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What do you do when it is hard to get your child to eat?

Mealtimes can be a constant battle with some kids and moms of picky eaters often worry their child is not getting a nutritious diet. What are your tips for moms who are having a hard time getting their kids to eat?

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28  Answers

5 12

Great topic! As a pediatric nurse & mother three... Few tips:
1. Children do go through physiological anorexia (decrease appetite around 3-5years old)
So don't force food. Know your child's BMI what percentage they fall into for weight/height.
2. Since kids can be picky, Offer plenty of healthly foods! Most children eat non nutrient rich foods (ie chips, Cheetos, juice with high fructose corn syrup, fruit snacks)
3. Set a meal (and snack) schedule. I only do snack after naps!
4. Have fun with food! Favorites are "octopus hot dogs"
Ladybug apples (red apples raisins, peanut butter and pretzels)
I let girls assemble ladybugs and then eat them! I freeze go-yurts and turn them into a frozen treat!
We freeze yogurt and add colorful sprinkles for a healthy desert!
Fruit kabobs, cutting fruit into shapes with cookie cutters are all tricks
To encourage healthy foods! Next trip to grocery store let your little one pick out a fruit!
They will be excited to see what their fruit takes like!
5. Limit distractions, no toys, games, TV at the table.
We sometimes implement "talkers off, eaters on!"
And set goals: my picky 5 year old must take three more bites before being excused from the table
(I usually look at her plate and give her the option of what food she want to take the three bites of, giving her some control back ). We watch, count and cheer!
6. Don't get obsessed with food! If your child is above the 10% weight for their age,
Just keep offering a variety of foods rich in iron, calcium and variety of fruits
And balance it over a week (not a day!)
7. Read labels, American Academy of Pediatrics have a great guide for parents
For those of you smart detail oriented mommies!
8. My soapbox: Remember one portion for a child is the size of their palm, not your palm! Lol.
Now think about the size if a cupcake; that's like an adult eating two or three!!!!
No wonder we have a 1 in 5 child obesity rate!!!!
And no SODA! It's literally killing our kids! Only 5% kids get their recommended amount of calcium do to all the empty calories from juice and soda!!!!!
Phosphoric acid in soda is terrible for growing bones and red dye#5
Increases ADHD.... (all founded in research!)

14 8

I have been having a hard time getting my 3 year old twin boys to eat well rounded meals. I tried not giving them anything else until they ate what was on their plate and one of my sons lost 5 pounds over it all. I have resolved to add nutrition into theit diet other ways. I put carnation breakfast in their milk (which has a lot more nutrition than ovaltine or other drink mixes.) I also give v8 v-fusion vegetable and fruit juice daily. They have come out with these cookies called WhoNu? Which are nutrition rich cookies! I give them those as a treat if they eat their food :0) sometimes, if they eat all of their food I willmake them special "milkshakes" combine 1 cup milk, 1/3 c carnation breakfast essentials, 1 Tbs. Wheat germ and 5 or 6 icecubes in the blender and pulse until well kids think it's icecream!!!.... add a banana or strawberries for a change. The carnation breakfast essentials comes in chocolate or vanilla at my grocery store. I also make them pancakes and muffins with an extra egg in the batter and I add a Tbs. Or two of wheat germ to that as well. If your child won't eat plain pancakes, use "jiffy muffin mix" for your batter :0) they have many flavors. We like the blueberry one!/

178 0

My son is mildly picky, and he also eats a lot less when he's not going through growth spurts, so it can be frustrating. But, his preschool teacher's philosophy is that it's only our job to put the healthy food in front of them. They might eat it, they might not. It's important for us to let them figure out their own tastes, and to know their limits. I have found that since I took this approach, he eats at mealtime (vs. wanting to snack all day) and he tries new foods. He usually doesn't like them, but he tries them, which is what's important. I don't want food to be a debate in our family like it was in mine.

