How To Tame A Picky Eater Even When They Don’t Want to Eat

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How To Tame A Picky Eater Even When They Don't Want To Eat |

Hey everyone. I’ve been having a sensational time leading the 25 Day Grace Filled Journey to Real Food. So many people are enthusiastic and enlightened as each day, they learn a valuable new step to living a life in real food.

It’s been a blessing to me to have people share with me how much they are learning. I even started a very active facebook group that’s growing by leaps and bounds. I invite you to join if you’d like an encouraging place to talk about real foods, gardening, and homesteading. This group is awesome!

Through this journey, one of the topics that has come up again and again, is picky eating. What has surprised me is that it’s not just children but also adults. Adults that are fearful of trying new things.

I do understand that some people, children and adults alike, have a sensory processing disorder. I have a couple friends that truly can’t withstand the texture of many foods; however, many more adults have been raised to be picky eaters. For them, I want to share with you, how to tame a picky eater even when they don’t want to eat.

How to Tame a Picky Child Eater – Even When They Don’t Want to Eat

How To Tame A Picky Eater Even When They Don't Want To Eat |

In the United States we are very lenient with our children. We are much looser in our parenting style than most other countries. This includes allowing our children the option to eat their food or not, and oftentimes, we cater to their specific wants.

Many people visit my blog and assume that my children are different – that they eat everything they’re served on their plate with gusto! It’s just not the truth; however, I’m firm with them. Do they raise their noses at their plates? Yes! Do they complain when they see certain foods? Absolutely! But, as they’ve gotten older, suppertime has become more pleasurable as they know the rules of our house and that includes eating their supper, no matter what it is.

When it comes to children, they are all different. Some are great eaters, others hesitate. When siblings are involved, if one raises their nose, one or two more are sure to follow. It’s what they do. They test their boundaries to see what they can and can not get away with. It’s up to us as parents, to firmly establish those boundaries.

Also, children go through phases. Sometimes they can’t get enough food to eat and other times they don’t want to eat at all. My son once ate 3 bowls of lentil stew and soon after was fighting over a couple bites of papas con albondigas. It truly depends on what stage of growth they’re in.

By Age, Here are a few tips to help you tame your picky child eater.

From 12 Months: As soon as your child is ready to start eating, feed them what you are eating.

At 2 Years Old: 2 Bite Rule.

  • At 2, every child will become picky. I don’t know what it is about that year, but from my own experience it’s been true for each of my children. They went from these chubby little 1 year olds that would eat anything I made to picky little 2 year olds that I had to fight with to eat a bite. This is the age that I implement my 2 bite rule. As long as my two year old would eat 2 bites of whatever I made, they were good to go. If he doesn’t, they’re sent to bed. Let me tell you, it’s worked! 2 bites is manageable and it’s still opening their palate to the flavors of food that I typically make. That’s the most important thing. Your children need to get used to the different flavors, textures, and smells in the foods that you create.

From 3-6 Years Old: Get Them Involved In the Kitchen.

  • This is the age that your children are becoming their own little people. They are soaking in every new thing that you as a parent introduce to them. It’s why I encourage you to make them a part of everything you do. From gardening, to the kitchen, give them little tasks. Have them help you plant seeds. Take them with you to the farmers market. Even if they don’t help you pick out the produce, just them being their is allowing them to see different types of vegetables in vivid bright colors. In the kitchen, show them different types of food and ask them if they know how they’re grown. Give them their own special set of cooking utensils and have them help you mix up a batch of pancakes or add rice to boiling water (while you hold them and supervise at all times). Let them be a part of that experience so that when you serve them a meal at the dinner table, it becomes personal to them.When it comes to eating, I make sure that they eat a tablespoon of each component of the meal for each of their years. For example, If I’m serving enchiladas and rice, my 5 year old has to eat 5 tbls of the enchiladas and 5 tbls of rice. Here’s one thing parents, I often times still spoon feed my 5 year old. If he’s getting picky and whining, I scoop up food on a fork and bring it to his mouth. Otherwise, he’d sit there for ages!  If he chooses to not eat, he’s sent to bed.

