July 22, 2014

Ideas for Picky Eaters – Chime in

Jan4

picky eater

I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Overdue with our second child, (who ended up being 10 pounds, 1 ounce  – yes, a crazy natural birth) my mom had come to WI (from NC) to help me with our eldest son while I was in the hospital.

I was serving leaf salad for dinner, but of course, my son didn’t like it, so I gave him something else. I mean a good mother wouldn’t make her child eat a texture he didn’t like, would she?

My mom wondered why I was starting his eating habits off that way, by letting him decide what he did and didn’t enjoy.  That was the realization that whether we had one child or twenty, our children were not going to dictate my meals. I was not going to have picky eaters. Seventeen years later, that son is known on his football team as the “salad eater,” and goes first to the greens when we’re at a buffet.

Last month a few of my blogging friends discussed the issues and through around ideas for picky eaters, and it’s always eye opening how everyone has their own opinions. With five children and strong views on the subject, I’d love to let you all share what works in your family. I’m kind of one of those “mean moms” in this area, and never have been one to be a short order cook, but I can definitely say that I no longer have picky eaters. In fact, I wish they were a bit pickier and it might save on my food bill a little bit.

Since they’ve been little I have given each child one “pass” on food – you know the one that literally gives you the gag reflex? They got to choose long ago ONE, yes, only one, food that I made them try, but will never make them eat it again. For my son and I, it’s salmon. I WISH I loved it since it’s so good for you, but I just don’t.

Now another son, no matter what the meal may taste like, always assumes he is not going to like it. It’s become a bit of a joke in the family since he turns his nose up, but then tastes it, and clears his plate. He knows he won’t have a choice.

My friend, Toni from The Happy Housewife, compiled a great free ebook  - The Guide to Eating with Picky Eaters. The description says, “Find out what makes a picky eater, how to determine if you have one, how to involve your child in food preparation, and learn creative ways to get your child to try new foods”

She pays her young ones to try new things, oh yes, she does. Again, there are so many great ideas to conquer this, we want you to enjoy cooking for your family, not continually be stressed about what they will and will not eat.

In the comments, share some of your ideas on how you conquer the picky eater syndrome. (Who knows it just might be your husband. :)) Then gather more tried and true thoughts from Toni’s ebook.

With the new year, I can’t wait to get back to my meal planning, and look forward to your Tasty Tuesday ideas every week. Take some time to browse around and encourage other bloggers as well.

TastyTuesday200pix Tasty Tuesday   One Minute Delight

Simple Rules for Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods – If you’re joining in with a recipe link, two simple requests. As always, please link directly to your recipe post and not your blog URL, so that everyone can find the recipe months from now.

Also, please link back to my site so that everyone can join in the fun. I don’t ask much in order to participate, but many of you are not linking back, and it’s just common courtesy of blog carnivals.


Comments

  1. I’ve found that teaching preschoolers the names of fruits and veggies, their shape, colors, and other fun facts makes the produce seem fun and interesting and less “yucky” and “scary”

    the mypyramid website has some glorious tips and guides that I love using for my clients!

    xoXOxo
    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

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  2. I’m going to check that e book out! Great!

    Thank you Jennifer.

    Love,
    Traci @ Ordinary Inspirations
    http://www.ordinaryinspirations.blogspot.com

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  3. My oldest is 5 and she loves salad too. She eats practically anything so when there is something that she just doesn’t like, I respect that. I thought she was a great eater because of how we started her out. She nursed exclusively until she was 6 months old. We introduced her to real food solids, like mashed bananas, avocado and butternut squash, not jarred baby food. We didn’t let her have juice until she was 2 and to this day she prefers water over anything.

    BUT my second daughter was also nursed exclusively until she was about 8 months. She didn’t like food until about that time. We also gave her real food solids, but she is my picky eater. At 2 she pushes her plate away and says “yuck”.