5 0

they will not starve themselves. look at the nutrition of an entire week, not just each meal. continue to offer the food your family is eating. don't become a short order cook for the picky eater. bad habit to start and so hard to break. no snacking unless you again offer the meal that was refused.

56 0

yeah i do that but my son is now 9 and i have NEVER let him tell me what he is or isnt gonna eat from the first day we feed him he ate what i told himthe oly thing he dont care for now but will eat is any type of pie but i dont care for it myself so lol he would rather eat a peach or apple its all in the training and trying to fix it after 3 or 10 years is dumb it shouldnt have started

3 8

I have a very picky eater! It's my own fault though, if she would not eat what I made her, I would make several other items until she would eat. Well..that gets difficult when you go out or visit friends and family, so now she eats what we eat. I don't force her to eat, I leave it out and don't give her any other options until she gets that meal down. The meal will sometimes sit for awhile, but eventually she gets it, and she will sit down and eat. It's a work in progress!

2 25

My daughters all started out as fantastic eaters and would eat sorts of healthy foods. As they have gotten older, they have gotten pickier. When my step-daughter (now 9) turned 6 and started getting REALLY picky, I picked up Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" cookbook and it has totally changed out mealtimes. No more struggles or frustrations. I offer vegetable sides or a salad (or both) with every meal, but if the kids don't eat it, I don't sweat it because I put pureed veggies in everything I cook.

Another trick I started doing is putting a plate of fresh veggies (carrot sticks, celery, edamame, broccoli, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers) on the table while I make dinner. The kids know that if they want a pre-dinner snack (they always do), they can choose something from the table. That way also, if they skip their veggies at dinner, they already ate them and they thought it was a snack!

I also have included my kids in dinner prep. I have learned that if they help prepare the food, they take ownership over it and are more inclined to eat it. They also help me choose the fresh produce at the farmers' market every Saturday. Get your kids in the kitchen - if they make it, they will eat it.

Finally, we have the "rule of bites". My 9-year-old knows she has to eat at least 9 bites of her meal before she may asked to be excused. For my 6-year-old, it's six bites, and for my 3-year-old it's three. Usually, once they start eating it they will end up finishing it. We also have the "try it" rule. If you've never tasted something, you have to at least try it. If you don't like it, that's fine and we thank them for trying. But often, they find that they do like it.

Most of all, we try to make dinner fun. No video games, phones, or tvs, but we make games out of eating. Have "bite races", bet that one child (the youngest) can eat more of her veggies than her older sisters, etc. Usually, the competition fuels the desire to eat.

As for snacking, my kids can be grazers (especially on rainy days when we're stuck indoors and they get bored). I make shapes or animals out of fruits, cheeses, pretzels, veggies, peanut butter, etc. There is something fun on the plate, and I feel good knowing that it's a healthy snack.

17 6

I went through this with 3 of my four children and my fourth not yet cause she is still nursing. but anyways I just wanted to share how I have coped with this problem. When I give my child food that he/she does not want to eat I simply remember an idea that dawned on me with my oldest when he went through this. "A child will not starve himself." Children will eat when they are hungry. So for me, I offer healthy food, if they don't want it then I let them know that their food will be in the refrigerator when they are ready to eat. I put there food away and when they tell me that they are hungry I give them their food that they didn't eat earlier. This is to keep them from getting the spoiled idea that I am running a restaurant. However there are special times when I bend on this "you have to eat what I make" rule. While children are going through growth spurts their taste buds can go through changes too, so they might only eat one kind of food for days, weeks, or even months, but it is just a phase that they go through and for these times as long as the food item is a healthy one then I will allow it. For example; my second oldest child went through 3 of these phases every 2 years until he was 6. When he was 2 he would only eat bananas and that was it. this period lasted for about 4 to 6 months. When he was 4 he would only eat oatmeal. This lasted about 3 to 4 months, and when he was 6 he would only eat PB&J sandwiches. This lasted about 2 to 3 months. At meal times I would offer him what everybody else was eating and if he didn't want it I would make him the food item that I knew he would eat. The good news is that you shouldn't worry. It is a very temporary phase that they grow out of before you know it. Just don't get upset with them or try to force them. They are not in control of what is happening with their bodies and you shouldn't make them feel bad over things that they cannot help. Trust me if they are just being spoiled or trying to get out of eating something just cause they are being unreasonably picky. The "it will be there when you are hungry" rule will weed it out. I also break my child's food up in to "bites" and tell him/her how many "bites" they have to eat before they can get up. Usually no more then 3 or 4 mouthfuls. This really helps because you know they are getting that much food and when you do this it makes it look a lot easier to them. Think about the fact that every thing looks big to them, so one big blob of food on the plate looks like tooo much for them to get down, but if you break it up into manageable bite sizes for them then it doesn't look so bad or so big. You can also think about rewarding them with stickers (not candy or junk) if they do a good job. You could have a board that you put up. Put a small sticker next to each meal that they complete successfully and at the end of the week, if they got all their meal stickers, let them pull a prize from a grab bag filled with party favor stuff from the dollar store. Well I know this was a lot, but I hope it was helpful. Have a blessed day :)

