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10YEARSDOWN SparkPoints: (2,264)
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7/7/13 6:39 P

I have had two children who just don't eat. I cook all the food, it's all delicious, and they were always free to either eat my food or go hungry.


They went hungry. A lot. Too often. With plates of food sitting in front of them at every meal, refusing to eat it. And they each, around the ages of 3 or 4, wasted away in spite of all common sense and logic.

It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch my daughter refuse all food and become sickly for no reason whatsoever. She was 33 lbs when she started kindergarten and there was no cause except stubbornness. Finally, when she was 5, her appetite picked up and she is ok (but still very thin) now at age 8.

When my son pulled the same nonsense, I thought I just might have a breakdown. He just would not eat. Same thing the girl did.

Rather than fight it, or become depressed and desperate again, I just put some meal replacement shakes in the fridge and let him have as many as he wanted. He got his energy back and started eating food again, eventually. But it took a while to get him back.

Sometimes, their unwillingness to eat is stronger than their hunger. A hungry child will still refuse their nutritious meals if they are so inclined. It's not my fault, my kids are just nutty.

Thanks for letting me vent! :)

LOUNMOUN Posts: 1,334
7/3/13 1:35 P

"I think in most households there's primarily one person who decides on a menu, shops for and cooks dinner, (unless there's a joint menu-planning session), especially when very young children are involved. If not, chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and pancakes would have been dinner at our house every week! "

In our home one person doesn't get to decide what everyone else eats all the time. That doesn't mean everyone is ecstatic every meal. Dd regularly doesn't like the dinner I make (about 3 days a week) and that is fine. I don't make her a separate dinner but I don't prevent her from eating other food as long as it isn't junk (no cookies instead of dinner). She has long been able to get a sandwich, yogurt, fruit or a bowl of cereal on her own. The rule here is that she needs to try something before refusing it and she can not be rude about her refusal. She eats a lot more variety than she used to and makes pretty decent food choices without us having a battle over it.

Everyone in my house is included to a degree in the menu planning and grocery shopping process. We have discussed food choices and what is healthy. I think that it is pretty important for my child to learn the process and have a voice in these kind of activities. Obviously when she was very young, dd had less input and gradually that increased as she got older. We've had our seasons of dd only wanting the same thing over and over but we still weren't eating pizza every night.
These days we mutually agree on the meal plan for the week and the grocery list. That means dd suggests 1 or 2 things, dh suggests 1 or 2 things and I come up with the rest. If someone has a strong objection to something we work it out in advance instead of at the table. Sometimes I ask dd or dh to think of something else if we have had that meal recently.

Maybe it is an approach that others would like to consider if they are getting frustrated every day over the family dinner table.

DAWN220 Posts: 77
7/2/13 12:58 P

Boy do I get what you are saying. I have done a few things to broaden my kids like for foods. A couple of them are
1. I have a couple of kids cookbooks, and my kids love to look for something in there to eat and they can usually make it.
2. I go to websites that have recipes and let me kids look.
3. Let my kids decide on the meals and tell them they can only have the same meal (protien/entree) once in a month, they have to have a protien, fruit, vegetable and starch. It is amazing how healthy of meals they plan. They are excited to plan the meal and even make some of it.
These things have worked well for me.

WADINGMOOSE Posts: 1,048
7/2/13 12:58 P

The only time I had input on what we ate when I was a kid was when it was my birthday. I always hated the nights they'd make steak or roast beef or hamburgers - they had a really bad habit of overcooking meat. I got zero sympathy if I complained so I tended to just eat it.

Make food. Your kids will eat it or they won't, but they will not starve themselves and eventually they will start eating.

TORIAMAE Posts: 1,080
7/2/13 12:49 P

Helping to grow or pick food often helps kids take greater interest in eating it.

Also, helping with the cooking...let them choose an interesting looking recipe from a book or show then make it together.

LDHAWKE SparkPoints: (19,069)
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Posts: 771
7/2/13 12:36 P

When I was young my Mom always cooked one meal for everyone. She always had bread (sometimes homemade and still warm), butter and salad on the table. She chose the main entree and would let us pick the vegetables. If we didn't like the main entree, there was always bread, butter and salad.

CSIENK Posts: 6,724
7/2/13 10:37 A

Felt the need to reply to "one person doesn't get to decide what everyone else eats all the time". I think in most households there's primarily one person who decides on a menu, shops for and cooks dinner, (unless there's a joint menu-planning session), especially when very young children are involved. If not, chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and pancakes would have been dinner at our house every week! To the OP ... in your house, that's you. Obviously it's smart to ask for preferences if you have different options in the fridge for dinner. Tell us what you're getting bored with and I"m sure you'll get some great, specific ideas.

