My 3 year old only eats pizza and pop tarts!!!

Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015 ( 18 moms have responded )

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I know this sounds bad. He's always been a picky eater. He was breastfed for 11 months. Then formula. And it was all downhill once he began eating table food. It started out with him only wanting a few things like grilled cheese and spaghetti. He would try veggies and some fruit. But recently he's boycotting lunch at preschool every single day and even sometimes breakfast at home. So I'm always giving in at dinner just to fill him up. For the past few weeks, he's refused almost every meal that wasn't pizza, pancakes, chicken nuggets (sometimes), and one flavor of pop tarts. Right now, he's a healthy weight and I've spoken to his pediatrician about it, who isn't concerned. He takes a multivitamin and he sometimes drinks an Ensure. I'm a solo parent (in my late twenties). I'm at a loss here, and I don't want an obese kid. Does anyone have any suggestions, or has anyone gone through this?

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♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/19/2015

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Ok, first, stop negating what you need to do. Yes, its going to add time to your day, but no more time (once you reset your routine) than you are really already investing.

If you are living on nothing but frozen items like lean cuisine and Annies, you really do need to broaden that. Freshly prepared food, whether it be vegetarian or not, has so many more nutrients than frozen, canned, processed.

For chicken, you can purchase already cut breasts in 'tenderloin' form (chicken strips), a quick breading of flour, salt, pepper & garlic if you like), fry up (strips fry very quickly) and serve with a veggie. For 'fries', oven fries are awesome...a couple of potatoes stripped, a slight oil coating and seasoning of choice, bake at 350 until done...about 15 minutes or so, they can be baking while the chicken is cooking....

Do salads! Fun foods that can be 'finger foods' too...greens, carrots, other veggies of choice. A quick salad can be turned into a chef salad with a trip to the deli for meats of choice, and sprinkle cheese on top. Can also do taco salads.

Breakfast ideas: Fresh fruits & cereal. Yoghurt with/without fruit.

Pizza is AWESOME. So many varieties! You make your own (again, super, duper easy, get crust mix, sauce of choice, and toppings at store). With this, you can do meat pizza, with lowfat meats/cheeses. You can do taco pizza, dessert pizza, any pizza variety you can think up. I don't use a cookbook, I just jump in and go. If you can visualize it, and know what ingredients you want to include, you're on your way. My MIL and I tried our own version of a chicken alfredo pizza...so it didn't look like Papa John's...but it was phenomenal.

You've got a whole 2 hour window here. Pre-prepping things is a good time saver. If you prep your veggies, etc, when you bring them home from the store, and then just use containers to store, they're ready to grab when time comes (and another thing you can use as a teaching tool for your kiddo, helping you recognize and get normal, every day things)

Remember: You don't have to be superwoman. You don't have to do it all, every day. YOU CAN DO THIS and do it well!

Michelle - posted on 02/19/2015

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The other ladies have given you some great advice.
I agree that he knows that if he complains enough you will just give in. Yes he may be stubborn but you have to be more stubborn. Raising a head strong toddler is a battle of wills and the parents just have to be stronger. I have 2 very strong willed children but they have learned that I don't give in. My oldest one is 13 and will try anything I cook now.
Children do have to try foods around 10 times before they like it so it comes down to persistence.
Cooking a healthy meal doesn't have to take hours. I work full time but still cook every night for my family of 5. A slow cooker is great in winter for stews or even some chicken drumsticks. Then you can either have a salad or some frozen vegetables with it. Maybe see if there are some cooking classes available in your area or even join an online group to get some great recipe ideas.

Dove - posted on 02/19/2015

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You may eat together every night, but he sees you eating something different....

Did he really not eat for an entire week? Or did it just seem that way?

You can turn some of his favorites into healthier options... pizza w/ veggies, homemade chicken nuggets (simply cut up breasts w/ bread crumbs), pancakes w/ berries cooked in them, etc... but he certainly should not be eating ONLY those things.

There are some kids w/ medical or mental health struggles that literally WILL starve themselves w/out their 'special' foods, but for most kids... nope, not gonna happen.

Would he drink a 'milkshake' (really a fruit smoothie w/ yogurt)? That could be an incentive for trying new foods... and 4oz of that will get some healthy nutrients and protein in him as well.

Get creative and make the changes in YOUR meals that you want to see in his as well.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/19/2015

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Brittan, look into creating your own low calorie meals. This is a great opportunity not only to introduce your son to the fun of trying different things, but also for learning how to prepare healthy meals for a broad age spectrum. Plus, it's fun to learn new dishes and cooking styles.

Let him help you. I know, the idea of letting a 3 YO loose to help in the kitchen can be cringeworthy...LOL...been through 2 boys myself! Trust me. They LOVE to help in the kitchen. This pays off! By the time my oldest was 5, he was darn near self sufficient, in that he could prepare a cold meal for himself, and his brother if he wanted to be nice. Not that we had him do that on a regular basis, but he would fix his and brother's sandwiches while I fixed mine and hubby's...

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/19/2015

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Well, he's got you figured right out. He knows that if he throws a fit, you give in.

Stop giving in. He gets what everyone else gets, or he doesn't eat that meal. If he chooses not to eat, but wants food later, you can offer him the plate he refused the first time...

Very common toddler stage. My kids both went through it, they weren't happy with the results, but they lived...LOL...learning that momma just is NOT giving in is a tough lesson for a 3 YO.

Keep up with the Ensure, but otherwise, just serve him what you're eating, and don't give him options.

