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How do I raise a little Chowbaby?

I will die if I end up with a kid who only eats mac & cheese and chicken nuggets.

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  1. First, never force a kid to eat something. If they're unwilling or hesitant, suggest they try one small mouthful, and if they don't like it, let that be it for that one instance. If they only eat mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, find ways to make the highest level mac and cheese and chicken nuggets possible (see recent postings on mac and cheeese with truffles, etc.)

    Finally, remember that some CHs are late bloomers. If you don't have a chowbaby at age 3,7,12, do not despair. You may find yourself joyfully discussing chowish issues and chow eateries when your chowkid is post-voting age.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MobyRichard

      Yup- we always made her try one bite- unfortunately she usually did not like it as a kid. Now that she is a teen- and cooking- she is finally turning into a chowhound- but it was slow in coming!
      My youngetst sibling has two children- they just turned 3 and 5. I think they are almost full blown chowpups! My SIL is a fabulous cook, and has been having the kids help her in the kitchen from the time they were babies. I had them to dinner last night, and the three year old set the table. Both of them helped me prepare the haddock and scallops ( crushed the crackers, cut the butter, squeezed the lemon juice). AT the table, they serve themselves from the serving bowls- and use tongs to serve the french fries- grind the salt and pepper on their food, and will try anything once. For Christmas, I gave both of them kid sized cookiing utensils, aprons, measuring spoons, etc. I said the presents were from my two cats. YEsterday, the little one told me she was going to bake cookies for the cats for Valentines Day. They are a joy to have in the kitchen, and at the table. Really into food preparation, tasting, presentation etc. It is a hoot.

    2. Well, I don't have children but speaking from my growing up experience, we were expected to taste everything on the table at least once. We could not look at something and turn up our noses at it. Then once we tried it, we could say yay or nay but they would not then prepare special meals for us. If we chose not to eat what was offered, that was dinner for the evening. Nobody ever went hungry because my mom always put out a pretty big spread-it wasn't like we had one choice and went hungry if we didn't eat it but we weren't catered to either. We were also exposed to many different types of foods in restaurants.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Velma

        Ditto on everything Velma said.

        Rule #1 - You had to try it. If you didn't like it after trying it, OK - you could eat whatever else was being served.

        Rule #2 - Mom was NOT a short-order cook - what she made was dinner that night. Period.

        Children will eat when they're hungry - or will learn to eat what is put in front of them. I'm really appalled at how many parents will make different meals for different kids, because one won't eat potatoes and the other won't eat meatloaf. As long as there is a balanced meal on the table, the child should be able to eat something that is being served to everyone. And they won't starve.

        1. re: Velma

          Ditto on the above. Dinner was made once a day, almost always homemade in every aspect. We HAD to try everything and if we didn't like it, that was it for food until breakfast. No special meals, never forced to eat anything. Now I can't keep my mind off of food!

        2. Most of the "bad" tasting food is only in their heads. I say most, there are most certainly foods that people just don't like - there's no getting around that - but try and present it in an interesting way and go from there. If it looks gross, it may "taste" gross even before they try it.

          When they get a bit older, try and invite their friends over for a kids dinner party. Peer pressure is a major factor in the "yuck" department. If the cool kid at the table says that broccoli is gross, you better believe that all the other kids will say the same thing.

          4 Replies
          1. re: HaagenDazs

            I have to disagree, somewhat, about the taste of "bad" food being only in kid's heads. My husband and I were just talking about this the other night. I was probably one of the pickiest eatiers ever when I was a kid and it was only when I was about 18 that I started liking a wider variety of foods. I think kid's taste buds are very different than adults. I remember very clearly eating foods that tasted terrible to me back then but now love (i.e. spinach, steak, seafood of any kind). I think your tastebuds change as you age and sometimes kids just need to grow into certain foods. I have 5 younger brothers and sisters, 3 of whom were much better eaters than I was. I think a big trick is to definitely not force kids to eat things. I definitely wouldn't go out of my way to make something special but would choose menus with things that everyone in the family could try. Do not despair if your child is picky--I can't tell you the number of Thanksgivings I spent eating a roll and mashed potatoes--and now I love all kinds of food.

              1. re: upstate girl

                Infants and toddlers have more taste buds than older kids and adults. They actually have tastebuds inside their cheeks.

              2. re: HaagenDazs

                "Most of the "bad" tasting food is only in their heads"

                Not true HaagenDazs.....the tastebuds of children are very different from those of adults (one early difference - children prefer sweet.....whether that is to get them to want sweet breastmilk, or whether breastmilk is sweet to accomodate the taste buds, I don't know).

                I was a horrendously picky child, crazy-skinny and ate like 5 things. My mother never let me get away w/not trying stuff, but she never forced me to eat more than a taste of anything. I told her recently that my pickiness caused me much more unhappiness than it ever caused her....I remember being so stressed over thinking of things to eat.....and almost gagging over eating something I wasn't crazy about. I've grown up to be an adult who can eat almost anything.

              3. Present a wide variety of options (both at home and at restaurants), engage your child in cooking (let them smell the spices, touch the flour, stir in the ingredients), take them grocery shopping with you and try things that look interesting to them (the produce section is fun, ethnic shops too) and make sure that the food is interesting / fun to them.

                Finally, be careful what you wish for . . . we have a 2.5 yr old sushi fan. Yeah, it's cute, but it can get expensive too!

                1 Reply
                1. re: arwool

                  I couldn't agree more - my 5 & 6 year old love to help me pick out fresh produce. My 6 year old still talks about the time she found the perfect onion for me. They both love to sit up at the counter and watch me put together supper. They are both getting pretty good at helping me with the stirring and measuring, as well.

                  And... yes....it can get expensive - they both love lamb and seafood - especially calamari (they call them spiders).

                  That's not to say they don't enjoy chicken nuggets and mac & cheese from time to time.

                2. I was a picky eater and ate very slowly and not very much as a child. My mother never made me feel too badly about it. (Her cooking wasn't the best and as a single mother, my sister and I ate out a lot growing up. And I don't mean great restaurant meals, I mean McDonald's.)

                  We both grew up to love food and appreciate new and different tastes. It stands out for me the times when people forced me to eat what I didn't want to. I had a babysitter who tried to bribe me with a candybar to eat a grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese. I tried but just could not do it. This same babysitter also would try to force me to finish all the food on my plate. I used to fight with this woman at every meal it seemed like.

                  So, my advice is to not be too concerned about it. You can praise a child for trying something new or brag that your kid is five and has grown-up taste in food, but don't criticize or force.

                  1. Omit angst.

                    There are a boatload of parents who'd give their right arm if they could get their kids to eat mac & cheese or chicken fingers. All kids go through a picky eater phase. It's normal. Kids need the familiar and trusted. Their world is changing enough every day as it is. Shrug your shoulders and get on with life. There are more important things to worry about.

                    Stress and joie de vivre do not mix well. If you're already stressed about it, you're probably off to a poor start. Just *offer* the child a variety of foods you like, let 'em eat from that what *they* like, and don't worry about it. Forcing the issue will only work against you.

                    1. You can't anymore than you can guarantee you can raise an athlete. You make a variety of food available to them, encourage them to eat it but don't force it or make it an issue. Don't cater to their whims but don't make them feel bad if xxxx eats sushi or whatever and they don't. It's similar to the sports analogy, encourage, let them try but if it's not them, try something new but it just might not them. Doesn't mean it never will be.

                      1. I totally know where you're coming from. I remember thinking what will I cook if my child hates onions or garlic. What if she's a picky eater and will only eat cheese? Oh the horror!

                        Eating starts of as a social experience at first for babies. It's not about what they're eating. Unless you factor in food allergies, but that's a whole other topic. Learning to enjoy what's in front of you is a long process. Don't rush, be patient. Babies will first enjoy eating if they see you enjoying your meal.

                        Toddlers will naturally become less interested in food because of the ever so stimulating environment they learn to live in daily. Plus, their growth spurts start to slow down and are not as hungry as when they're infants. Parents set the parameters, what's being served, teaching table manners, and when meals are searved routinely. A chowbaby's responsibility will be to eat what they choose. Provide a variety of choices in front of them at the beginning of the meal. Don't bribe them or make deals with them to eat what you want them to eat.

                        Oh and if you never feed them chicken nuggets to begin with, they'll never know. MobyRichard has a very great idea with making the highest level mack & cheese and chicken nuggets if possible. My growing Chowbaby doesn't realize that her homemade Alphabet soup is made with a bunch of roasted organic veggies with organic chicken broth. Or that her chicken and rice porridge is slow simmered with a ton of ginger and garlic. You'll also be amazed at the healthy options out there that children will think is fun to eat. My chowbaby recently discovered frozen blueberries. It's cold, easy to eat, and turns hands and mouths purple...what could be better!

                        1. When I was small everything tasted good when my mom fed me no matter what it was....and we're some of the least picky eaters I know! I think it's just teaching them to keep an open mind about trying different foods and letting them know that it's okay to like different things and to dislike somethings....

                          1. Then dont introduce those type of foods into their diets.

                            When they become of an age old enough to go out with friends and start buying some of their own foods.. you can only hope they were taught well. Of course in the end they will make their own choices but that doesn't mean you cannot chime in on deciding factors (i.e. - health,type,variety)

                            The only real hope I have for my chowbaby (when..if) is that they stay clear of fast food.

                            1. Well, I agree that you can't guarantee a desired result but you can certainly exert control on the variables to give yourself the best chance of your desired outcome. Our 1-yr old has been a great eater so far.

                              You can save time and work by cooking enough of his food to spread out over a few meals, that way we can usually give him something good just by pulling it from the fridge and heating it up. We use canned vegetables, then mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, and we'll grill chicken or pork or beef, all cut up fine enough for him to chew. When he won't eat it, we pull out a yogurt that he likes, and when we're short on prep time we make him a Lean Cuisine.

