A note about picky eaters…

The other day my son came up to me and said, “You know what would be the perfect day, Mom?”

“What?” I asked.

“A day where I could have orange chicken for breakfast, orange chicken for lunch, and orange chicken for dinner.”

This from my picky eater.

Actually, he’s not picky anymore, and his most recent favorite food–you guessed it–is orange chicken.

If you would’ve asked me a year and a half ago if I thought my son would like orange chicken or any kind of Chinese food, I would’ve told you a resounding no.

In fact, there was a time when all he wanted to eat was plain burritos. Seriously.

I know there are different schools of thought about picky eaters…

Teach them young, make them eat what everyone else is eating, and don’t give in.


If they want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner instead of the chicken and vegetables and salad you spent two hours cooking, so be it. What’s the big deal?

Honestly, I’ve gone both ways over the years.

It’s been a balancing act between trying to encourage my kids to eat a variety of foods, not wanting to make food an issue, and picking my battles wisely.

And while I think there’s tremendous value in introducing different foods to your kids at a young age and encouraging them to eat what the rest of the family is eating, I also know from personal experience that doesn’t always work.

More and more, I’ve come to recognize that kids have their differences, and that includes taste. Some kids–my son being one of them–even have an extra-sensitive gag reflex. Certain textures (broccoli for example), are hard to eat, if not impossible. (Believe me, we’ve tried.)

But here my son is at age nine now, and he’s eating almost everything we put in front of him and liking it. (Minus the broccoli.)

So if you have a picky eater, hang in there. I know it can  be hard. Meal times can be a challenge (never mind going out to dinner if there isn’t grilled cheese on the menu), and it can be stressful making sure your kids are getting all the nutrients they need (a daily vitamin is key).

But it does get easier.

Some people–usually moms who were a little older and a lot wiser than me–used to tell me not to worry about my son being so picky and that he would outgrow it.

I remember clinging to that hope as I envied other moms who had successfully gotten their kids to eat sushi by the age of four, or to prefer raw celery sticks for snacks.

(I, on the other hand, would spend extra time making creative smoothies for my son, just so I could stick some vegetables or protein in there. And when I fed him yams, you could barely see the yam because it was buried under a pile of brown sugar.)

But you know what?

Those moms were right.

My son did outgrow it.

And now, looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have worried so much about his picky eating.

Because in the scheme of parenting and life,

whether he eats everything on his plate for dinner,

or asks for a grilled cheese sandwich for the third time in one day,

it’s just not that important. :)

What do you think? Do you / or did you have picky eaters? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences! :)

Updated: This post was featured at Mamapedia. Click on over there to see the discussion and comments!

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  1. My little boy just informed me that he wants to be a missionary to Mexico. Not because of any spiritual reason, but because he figures he could eat lots of burritos. I'm also making lots of smoothies. Thank you for the reminder that he will out grow this!!

  2. Glad he outgrew the pickiness.Both my kids are good eaters and eat almost anything we put on their plates. I think I will stop having kids now haha. :) They always say it's best to end on a good note or quit while you are ahead right?!

  3. aahhh…picky eaters. I could write a novel about that! I do see how they can outgrow it and they are still healthy and alive. You are right though, it is just trying to figure out what is a true dislike and what isn't. the joys and tests of motherhood:-)

  4. My daughter is three and a half. She eats well i.e. she eats plenty but there is very little variety in what she eats. Pasta, pizza, chicken and broccoli are her staples. I still try to introduce new foods and sometimes we meet with success, other times no. But I don't want food to become a life long battle ground and issue as I have seen happen with some children. So thank you for a great post. Thank you for the link-up again today too.

  5. I love this post Genny! I have my own picky eater and now my daughter is gearing up to follow suit. I get asked ALL the time about this and I want to answer: don't worry so much, don't make it such an issue…but parents want answers, solutions. But, like you have learned…there is no magic solution. You pick your battles, you encourage but you also let them make some decisions too. I'm so relieved to hear from a Mom (you) who has been through it and now look at your son? Great advice Genny and it makes me feel better too knowing someone who has come out on the other side:)

  6. I'm new here and can soooooo relate. My son will be three in late November. We have had feeding issues from the beginning. It's hard to understand or imagine it – unless you've been there. And it sounds like you have! I am so foodcentric – food is such an important part of my life so it was particularly difficult for me to cope with a child who seems to hate to eat. We even have been getting therapy for him since he was about 14 months old. He never ate baby food, mouthed toys, or fed himself. He would only breastfeed (mostly at night) and drink water. This issue with him has caused a tremendous amount of stress in our family. I feel like people judge and think I either caused him to be this way or that I worry too much (he'll eat when he's hungry enough). I wish he would eat when he gets hungry! Instead, he'd rather drink to satisfy his hunger and his drink of choice is water. Pediasure has been a huge help for us because he'll drink those and they're high calorie and vitamin fortified. I could go on and on! This post has given me some hope that it will get better some day. It just seems like an eternity away. I feel like crying when ever we are in social settings and other children sit down and readily eat all sorts of foods. My child runs about and throws a tantrum when we try to get him to sit at the table. He yells, "NO EAT!" I've had other mothers tell me I need to spank him, that he'll eat when he's hungry, and look at me like I'm a terrible mother. It's one of the most difficult things to deal with because no one recognizes that there is something wrong and people always blame the mom for it all. Kids are wired to be who they are. Some kids love to eat, while others… not so much.

  7. Jen

    I am a picky eater who has (mostly) outgrown it. So I am trying to be patient with my picky eater and not belittle her or make it into a huge issue. I try to get her to think of eating as fun rather than a chore. In fact that's what I posted about yesterday! :)

  8. As I read your post, I had to grin a little…it brought back so many memories. It's sad tho that today there aren't that many families that set down at a table and eat as a unit. That's too bad. The microwave should have never been invented. I can remember "devotions" at the evening meal at our house. I’ve been following your blog for some time now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.

  9. I agree. Like you, though, I've gone both ways over the years. But now, seeing my 13 year old son devour everything that isn't hidden in the kitchen, I kind of long for the picky years! Lol!

  10. Both of mine are good eaters. They like a variety of foods, but there are some they don't like. I'm not a short order cook, so they eat what I make. I have them eat at least a bite of it, but I don't make them eat more than that.

  11. Ah, the joys and heartaches of having a picky eater – and one who also has texture issues. It is hard and you give me hope that one day soon it will get better. For now my son has a very interesting array of food in his lunch box for school :) !!

  12. I'm not sure how I missed this post. It feels good to hear a fellow mom say that their child outgrew it. My 3 year old has a pediatric feeding disorder. It has been going strong since she was 14 months old. Up to that point, she was a great eater. Basically, she is extremely picky, has a strong emotional reaction to food, and has multiple nutritional deficiencies because of it. We do everything that the doctors and nutritionist told us to do. We're really hoping that she outgrows this soon!

  13. I think all kids are picky to some extent. They all have their likes and dislikes. My approach is they have to try it first. If they genuinely don't like it then they can have a sandwich when the rest of us are done eating. I don't make special dinners for the picky one. Although if I make something I know that they probably won't like but I do, like soup, then I'll make something they do like (like cheese biscuits) to make up for it. My 7 year old now will eat almost everything, although she has gone to not wanting food to touch on her plate. Sigh! ;)

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