    My motto is “I cook what I cook” and I’m not a short order cook. I want the girls to enjoy good food, so I try to offer a wide variety of meals. But I do try to include the girls in my meal planning and I respect them if they truly don’t like a particular food. I was forced to eat foods I didn’t like as a kid and I didn’t like that feeling. If the girls want any type of dessert, they have to eat the majority of what is on their plate and that usually fixes the ‘yuck’ problem.

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  4. Happy New Year! Thanks for hosting this week, as I was happy to share my recipe for a Pear ‘n’ Apple Cobbler. Hiding fruit is desserts is a great way to get kids to eat them. I also wanted to invite you to a new linky party I am hosting this year: “Ott, A’s Iron Chef Challenge.” Each month there will be a themed ingredient and bloggers can link up with a recipe that uses that ingredient. There will be guest judges and fabulous prizes to give away to the best recipe/post. January’s theme is Duck. Hope you can stop by sometime! http://ow.ly/3xHEX

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  5. I just posted something very similar today. I’m a big believer is Ellyn Satter. She’s an RD who specializes in this. I think who book should be read by all parents :)

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    Dana @ Budget Dietitian Reply:

    @Estela @ Weekly Bite, I am a RD and I couldn’t agree more. I love Ellyn Satter.

    Catering to children=picky eaters + stressed out moms who get burned out cooking! :)

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  6. My daughter is a very picky eater. I have tried to make her eat more variety. I have paid, I have threatened, I have rewarded, but I still can’t get her to eat certain foods. She has tried the foods, but won’t eat them again. Maybe I’m just not mean enough (having been a picky eater myself, I understand a little too much?) Other than not liking meats or casseroles, she is a very healthy eater, she love fruits and veggies. Any suggestions?

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    Dana @ Budget Dietitian Reply:

    @Andrea, I commented right above but I really think that you should read a Ellyn Satter book. She recommends that you make at least one side that a child likes and then don’t force anything. She will eat. :)

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  7. My older son (now a teenager) is vegetarian and my younger one has food allergies. When they were little it felt like I was a short order cook, trying to accommodate everyone’s preferences. One summer, I assigned each person in our house the job of planning one meal per week. It had to be balanced and be something that everyone could eat. After taking on the job for themselves, everyone realizes that we aren’t a restaurant. We still go back to that system sometimes but that summer broke the habit of different meals for different family members. We keep a list of “favorite meals” on the frig – and it has to be a whole meal that is balanced to be on the list. I use that as a starting place in meal planning.

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  8. Just stopping by to wish you a Happy New Year

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  9. Growing up I was the picky eater. My parents tried over and over when I was very young to get me to eat things like spaghetti, ravioli and pizza. Each time I gagged to point of almost throwing up. To this day if I am confined to a room that has a very strong pizza smell I feel ill. There is just something about food with tomato sauce that I cannot eat. My parent’s didn’t cook a whole separate meal but I would eat a sandwich or a cheeseburger. Once I was older it was my responsibility to take care of what I was eating on those nights, which only occurred once a week max.

    My husband was forced to eat things he didn’t like and hated it. So without son we ask him to try it. Every meal he is asked to try everything. He won’t necessarily eat it but eventually I think he will and there are some things that he devours and others that he simply licks and then says I don’t like this. We remind him that to grow big and strong he has to eat well and that these foods will help him do that. Generally if there is a meal that he just won’t eat any of then his other option is fruit.

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  10. I’ve found that by serving the foods over and over, eventually most of the children try most of the foods and come to like them. My older children now eat most all veggies and fruits ( like brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cantalope, due to repeated exposure) If someone doesn’t like what’s for dinner they can make a sandwich for themselves out of the fridge. I don’t make a big deal over being a picky eater anymore. When my oldest child was 7 we found out the hard way that what I thought was “picky eating” was actually a series of food intolerances ( eggs, dairy) along with severe nut and peanut allergies that went undiagnosed until she had a massive allergic reaction. Our new rule is if you don’t think you should eat it or want to eat it or it smells funny to you, then avoid it, especially if it’s one of the top 8 allergens. I will never again insist that any of my children try any NEW foods if they don’t want to( tried and true ones don’t get a pass).