                              I think if you have a dependence on hot dogs and mac & cheese as the convenient choice because of your own circumstances then the child's likely to fall back on it as a default . . . if you have a couple alternatives available at most times, you can maybe avoid that habit.

                              1. Expose them to as much variety as possible. When eating out, don't allow them to order from the kid's menu, but instead offer to share a meal with them and let them be involved in the choice. I would have to add the same caveat as voiced previously, that raising a child chowhound can be expensive. I now have two girls (10 and 15) with rather expensive taste. The sharing concept definitely helps in keeping costs down. Considering the portion sizes at most restaurants, this is something that can be done with most children well into their tween and early teen years.

                                At home, involve them in the shopping and preperation. The more involved they become in food, the better chance that they gain an appreciation for it. It's always "cool" when they can expose one of their friends to something exotic.

                                1. Our three year old has never eaten a chicken nugget. The reason is that her parents have also NEVER eaten a chicken nugget. We're not luddite alternative types, just don't use processed foods.

                                  1. All of this is great advice. One more thing is that if they don't like something the first time, you should continue offering it (as and when). (Don't make a big deal of it - just continue to make it available.) Eventually they'll probably eat it and just might like it.

                                    1. I heard that you have to introduce a food around 6 different times for your kids to accept it...so i guess that if it doesnt work the first time, wait a while, and have it available to them at the table. kids are curious, so if you constantly say how amazing some food is, they might actually try it. I remember growing up that I really did not want to eat romano beans. But one night, my 3 cousins were over and were scarfing them down like no tomorrow, and since i looked up to them, i tried them too and i LOVED them!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: icey

                                        I've heard 20 different exposures ;-) I've lost count w/my 4-year-old and 2-year-old (both of whom would eat anything I put in front of them when they were first eating solid food, but now are picky in opposite ways), but I usually serve whatever we're eating to the kids, and include something they'll generally eat. We're focusing more on being polite than cleaning your plate.

                                      2. You know, feeding your children the occasional chicken nuggets or Big Mac will not be the end of the world and does not mean that they will end up in the food chain gutter. Variety is key--just don't feed them fast food all the time. When my family and I first came to this country, going to McDonald's was a regular treat. But we were also exposed to daily home-cooked meals comprising fresh vegetables, seafood, meat, pretty much all the food groups, which is probably the reason we are all such open, well-rounded eaters today.

                                        Also, once children start school and hanging out with their friends, it doesn't seem realistic to me that they will eat organic this or that all the time. I've seen kids hanging out in McDonald's, Starbucks, etc., and I think the best thing we can do as parents is to instill in our children a healthy outlook toward food so that they know McDonald's, etc., are not the only choices they have.

                                        Personally, I think it's because I have eaten at such chains as a youngster that today I hardly frequent them--a kind of "been there, done that" attitude.

                                        1. I agree that if you don't make a big deal about it they will usually just eat. When my boys were young I made them a hot & sour soup with chicken, bamboo shoots, and tofu. They wanted to know what the little white cubes were? I told them cheese. The youngest replied UMMMMM I yike cheese Mommy!!! I don't know how old they were before they figured it out. But we laugh about it now, and they do remember thinking it was cheese..

                                          I didn't take them to McDonalds very often, I don't think I had a problem with it I just would make meals at home. And I think they only ever got chicken nuggets was at McDonalds, I wouldn't of made that dish.

                                          I did make macaroni and cheese, but I made plenty of other things. Even though I was working fulltime, I always had salad ready for them with homemade blue cheese or they knew how to use red wine vinegar and oil for an after school snack.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            I agree not to make a big deal about it, one way or the other. As for tofu, I always smile when I think about my own kids: they used to fight over my stir fried tofu: in other words, they loved it so much they would count the number of pieces of tofu in the dish, and if one got more than their share, I'd hear about it: "Mommy...Greg took all the tofu! I want more".

                                            I would hush them and remind them of their manners, but I do have to admit that I waited until their tofu habits were very well-established to break the news to them that some children might find the concept that tofu was worth fighting over very odd... :-)

                                          2. Unless medically necessary, don't be overly restrictive in your diet if you are breastfeeding. Again, unless medically necessary, don't use commercial baby foods...just puree/strain the things you cook for your family and feed those things to baby. Exposing the kiddo to a variety of flavors very early on can make an impact...my siblings & I were raised this way, no picky eaters in the bunch. We don't all like the same things, but we all ended up pretty omnivorous.

                                            On the other hand, it is important to recognize that taste varies widely from person to person (with some significant basis in biological differences), so the kiddo will have the right to assert his own taste buds. And he/she might turn out to be a natural ascetic, completely uninterested in food except as fuel, but that's okay too, right? We're all different.

                                            To get off on the right food, don't make a habit out of McDonald's or other fast food. Do let the little one help out in the kitchen when old enough, and a little later than that, give him/her specific responsibilities related to mealtime, whether prep or setting or clearing the table. Plant a garden, even if it is just a patio tomato plant or herbs on the windowsill. I think that many childrens' food issues (hell, many adults' food issues) stem from a complete disconnect from the sources of food, how it appears in the kitchen, and understanding that it takes work to make it appear on the plate.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                              Really? I've never done it myself, of course, but my sister, mother of 8, all breast-fed and who has a Masters in nutrition, once told me there were all kinds of things she couldn't eat while she was breast feeding, including chocolate, carbonated drinks, anything raw... Or are those the kinds of things when you say unless medically necessary?

                                              1. re: MobyRichard

                                                I meant things that were proven (through personal experience) to upset the baby's system. Lots of the western "gospel" dos & don'ts regarding breastfeeding are proven wrong when examined in a worldwide cultural context...here's the La Leche League's statement on maternal diet while nursing: http://www.lalecheleague.org/FAQ/avoi... All the things that you mention are just fine, until you establish that they do affect your particular infant. As La Leche states, many Indian mothers eat loads of garlic, ginger, onions, etc while happily breastfeeding. Mothers all over the world eat chocolate, carbonated drinks, raw fruits & veggies...of course, each person has to figure out what works best in her own system, but there is no need to categorically avoid any foods (even a little caffeine isn't bad).

                                                1. re: MobyRichard

                                                  The only thing breastfeeding women with a generally balanced diet needs to avoid is foods that obviously upset the individual babies stomach. Many babies have no problem with gaseous foods.

                                                  1. re: MobyRichard

                                                    For most women and most babies, it is not necessary to restrict your diet if you're breastfeeding. (Current wisdom says that peanuts might be something to avoid when bfing though.) However, if your baby seems to be having gas or other negative reactions, your doctor may suggest an elimination diet where you avoid certain foods and see if that helps.

                                                    1. re: kiwijen

                                                      It's highly individual. For 13 months I couldn't eat anything with onions or even so much as a teaspoonful of cabbage. Within minutes my daughter would get intestinal distress lasting several hours. Skipping cabbage was annoying but not very difficult. No onions for over a year was a real trial.

                                                2. Speaking from my own experience ...

                                                  DON'T designate any foods as "kid" foods and other foods as adult foods. The child should eat what the adults are having. There were nights I didn't like certain things my mom cooked, and she generally made me sit at the table for awhile. I always got away with not eating it, but she would not provide substitutions.
                                                  My mother also exposed me to Indian, Chinese, and other ethnic foods from a young age, as well as shellfish growing up on the East coast. I remember attending my Uncle's wedding when I was 4 and eating all the little necks at the raw bar. They had to drag me away. If someone was feeding me mac n'cheese that probably would never have happened.
                                                  I think people are way too into giving constant snacks to their kids. They develop a taste for junk food that way.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: fara

                                                    Your comments and mine are very similar but I forgot to specifically address this phenomenon of "Kid's Food".

                                                    Not only has this gross failure in parenting and nutrition become commonplace, it has actually become the accepted preference in some groups!!

                                                    I recently held a party and was asked by an eye-rolling acquaintance who was invited to my home for the first time whether I'd made any "Kid's Food" when she overheard me discussing part of the menu with another friend. This same woman did not want to include cheese, vegetables or fruit on the menu for our school parties because she aggressively explained to me that children don't eat those foods. What do kid's eat according to this sort of person??

                                                    Pretzels and cupcakes.

                                                    For the party in question, I served the following: 8 cheeses with quince paste and nuts, bread and crackers, hummus with cucumbers, broccoli, blanched green beans, sushi including two non-raw varieties, tapenade, artichoke and red pepper relish, lollipop lambchops, crabcakes, Korean dumplings, Korean sweet/spicy chicken (kind of like good mild General Tso), water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, spanakopitas, cookies and brownies.

                                                    If your child can't find something to eat from that menu... well that's a damned shame.

                                                    Another sad "Kid's Food" incident involved a family member who was up in arms over a community member who did not follow her dictate that some items on a pot luck buffet were for children and some were for adults. In addition to an alarming breach of ettiquette I couldn't help but cringe knowing that the poor neighbor who was probably revolted by the suggestion that children must only consume particular fodder was gracious enough to withold her opinion and was subsequently confronted for not following the dictates!

                                                    I guess at the end of the day I feel that it's every parent's right to promote whatever foolish and unhealthy notion floats their boat. But if we could get them to stop inflicting this personal failing on the rest of us, that would be nice! : )

                                                    1. re: Kater

                                                      Oh yes, I am amused when people ask what they should make for our 13-month old or what she'll eat - that would be, whatever we're eating! But they are asking for the right reasons - to be good hosts. On the other hand, any suggestion that the good food - the steak or whatever - isn't for the kids or is wasted on them, that is NOT the right reason and I find that so rude and weird.

                                                      1. re: Kater

                                                        I never look at a kid's menu in restaurant or feel the need to ask a host what kid-friendly item might be on their party menu. But I probably don't since I have a chowbaby with serious food allergies. So I have to prepare all her food regardless and bring it with us when we go out.