From 7+ : Kids in the Kitchen.

  • Having a son that is 7, it’s been a blast seeing my boy cook in the kitchen. My oldest makes his own fried eggs, pancakes, cookies, rice, and so much more. At this age, they just adore creating their own foods. Once they are old enough, allow them to make their own foods. It’s always fun to me to make something with my son and then have him try the food. I ask him, “is it missing anything?” He then thinks about it, and sure enough, he always has something in mind to add to it to make it taste just perfect. It’s fun. It’s creation and it gives him something to be proud of to serve to his family.At this age, I make sure that my son clears his plate. I portion his meals according to how much I know he should be eating. Of course, there are days that I know he’s full and in that case, I don’t press him. He’s a great eater though, so I really don’t have many problems with him. There are many great resources online that can show you what an appropriate serving size is for children 6+. At this age, if my son starts to whine and complain, I send him to bed. I let him know that he’s much to old to be displaying this type of behavior and if he wants to do that he can go do it in bed. Simple and it works.

I’ve had a lot of parents concerned that there children will be hungry. Yes, they probably will, but they won’t be harmed. My children have gone to bed early many times and they always wake up ready to eat a large nourishing breakfast. Best of all, they learn right away that they don’t enjoy going to bed early and usually eat much better the next evening.

Through all of this, the most important thing is to be consistent – establish your boundaries and hold true to them. If your child is whining and complaining, guess what, they’re normal, but don’t give in and make them something they enjoy to eat like a hot dog or chicken nuggets. Trust me, the’ll learn right away that it just takes some whining, and saying no, to get what they want. You’re the parent. You make the rules.

How to Tame a Picky Adult Eater – Even When They Don’t Want to Eat

How To Tame A Picky Eater Even When They Don't Want To Eat |

First of all, a picky child eater usually grows up to be a picky adult eater. So…

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

However, there are still many woman I know that when they marry the special man in their life come to find out that they are picky. Oh dear. This must be frustrating. Okay, here are a few tips to tame a picky adult.

1. Remember that flavors are acquired.

  • I don’t know one person that’s ever had a sip of beer or wine for their first time and thought, “wow, this is fantastic!” No, those flavors are acquired and just like that, the flavors in the dishes you create are acquired as well. So, my advice to you is to just keep serving real food. It will take awhile, but soon enough, the new flavors will be acquired.

2. Quit Buying Junk Food.

  • This tip is for both children and adults alike. Mom’s, I don’t know if you realize this or not, but the power to what your family eats is in your hands. Whatever you bring in from the grocery store is going to be a viable option for each member in your family. If they don’t like what you prepare and know that there are frozen chicken nuggets in the freezer, guess what, they’re going to reach for it. This includes mostly adults that are more than capable of grabbing it and preparing it for themselves. If you don’t bring it home, they will not have that option and let me tell you, the real food that you prepare will start to look more appetizing when their option is that or hunger. This same tip goes for all cookies, crackers, twinkies.. etc…. If it’s not in your house, it’s not an option.

3. Cook Good, Flavorful Food.

4. Be Gracious.

  • When I first started gutting my house of all processed foods, it took my man a few years later to be on board 100%. During that time, I still bought him his favorite cereal, his pasteurized 2% milk, and things of that sort. His love was more important to me than stripping every processed food away from him. However, some things that he desired and that I wanted my children to stay away from, I would purchase for him and then ask him to leave them at his work. However, I kept feeding him the good stuff. Now, nearly 8 years later, he loves whole raw milk, backyard eggs, real cheese, and everything good that is real food. It took a few years for him to develop his palate to real food, but in that gap, I was gracious to his needs.

One thing to remind your picky adult eater is that their children are learning from them. It’s important for them to try and change their ways to ensure that your own children grow up to be fantastic eaters.

 Do you have a picky eater in your family? Tell me, what are your tips for taming the picky eater?

