just throws her food around. I let her go to her food. She always eats what we eat just not always at the same time as we eat. If any of this helped Good luck.

Arti - posted on 03/28/2013

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Hi, i am going through the same thing...i have a 19 months old daughter and she is not eating anything at all since last 1 months, she is just having cows milk (3ce a day) and if i am lucky she eats a yogurt pot and a cookie. i dont even remember last time she had a proper meal. took her to gp and they suggested a urine n boold test. i dont know what to do.....any suggestions guys!!!!!

Stefanie - posted on 03/25/2013

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I feel your pain. My daughter is 2 1/2 and will eat very few things. Chicken (any kind), Mac n cheese, hot dogs, veggie straws, biscuits, chocolate gravy, toast, and of course candy/junk food. At one point, she would go days without eating much at all. She has finally gotten to a point where now she will tell us when she is hungry. Doctor told us not to worry, if she gets hungry, she will eat. I give her Flintstone gummy vitamins.

Jessica - posted on 03/25/2013

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Carla, Thank you for replying and telling me your story! Glad I'm not the only one and its not that i donut know that what my son is is not good its almost like he is grossed out of other foods, that tofu thing I will have to try for sure! I also need to find him some mutt-vitamins that he will eat! I had bought him vitamins that are liquid and taste like banana but that was a no go

Sarah - posted on 03/19/2013

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Jessica that is me. It is hard for me to try new things. My diet was hot dogs, potatoes and ice cream and that was it. But part of what has pushed me to try new things is being forced to do so. As an adult you are in situations where it is rude to not eat what is being served at different events. Due to that I have had to force myself to try new things. It is through that that I have realized that sometimes being in a situation where you have no other options you try things and realize that they are actually good. This is where I wish my parents would have done a little bit more on not catering to my wants. I eat so many different things now...I am still a bit picky, but I am willing to try new things. I have come to realize that it might be good. But I had to be put in situations where I was pushed to try those new things. If I had never been pushed I would have never tried them.

I will say at 2 and 3 yrs old though they tend to be more picky then at 5 or 6 yrs old.....from my experience. It is the age.....at 2 and 3 they are testing the boundraries and figuring out what they can get away with and what they can't.

I would say if you are concerned there might be a deeper issue I would talk to your doctor about it. There might be things he/she would suggest for you to do and ways to teach him how to eat different foods.

Jessica - posted on 03/19/2013

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I think this is more than picky eater, i think he is afraid to try something else, and i really want to hear from people who went through this with a 3 year old not a 5 or 6 year old because that age they are definetly just being picky.

Christina - posted on 03/19/2013

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I thought you wanted advice on how to get help with this...that's generally why people post a question. If you just want someone to commiserate with you and say they know what you are going through, be more clear. I think we all on some level have picky eater problems. Just shared what has worked with my kids. Take it for what it's worth.

Sarah - posted on 03/19/2013

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Jessica I was not lecturing. I have dealt with this. I was also one of those kids that was VERY picky. There are things I do with my kids I wish my parents did with me.

Jessica - posted on 03/19/2013

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I was really hoping to hear from moms who have experienced this, not be lectured, Thanks anyway.

Sarah - posted on 03/19/2013

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Here is what I do.....I make a meal and you can decide if you want to eat it or not. If you decide to not eat it then there is no food until the next meal....and then again at that meal it is whatever is made that is served. Kids know how far they can push to get what they want. You have to set the boundary. Everyone has their likes and dislikes, so I do try to keep that in mind, but I don't cater to being a short order cook. Missing a meal or so is not going to kill him. He will make it up....kids do eat when they get hungry. If you stand your ground and offer a variety of healthy foods at meal times they do start to eat. Keep offering the food too....just because he did not eat it at one meal won't mean he won't eat it down the road. I believe that on average it takes kids 7 times of being served a certain item before they may start to try it.

Also cut back on the liquids. Sometimes kids will fill up on liquids and not be hungry for food. My rule is one cup (4 ounces) of milk with your meal then if you finish your food and want more milk then you may get some. I also watch how much liquid I am giving inbetween meals. If it is hot or they have been running around I will give more, but if not then it is not too much.....so they don't fill up. Snacks keep to a minnium. I find that kids eat better at meal times if there is not much snack (if any at all) inbetween meals. Keep snacks healthy....a fruit or a veggie. And remember no snacks if meal was not eaten before hand. Another rule I have is food must be eaten at the table. This helps with the unhealthy snacks that can be carried around and eaten. This also goes with drinks. Kids tend to drink more if they carry a sippy cup around with them all day.

Jessica - posted on 03/18/2013

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I get what you are saying, no nutritional value, unfortunately this started happening when i went back to work when he was almost 2 and they stayed home with my husband who started feeing him hot pockets and chicken nuggets. He used to eat so many different things with me.

Christina - posted on 03/18/2013

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Because he is 3, I would start by just talking to him. 3 year olds are capable of understanding many things we don't give them credit for. For example, since my daughter was about 2, she developed a major sweet tooth (inherited from her daddy). I don't mind the occasional sweet but she was starting to beg me constantly for sweets. It was driving me nuts! I started explaining to her that before she got to eat a cookie or ice cream, she had to eat something healthy first. I would give her a choice of 3 healthy things and she got to choose. (usually a fruit, yogurt or veggie). One year later, it has sank in because when she asks for sweets, if I say no, she will say "after I have a healthy snack, right?" Another thing I always am telling her is that "healthy food makes you grow bigger", "healthy food makes you stronger" and tell her that when she's bigger she gets to go to school and do other fun things bigger kids do. I also remind her when we are doing big kid things, that she gets to do that big girl activity because she eats lots of healthy food.

Another thing you can try is getting them more involved in the food prep and grocery shopping. Maybe let them pick out a few fun items that you know are healthy but maybe look more kid friendly. (go-gurts, cheese sticks) Or try making their plates of food look fun. Pinterest is a great way to get ideas on making fun "pictures" with their food.

The bottom line is you never want to argue with kids about eating. It can lead to eating disorders when they are older and it will only become a control issue if you force it on him. However, what he eats now is really not giving him ANY nutritional value...except maybe the spaghetti. I'm not even sure if McDonalds chicken nuggets should qualify as "food"! Kids follow by example and sometimes, as hard as it can be, maybe the best thing is for the whole family to stay away from fast food. That way he won't feel so singled out.

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