                                                        I don't however remember going to a party with my parents having to eat from a specified area of kid's food. I did recently attend a child's birthday party where a plate of chicken nuggets were served amongst the buffet of home cooked Filipino dishes that are usually prepared. I thought that's interesting, even a little thoughtful I guess. Even though my child is highly allergic, I still prepare at least one dish that could be enjoyed by everyone, including her at my parties. I never would of thought preparing something just designated for kids. That just seems odd.

                                                    2. I'm not sure how much active palate-molding can really be done. It's like any element of character, I think.

                                                      The best you can really do is set a good example. And don't ever order from the kid's menu!

                                                      An old boyfriend of mine worked as a chef and had just about the most adventurous tastes of anyone I've ever met. But he had a brother two years his senior who rejected meat before he was old enough to even pronounce "vegetarian", and as an adult maintains a steady diet of cheese pizzas and garlic bread, despising most vegetables and tofu most of all. Needless to say he is totally obese, whereas my ex-boyfriend was in great shape. I met their mother so I know she's a dedicated cook who makes beautiful and creative meals and grows many of her own vegetables. So, what can you do?

                                                      1. I don't quite understand how you simultaneously "Don't ever force them to eat something" and "Require them to taste everything once."
                                                        My daughter has categorically refused to eat almost everything since she was a baby. We never have fast food or soda, but she remains obsessed with starches and sweets and won't touch a vegetable except the occasional carrot stick.
                                                        But then I read the blog Dooce.com, whose toddler sometimes eats only one chicken nugget in an entire day, and I have to think, she doesn't eat anything interesting, but at least she eats.
                                                        I feel like you really can't force your kid to be a Chowhound. I've certainly tried, taking her on restaurant reviewing expeditions, cooking with her, and everything else, and nothing works. I think she has some sensory issues as when she was younger clothes were also a problem. I take comfort in the fact that her father and a friend of mine also ate only a few foods as a child and both are perfectly normal now.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Chowpatty

                                                          This is an issue near and dear to me. Thank you for bringing up sensory issues. I am a speech language pathologist and I think some of the people who have posted about just exposing your kids to a variety of food and they will eat them may not be totally aware of the sensory issues that so many kids have. It's just unfortunately not that easy. Eating can be a battle for many kids for many, many reasons. Sensory problems are a very real and big issue for many families.

                                                          1. re: upstate girl

                                                            sensory issues and food - not a subject that gets brought up much. but i'm glad i perused this thread.

                                                            upstate girl - interested to read you are a speech language pathologist! i am actually doing career research and this was on my list to find out about. would it be ok if i contacted you personally to ask you a few questions? not sure how to reach you though, so please drop me a note at etoile553 [at] gmail...thanks

                                                        2. Probably saying the same thing as above but different wording.

                                                          1) make it fun, make it enjoyable
                                                          2) have different kinds of food
                                                          3) you also have to enjoy the food (they'll know if you're not)
                                                          4) figure out what kind of eater they are and work with that
                                                          5) re: #4 accomodate them, glutton or fussy, palettes are developed
                                                          6) realize they might never become a chowhound or it might not be until they're teens or later

                                                          1. be patient. It can take 10-12 exposures to a new food before a baby will accept it and swallow what she's given.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: MaspethMaven

                                                              We should be careful with this bit of information. It began in articles designed to encourage parents to re-try foods not give up after a few exposures. The number of exposures seems to have grown as this tidbit has been whispered down the lane but certainly the idea of try try again is a good one.

                                                              What is not good is promoting the idea that parents should expect children to reject food. I've watched any number of parents teach their children to reject food by presenting it in a fearful way that expects and encourage rejection.

                                                              "I have someting special for you. These are delicious roasted brussel sprouts that we got from the farm. Enjoy!"

                                                              'Now Daddy wants you to just try to think about tasting a very tiny bit of these. Come on, pleeeaase? Can you do it for Daddy? Oh, you don't want to... well maybe we can try again sometime. Would you like another bucket of juice and some chicken nuggets???'

                                                              The results of these approaches are precisely what one would expect.

                                                              1. re: Kater

                                                                Kater makes a good point. I have often heard 10-12, but for the sake of this debate I offer the position of an article "Development of Food Preferences" as it appeared in 1999's Annual Review of Nutrition.

                                                                The short of it is that babies have innate aversions to certain tastes, and it can take anywhere from 5-10 repeat exposures for them to develop a new preference.

                                                                Here's the journal citation:
                                                                Author: Leann Birch
                                                                Title: Development of Food Preferences
                                                                Source: Annual Review of Nutrition v. 19 (1999) p. 41-62
                                                                Publication Year: 1999

                                                            2. alot of times food issues with kids really are control issues. little guys have pretty much no authority in any sphere of their lives and by refusing the lamb chops, he's exercising autonomy.

                                                              i also think modern parents acquiesce too easily to their kids' food demands. as many others already have mentioned, family meals are just that. mom (or dad) isn't a short-order cook.

                                                              1. Speaking from my own experience and that of my friends with kids, I see a strong correlation between how the parents feel about food and how the kids handle it. My folks were very chowhoundish, and when I was growing up, we ate in inexpensive Chinese and Italian restaurants a lot. As a kid I was expected to eat bok choy with fermented bean curd or calamari with marinara sauce just like the adults. And my mom was an excellent, if not adventurous cook, who had some understanding of nutrition. Plus, she was a housewife who worked only in the home, and had time to cook real meals. This is a rarity nowadays. There was never soda pop or candy in our house. If I was hungry I got a carrot stick, a cut-up apple or a piece of cheese to munch on. We also had the ethnic good fortune to receive regular shipments of my grandmother's homemade blintzes and knishes, which it would have been unthinkable not to eat. My folks were extremely enthusiastic about food and approached it as one of life's great joys.

                                                                Since you're already chowhounds, half the battle is won. Eat with relish (the emotional kind), keep mealtimes fun and lighthearted, and present the food in an attractive manner. An example of how this can help: I brought a beautiful, colorful, varied fruit salad to a dinner party where the hosts' daughter was an impossible eater. She ate noodles with butter and a smidgen of cheese only. That was her entire diet. When she saw the fruit salad, all those gorgeous colors, and watched me and others eating it, she wanted some. Lo and behold, she ate her portion and was happy. Her parents were flabbergasted. Just goes to show you: you never know.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Cara1

                                                                  I second the Chinese food. It converted my son, who lived on Cheezits and boiled ham until he discovered Moo Goo Gai Pan.

                                                                2. Speakiing from personal experience, I am the "child" who my mother frequently says, "I can't believe you eat that now!". Oh yeah, I'm turning 32 this week. As a child, nothing could touch on the plate, all foods needed to be separated,no sauces, no condiments, no "black stuff" ( meaning steak had to be trimmed down to next to nothing) basically naked food, starch, peanut butter and jelly and an unwillingness to try anything new. I even refused to eat cheese and eggs! I grew up in a house where ethic foods from a variety of cultures were common, and my parents were chowhounds before that sort of thing existed. they called themselves "diners".
                                                                  Long and short, over years of watching and seeing how tasting could be good, my tastes matured without fighting, forcing, begin told to taste.
                                                                  I eat it ALL now, because as I got older, I wanted to know what I was missing. Had I been forced, I'd never be as curious as I am now.

                                                                  1. A couple of things I learned over the summer, one from a mom, the other from my husband's grandson.

                                                                    The first was that your taste buds completely change every seven years. (Don't know if it's true or folklore, but it sounded interesting.) The point is that if you didn't like something before, you might now, because your taste buds may have changed. Well, if that's true my taste buds have changed five times, and I still don't like zucchini.

                                                                    What I learned from Cody was the "no-thank-you bite." Evidently his mother insists on this at his house. Even if you're certain you won't like some new thing that appears on the table, you must take and taste just the one bite. If you don't like it after that, you're under no further obligation.

                                                                    But here's something to consider: My sister and I grew up in exactly the same household, with the same parents, the same meals, and the same rules. Now I'm a chowhound, I guess, but she barely cooks. She doesn't eat hardly anything, whereas I'll try just about everything, at least once (except the aforementioned zucchini, I guess).

                                                                    1. Yep, I would agree with a lot of this. We had the "you have to taste it" rule, which my dad was adament about. And dinner was dinner--we sat down together every night, and if you didn't like it, my mom would offer scrambled eggs, but that was it. None of this running back and forth to the kitchen to microwave a chicken nugget...Sure, there were things I hated as a kid (onions, mushrooms, most cheese) that I love now, non-kid-like things I loved (Brie, raw clams) and other things (coconut, Swiss and blue cheese) that I've hated since day one and still hate. But my mom was a good, healthy, from-scratch cook (as were my grandmothers) and we were raised to be adventurous.

                                                                      We were also taken to tons of restaurants (casual diners and Indian/Italian/Chinese places when we were little, nicer spots as we got older, including lots of good places in NYC) and definitely picked up on our parents' enthusiasm and enjoyment of eating out. They were huge restaurant-review readers, and so I grew up reading about food & restaurants not just as food but as part of culture, history, and social commentary, definitely one of the reasons I became a restaurant critic and food writer myself.

                                                                      I agree that getting your kids involved--letting them help pick out stuff in the supermarket, going to the farmers market, letting them help you in the kitchen--will get them more engaged in what they're eating, and can also help parents from feeling like slaves in the kitchen.

                                                                      It always strike me as ridiculous how parents act like they have no control over what their kids (esp. toddlers) eat. "Oh, she won't eat anything but noodles and butter!" Well, stop feeding her nothing but noodles! No kid is going to hunger-strike at 2. I also think many parents overwhelm their young children with too many decisions at mealtime. Don't bombard your kid with choices; make the food, serve it, and make mealtime be about having a little moment of shared pleasure and relaxation, not a big push-pull about what gets eaten. The more choices, the more fuss, and the more food gets wasted as the child takes one bite of three things and then demands something else.