LOUNMOUN Posts: 1,334
7/1/13 2:15 P

My dh and I love to try new things but dd is pretty hesitant to eat something new. I still have new stuff and she can eat it or make her own food. I ask her to taste something before she rejects it and she needs to be polite in her refusal. Everyone has preferences but one person doesn't get to decide what everyone else eats all the time.
I only make 1 new thing each week though. Dd gets to suggest 1 or 2 dinners each week.
Dd eats a lot more stuff now than when she was 6 and I never forced her or her starved her into doing it.

Some things dd likes now that she wouldn't have eaten before are veggie burgers, minestrone, manicotti, and fajitas

EXNOLA Posts: 320
7/1/13 1:13 P

Check out cookbooks- there are some for cooking with children which might be helpful. The best way to get them to try things is to get them involved in it. It may take time for a picky child to become familiar with the food, but keep trying it in different forms. Get all of their senses involved and keep at it! As I have said, it can take many many introductions to get a picky child comfortable with the food. Some people even recommend allowing the child to play with the food and even spit it out. Getting the food in the mouth can be a success even if it isn't swallowed. Next time, maybe some will be swallowed and after that even a whole bite or two.
I sometimes use spark recipes, but I also have my favorite cookbooks. I will occasionally do weekly themes. A few weeks ago we did an entirely vegetarian week. I did several vegan meals and a few lacto-ovo veg meals. My picky one tasted something from each meal. He even ate a tofu cube and didn't throw up (an accomplishment in our house- he gags on mushy things like mashed potatoes, beans, and the like). It gets all of us to try new recipes and food items and I keep the successful recipient and put them into our meal rotations.
I will also "hide" vegetables in foods for my picky one but I make sure to tell him after he has already eaten it what was in it. I hope it gets him used to the flavors in a different form so he will eventually accept the flavors in their regular form.

CSIENK Posts: 6,724
7/1/13 11:16 A

I misunderstood your original post. Have you tried searching SP's recipe database for different recipes? There are some pretty good ones.

Some other suggestions...

- I make a teriyaki salmon that's pretty good - even my husband (who isn't a real salmon fan) likes it. Here's the recipe:

- Add sautéed spinach to one or two of your layers when making lasagna

- Make individual quiche cups. Involve your kids - let them make their own. Here's a recipe to get you started:

You can easily change it up... chop up and add some leftover vegetables, or chicken, etc.

(I also cook meatloaf in a muffin pan - it's faster and easier for portion control.)

Edited by: CSIENK at: 7/1/2013 (11:19)
NIRERIN Posts: 14,327
7/1/13 8:10 A

if you share the recipes that you're getting bored of you might get some better suggestions as to what you can make that's close but still has something new in it.
so if you were having mashed potatoes, baked chicken and steamed broccoli for example you might get suggestions like this:
-instead of mashed potatoes, use potatoes and yellow squash to make twice baked squash that you can serve in the hollowed out squash. you still use potatoes, so it's like mashed potatoes, but with a little bit new.
-do sweet potato fries instead of mashed potatoes. if the fries are okay, then perhaps try moving up to baked or mashed sweet potatoes.
-do a breaded fish in place of chicken.
-try teriyaki chicken in place of plain baked chicken
-try zucchini rounds in place of steamed broccoli.
-if the ingredients can touch, make a pot pie with a mashed potato crust. don't try all new ingredients, but add a small amount [perhaps staring with a whole serving per pie] of a new food.
-steam, chop up and add greens to the mashed potatoes.

that way you're easing in new foods bit by bit, but the basic meal is staying the same. sort of like moving from plain corn to succotash. then from plain succotash you add a little salsa. then you move on to adding black beans or cream. the black beans make it a meal, the cream makes it a great bed for seafood.

HEALTHYJ29 SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 1,307
7/1/13 7:53 A

What about trying to turn the foods they like into healthier options such as baked chicken tenders or take a baked potato and cut in slices and bake.
I also think adding a dip or a sprinkle of cheese to broccoli for example can help. If you can try to teach them moderation so it is fine to have the hot dogs they like but on the side they need a veggie instead of fries.
You stated she does eat fruits and veggies but not a lot so could you try a new one but add it to a food she does like. Such as berries to yogurt or spinach in some eggs. When I was trying to add more produce in my diet that helped. Also to start in small quantities.