10 43

sometimes i feed mine 2 get to 2 eat n then eventually they were want 2 feed theirself. some people might not agree with what i do but as long as it gets them 2 eat then i will do it.

56 1


56 1

been there and worried about it myself, although my son eats very well whenever he's going through a growth spurt, so I guess he's getting the nutrition he needs. Some tips: vitamin supplements to ensure they are getting everything and keep offering the foods they are fussy about in small amounts as well as food they will eat. Praise them when they eat foods they don't normally eat. I also tell my son that I know he doesn't like something, but I think it's delicious, to encourage him to hopefully try it at some point.

2 20

I offer food but if he doesn't eat it. I can't force him and make it an unpleasent event. I just keep offering food throughout the day and eventually he'll eat.

56 0

just stay with it and don't give in he knows he has to eat . i wouldn't give the kid random food throughout the day breakfast, (snack if hes a early riser ) , lunch snack and dinner i have dinner around 5 or 6 without fall the will learn by you repeating try it for 2 weeks my 9 years old know that if you miss a meal you HAVE to wait until the next meal

133 0

I have two Gil's 2&3 years old. When they wont eat anything I usually make smoothies. I juice veggies and then blend that in with some fruit and milk and that way there getting some nutrients. I don't do it often but they love it and see it as a treat once and a while. Or I'll make veggie spaghetti sauce because it's one of their favourite foods to eat. If they won't eat it in plain site I hide it in stuff they usually do it.

11 0

I am a mother of two, and I had the same problem with my kids too especially the my firstborn, the best way is to give them some natural vitamins to helps them boost their appetite and digestion system. Please check me on my email for the tips at I will be more than happy to advice.

18 0

My 4 year old daughter is a terrible eater , she is so preoccupied with everything else going on she will not just sit easy and eat . I simply turn off television and all sounds . take everything like toys or whatever she can play with away from the table .I then leave her there . if it takes her an hour ta eat a bowl of pasta , it takes her an hour . Then if she doesnt eat it , she gets so little snacks like biscuits or cheese just supper. I figure she wil eventually get sick of being hungry and feed herself . Up until this point i used to have to spoon feed her , shes that lazy .