                                                                      Also, what you have a taste for later in life depends on what you're acclimated to as a child. We never had sugary cereals, soda, or much processed food in the house as kids, and we never went to fast-food places, ever. I liked the occasional orange soda or bowl of Froot Loops at a friend's house, but I never developed a taste or habit for that kind of stuff, and I don't eat it now. So, don't make a huge issue about it being "forbidden", but don't keep it in the house. Same with junky frozen or processed food. if it's not part of everyday life, the kids aren't going to develop a taste for it.

                                                                      1. I was a parent's nightmare as a child and I was indulged in my poor eating habits. I'm left with a lifelong struggle with my weight and a refusal to go anywhere near green beans because they were forced on me at my aunt's table. My tastes began developing in my late teens and I was an adult working in a cooking school before I realized why most vegetables taste horrible to me (I'm overly sensitive to bitter flavors. Many vegetables lean that way. Now I know how to choose veggies I'll like).

                                                                        There's always hope. I only serve whole wheat bread and "healthy" breakfast cereals at home and I make chicken nuggets from scratch. They're only small versions of the chicken cutlets I make for the family anyway, so it's no big deal. Broccoli not in favor this week? Okay, carrots are good, too. Broiled tilapia is good, but you don't want the citrus butter? Plain fish is healthy, too.

                                                                        It's about healthy, varied choices, compromise and the regular reminder that THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT! Oh yeah, some humor can also help.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: rockycat

                                                                          Yes. I can hear my mom now: I'm not running a short-order kitchen. (I know where she got it; I once heard my grandmother say the same thing!)

                                                                        2. When I got my hubby he only would eat about 5 things so I had the three bite rule...if you don't like it after three bites get up and fix yourself something.Now he eats everything and sometimes will say I can't believe I waited so long to try this.
                                                                          So far with our little one we have been pretty lucky.He eats mostly what we eat and is pretty good about trying all things.We do let him have a happy meal every once in a while, but he asks for Mexican or seafood if we are out.I have a two year old that asks for lobster!Mostly we just don't push.

                                                                          http://www.shoplateda.com/

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: LaLa

                                                                            That's the rule I grew up with - three bites.

                                                                            1. re: LaLa

                                                                              When I met my husband, he, too, only ate a few things. Mostly spaghetti with Kraft parmesan cheese from the can. As a child, he was forced to eat vegetables, fruits, and other things that his father thought were "good for him", and while they might have been good for him, it had the complete reverse effect. Now he (my husband) would die before he would eat a piece of lettuce or a cucumber or canteloupe, etc. He eats broccoli, corn and baby carrots and the only fruit he eats is apples. On the other hand, he eats about 1,000 more things (with the exception of fruits and vegetables) than he did when we met. And he also regrets not trying them sooner, but nobody ever encouraged him -- they only forced things upon him.

                                                                              That being said, we have a 2 year old and she eats EVERYTHING! She's always wanting to try what we have and I certainly encourage her. And if for some reason she doesn't want to eat dinner on any given night, that's okay too. She also has the occasional Happy Meal or chicken fingers at home, but certainly not every night. Some of her favorite things are tandoori chicken, turkey (or regular) meatloaf, meatballs, brisket.

                                                                              And I swear that my 3 1/2 month old son has been eyeing our dinner plates too thinking, "enough with the bottles, I want food"!

                                                                              1. re: valerie

                                                                                When I met my first husband he wouldn't eat anything, either. Not as a result of being forced to eat things but because his mother had a very limited repertoire of things to cook. Mostly it was a plain piece of meat, usually chuck steak or pork chops, completely unseasoned, with a baked potato and a salad. His favorite restaurant (growing up in Portland, Oregon!) was a third-rate seafood place that I judged to be no better than Red Lobster--if it was even that good.

                                                                                After he and I had been together for awhile it was amazing what he'd eat. We lived with his folks for awhile, and every time they'd leave town for a day or two we'd go nuts cooking all the stuff they refused to eat.

                                                                                1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                  OK, my Husband STILL has a very limited food repetoire. No vegetables exept the occasional ear of corn, tangelo, and potatoes of course. He does eat things he didn't eat before he met me (shrimp, things in tomato sauce, and pureed yellow split peas), but there's a long way to go.

                                                                                  As he explains it, it IS a control thing. He was the youngest of 4 boys in 6 years, and had no control over much of anything when he was a kid. So being a picky eater was a way of asserting himself. It didn't help that his mother was a lousy cook.

                                                                                  My question is, what worked to expand the horizons of your adult husbands? Men who literally retch on a bite of salad?
                                                                                  I could really use any tips or practical suggestions.

                                                                                  1. re: Gin and It

                                                                                    This is totally disgusting, but one time - I think we were still dating - I moved amorously toward my husband, and when he kissed me, I transferred a black olive from my mouth to his.

                                                                                    He was completely grossed out at first, then said it wasn't as bad as he remembered them being. He now eats black olives!

                                                                                    He doesn't eat green olives. Wonder if I ought to try that same trick again?!

                                                                                    1. re: luv2bake

                                                                                      You and I think that's funny, but if I tried that, I'd never be kissed again.

                                                                                      He tried going to a hypnotherapist once, which resulted a in a lot of talking but no change in diet.

                                                                            2. What worked for us was to have them "help" with dinner. We started when they were pretty young and we found that when they make dinner there was a sense of ownership and they got to see what is going into the meal. My kids now have very sophisticated tastes and eat almost anything. They can also cook certain meals themselves. Of course that backfires on you when your daughter orders the lobster and your son wants the swordfish with the crab stuffing.....Are you sure you want to bypass the Mac n cheese and nuggets phase?

                                                                              1. missem, I have the same attitude, but I realized that as soon as my daughter figures that out I'm in trouble - food will be the battle and she'll use pickiness as a weapon! Well, not necessarily, but it's something to keep in mind.

                                                                                All these tips are good, but I am also resolved to Not. Let. Show. how much I care.

                                                                                1. Don't fret, it's really easy. Here are some simple tips:

                                                                                  For the childs first year on solid foods don't allow any 'Danger Dishes' i.e. chicken nuggest and mac 'n cheese.

                                                                                  Do not give your child more than one snack per day. No carrying around Cheerios and pretzels and using them to occupy the toddler. Yes, other mothers will fight you on this because they don't know what they're doing and it's easier. Give one snack around 2pm but limit it to fresh fruit or fresh vegetables. If you don't follow this advice you child won't be hungry enough to eat well and will refuse good food because he knows that he can have a bag of pretzels 20 minutes after he gets up from the table.

                                                                                  Do omit most sugar particularly juices. When you meet a chicken nugget kid, you can bet the farm that he also eats an astounding quantity of sugar. However do not make sugar a forbidden food. Make cookies together and enjoy them!

                                                                                  Take you child to produce farms, particularly 'You Pick' farms. They will eat anything they pick.

                                                                                  Feed your child a varied diet particularly when they first begin solids. I found that a three day cycle worked very well. Except for milk, give a food only once in any three day period.

                                                                                  When your child is young do not let them eat with people who believe children don't like vegetables, fish, etc... By four or so, your child will be mature enough to know better than these 'adults'.

                                                                                  Make feedings fun and be sure that you're face to face and focused on your child. Project your utter assurance that your child will love raspberries, chicken, peas, asparagus. Tell him how much he will love them. When you have to introduce a food that you personally do not love, be sure not to let it show.

                                                                                  Also, No Substitutions. We're all having this great dinner. Most likely your child will not think to ask for something else unless and adult teaches him to do that (that's why it's important to insulte your child from other dopey adults even if those nice dopey people share some kind of blood tie with the child!) but if it happens the answer is simply no. Don't make the child eat everything on the plate but do not offer any other food, snack or dessert in it's place.

                                                                                  And go out. Alot. In all the spare time that a good eater allows (arguing over food occupies some parents' entire day!) you'll have plenty of time to teach him restaurant manners. Take him to every ethnic restaurant in a 20 mile radius. When he's really little go early so that he doesn't distract other diners. Make sure that he sees you and Daddy trying foods you've never had before. That is a challenge for many hounds but your child won't know if you've actually eaten Pho before.

                                                                                  Lastly, include the child in food shopping and preparation. If getting and making the food is someone else's problem then eating becomes a very passive experience. Kids like to cook and they like to eat what they cook. Just recently we made some soup and my son actually fished out the items he had prepped and held them up on his spoon "Now this is some terrific fennel, huh Mom!".

                                                                                  Have fun!
                                                                                  Kate

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Kater

                                                                                    I agree. I never had macn'cheese (at least the Kraft kind) until I had it at my aunt's house around age 7. Of course I loved it. I remember asking my mom to make it for me and she refused. As a teenager I would buy "junk" food like that and indulge, but now eat very healthy overall. i.e. my long-term tastes are for healthy food.
                                                                                    my aunt's kids OTH don't eat vegetables and are obese.
                                                                                    hello, people eat what they are given ,or they don't eat!
                                                                                    I said this in the last thread on this topic, but do you think children in China or India will "only eat" chicken nuggets?

                                                                                    1. re: fara

                                                                                      And I grew up on my Mom's mac 'n' cheese (recipe on the back of the Mueller's elbow noodle box) and absolutely despised the Kraft orange version when I first tried it at a friend's house. Didn't eat Kraft mac/cheese when I was a kid; and absolutely will NOT eat it now as an adult.

                                                                                      1. re: fara

                                                                                        The rate of obesity among children in China is steadily climbing. One reason often given is the influx of Western chains such as KFC, McDonald's, etc., and I've witnessed firsthand the crowds of Chinese people waiting on line at such chains! Also, India has a confounding situation in which many of its children are fat, but its share of malnourished children remains among the worst in the world.