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  11. I’m not a short order cook either. :) I fix what I fix, and if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat it. Occasionally, I’ll offer a small dessert if the meal was really out of their comfort zones, but I’m too busy to make 4 different meals. My husband, on the other hand, makes cooking a chore instead of something enjoyable. He has a whole list of things he won’t eat (including cheese—unless it’s pizza!!!)…it just makes me roll my eyes.

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  12. We are working closely with our pediatrician regarding our 7 yr old’s “picky” eating. She said don’t serve him something different and make him eat a “no thank you” portion. Which is about 2 tablespoons. He fought us tooth and nail at first…but then eventually he gave up on some of them and they are now some of his favorites. Its like when a baby starts on solid foods…you serve them something over and over and over before moving on to the next food. Its training their taste buds really. Just another way to look at it…

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  13. I think it’s important to remember when talking about and dealing with “picky eaters”, that most of the “make them try it” advice is geared towards “normal” children. I appreciate what kim and some others said above about food allergies and such. Sometimes, children may have some other issues that cause them to be picky eaters, such as Aspergers, which my son has, which makes him very sensitive to texture, tastes and smells.

    Just a reminder that blanket statements (make them try one bite) don’t apply to everyone and every situation.

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    Jens Reply:

    @Jennifer, Absolutely – food allergies are such a different issue. This is only addressing those that just don’t want to try it…” just because..”

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    kim Reply:

    @Jens, For the first 7 years of my daughter’s life I thought she was a picky eater “just because”. Food allergies or intolerances never occurred to me until she became extremely ill. I’m putting this out there because when I found out the reasons why she was such a picky eater I felt terrible for all of the times when I said ” This is what’s for dinner and if you don’t like it, then don’t eat .” Just something to think about if your picky eater is picky about any of the top allergens and maybe has any of the other parts of that genetic package, like asthma or eczema.

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  14. We wrote about this very issue back in March during our Raising a Well-Mannered Child Series. It is tough.. but you are proof that it works!

    http://www.gograhamgo.com/2010/03/raising-well-mannered-child-series-part_03.html

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  15. Happy New Year! Looking forward to taking part in Tasty Tuesdays again this year! :)

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  16. Hi Jen! Thanks for hosting us!!! Love this post… and can so relate. My son is a great eater and will literally try anything ~ except eggs! :) My daughter on the other hand is horrible. So our rule at dinnertime is she must eat what I make… but I am sure not to place too much on her plate. This is definitely a hard topic, so thanks for getting the discussion started here!

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  17. My first child was a picky eater, but I have concluded that a lot of it was my fault. I was a short order cook for him, so that made the situation worse. My second child wasn’t picky at all, so when she started eating table foods, I stopped making special things for my son. He eventually started eating most things. (We have since found out that he has issues with his sense of smell, so I assume that had a lot to do with his pickiness when he was younger.) My third child is the pickiest one right now, but he is served what we eat for dinner and usually does fine. Maybe once a month or once every 2 months, he’ll ask for Cheerios for dinner because he doesn’t like anything I am serving. And, that’s fine with me. My youngest eats just about anything. I try to plan meals that include at least one or two items that I know everyone will eat.

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  18. Thanks for getting this topic started! It’s definitely a difficult one that I think most families face. My man is the picky one who doesn’t like vegetables, especially raw ones. Today, I posted a smoothie recipe that he loves…and it incorporates a bit of veggies.