IOWA51973 Posts: 124
6/30/13 5:58 P

Thanks for all of the comments. I didn't mean to imply that I actually make a different meal for each of the kids but feel like a short order cook when I am trying to decide….. I don't make a different meal for everyone each night just to be clear. I do pick one thing that I expect everyone to eat, but I have to say I recycle the same recipes a lot! I mostly wanted to know how you get kids to try new things….I tell them they have to eat what I make or not eat, and sometimes my youngest will choose to just eat her fruits and vegetables. There are nights I make meals that she does like (yes I do make chicken nuggets and grill hotdogs) but that meal isn't special just for her alone. I get tired of trying to find new things so that is when I will usually ask what people want to eat.

CSIENK Posts: 6,724
6/30/13 5:56 P

You've gotten a lot of good advice. When our kids were growing up (we have four - the youngest of them is now 18), I also made only one dinner each night. I chose the entrée, but I'd give the kids a choice of two vegetables...for example: "Would you guys like broccoli or green beans with dinner?" (Sometimes I'd make both veggies if there were equal votes for both.)

Also, we had a family rule that you had to have a "no thank-you" serving of whatever was being served. In our house, that's about a tablespoon-sized serving. It's well known that 'taste' is an acquired phenomenon. Their taste buds can be 'trained' to like different foods, but it's likely to take several tries.

Also, if one of our kids refused to try something, that was their choice, but there wasn't another option. They could just eat the veggies, salad, soup... whatever else was being served. To this day, all of my kids are willing to at least try a new food when the opportunity arises, and some of them eat more variety than I do!

Here's a link to the USDA Choose my Plate site with a few other suggestions:

ANARIE Posts: 13,205
6/30/13 4:08 P

A six-year-old is not an infant. A six-year-old will not starve to death in the presence of food, even if she doesn't like it. You don't have to put yourself out finding things she'll eat; she's more than big enough to do that herself.

I have a relative who has nine children, the youngest of whom is now 17. I have a lot of issues with the way she raised them, but there was one thing she did right. She made ONE dinner every night. There was always salad and bread on the table as well. Anyone who didn't like what was served had the option of either making do with bread and salad, or getting up and fixing him/herself something different.When you think about it, any child old enough to complain is certainly old enough to spread peanut butter on a slice of bread or put cereal and milk in a bowl. Her kids all knew how to scramble an egg by the age of five, too. (One of them started getting up early on Saturdays and making omelets for himself and his brothers when he was THREE!) And even with nine kids, there was never any whining at the dinner table. Only one time did I ever hear one of the kids even try it. The extended family was all together, and when the main dish was served, the omelet-maker sort of half-whispered, "I don't like this" and made a face. His brothers looked at him like he was from Mars, his mom said, "There's plenty of salad," and that was the end of it. He pouted for about 30 seconds, took another bite or two of what he didn't like, and then took a second helping of salad. After the meal, his grandpa said to his mom, "He didn't get very much to eat," and his mom shrugged and said, "He'll make up for it tomorrow."

None of the kids starved, and they really, really benefited from knowing that they had the power and ability to feed themselves. It gave them a sense of autonomy that kids don't always develop (and that they really needed because their father is an emotionally abusive a**hole with the maturity of a 13-year-old himself.)

It doesn't have to be a big deal. You make a healthy meal. When someone makes a face and says, "I don't like this," you say in an absolutely neutral tone, "Okay. You know where the bread is. There's tuna, cheese, or peanut butter to put on it." If what you made was a new recipe or an experiment with a new ingredient, you could even say, "Okay. I won't make it again until you're a little older. You know where the bread is..."

It isn't just easier for you. It's good for the kids, because you're acknowledging that they are allowed to have preferences of their own, but other people aren't always going to cater to them. It recognizes their individuality without making them the center of the universe. It makes it MORE likely that they'll try new things, because there isn't going to be a big drama if they don't like it.

If your six-year-old lives on jelly sandwiches now, she'll be no worse off living on jelly sandwiches she makes herself!

By the way, even though those nine kids *could* cook for themselves, even the pickiest one (the omelet-maker) ate what was served at least 85% of the time.

ALISALEA Posts: 161
6/30/13 3:35 P

When my kids were younger they A) ate what I cooked or B) made themselves a sandwich. Sometimes they complained but nobody ever starved.