                                                                                    2. My kids (ages 2 and 5) eat an enormous variety of foods. We've always served them whatever we have to eat (within reason--no raw fish, yet).

                                                                                      People at our grocery crack up when they see them happily snacking on California rolls while I shop.

                                                                                      We've done a bit of fibbing (instead of frog's legs, we day it's chicken. . .), but for the most part, if we approach new foods without fanfare, they'll try anything.

                                                                                      I think the key is to not make a big deal out of food.

                                                                                      That said, we do serve kid staples like mac & cheese and hot dogs, but given a chioce, they generally prefer something more interesting.

                                                                                      1. It's pretty easy, actually. Our species is naturally omnivorous. You actually have to work harder to make them NOT eat something. When you hear parents with a zillion food rules (no Cheerios, no juice, no nuggets, etc.) you can bet their kids are going to come up with their own rules.

                                                                                        I think a lot of the advice here has been right on target: take them shopping, teach them to cook, let them order for themselves, take them to places that are unfamiliar and have them figure out what they are going to eat, go fishing or apple picking and eat what you bring home.

                                                                                        Overall, have them understand where food comes from, expose them to different foods, teach them about basic nutrition, and get them involved in preparation.

                                                                                        1. I call the noodles and chicken nuggets etc. the brown food diet. It includes all those over processed pre packaged snacks and dinners and even french fries. If you offer you kids food that is diverse and colorful and not the other stuff then thats what they'll eat. Now once they get older they'll start to be pickier about what they want. My oldest only ever wnats french fries when we go out to eat but here at home he eats everything from italian to latin american dishes ( he also went thru a phase where he ate nothing but peas and cheese) My daughter eats like a bird but tries everything you put in front of her and my youngest has a taste for plain yogurt and the spicier things that the other two don't. Bottom line is introduce your kids to lots of different things and don't worry too much, as kids grow they will expand there horizons.

                                                                                          1. my parents bless them did something right they instilled a fantastic appreciation for food and sense of adventure in both my sister and I. My husband had completely the opposite upbringing and while he's adventurous now mixed family events (like Xmas) are laughable - my side with great heaping plates of food, trying everything - his family with their turkey, mashed potatoes and white bun - completely beige plates - ugh.

                                                                                            I think a big part of what my parents did right was tied to the fact that we lived in the country and had a garden so we knew where our food came from. Even here in the city I think even the smallest yard could have a small corner where kids could experiment growing things. If you don't have a yard even cherry tomatoes and herbs on a balcony will work. One of my favourite foods when I was 5 was steamed swiss chard with salt and lemon juice on it. It had everything to do with the fact that I'd grown it, tended it, picked it and was so proud of it.

                                                                                            The other great thing my parents did was engage us in food prep from the youngest age, again giving us ownership.

                                                                                            Mostly I think it was a sense of awe and wonder they showed us around food, my Dad had boundless enthusiaum for trying new cuisines and it was infectious. Since we never had any money my Dad would do theme nights where the food prep was the entertainment. Imagine us in 1976 in northern ontario making our own tortilla shells and chips for Mexican night. Family vacations were always to Toronto to stay with my aunt and uncle and search for chow finds - dim sum on spadina and trips to kensignton market to buy the ingredients we couldn't find at home. My parents always treated specialty or ethnic ingredients like rare jewels to be savoured.

                                                                                            And when all that failed my sister and I were suckers for reverse physchology. I remember wanting to try a stinky gooey cheese my mom has splurged on for their holiday open house and being told that no we couldn't have any because we wouldn't like it and it was for adults only (and no guests had arrived yet and she just honestly didn't want us potentially wasting her expensive cheese). Naturally we had to find out what the fuss was all about.

                                                                                            Now seeing my sister raise her daughter much the same way I know my sister and I weren't just flukes. Now if only I could do something about all the inlaws' beige plates.........maybe it's too late to teach old dogs new tricks best to start with the young ones!

                                                                                            1. Even if chowbaby ends up being burger and fries kid for a while, there is still definitely hope. My brother was the most chicken nugget, burger/fry, and pizza kid imaginable, and now as a twentysomething adores all kinds of ethnic cuisine, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Mexican, etc. Actually, the only food he categorically tries to avoid is dim sum (which is interesting, considering we're Chinese...), but then everyone has straight up likes and dislikes.

                                                                                              1. exposure exposure exposure - I took my son to restaurants at a very young age and he would dress up nice like it was a big event (he didn't know it then but it was only a step above McDonalds but it was all we could afford then). I loved to cook but again couldn't afford it but would debone my own whole chicken to get a boneless breast - maybe he learned to appreciate the art of preperation (I like to think so). Food, dining, cooking was important in our house. Because I took pleasure in preparing something that I thought was fancy, he started to take pleasure in fixing something fancy - he started with making a chef salad very young. Participating is important at a young age, I think it allows them to feel they can do it. He would call me on the phone to ask if he could make chicken marsala before I got home and I would walk him through it.

                                                                                                Trying different foods is soooo important, at least a bite. My grandaughter will always say first "I don't like that" and I 'll say "have you had that before" and she'll say "No" and I'll say "what if it takes like the best thing you've ever tasted in your life, you'll miss out on it if you don't at least try it". 9 times out of 10 she is shocked and says "Wow, I like this".

                                                                                                My son is now 30 and has by far passed my skills in cooking and is now filling a career and passion in cooking and food writing.

                                                                                                1. Well, speaking from the point of view of an actual kid (14, precisely, but I'm not going to argue about maturity) I think that most people my age don't really appreciate their meals very much. You can't really expect them to because there are so many other things that seem more important (boys, girls). I became interested in food on my own account, and the advice I offer is just to sit back and relax a little bit, don't push your kid towards the beef tendon noodle soup. A good idea is to slowly introduce them to different types of food from different cultures that don't seem too "frightening", like chinese scallion pancakes or fresh fish tacos (TBE). Try finding something new and attractive to cook once or twice a week (we eat with our eyes) while still keeping old, safe favorites. One of my favorite parts of the week is when my mother cooks from The Splendid Table email she gets. Plan little adventures, like excursions to dim sum or a picnic in a favorite park with interesting sandwhiches. I agree with most poeple about the non compromising on dinner, but ask the kid WHY they don't like it instead of doing that deep sighing thing that all parents do when their kid is acting up. Lastly, be patient, they'll come around when they come around, but not everyone was born to be a chowhound.

                                                                                                  P.S. And when all else fails, bribing works.

                                                                                                  Because that(fill in the blank) looks soooooo much better after hearing the notion of Dr.Bobs ice cream floating about in my future...

                                                                                                  1. Little kids are "super-tasters"-- they taste things more strongly than most adults do. That's why they shy away from unusual foods and prefer bland things. (some adults you know who do the same probably aren't just boring people, they probably also are more sensitive to taste) Let them enjoy their mac and cheese and tater tots, doesn't mean mom and dad has to! In fact, enjoy all the exotic food you want, and your kid will naturally become curious. And as their sense of taste normalizes, they'll feel safe to experiment.

                                                                                                    Most of all, always give your kid a CHOICE! They might stick to the mac and cheese just to spite you if you take it away from them too soon.

                                                                                                    My mom used to shake her head at my insistence on eating my pasta PLAIN PLAIN, but she let me do it, and now at 23 I eat her spaghetti sauce with crushed red pepper and WITHOUT the pasta. Go figure.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: amandine

                                                                                                      I love to make homemade spaghetti sauce with ground beef in it and put it on a bun or toasted bread. It makes the best sloppy joe.

                                                                                                    2. We struggled for years to encourage our son to eat a variety of foods. Three things changed the cycle

                                                                                                      a) a social life - friends tried new things and he gave in
                                                                                                      b) working - having his own money meant making his own food choices and paying for them
                                                                                                      c) appearance - wanting to look and feel healthy

                                                                                                      We always offered the opportunity to try new foods, as did family and friends...but maturity (in the end) was the true winner.

                                                                                                      1. HillJ, maturity did it, but I think the years of you offering a variety of food laid the groundwork.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: JaneRI

                                                                                                          JaneRI (grin) if we deserved the credit-we'd take it :)
                                                                                                          I actually don't believe his dad and I had the greatest influence. What matters is that he's making better choices now and we're thrilled...and by CH standards he has a lot of exploring to do!

                                                                                                        2. Don't pass judgement untill you have been there. I have learned to make very good mac n cheese and sometimes my own tenders.

                                                                                                          I was pleasently suprised that my daughter loves lamb chops and steak. My son likes steak, but not lamb. Bt like garlic.

                                                                                                          I have even learned to make my own fish and chips and shrimp poppers. I think that once they start school, they tend to become a little more open minded.

                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                                                                                            Interesting comment about school. I find that it is the opposite. Before school starts they don't know about all the eating issues that children have and they don't know that some people think that children are supposed to eat a very limited unhealthy diet. They don't know about all the junk food or at least they don't know that people buy it.

                                                                                                            Before school started my son asked occasionally for junky foods in the regular market (love that there is far less of that at Whole Foods) but he quickly learned that we didn't buy anything in several aisles and he learned to recognize junk food packaging and labels. But once he saw that other kids actually eat this stuff, he had a lot more questions about those foods and why we don't buy them.

                                                                                                            But don't be alarmed, I do allow him to choose something prepackaged and junky from time to time and he's got a set of grandparents who give him absolute garbage when he visits. You don't want to make junk foods into the Holy Grail!

                                                                                                            But anyway I find that school makes healthy eating much harder.

                                                                                                            1. re: Kater

                                                                                                              SOme of the preschools in my area ( Boston) encourage kids to bring healthy snack. I have a neice and nephew in preschool, and though they are not there for lunch, they must bring a snack, and my SIL was happy to find out that they cannot bring chips, oreos, etc. Usually they bring an apple or strawberries .