15 0

I have a very picky 4 year old eater. And I was a very picky eater as a child. So I get it. And here's what I do. I don't give up. And we try to keep food interesting.
1. I make meals for him that I know contain something he likes. He must eat at least half of whats on his plate. And he must taste everything. If not, no snacks or desserts or additional meals till he has finished half of the first meal. So it's up to him.
2. Kids palettes are always changing, so don't give up on food. For instance, he always disliked peanut butter till he visited a friend who liked peanut butter, and magically he now loves peanut butter.
3. We have a garden. He loves to participate in it, and has developed a love of vegetables that he can pick and eat off the vine.
4. All veggies are served raw or lightly steamed so they're still colorful and crunchy. Frozen veggies are a real hit, like half frozen peas and corn.
5. We keep processed foods and junk food to a minimum. But we do enjoy it sometimes as a treat. And have dessert together every evening. So he's learning the difference.
6. We try new recipes and have fun with food. I found several used cook books online for picky eaters and found a lot of great recipes that way. Once a week I make something totally new to try out. But always pair it up with a back up.
7. Don't expect a kid to have a sophisticated pallette. If all he wants to eat is peanut butter and banana sammies, then he's eating better than most kids in the US.
8. We respect his choices. And invite him to choose a couple lunches and dinners that he really loves. But we mix it up with more adult meals too.
9. My husband and I love food, we talk about it, we celebrate it, we have fun with it. So while our son is still picky, I"m convinced that as he grows older he'll learn to celebrate good food too.

512 54

The best food I found for my picky eater was organic vegetable pastas. They come in spiral and other fun shapes. They are made with vegetables AND whole grain, so he is getting protein along with all the essential vitamins and minerals. Hot or cold. My picky one likes it with earth balance, Parmesan cheese and lemon pepper. I feel good knowing he has a good source of protein, carb and vegetables that will sustain him through the day.

9 68

I have a 12yr old now and he still is a very fusy eater. It very hard because he also has some other problem. Anyway he started about the age of 8 and l asked many of people help even doctor and I aways getting the same answer. Which it is something all kids go though and he will out grow it soon. I really hope so he use to eat almost everything but not now and it is not junk food. He doesn't like sweet things. So I pray he will out grow it very soon.

5 4

I have stressed over my kids' diet for years, until I realized that stress at mealtimes counteracts the health benefits of the "healthy" foods. So, our rule is now: yes, you have to eat xyz vegetable and salad, but you help yourself to it, even if the amount is small. This makes it easier, still trains the taste buds and gets veggies etc. into their bodies. Also, I explained to my kids that if they don't eat enough "real" food, then I "cannot" give them sweets/desserts. This is a bit blackmail-y, but I don't have a better solution for this, either..

12 6

I learned to pick a couple favourite foods and have them served at the meal, so that at least the child is getting some nuttition. My girl is still a picky eater. She loves fruits, veggies, yogurt. Her all time favourite is pancakes. So, when I make pancakes, I try to make them healthy. I add fruit, yogurt, oatmeal (if i have some ground up), protein powder. She loves them.

7 14

If your child does not want to eat anything then try to distract them with something and make them eat. In my case water acts wonders when I feed my 2 year old. Take a bucket and put some toys and when the food is done give him a shower... all are happy.....:). Computer games or play short stories, put them to color and my last resort is making them watch Television. Anything they like. I hops this helps.

4 17

Both my kids have been really good eaters since they were born. I'm lucky to have kids that enjoy eating salads and fruits. Recently I have started watching my neighbor's daughter during the week. It is hard to get that child to try anything. Usually I try to work with her pickyness so she doesn't feel left out at dinner time. And with the help of my kids I can usually coax her into trying a baby bite of new things. I always tell her that "I only buy the good stuff. And would never make you to eat something I didn't like." When my kids were younger I would feed them the food from my plate so they would know that mom liked it too before they tried the same stuff from their own.

7 3

My 4 year old daughter can be very fussy with her food, especially at dinner time. Breakfast and lunch are usually pretty easy because she loves to eat fruit and dairy. But then dinner comes around and she often refuses to eat at all. We let her sit with her meal for up to 2 hours and have even tried not giving her a big lunch. In an overall day she gets alot of nutrition but dinner has always been a big thing in my family. If she refuses to eat then she gets sent to bed with a milk to make sure she has something in her belly to sleep. If she has nothing at all, she will wake in the middle of the night for a milk.
My 4 month old son on the other hand never wants to stop eating. He is gaining weight really quickly and is alot larger than my daughter was at this age. He watches us eat and never turns down a try of anything so I hope we wont have the same troubles with him.