21 Responses to "How To Tame A Picky Eater Even When They Don’t Want to Eat"
  1. Shaina says:

    Thank you for this! *I* am the picky eater in our home. I’ve been trying different things lately, and I’m determined to one day be able to go somewhere and not have to hope they have something that I like! My 7 month old eats more veggies than I do. It’s pathetic. I think I turned picky around age 2 as you mentioned and my parents gave up. I really needed this motivation!

  2. Kelly says:

    LOVE. LOVE. LOVE this wisdom, Diana! Couldn’t agree more with your recommendations. Too many mommas become short-order cooks and pickiness continues as you noted. I’m one of those women you mentioned that married a picky man – it’s taken a long time and a lot of patience, but he’s come so far in expanding his culinary horizons. :)

    We vowed when raising our kids, we would instill an appreciation for meals (something that was lacking in our own homes). So we made it a point to teach our children (and remind ourselves) of the fact that it’s the Lord who has blessed us with the ability to have healthy foods to eat. And teach them to appreciate the privilege of having a meal cooked for them. We wanted to teach that it’s polite to eat what’s put in front of you with thanksgiving, no matter where you go and what you’re served. (My husband and I have certainly eaten some very interesting dishes in past overseas missions trips! LOL!)

    And so we did just as you have outlined in this excellent article – and with great success. It does take consistency to set the boundaries and carry out the consequences (as you noted), but it’s well worth the effort. I try to think about this way … we wouldn’t allow our kids to make their own decisions about brushing their teeth, playing in the the street or going to school – so we need to also set expectations and boundaries at the family table as well.

    Of course, each family has their own unique dynamics, personalities and challenges (especially those who are struggling with children who have special needs). So the art of parenting can never be an A+B=C formula. But by sharing wonderful recommendations like these, it can help equip us with ideas and strategies that we can develop into what works best within our own unique families and circumstances. :)

    Thanks again for such a wonderful post! Apologies for my long comment. It’s hard for me to contain my passion about healthy eating, especially when it comes to children. Love and blessings, Kelly

    • Diana Bauman says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Kelly. Yes, every family is different and there is definitely no formula. Don’t we wish, lol! But, then we’d all be clones and God made us all so unique. Love you, sweet friend!

  3. Jill says:

    This is extremely good advice and very similar to what we do in our home. I have 5 children (4-14) and they are all required to eat what I put in front of them or they go to bed. We didn’t always function like this… we started our real food journey when my youngest was born. So about 4 years now. Making the transition wasn’t always easy especially since I did not start my oldest 4 children out eating like this. I was raised by a family that catered to my every dislike. Often times making separate things for various family members. And therefore I have been an extremely picky eater from birth well into my 30s. So I let my kids know that I don’t often like some of the things I am serving… especially certain veggies, but I am trying and I’ve acquired many new tastes in the past 4 years. Somethings I still struggle with, but my kids are encouraged by this. Kids tend to think that adults like everything and when they become an adult they will magically transform into this person who loves all foods. Don’t we all wish?

    The very best thing I did to change my kids taste buds was to stop buying junk. At the beginning of our real food journey… I stopped buying all processed foods including cookies, chips, ice cream, crackers… you name it… the list is long. After a couple months without these things I could see my kids tastes changing. Once their taste buds weren’t ruined by sugar and chemicals, they really began to change their attitude about real foods. One example is real maple syrup. When I first introduced it, all my kids hated it. They had only had the fake syrup. So they just ate pancakes and waffles plain or with butter or honey for a few months. Then I “reintroduced” the real stuff and viola… they loved it. Once in a while, if we do buy something at the store that we wouldn’t usually buy, my kids will remark that it isn’t as good as they remember.

  4. D says:

    This is great !! We have always made our children eat also and if they don’t they go to bed and they are served what they didn’t eat for breakfast .. They have all only had 1 time of that except my oldest daughter has tried to push a few times to see if I am consistent , one morning I fooled her with her beets , we were all having blueberry pancakes and she had beet pancakes and she loved them lol.. Consistency is the key . I also let my children know all the goodness in everything The Lord made .. My 11 yr old won’t eat store cereal unless he is at friends homes because he knows the badness in preservatives .. We joke with my oldest, who like to spend his money on candy , that we will be served skittles at his house , but he actually is a wonderful cook !! Love your blog !!