                                                                                                              1. re: Kater

                                                                                                                I'm getting very concerned, foodwise, about my daughter starting school next year. I've seen our school system's menu and it's a very limited repetoire of pizza, burgers, tacos, hot dogs, and other "fake fast-food" type menu items. We do eat fast food, but only occasionally as a treat. It doesn't in any way resemble our menu at home or anything a reasonable person could call a healthy menu.

                                                                                                                Any thoughts on how to cope with this from people who've been there?

                                                                                                                1. re: rockycat

                                                                                                                  Can she pack? I bought a little bento box lunchbox from reusablebags.com and she love helping to fill it up. Our school system actually went to all whole grains and has veggie options. If my kids want to buy whole wheat pasta w/ marinara sauce, even if it's jarred, that's fine, but not fried mozzerella sticks (when did that become a meal?).

                                                                                                                  1. re: rockycat

                                                                                                                    The only thing that you can do is pack lunch. But I hope you will also get involved in the Home and School (when we were children they called it the PTA) and try to make some noise about this.

                                                                                                                    I was absolutely appalled by what is served in the schools and more shocked that because there is 'salad' the administration actually thinks it's a healty menu. My child is only in Kindergarten so I'm quietly observing while I try to learn what effect parents can have without being labeled 'problematic'. But I hope that over time we can make some improvements.

                                                                                                                    In the meantime, you just have to pack lunch because you can't let your kids eat what they serve.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Kater

                                                                                                                    Totally agree with the opinion that school = awareness of scary food, and hearing that vegetables are "not yummy." When our daughter was in preschool, the teachers always told us that she was the kid with the healthiest lunches. Now, she nags at us to buy lunch - usually mac and cheese or pancakes. The school menus make us shudder, and we limit her to two per month.

                                                                                                                    Still, when we visited my sister and her kids in another state over break, I felt that my kid is miles ahead. I bought salad so that she could have vegetables for the dinners we ate at my sister's house. My sister proclaims that her 4 year old "just doesn't eat vegetables." One night, he had a ketchup sandwich for dinner!

                                                                                                                    1. re: Bluebell

                                                                                                                      The vegetable thing baffles me. And what is saddest of all is that the schools (and many parents) don't serve any dishes where the vegetables are incorporated into the dish rather than offered on the side if at all. Over the summer I joined friends in 'family' type restaurants a handful of times and learned that children's menus offer meals with absolutely no vegetable content - who in their right mind would ever order that for a child?

                                                                                                                      When we feed young children who have been taught to eat poorly, I go to a couple of standbys: vegetable lasagne, Asian noodle soups with lots of veg, chili with tons of carrots, corn and fennel, quiches, and so on. Frankly, for a kid who has been methodically taught that he doesn't like vegetables a serving of gorgeous roast asparagus is going to freak him out. But serve an 'egg pie' loaded with zucchini, tomato and peppers and he will love it!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Kater

                                                                                                                        Actually, a lot of kids really like to eat food in a very separate way, so I think that's why there aren't "incorporated" dishes, and why kids menus are very simple mac n cheese/quesadilla/pasta/pizza options. I will confess that my kid will eat more stirfry if the baby corn, broccoli and tofu are all separated out.

                                                                                                                        Also, a lot of restos don't offer nice, well-cooked but simple veg sides. We keep track of which ones in our area offer more than fries or a side salad, and those are on our regular rotation.

                                                                                                                2. My mother made only 1 meal per night and if we didn't like it, you went to bed hungry. So, consequently, we ate or picked at everything. My wife and I do the same with my son, for the most part. When he was little, he ate his mac and cheese, or nuggets........but some of our food always made it on his plate. We soon found that there were quite a few things that he would really like that I cooked. Vegetables always made an appearance on his plate and he was made to just try them. Would we made him his nuggets when there was something that was a bit on the strong side for a child? Sure, but that was the exception and not the rule.
                                                                                                                  Today, my son is seven and eats most all vegetables, loves salads, loves fish of all kinds, loves all meats, and now decided to try sushi and loves that. When we send him for a sleepover at a friends house, the parents will bring him back and talk about how amazed they were at what my son ate, and how much of it he consumed.

                                                                                                                  1. I know this will sound asinine, stupid, or snooty, but I'm genuinely curious: Why do people (Americans, I guess) feed their children mac & cheese and nuggets?

                                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                      Good question....I never actually thought of why.....but when going from jarred food to solid, my thought is of the consistancy of the macaroni is a step up from the jar. While a small child has a problem using a child's fork, the breading of a chicken nugget makes it easier to pick up than an unbreaded, slimey piece of chicken. It's just easier to pick up with little fingers. Plus, they taste good to them. Sound credible?

                                                                                                                      1. re: JNUNZMAN

                                                                                                                        I think it's just laziness. When we went to solid food we did pasta first, too, but it was meat tortellini (the only way we could get meat into the kid at that age) with pesto. We chose pesto partially because it doesn't stain like tomato sauce but mostly because it was a flavor unlikely to be encountered otherwise.

                                                                                                                        We served "chicken pieces" but initially they were unbreaded, lightly seasoned chunks of breast or thigh. We wanted our daughter to learn the taste of chicken, not breading. We eventually moved up to homemade baked nuggets breaded with a mixture of crumbs, Parmesan, and parsley.

                                                                                                                        Doing this takes a little work and a little thought. Many people prefer to do neither. We're a two working parent family but both of us have weight problems. We wanted our daughter to get the healthiest start possible.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                        I think there's a general mindset among people who don't know any better that little kids "won't eat" anything that's good for them, so they feed them crap. Look at kids' menus at restaurants. The adults are offered good stuff, but the kids' choices are all deep-fried, french fries, burgers, hot dogs. It's so common as to be a cliche.

                                                                                                                        I think if you feed your kids good stuff at home you'll end up with a kid who will eat good stuff, and in that kind of a case a nugget here and there won't necessarily hurt anything.

                                                                                                                        This isn't necessarily about food, but I think the leap can be made: When I was little my mom made most of my clothes. I was in first grade before I had a store-bought dress. I remember looking at it and thinking that it was very cheap-feeling--and it didn't fit nearly as well as the things my mom made and tried on me while there were still pins in them that poked me. I had no idea that many people in the rest of the world thought store-bought was better than homemade.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                          I think that JNUNZ and rev have got it: people think it's easier (why making/buying special food for kids is easier, I don't know!) and they honestly have bought into the marketing foolishness that tells them that kids like this food. They buy this very unhealthy food for their children and don't offer any variety, then feel that the result proves that kids will only eat chicken nuggets and mac 'n cheese!

                                                                                                                          Also there is an element of cost and time here. Making boxed mac 'n cheese or frozen chicken nuggets takes mere moments. They've actually come up with new versions that can be made even faster than the old fashoined blue box. And these foods are almost free. There are a good many people who think it's a good idea to buy the cheapest food available for their children while filling their homes with plastic toys that the kids don't need or want.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                            I have no idea! And it's not just junk food, some parents prepare special separate food for their kids that is quite plain and healthy (poached chicken, etc). I mean I can understand it if you already know your kid won't eat your food, but I don't understand why one would set them up to expect different food.

                                                                                                                            My baby food book, which I quickly decided was crap, and other sources (mainstream parenting books), do tell parents to give kids under one only food without any added salt and sugar - because otherwise they will only want to eat highly flavoured foods. I realized that *I* prefer highly flavoured foods - not junk, my own cooking - and my kid better get used to it! It helped that she had no interest in the bland baby food and started grabbing at my food. She's no dummy.

                                                                                                                            1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                              My mom and dad and I were eating lunch one time with my nephew, who was at that time about 10 months old. We were eating something involving tortillas and guacamole (my mom's homemade), and Cameron was showing some interest in the guacamole. So I put some on a chip and gave it to him. He did taste it, but seemed more interested in playing with it. Intriguing new texture.

                                                                                                                              He and I had a little running joke one weekend when I was down there because he doesn't like peppers, and I do. So I'd make a big show of eating a piece of pepper and saying, "Mmmm, yummy." Then he'd say, "Yucky!" and I'd say, "Yummy!" A couple of days later I was cutting up different colored peppers for kabobs my dad was going to grill, and he was fascinated by the idea that peppers came in so many different colors. I gave him a piece of yellow pepper (told him they were my favorite because that's my favorite color). He looked it all over, handled it, and carried it around for awhile, but he didn't eat it.

                                                                                                                              (To be fair, I don't think I liked peppers, either, until probably junior high. But his mom--my sister--is really, really picky, and I'm afraid she might teach him to be picky. But at the moment he eats pretty good; he's 3 now.)

                                                                                                                              1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                Thank you!!, JNUNZMAN, rockycat, revsharkie, Kater, and julesrules, thank you for your very thoughtful replies. There are times when I envy the convenience and the food availability in the US. At other times I wonder if it is not a blessing to not have the convenience. Along the lines you've all suggested, I fix our three year old daughter made from-scratch foods that include poached and shredded chicken with a light, slightly sweet soy-based sauce (certainly easier than *&&*) and my hand-made pastas rather than any canned or boxed mac & cheese.