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  19. I’ve used the same approach to food with both my kids and have one kid who will try and eat pretty much anything and another who is quite picky. I am not an “eat what I make or starve mom” but I don’t make separate meals either. I always try to include in the meal something I know everyone will eat. If they will not eat what I make, they can make themselves something reasonably healthy like a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of non-sugary cereal. They pretty much hate doing that though so it’s rare that they make that choice. ;) We always ask the kids to try one bite of anything they don’t want. Last night I made meatloaf and my picky eater didn’t want any but she did want a second biscuit. She could not have another biscuit until she tried the meatloaf. She tried it and got a second biscuit. I never force my kids to eat anything but always encourage them to try a new food and they must try one bite of the new food before they can have seconds of the things they like. When they do try something new we praise and encourage them. My picky eater eats a lot more than she used to eat due to this approach. It think that she’s learned that most of the time she really likes what we encourage her to eat so she can trust us when we tell her a food is good. We also respect her decision to not eat something when she’s tried it and found it particularly awful. I mean, I still won’t eat greens or liver and wouldn’t want to be made to eat them so I get where she’s coming from. ;)

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  20. I agree with you, Jen, that kids will usually eat what they are served if that’s the only choice. I don’t force my kids (5, 3, 2) to eat what I serve, but they also may not have anything else. Either they get hungry enough, or decide to eat so they can have the next snack/dessert (which they’ll miss out on if they don’t eat the meal) or only very occasionally will they skip a meal entirely. As long as there wasn’t defiance or sassiness invovled, I don’t save it for the next day.

    I would make exceptions if a child had sensory issues (to a point) or food allergies, of course.

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  21. We have a sign in the dining room that one of our friends gave us. It is both pretty to look at and straight to the point.

    Dinner Choices:
    1. Take it
    2. Leave it

    Our rule is that you are not allowed to complain about the food or you lose the opportunity to eat until the next meal. We have 8 kids and of the 6 old enough to have benefitted from this training, they eat what they are served.

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  22. I think all kids start out ok and then begin to be picky often once they get around other children who say, “I don’t like this or that.” I found that if you asked them to take one bite they give things a try. Also, having them help cook the foods really can turn things around. Mushrooms are an odd item and having my daughter help cook Chicken Marsala, she now hogs the mushrooms!

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  23. We have four children. We have always put dinner on your plate and you get what you get….don’t throw a fit! Then came my daughter….she will REFUSE to eat certain things…meaning refuse to even try it! Some of the things are plain crazy. She will eat straight spaghetti noodles but not rotini noodles. Same taste, different shape! She will every fruit but pears. She will eat every vegetable but green beans! Our rule is that if you don’t eat all of your dinner you don’t get snack. All our other children eat most everything….one boy won’t eat bananas or yogurt, but will eat a bag of apples in a blink.

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  24. I remember gagging on a few foods as a child, and being in big trouble for not pushing past the gag reflex and swallowing… I also remember throwing up at the table on a couple of those occasions- gross, I know.
    I really don’t like picky eaters, but I do understand the actual gag-inducing dislikes… and I have a couple kids that gag on a couple foods. After the 1st try, I waited a long while and asked them to try 1 small bite of the offending food again, if they still seriously gag, that’s enough- there are other foods to eat! But I always try on a couple occasions because I’ve had a couple picky girls that just didn’t want to try anything that wasn’t peanut butter bread or cheerios…
    I actually feel bad for my 4 yr old who gags on lettuce, she won’t touch salad with a 10 ft pole… what’s life w/no salads?! We’ll see if she grows out of it… after all, I can handle potato salad now :-)

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  25. I was raised that you eat what is put before you and that is the philosophy I use on my 3 children as well. There are times they don’t like something but have at least tried it. I also am not a short order cook and if they absolutely do not like it, they can either go hungry or fix themselves a sandwich. In fact, on Christmas my kids tried turnips and loved them. No coaxing at all. They asked what they were in the buffet line at the family meal and decided to try a bite. Each one went back for more. I guess a lot of it is they practice what they see. I am the type who will try anything once so i guess they caught on to it.