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Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015

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Thank you all! I really appreciate the advice and the encouragement. My toddler is sort of walking all over me right now. With mealtime, bedtime, and I let him. He's just so darn cute...and I'm just soo busy! I have much to learn. And I want to get our eating habits down first. When I was with his father, he shopped and cooked all of our meals, so I have to figure out how to navigate a grocery store (aside from the freezer and snack sections). Thanks again!

Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015

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Oh and he did go through a phase where he loved yogurt. Now he won't touch it.

Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015

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It may not have been a week, but I called it a hunger strike. I never eat what he eats unless it's breakfast, and sometimes I just sit with him while he eats. I load up on Annie's frozen dinners and Lean Cuisines at the grocery for myself. I'm not much of a dinner person. I'm coming from being a vegetarian for 7 years actually. Maybe I'm picky too?? I can definitely try to replace his frozen nuggets, pizzas and fish sticks for homemade options and see what happens. There's just so much to be done in a short amount of time at home and I'm the only adult running my household.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/19/2015

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Oh, this is the perfect time to learn some simple dishes that you and he can prepare together. Mommy/kiddo kitchen time!

It's in your genes! Don't look at it as a difficult challenge, but as an opportunity to learn new things for and with your son. I couldn't cook worth a damn when I got married...but now LOVE to.

Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015

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Thanks Shawnn. My mom is an awesome cook and my grandpa owned a soul food restaurant when I was a kid, so I was pretty spoiled when it came to food and never learned to cook well. My job was always to set the table and I had cleaning duty. So I know how to clean really well, and of course make things look pretty. Cooking is not something I enjoy, but I know I need to learn and just try. Also, when you get home at 6pm and have a couple hours before bath/bedtime it's hard. Perhaps I could invest in a crock pot?? I don't know. And I'm sure he would love seeing me struggle in the kitchen. He does love helping with dishes! He never ate this terribly before, and I'm just frustrated that he's down to two or three things that he eats now.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/19/2015

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By 'together', Jodi means both physically, at the same table, as well as the same foods, I think ;-)

Jodi - posted on 02/19/2015

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I think not eating together is a mistake. And not eating the same or similar meals is a mistake. He needs you as an example.

Ev - posted on 02/19/2015

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I would still stop the Ensure. Even though its got the protein in it he can get his protein other places and with other choices. Usually the doctor would suggest Ensure or Pediasure for a child that actually needs it. I know this from working in a preschool wtih children of special needs. Ensure is an extra source for nutrition.

Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015

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I know he has me figured out LOL. It's kind of embarrassing. I eat Lean Cuisine meals most nights and I make him whatever he wants. We do eat dinner together, and I guess that's how I justify it :(

Brittan - posted on 02/19/2015

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His doctor didn't recommend the Ensure, I just picked it up in the grocery store last week. It's the protein water. I figured since he's been carb loading for practically a month, he might need some protein. I'm exhausted with this whole routine. He's really a stubborn kid. He's gone on a hunger strike before for almost a week. Just drinking and maybe nibbling on crackers or toast. I also have to make sure I have an after school snack (goldfish or special K cracker chips is all he'll take) for the car ride home since he rarely eats preschool lunch.

Sarah - posted on 02/19/2015

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My suggestion is don't give in. If he knows he can demand then that is what he will do (and is doing). Make a healthy meal and serve it. If he eats great if not then he gets another healthy meal at the next meal time, but there are no fillers or snacks. Most kids will eat when they get hungry enough. As long as his doctor is not concerned and he is not underweight then he is fine. Missing a few meals is not going to hurt him. Toddlers in general will hardly eat at times and then eat tons to where you wonder where they put it all. Toddlers also go through times of being picky. If you don't cater to the pickiness it passes. There are going to be certain foods he is not going to like, but when you know it is a food he has eaten before and is just choosing not to eat then that is a choice he is making. Also when you serve new foods have a few things you know he likes on his plate and then the new food. It may take 7 to 10 times of serving the new food before a toddler tries it. I can tell you that by experience......I have kids that will say "yuck" when there is something new served.......not try it and totally refuse it. I don't make them extra of something else. By about the 5th time I serve whatever they are totally refusing they start to try it. For some it then becomes one of their favorite things to eat. If I stopped at the first refusal or gave in and served them something else then they would never try it and never find out that maybe they do like it.

Ev - posted on 02/19/2015

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Replace all those foods you have said he eats with the healthy choices. Tell him that is what he is getting and if he refuses to eat, save it for the next meal. It won't take long to get him to eat what is in front of him. Giving in is setting you both up to fall later on. By giving in to his wants or desires now, you are telling him its okay to do this and he can walk all over you in doing so. As he gets older he will continue to do this to get his way. You need to be consistent in not only making sure he eats well but in other areas too. As you know in life outside the home with family, no one gives in to our wants or desires because that is not how it works. It should not work this way at home either. Once he learns now that you mean business when it comes to his eating habits or other things, he will follow the rules you set. I would also avoid going to the fast food places, pizza places, and other venues that offer junk to eat. Even picky eaters learn to eat what is in front of them. My son was picky. Eating only fruits and meats. Over time we worked back in what he did not like and he eats almost everything now. So just keep trying. Another thing, if he is of a healthy weight, he does not need he Ensure or Pedialite. That is for kids whose health is in question for one reason or another. Its just another thing he will use to get his way. I have seen this done by kids who were more than capable of eating what was on their plate but did not want to.

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