                                                                                                                                I grew up in the US, but never had a Big-Mac until I was about 40 years old and by then living in Asia for many years. But I don't feel like some cranky old luddite hippy geezer bypassed by the world (even though I sound like one to myself). Thanks for re-connecting me a bit.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                  I made my kids chicken nuggets when they were little--chicken breasts marinated in organic yogurt, breaded in whole wheat bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, baked in olive oil. Mac and cheese was home made, organic cheese, whole wheat pasta. When I was exhausted, I'd use Annie's whole wheat mac and cheese w/ real cheddar. For both of them, the first time they had Kraft mac and cheese, they were in heaven. Destroyed any illusion I had that they'd be good healthy eaters just because that's all they'd had. I know people who say their kids were the opposite that they hated the processed stuff but mine didn't. Don't get me started about the first time they had Capri suns...;-)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                    LOL. Are we sharing the same kid? Last week she goes off about wanting mac & cheese so I went out and bought all the ingredients for a good homemade mac & cheese. Spouse loved it. The kid only wants the boxed stuff she gets at preschool. And then yesterday I hear she wants "Sunny D." Where did that come from? Two days ago cranberry juice was da bomb.

                                                                                                                                    I know I can't control what she eats out of the house but I have a four word mantra I hold onto -

                                                                                                                                    NOT IN MY HOUSE!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                      Those people are lying, they are the same folks that say that their kids have nerver seen TV or had processed sugar.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                                                                                                                        It's not unusual for people who may feel some guilt over television or their childrens' diet to quell their anxieties by simply claiming that no one meets a higher standard.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                      I do confess that I buy "healthy" cookies for my baby - whole grain, organic, no trans fat etc. Because if you start looking at labels on commercial simple kid foods such as arrowroot cookies, they are pretty scary - for example they still have trans fats whereas Oreos don't. Even though I bake I am grateful to have access to these healthier processed options.
                                                                                                                                      I am also lucky that my daycare has chosed an excellent caterer -who use naturally raised meat, whole grains etc. Lunch items include curry chicken and couscous, vegetarian chili with quinoa, etc. Snack might be a cookie and fruit, or it might be hummous and whole wheat pita! For babies. So I don't have to worry that she's being exposed to too much crap, or that she's not getting good variety.

                                                                                                                                      As for the boxed mac and cheese, that is the one convenience food that I myself eat once a month or so (President's Choice white cheddar), usually with some added beans or brocoli and whatever cheese remnants I find in the fridge. She loves it (but not the beans!). There's something about that stuff that kids like.

                                                                                                                                      Being around other parents, I have observed quite a bit of neuroses around what to feed baby. And I've had my moments too. But that's another topic.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                      Yeah I was told to feed mine mashed avocado, she really didn't like it - just stuck her tongue out to rid herself of it. But my guacomole with garlic, lime, salt, onion? Acceptable.

                                                                                                                                    4. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                                      My friend'' 18 month old twins love to grab at people's food and watch them eat. The parents give them a bite of anything they reach for. The boy twin loves anything spicy. I've watched him eat hot salsas, jalepinos and other things that people would consider not appropriate for kids that little. I think it was shortly after he was on solid foods that I watched him eat a bite of his dads burrito (which knowing his dad was pretty spicy) and beg for more.

                                                                                                                                  2. We have a lil Chowhound - 6 yrs old, and willing to try anything.
                                                                                                                                    She was breastfed, so her exposure to a variety of flavours started young - I ate garlic? She tasted garlic. And once she started eating real food, she ate real food - we never had baby food or special cereals, etc. Just a bit of what we were having, cooked softer and spiced less and mashed up with a fork.

                                                                                                                                    As she's gotten older we've implemented the same 3 bites rule for her that the adults follow -- eat at least three modest bites of everything that is served. And we encourage her to think and talk about what the food is like, and why she likes and dislikes is -- how it could be better if she dislikes it, how it compares to other times she's had it if she likes it. Basically, to do what we're doing when we talk about it *lol*.

                                                                                                                                    And the secret weapon -- little kids ask to try things, and they ask if they like things -- every time they ask to try, let them (with in reason - no single malt scotch for the four year old), and every time they ask if they like something - say YES!

                                                                                                                                    PS - the saying yes trick works on husbands too.

                                                                                                                                    1. No one ever answered my question, what if she says "No" to the three bites rule? Everyone says you can't force food down their throats or punish them for not eating -- my kids must be substantially more stubborn than others!

                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                                                                                        If she says no to the three bite rule, she doesn't eat. I said upthread:

                                                                                                                                        "Children will eat when they're hungry - or will learn to eat what is put in front of them. I'm really appalled at how many parents will make different meals for different kids, because one won't eat potatoes and the other won't eat meatloaf. As long as there is a balanced meal on the table, the child should be able to eat something that is being served to everyone. And they won't starve."

                                                                                                                                        It's not "punishment" - but it should be learning to follow Mom and Dad's rules. JMO. Will there be screaming? Probably. Will they get over it? Most likely.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                                                                                          I don't think our daughter has ever said no to the three bites before - she fusses a little about it sometimes, but we just say "That's our rule - you need to eat at least three bites," and she does.

                                                                                                                                          I think it helps a lot that my husband and I follow the same rule, and make it clear that we are doing it. And on the couple of occasions when she has been so worked up or so loathing of a food that she refuses to eat any of it, she doesn't have to eat -- there's another meal in three-four hours, and skipping one never hurt anyone.

                                                                                                                                          We don't make a big deal out of it, or treat it as punishment or anything. She doesn't have to eat if she doesn't want too -- the plate for a given meal will remain available until the next meal if she gets hungry and otherwise, she can wait.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                                                                                            I get no with every meal i make from scratch...but his dad advises he is just trying to get a rise out of me. So i try not to get offended when he turns his nose up at things i spend a lot of time making for him. He is of the same stubborn breed of your kids...screams, yells, storms off then finally sometimes comes back and eats.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                                                                                              As I said before, I refused to make my sons food separately from ours. If they are hungry enough they'll try it. Don't be afraid to let them leave the table hungry. They'll soon learn that they better try what's on the plate. Don't worry, they won't starve to death.

                                                                                                                                            2. here's another thought. i was picky as a child...i didn't like cereal for breakfast, pb &j ever, fat on meat, and when my parents asked me at a fair ( i think i was 2) whether i wanted lobster or a hot dog, you can guess that i chose lobster. sure i hated visible onions, peppers, and mushrooms, but it was my responsibility to pick those out of my food, and not with my fingers.

                                                                                                                                              i oncer heard that children are what you make them until age 12, after that you can only hope that you made a good impression. don't be afraid your kid is going to starve, and treat him or her like everyone else. that's what used to work in the past.

                                                                                                                                              1. I'm a former picky eater. Not only was I EXTREMELY picky, but I was an anxious kid who, faced with something I didn't want to eat, worked myself up to the point I threw up. And once that happened, I couldn't eat whatever had triggered it. To this day, pineapple makes my stomach churn. So what happened? The two rules in may house were:

                                                                                                                                                1) You must try it. You had to take one honest bite. Not nibble it and make a face, but a real bite. Don't like it? You could spit it out, but it had to go into your mouth.

                                                                                                                                                2) Mom will not make something else for you. Since I was very skinny, and because it didn't matter how hungry I was, my mom couldn't take the stance of "eat it or do without" -- I would have ended up malnourished. So, starting when I was old enough not to put my eye out with a butter knife, the rule was that I could make my own dinner if I didn't like it (but only after one honest bite of everything offered). I ate a LOT of PB&J. I got really sick of PB&J. It forced me to try new things AND to learn to cook.

                                                                                                                                                1. When I was a kid I was REALLY into food in a big way, and my brother was a super-picky eater. We weren't forced to eat anything we didn't like, but we weren't given anything special instead - it was eat it or leave it... (and if you've ever seen us you'll know that we sure didn't starve or suffer malnutrition!)
                                                                                                                                                  I think the best way to make a little chowhound is not to ghettoize them with 'kiddy food' and the children's menu - teach them appropriate manners and then take them out with you and expose them to lots of different kinds of Good Food. We always got to choose what we wanted when we went out, and we disdained children's menus from the beginning (I can still remember the utter DISGUST I felt at one restaurant that absolutely insisted that people under the age of 12 were incapable of appreciating real food.)

                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                    There was a story in the Sunday Style page of the NYT about raising little Chowbabys.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, I felt they leaned a little too far towards making it seem like just another lifestyle trend of the shallow & trendy. They could have emphasized the good manners and healthy eating aspects a little more. That's the Style section for you though.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Eat together each night around a common table. Baby can be in high chair until that' not needed. But the invariable expectation of eating together daily is an oft-ignored fundamental of creating the essentially outward-directed dimension of eating.

                                                                                                                                                    Cook as much of the food as possible; the smells of the foods in preparation are an important part of forming positive associations with the tastes of those foods. Too much take-out and too much pre-prepared food wastes that precious opportunity.

                                                                                                                                                    1. OMG just the topic i need. I have had the pleasure of moving in with the BF who has a 5 year old that has spent the past 5 years with a dad who had a very busy carrer and no one to whip up good home made meals, so the child knows only Hotdogs, KD, Pizza, & Mac & Cheese, so now i have to try and convince him that those are no longer on the menu except as treats. I make him home made chicken fingers (soaked in buttermilk) then breaded & baked, home made KD using parm cheeses & whole wheat noodles but the veg have been a prob..i had cucumbers down now Yuk..so now we have peas on the menu, imagine trying to fit pease into every meal since that is the only veg. I am trying to turn a fussy 5 year old into a CB in training like his cousin. Fingers crossed, i have now advised him im no longer doing the 2 meals one for him and one for the adults. But given that i will try and make his a little kid friendly, no chili flakes or funky spices that i adore. When we have a child it will be a CB in training from the day she is born :)

                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MiniMom

                                                                                                                                                        You know what they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I am sure that your hubby did everything possible to provide for his child.

                                                                                                                                                        What is KD?

                                                                                                                                                        Regarding the vegi's we have found a good alternative. KAGOME brand juice, it is found in some Asian markets and Whole Foods. It is a mixture of pure vegi juices that is tamed with apple juice, there are no additives and it is very good. They have several different flavor combos.

                                                                                                                                                        We have been lucky with the Autumn Red. It has an apple on the label, which I have found helpful.