JJOHNSON5734 Posts: 80
6/30/13 3:08 P

I only cooked one menu each night. I raised three girls, with three varying tastes, as well as a meat and potatoes husband. There is no way I was going to cook something that everyone liked every night. Your choices were: you could eat what I fixed or fix your own. Everyone knew where the peanut butter lived. There was always fruit, and I kept cut up veggies in the fridge. Even a three-year-old can spread peanut butter (with a little supervision, maybe). You no longer have to be completely responsible for whether they eat or not, and they learn some great life skills in the process. The only "rule" at the table was you had to take two bites of whatever was offered (because you know the first taste is always going to be "EW!"). Then they could move on.

For what it's worth, my daughter called me from Puerto Rico to inform me she had taken "two bites" of some fish (definitely not her favorite). She's 25! You may not realize the impact you have until twenty years later! HAHA!!

Edited by: JJOHNSON5734 at: 6/30/2013 (15:11)
6/30/13 9:45 A

Sometimes I feel like a short order cook. My DH is a 90% vegetarian so I always have to make a meat substitute for him at meals and some people prefer this food to that food.

It does boil down to this though. I know everyone's likes and dislikes. Just as I would hope someone would never make me eat mustard or mushrooms, two foods I really dislike, I would never expect my kids to eat something they truly hate. My job is to try and make sure everyone is eating a healthy meal. My daughter hates carrots but likes sweet potatoes. My son hates sweet potatoes but likes carrots. So in order to ensure they eat something orange each day I will make both at a meal, DH and I like both though so it's not a big deal. I cut up fresh vegetables or a make a salad to eat while waiting for the main meal to finish cooking.

It sounds like you have made some good positive changes to your families diet. Give them time to adjust. You could try homemade chicken nuggets and fries which are way better that store bought if done right at home. I like the idea of slowly phasing the foods out.

Also never underestimate children's intelligence. My kids listen to health podcasts with me and so they know that certain foods are good for you and why it's important to eat them. It makes them eager to try new things. Kids care about health too!

Edited by: JUSTEATREALFOOD at: 6/30/2013 (09:52)
EXNOLA Posts: 320
6/30/13 9:43 A

I fix one meal and there are no alternatives. They can eat as much or as little of what is served as they like. My husband usually chooses low carb, my 6 year old will try most things, and my 5 year old hates all food until about the 100th time he has it. I do cater to tastes in certain ways. I will make dishes less spicy, I rarely do casseroles, and I have at least 4 options on the table but that is it. If they don't want to eat, they don't eat. My picky one is not underweight and I am more lenient with breakfast and lunch, but there are many nights when he simply does not eat dinner or I have only gotten him to take 2 bites. It is my responibility to supply healthful foods, and his choice to eat.
So, try new recipes. Let kids help pick, help cook, and just experiment. Some things they will like, some things they won't the first time but maybe will like it the 20th.

CMCOLE Posts: 2,667
6/30/13 8:05 A

sometimes getting them involved in the prep work encourages them to try new things, because they've "made" it themselves.

I realize my daughter at that age was similar - there were only a few things she would eat - for the longest time. I even spoke to a nutritionist (who was not very helpful, and said to give it time, she would "grow" out of it).

At least she's eating the fruit and vegs, in some quantity.

JENNILACEY SparkPoints: (81,972)
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Posts: 2,489
6/30/13 7:50 A

I just stopped buying the stuff I didn't want my children eating. I told them we were going to start eating healthier as a family and why. We had a good discussion where I asked them to name healthy foods and why we eat healthy foods. (My children are age 3, 5 and 6). I had already been setting a good example for 6 months prior (after joining Spark and cleaning up my own diet).

My son who is by far my pickiest eater and absolutely abhors trying new food was my best experimenter to my surprise. He managed to find tons of new foods he enjoys. He tried so hard for me and I think it was due to our discussion beforehand (those really work with my son). I won't lie, I was met with quite a bit of reluctance at times, frustration, refused meals.

I would offer *small* amounts of new foods and obviously didn't go for meals that required a lot prep time just to be refused. I'd make a little extra of whatever I was eating. My children already ate a lot of veg/fruit so I'd just bulk up the rest of their meal with those. If they didn't choose to eat it, that was their choice. I'd wrap it up and at least give it another 1 or 2 tries later on. I made sure not to pressure. If my children said they were hungry, I'd simply point to their plate. I'd applaud anyone who tried a bite or ate the lot of it. If they tried a bite and didn't like it, that was fine, I told them. You can't expect to like everything.