  5. Gleniece says:

    Dear Diana, My son (almost 7) made beautiful golden potatoes fried in extra-virgin olive oil for his snack the other day. This from the same boy who avoided potatoes like the plague. But my insistence that he eat a couple bites each time I served them has payed off. Great post. Thank you. (I’m enjoying your series on real food too).

  6. sclindah says:

    Good article. I would only add one thing. . . if possible, have children help grow their own food. That opens up a lot of education on where food comes from and they are more willing to eat what they grow!

  7. Angie says:

    My 2.5yo won’t eat anything some nights, and usually doesn’t seem phased by not eating. I’m really hoping he grows out of it soon!

  8. CJ says:

    This article hits home! Thank you so much for sharing. I have a 3 and an almost 2 year old that are extremely picky and I have tried some of those methods. So at least I am on the right path about this. God bless!

  9. Christy says:

    I have to admit that this is an area that causes me much stress and anxiety. I was raised to believe that you need to use any means necessary to make sure a child is eating even if it’s to make them several things other than what was cooked. It is such a painful process to get them to eat what we are, but I’m working on it. I usually have at least one thing on their plate I know they like and make them take a few bites of several new things. It is beginning to work!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for hitting this topic. My son just turned two. He used to eat everything, then he became picky several months ago. He finally started responding to taking turns with foods. He loves carrots, peas, and whole grain bread (thank goodness for at least those), so I only put the other foods that I want him to eat on his plate; each time he takes a bite of food off his plate he can have a bite of the food he wants. So, if he eats a bite of steak, then he gets a bite of carrot. Sometimes he just keeps eating off his plate. Yay! As he gets bigger I plan to use your 2 bite rule, maybe 3, and early to bed. But maybe I won’t have to.

  11. Annie says:

    If it’s not in the house, it’s not an option — yes! This is exactly how we do it. My son is 2 and I actually give him a lot of say in what he eats because I want him to keep listening to what his body tells him it needs. Of course this only works because everything available to him is real food. There just isn’t anything else. The only thing we ever fight over is raisins and as you say, I make the rules and he just doesn’t get more than a few bites of dried fruit!

  12. Meagan says:

    Thank you for this article! I have a two year old and husband that are so picky. I have been feeling so defeated in the kitchen. Time to regroup and try a new approach. Thank you!

  13. melissa says:

    Oh my goodness my daughter turned 3 this past December and she is such a picky eater. I am so guilty of fixing her something she wants if she doesn’t eat the meal i fix for the family, just so she eats. She has gotten to where now she won’t eat her diner, but then an hour later she says she is hungry. This is getting old FAST! She won’t even try most of what i fix. She will say it is yucky. My response to her is how do you know it is yucky if you don’t try it. And my daughter is such a little drama queen, she whines and if i try to make her go to bedearly or take the tv away from her she will cry and its not just tears flowing it is his loud screaming type cry that goes to my bones! I have also tried the sit here till you eat thing and still nothing. Help….what do i do? She knows, i think, that the whining, screaming crying and the “NO” drives me to want to pull my hair out, so i usually give in. The crying is the worst, she will cry till she gets what my mom use to call “the stubs” where she does the funny sounding breathing thing.

  14. Stacy says:

    Just found your blog and I’m loving it!! This was a great post as I share most of the same practices and desires for my family. I however struggle because my children are in daycare. So although I cook nourishing meals from scratch, they turn their noses up and I’m afraid they already think, “well if I don’t like supper, that’s ok I’ll just fill up on junk at daycare tomorrow!” They eat breakfast, lunch and a snack at daycare Monday through Friday. Any thoughts for families in my situation?

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Stacy, can you start sending them with their own lunches and snacks? I know many families that do this and it ensures they’re getting nourishing foods while away from your home.

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