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  26. My favorite thing to do to get my Kiddo to eat more veggies is to “hide” stuff in other things I make. Chopping up broccoli really finely in a casserole, mixing in a can of diced tomatoes in chili, or even adding spinach to lasagna. He loves all the things I just listed, even if they may have veggies in them that he would not normally gravitate toward. I think that because I have exposed him to more, he has learned to actually LIKE broccoli and spinach. We’re still working on tomatoes. : )

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  27. Oh, and even if he doesn’t like something, I’m not a short-order cook, either. He either eats it or goes hungry. I’m so mean. :D

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  28. When my children were younger (toddler), they always had to try each food even if it was just a few bites. Now that they’re in elementary school they are required to eat a small portion of anything being served. The kids are pretty cooperative and they each have their likes/dislikes. My only continuing struggle is one son has a gag reflex to cheese of any kind unless it’s pizza. He eats a small portion with a lot of water between bites. It sure hampers my meal planning. I’d love ideas on how to train him to overcome this.

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  29. Like you, I make my kids eat what I fix. Occasionally, I will put out a kid friendlier option if I’m making fish or something very exotic. I remember not liking certain foods as a child that I love now–I think the palate truly develops. If my kids choose not to eat the meal I made, I don’t punish them or put it out in front of them again. I simply remind them they will get no snacks until the next meal–which means they will be nice and hungry and eat whatever I make with gusto.
    This doesn’t solve the issue that they are picky eaters–both my boys turn up their nose at most of my food. I know someday they’ll change. When they are teenagers, they will both eat me out of house and home and I’ll miss my picky eaters. : )

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  30. I just wanted to echo Jennifer’s comments, that not all children are “normal” and may need more flexibility. It turns out that my oldest, who was a picky eater, is hyper sensitive to smells and tastes. We got our first clue when he identified milk by its taste–besides the fat content, he could tell what store I bought it at, and whether it was organic or not. As an adult, he is still very sensitive to taste and combined foods. At the same time, he is a wonderful cook and imagines new combinations of flavors.

    Our other two kids occasionally complain but will eat pretty much anything. We just make one meal and the kids are free to eat what they want of what’s on the table. We make an effort to make each kid’s favorite every few weeks, and they are starting to understand that “your favorite” may be my “least favorite.”

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  31. Its always an interesting discussion because I too have kids we have struggled to try new things and yet they do pretty well. On the other hand, in my professional life, I spend my days working with kids who struggle to try a new kind of yogurt even though they like 3 other kinds. Or the kiddos who have self limited their diet so they are only eating 3 or 4 things. Or the kids who struggle so significantly with textures that even the thought makes them vomit. I think eating is on a continuum and it is important to watch how we label kids and parents. The parents of the kids I work with have heard from all sorts of well meaning friends and family “oh he/she is just a picky eater–just force him, bribe him, etc. ” We can’t make kids talk and we can’t make them eat. I agree with the other commentor, get the Ellen S. book–great philosphy! ;)

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  32. Wow, sounds kind of cruel for your kids to only get one ‘pass’ on the food front… As an adult now, I can look back and see the noticeable changes in my palette versus when I was a child, but it’s a shame my parents never really gave me any sort of choice in the matter- I may not have ended up with eating disorders once I moved out (thankfully over them, though definitely could have done without that period of my life). I can recall many times falling asleep at the dinner table, because I wasn’t allowed to leave until I finished all (or most of) my food. Anytime we had pork chops was dreadful! Same with anything that had mayonnaise in it~ Though, I did love me some veggies!

    Anyway, basically what I want to say is, don’t be too uptight about letting your kids decide what they do or not enjoy eating. Don’t be my parents ;) I always hated being called ‘a little bird’ just because I would push the onions or bell peppers out of my food.

