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Kids become picky eaters between 1 and 2 yr. old.  They are really picky between 2 and 6 yr. and somewhat picky after that.  In all age groups some will be pickier than others.  They start to not want their vegetables and want more junk.  They only gain 3-4 lbs. per year after 2 yr. old so they only need one meal a day, and nibble at the other meals.   That is only 1 lb. every 3-4 months …. I can gain 1 lb. in 3-4 minutes!  So they can easily get by with very little food.

 You can work this picky eater problem in three different ways.

1.                 You could outwait them.   If you start off with meat and vegetables (proper foods) and they refuse it, put it in the refrigerator and pull it out again the next morning, and again at noon.  After going a few days hungry then they will eat anything.  The kids stranded in the Super Dome in New Orleans during Katrina ate anything off the floor.  They get hungry they will eat the dog food.(probably try that anyway.)  So you could outwait them and after going hungry for a day or so they will eat anything.  The problem is that they need very little food so they outwait you.  I have done this with a few of my grandkids when staying with us.


2.                You can disguise the food.  Grind up the proper foods and put the ground up stuff into the macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauce, or in the peanut butter.  There is carrot cake and zucchini bread.  Seinfeld’s wife wrote a book about this called “Deceptively Delicious”.   Put the proper foods into whatever they are eating.  If your kid likes sour things like pickles, then put the raw vegetables into the pickle jar.  Buy dehydrated peas that have BBQ powder on them.  Dip the vegetables into Ranch dressing or cheese wiz.  Get creative.  Most kid’s taste buds are not geared for the flavor of vegetables. 


3.                And the last way is to let them eat whatever they want, give them multivitamins, and 12 oz of milk ….. and they will grow up fine.  (Give the vitamins to all the kids.)

The problem is that you let them eat what they want one day and the next you are fussing at them to eat the proper foods.  YOU are not being consistent.  Pick which one of these three methods and BE CONSISTENT!  (I prefer a combination of the first and second method.  Disguise and flavor up the proper foods and then outwait them.)

Other things to think about:

1.                Eat healthy balanced meals yourself and set the example.  Control how much junk food is in the house and how much everyone eats.

2.                Do not force them to eat.  If they eat so much proper food, then they get a proportional amount of desert.  But to make them finish their plate to get the cookie is forcing them to eat too much and leads to obesity.  “Feel guilty about leaving food on the plate.”  “Love that stuffed engorged stomach.”  Those are bad habits we fight.  Leftovers are the same whether they are on our plate or in a pot on the stove.  Leaving food on the plate is not being wasteful; cooking too much food is being wasteful.  Most families cook too much food so no one will go hungry.  So you will have leftovers every meal.  Whether they are on my  plate or on the stove, I would like to mail it to Haite or Japan, but I can’t.  Being wasteful is cooking too much food.  Just keep the desert in proportion to how much proper food they eat. 

3.                Offer healthy choices.  Sometimes let them pick what the family will have for that meal if it is within reason. 

4.                Avoid going back to the kitchen and prepare something different for the child.

5.                If the child is not hungry at that time, and we all are hungry at different times, put the dinner in the refrigerator and when they are hungry later, pull it out and warm it up again for them.

It is important to have a sit down family meal.  There are less drugs and pregnancy in the teens and less divorces in the parents.  Turn off the TV and phones and visit.  If the child is not hungry, then sit and visit while we eat.   

Dr. Knapp