56 0

you wont if you start now my son trys and eats what and when he is told cause i started early BUT be careful when you say ur eats all day when ever thats not to good the kids need to learn theres a time to eat breakfast lunch and dinner with snack between you might see a different s

35 22

I have vowed to try to raise my kids with a healthy attitude toward eating, which means an appreciation for healthy foods, non-healthy foods in moderation, and don't make eating a control issue by forcing them to eat when they aren't hungry. My 2y9m old has something against eating dinner. She does ok with breakfast and lunch but nearly every night she decides that she doesn't want to eat dinner. What I have decided to do to not make it a control issue is I tell her that she needs to sit at the table with us but doesn't need to eat. I explain that we have dinner as a family every night so she doesn't have to eat she just has to sit there. She will usually protest for about 5 minutes then pulls herself together and decides on her own that she's ready to eat. As far as the foods she will eat I have the opposite issue most people have. She will eat all of her fruits and vegetables and usually some of her starch but she does not like most meat unless she is in the mood for it and then it's usually hamburger. To get her to eat some meat I offer her dessert if she wants it (I show it to her which is key) and then tell her how much of her dinner she needs to eat in order to eat dessert. If she wants more dessert than I feel appropriate then she needs to eat more dinner first. It works for us.

13 2

Division of responsibility .... it is your job to offer nutritious meals and snacks at regular intervals .... it is your childs job to decide what to eat and how much. Let go of the struggle, it only has negative results.

We have had great results with our 1 and 3 year old. Thank you Ellyn Satter!

1 11

my son (2 on 3/31) is a VERY picky eater. he generally doesn't eat anything unless it's carb or dairy in nature, and sometimes not even then. he won't eat any meat, eggs, beans, or veggies. the only fruit he'll eat is applesauce and bananas, and whatever jam i put on his PBJ. (at least he eats peanut butter though...some protein there.) i've been following his ped's advice...i make him up a plate of whatever it is we're eating at dinner (since breakfast and lunch are usually set), and he either eats it or doesn't. i don't give him something else if he doesn't want what i give him. we've been doing this for two months so far, and he hasn't figured it out yet. i give him a daily vitamin supplement to help fill in the gaps, and we're going to try vegetable juice this week too. i hope he gets the picture soon.

1 12

My 9 year old isn't a normal picky eater. He will only eat a few things. He doesn't eat any fruits or veggies. I thought he would grow out of it. He is going to occupational therapy for feeding now. It has helped him to try new things but he still gags. I don't know if he will ever eat normal food. The therapist who evaluated him said he might be too old for the OT to be effective. It is hard because he knows what he should eat and he is embarrassed if I tell his friends that he won't eat real food.

0 1

Kristin, my 9 year old is the same. Meals are a constant battle. We, too, worked with an OT. He was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. Food textures are one of many issues that he struggles with on a daily basis.

56 0

not sure my son was tough that u have no choice lol u eat whats served from day one he has always ate what he was asked to eat but my nephews and kids a watch from time to time I do ask them ok tonight what would you like to eat and tomorrow I get to pick try to let them help cook to my son LOVES that he help make food and it was great tasted even better than i made it lol he added more spices and it had vedgys to that he dont care for but still eats them

9 13

I am kinda having same problem but my son is almost 17 months old and still eating Baby food Ans wont try anything else. He will just not want nothing to do with it he will throw it on the floor or not try it. I need help here trying to transition my son

5 0

don't keep offering the baby food especially if he is at his average weight or over it. keep offering real food that you eat. he is plenty old enough to do that and should have plenty of teeth to chew what you offer. it could be a new texture thing that just has to be worked through. keep on trying new things several times. you're a great mom!!

56 0

yeah dont buy it and get rid of any baby type food and same with bottles the kid it to old if hes still on them take it all away canned carrots r like the ones you would get in baby food mashed potato r good , hot dogs cut small, oat meal real not baby my son didnt like baby food he ate what we ate lol was off the bottle at age 10 monthes

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4 16

Same problem here. I've decided that I choose what they eat, and they can decide when and how much


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