This website is awesome! It takes healthy foods and makes them look fun for kids. Lots of creative recipes, they're simple to make, don't require a lot of ingredients or a lot of prep time:

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (12,338)
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6/30/13 2:35 A

I would sit down as a family and explain that things have changed; the children will be grateful for what is provided and the adults will make the decisions of the household.
I'm think that children are sponges, in need of guidance and direction.

6/29/13 11:17 P

When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes ask us what we wanted, but the final decision was always hers. It did make us more likely to eat if we got to help her make the meal. Now, I am a picky eater, but one thing my mom was really good at was making a variation of the same meal that would satisfy whoever was picky about said meal. For example, when she made lasagna, she would use individual bread pans and make everyone their own personal lasagna (generally enough for several meals, and she would make 2 of each and freeze one for a later meal) with whatever they liked in it. That way my sister and I could have ours without sausage, peppers, and onions (which my dad loved) and w/o ricotta cheese (mom's fave!). Another example is if someone really didn't like/want breaded chicken, she would make them a piece without breading (or with a different sauce, or what have you). Regardless though, she was only willing to make variations of what she was already planning to make (and simple to do variations at that). We still were eating lasagna and chicken in the examples I used, but she would take our preferences for that particular food into consideration. Perhaps something like this would work for you?

LOVE4KITTIES Posts: 4,690
6/29/13 8:30 P

You choose which healthy foods to prepare for a meal. Your kids get to choose if they eat, how much they eat, and what they eat from what you've prepared. If they choose not to eat, the next meal or healthy snack (same schedule every day) is at the regular time. Again, you choose which foods are offered. Your kids choose if and how much they will eat of the foods that you have picked for that meal/snack. It's okay to ask, sometimes, do you want X or Y (X or Y, only two choices, not a bunch of choices). The rest of the time the deal is, "we're having _____(insert what you have decided to make)____ for breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks."

The above is what happened when I was a kid. Some meals I ate, some I didn't. When I made the choice not to eat, I still sat at the table until others were finished and participated in polite conversation. I usually drank my glass of milk even if I didn't have much of anything else. I didn't starve. I knew better than to complain because such rudeness was not allowed by my parents. Your kids also won't starve.

Just say no to being a short order cook. You are the parent, so you should be in charge.


Edited by: LOVE4KITTIES at: 6/29/2013 (20:36)
SLIMMERKIWI SparkPoints: (256,846)
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Posts: 27,293
6/29/13 8:00 P

Getting your children to help in the healthy food preparation is a very good method for getting them to EAT what they have cooked - especially when they are given credit in front of the others for their input. Even the 6yr old can help with prep.

Unfortunately it was you who created your youngster's fondness for chicken nuggets, jelly sandwiches, and turkey dogs. If the above suggestion doesn't do the trick in getting her to eat what you have all prepared, It sounds like you will gradually need to change her diet, too. Generally I don't particularly advocate 'reasoning' with a child so young, but if you say - IF you eat this today, tomorrow you can have that. If she doesn't eat what you offer her, don't let her have what she wants the next day. She will soon eat when she gets hungry enough. It may be that if she normally chicken nuggets, jelly sandwiches, and turkey dogs virtually daily, that she can have it a couple times a week, and gradually reduce to only the very occasional treat.


CHESAPEAKE60 SparkPoints: (7,814)
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6/29/13 7:51 P

I am guessing you already know the answer. If you only fix one meal and there are no other choices or options the kids will eat it when they get hungry enough.

Being a short order cook is a choice that you make. I have to honestly say I was never asked my preference on meals when I was growing up except for my birthday dinner. Some meals I liked and ate more of. And some meals I picked at. But it never occured to anyone to ask what we kids thought.

i was probably a bit easier on my kids and would let them take turns helping to select what veggies or side would be served. The meat was most often selected by Krogers - and whatever they chose to put on sale any particular week. :)

I promise you kids will NOT starve to death of you serve a variety of meals of your choosing.....

IOWA51973 Posts: 124
6/29/13 6:33 P

I have 3 kids and there are very few things that they all like to eat-especially my youngest who is 6. I am not sure how she would be alive if it wasn't for chicken nuggets, jelly sandwiches, and turkey dogs…..Luckily she will eat lots of fruits and a few vegetables-not many though. How in the world do you get kids to eat different things? I have made different things but someone is not happy. So tired of the same old recipes! I would love your ideas!

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