                                                                                                                                                        http://www.kagome.us/

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                                                                                                                                          KD = Kraft dinner toxic orange cheese & white pasta. I will try that juice as he does like juice and he is such an active child i want him to eat nutritious food so he can continue all his activities. I am now the cook in the house so dad's busy career can continue and they can both eat healthy now. Or i can at least try. Thank you for the suggestion.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Exposure - to different types of food, different culture, textures. Watching cooking shows also seems to help to get kids interested in food. Things like cooking classes, having them help prepare dinner at home, toys like easybake ovens.

                                                                                                                                                        Traveling helps also, especially outside US.

                                                                                                                                                        My goal wasn't to raise a little gourmet though. Just to get my 8 year old interested in food, and be able to use his tastebuds.

                                                                                                                                                        However, with all the exposure, he still likes his McD's once in a while (in favor of In-N-Out), and he still likes chicken tenders at family restaurants, and still won't eat veggies. But he does know a good amatriciana or carbonara from a bad one.

                                                                                                                                                        Actually I've found that mine would ask for a taste of our food (as long as it's not veggies) even if it's unfamiliar. The trick is for the adults to eat the food and show enjoyment in front of the kid - eventually the kid's curiousity tends to get the better of them.

                                                                                                                                                        1. After the pureed carrots phase is over - never, never make kid food. Make meals that everyone can eat together. I have two children who have personal preferences as all individuals do, they eat a huge variety of foods. Offer food seven times (yes) and if they reject on the eighth they don't care for it. Don't offer praise for eating or comment on something they do not eat. Share your obvious love and enthusiasm for food. Reserve comments for the quality of food not how much they have eaten or not. Cultivate a discening palate - when they habe had parmigiano reggiano the stuff in the green canister at the super market smells like vomit! Don't give them fast food and explain the quality issue, the in humanity of the animal's life. Take them to farm markets regularly. Grow your own vegetables. Go to Pick Your Own farms. Buy eggs from farmers. Join a CSA. Make your own bread. Allow them to help and cook in the kitchen. When they are exposed to real food they wont be able to stomache the crap at the Food Court.

                                                                                                                                                          1. With no kids myself, I can only offer advice as someone who was diagnosed at two with failure to thrive because I refused anything other than apple juice or raisins. The removal of those foods from the lexicon coupled with appetite-inducing medication got me ravenously eating everything...

                                                                                                                                                            On the other hand, my mom was not a cook. As a result, I grew up very curious about cooking, and always wanted to help with whatever preparations I could. I hated eggs, but I would choke them as a meal, just so that I could have the fun of making them. Point being, I would eat anything just to get to make it, and so I can only suggest how important it is to involve kids in the process. You're much more inclined to have interest in the end product if you poured yourself into the production. I also second others' recs for making food fun, particularly for toddlers. These days, I'm much more of a chef than my mother who has a limited repartee, while I constantly am seeking to find the new or at least twist the main themes.

                                                                                                                                                            1. Step 1 Be a chowhound
                                                                                                                                                              Step 2 Get a little food mill and share whatever you are having!. Baby food? I would rather not eat it, why should I expect baby to like it?

                                                                                                                                                              In our experience, the babies were game to try almost anything they saw the grown ups enjoying. They sure do watch carefully. They would reject a few things, usually temporarily. We never made a big deal about it because they wound up eating plenty enough good stuff.

                                                                                                                                                              The best chowbaby true story: DW and chowbaby #1 were happy regulars at a local gourmet ice cream shop. One warm afternoon, tails began to drag while traveling in a different part of town so she stopped at a random ice cream chain and got him a cone. The boy had just learned to toddle and wasn't talking yet. Toddling back to the car, after two licks, he broke away from her. She watched him walk purposefully over to the trash barrel, reach up, drop the cone in and walk back to the car - pokerfaced and wordless the whole time.
                                                                                                                                                              We didn't raise a litterbug either.

                                                                                                                                                              1. First thing I suggest is throw out the food introduction list your doctor/mother/best friend gave you. Let your child who is still eating baby food try the sauce from your dinner. Don't be afraid to let your child eat what you are eating. Granted there are some safety issues, no honey for small childern, no choking hazards, etc., but other than that the more they try and the more often they try it the more likely they are to enjoy it.

                                                                                                                                                                Children do have food likes and dislikes and tastes do change over a lifetime. As an infant my mother swears that I would spit out spinich baby food no matter what she mixed it with and refused to eat it child, she is now very amused that when we go out I am sometimes the only member of a group that will eat the satueed spinich side during a dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                Last year there was a sort of documentry on TLC from Jamie Oliver who was trying to get heathier food into the school system somewhere in England. He went to a classroom of 6 year olds and asked them what they had for dinner the previous night and the responses were amazing. Every child in the class had some sort of patato product and for some that was all they had. I agree with the posters above that we are the ones doing this to our children and we need to find other ways to get them interested in food.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Actually I wonder how many chowhounds are chowbabies when they were young - that is being discerning about food?

                                                                                                                                                                  I know my hubbie and I are late bloomers. It's hard to be a discerning diners when one doesn't have money to eat out or get nice ingredients to cook with.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Turn off the TV. Feed your kid the same things you eat.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Long answer but I totally understand where you are coming from and thought, before I had my child, that I'd have the most sophisticated little eater ever! But like other parenting expectations prior to the birth, I've had to revise a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                      I have a non-chowish kid who loves mac and cheese and pizza and ice cream. I don't let her have nuggets for the most part (I'm just anti-nugget). She's almost seven now and when she was really little (btwn 1 and 2) seemed to have a developing palate but that stopped suddenly. She was even reluctant to try pizza until she saw her two year old best friend eating it.

                                                                                                                                                                      I try to work within her tastes. I make a big deal out of what is the "best" pizza, "best" bagel, "best" mac & cheese, "best" ice cream, etc and why it is best, the expectation for the food, where to get it or best recipe for it. Rating our experiences with the foods she likes allows her to think about her palate and understand why she likes something better than something else and why I and my husband like what we like.

                                                                                                                                                                      Still, as a chowhound, I have tried to push it along and have tried many of the things recommended here but each kid is an individual. There's no one right way. I have a friend who had two children, the older is a girl and is a total chow kid. The younger, a boy, is the complete opposite. It's not all about what you do as a parent. I try to remember that I wasn't a particularly adventurous eater as a little kid either and have to remind myself that even as a young adult I refused to eat what I ignorantly called "third world food". This included Indian - now one of my favorites. My husband grew up in a very unsophisticated food household and didn't expand his repertoire until college but is now a Chowhound too.

                                                                                                                                                                      My rules to help her along and keep my sanity is this:
                                                                                                                                                                      Continue to expose our daughter to a variety of foods.
                                                                                                                                                                      No special, separate meals cooked for her but have at least one item in the meal that she can deal with.
                                                                                                                                                                      Continue to give her baby carrots and cucumbers to dip in ranch dressing while we eat greek, spinach and mixed green salads so I can get some veggies into her.
                                                                                                                                                                      Keep some pasta separate of a sauce I know she won't like and do the same with her chicken and other foods but insist she try ours first.
                                                                                                                                                                      Continue to make on a fairly regular basis, the basic turkey meatloaf she likes and stop trying to trick her with cajun and other ethnic inspired versions - it doesn't work - but make new versions on occassion so she can try them.

                                                                                                                                                                      You will find there are lots of things on your road ahead to stress over. Try not to do so on this one as long as your child is healthy and happy and you are helping develop them into a good person. This is much more important than whether they love authentic Thai food.

                                                                                                                                                                      FYI: We eat dinner together at the table regularly and talk. We never made a habit of eating in front of the tv and only do it rarely so that's not really the answer either.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I was a very picky eater as a child- my four basic food groups were hot dogs, cheerios, twix and coke. Then I refused to eat fish. Now I'm a fish loving, restaurant obsessed Hound, and it's probably by nature, since my father would be one too. He's in the wine and liquor business, so we grew up going to a lot of good restaurants, and it's still a priority. My brother was a 9 year old eating calamari and lamb chops as often as he could. He is still amazing in that he alwasy hones in on kobe and toro and lobster on any menu- and he just turned 21. Therefore I say, it's about exposure. Dont force it as a small child, but if it's around, they'll pick it up.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Anyone have experience with an autistic (mild) child and expanding their preferences? We have an only child and sometimes I wonder is it the way her brain interprets sensation or is she being 4 years old?

                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: GGS

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't have direct experience but one of my Kindergartener's friends has two siblings affected by autism and we dine with them fairly often. I've actually seen a fair amount of progress on the part of their elder child, age 8, when it comes to diet restriction. Here is a link to a strategy that may be helpful from autism.org.

                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.autism.org.au/DIET%20STRAT...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kater

                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for the link, sounds like we're doing what's in the tip sheet. Will try paring down the size of things we're trying to introduce.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. When my daughter had her first child they lived here with us. She was going for her degree, so I took care of him most of the time. When he got to the point of eating solids I would make him "snack" lunches which consisted of funny faces made with olives, cheese, broccoli, grape tomatoes, avocados, veggie "Wacky Mac", whole grain crackers and any other fun healthy food. I didn't feed him much bread - too processed - or lunchmeats. But I would make him salads, and sneak in leftover meat I had made. Also he loved his whole wheat waffles with peanut butter on top. Soemtimes the two of us would just sit and share a whole avocado.

                                                                                                                                                                            When he was 2 (He's 4 now) she moved out and she doesn't like avocado, so now he won't eat that anymore, but he does eat shrimp and she wouldn't touch that! He is the only child I know that takes broccoli to daycare for a snack! And when you make him a fully loaded salad you better have croutons on hand or he will say "croutons, please." Also if you want him to eat his meat with dinner you have to put the salad to the side. Otherwise he will just eat salad and not the meat!