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    Jens Reply:

    You don’t have to worry about that ….since most of my kids are all older, it’s been great to know this system for us has worked wonderfully. That’s the great thing about knowing your child and seeing what works for your family. Our youngest, who is 7, is willing to try everything and I think that came from encouraging then to just have one tiny bite. Our pass comes in the form that they don’t even have to touch those foods, but I am fortunate because we don’t have any food allergies or extenuating circumstances.

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  33. If I get complaints, I say, ” This is for ______. There are 6 of us and we can’t have our favorites every day. Just eat enough to get by.”

    My mother’s rule was , we had to eat one spoonful and I did that too when my kids were very young. She also would make a nice dessert if she knew a particular food was not going to be received well by us kids.

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  34. I work with kids with Autism so “picky eaters” is very common. Usually it’s a sensory thing and they really can’t get the texture. With all kids I usually try to get them to do the 3 bite rule- take 3 bites and if after 3 you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. After 3 bites they know the texture and flavor and can give a real reason why they don’t like it as opposed to just saying eww.

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    Jens Reply:

    That is a great tip…so much of it is texture, isn’t it? For me, as well. :)

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  35. Interesting post, to be sure. And a topic of some discussion when we celebrated Christmas with extended family unfamiliar with our three picky eaters. ~sigh~

    I have three kids. All three of them are picky in their own way, with my middle child-daughter being the most adventurous eater of the three. I will say that we have always had the rule “What goes on the table goes on your plate” and they are then require to eat a specific amount of those foods. Our children have tried lots of things, and even learned to like some foods that are not typical for their age…I mean, really, what 6 year old says, “more brussels sprouts”? OURS!

    Our oldest is our pickiest. For him, I think his pickiness has a lot to do with food texture. Not always, but quite a lot of the time that seems to be a culprit. After so many times of having a gag reflex, we are very sensitive to his preferences. The same thing has happened to our youngest son. There are certain foods that he won’t eat because they make him gag. (Incidentally, we are on a path of evaluation for both boys. Our youngest for developmental delays/ Spectrum Disorders, and our oldest for possible Asperger’s Syndrome. Food issues are one criteria for both of those.)

    That hasn’t meant that we prepare and serve special meals for the boys. I’m not a short order cook and refuse to act as such. I do, however, take into account what I am preparing and modify in such a way to accommodate. Example: We love lasagna. My daughter loves lasagna. Our oldest…lasagna is the “trifecta of terrible”…it has tomato sauce (which he doesn’t eat), it is a textural issue, and all the foods are mixed up. On lasagna nights I also make a pot of noodles and have the grated cheese available for “cheesy noodles”.

    With our oldest being 8.5, he has decided that sometimes “Plan B” is preferred. Now, we don’t automatically default to that, but sometimes “Plan B” is a good choice. What is “Plan B” you ask? It is where he makes his own meal, usually consisting of a cheese sandwich and appropriate sides. Pretty good compromise, if you ask me. He is taking responsibility for his meal, and I am not a short order cook.

    The subject is definitely a challenging one. I know we struggle with it, and have for the most part found an acceptable middle ground.

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    Jens Reply:

    That’s for sharing some of your story. It definitely sounds like you have found the best balance for your family. Who ever warned us that parenting would be so challenging, right? Definitely not the food aspect. :)

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  36. Thanks so much for writing this post! This is something I struggle with every day. I have 3 sons and the oldest is 5, he is the pickiest. I try to serve at least one thing that he likes with each meal and that usually ends up being fruit. I am glad that he likes most fruit. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one dealing with this. I will definitely read the e-book.
    Thanks!

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  37. Having 5 kids and definite opinions, also, I will tell you what works for us:
    You have 3 choices. They are 1) Take it 2)Leave it 3)Plan, shop for, and prepare the family meal.
    Now that my kids are not so little they can and do choose from any of the above at any given time.
    And I just don’t make tomato based pasta dishes anymore because, try as I might, none of them will eat it.

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