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Raising a non-picky eater

My son turned 16 almost two weeks ago, and another post on another board got me thinking about his eating habits.The post in question asked for how to raise a kid who isn't a picky eater.

I can give our experience to you in a nutshell: We never "assumed" Ian wouldn't like a given food. As a result, he's always been a person who will try anything twice; as he puts it, "The first time they may not have made it right."

I really think that an awful lot of picky eaters are the result of an upbringing by parents who either eat a fairly limited menu, have food issues of their own, or both. They project their issues onto their children, assuming that the kids won't eat something that they've never even tried, when in reality the kid may love the item in question. As the child grows up, this skittishness about food becomes ingrained. My niece, who lives up the street, is the Poster Child for this sort of thing. She doesn't even like ranch dressing. Who ever heard of a suburban American kid not liking ranch dressing?

We just always assumed Ian might like just about anything. And indeed, he has very few dislikes. He doesn't like raw onions or any food where onion is the primary ingredient (French onion soup, for example). Brussels sprouts are a challenge. He won't touch organ meats, but that's OK because with the exception of chicken liver neither will I. But those are the only major hangups. He's been eating seafood since he could eat solid food, and when he was little senior citizens in the grocery store would do a double-take when he'd ask for broccoli in the produce aisle. Sushi is a passion of his. And when faced by something he's never tried before, his reaction is always the same: "Let's give it a try."

I'm thankful for this, but he has no siblings so I need some other models if I'm to answer in this question: How out of the ordinary is he for his age?

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  1. He's pretty out of the ordinary. But I am 20 years old, and in a similar position. I will eat pretty much anything, most of my friends eat burgers and fries.

    Oh...and I HATED ranch dressing as a kid. Still don't like it much. Haha, tastes fake to me... :)

    6 Replies
    1. re: milkyway4679

      Ha, milkway, you sound like me. I too hated ranch as a kid, and still dislike it. I agree, it takes fake. I am young as well (22) but have had opportunities to eat in many fine dining establishments and can appreciate good, well prepared foods of all different varieties.
      Miraculously, I come from a anti-foodie family.. aka a meat and potatoes family. I was raised on chicken fingers (frozen) and rotiserie chickens. My parents have never tried any sea food, wont touch any meet other than pork, chicken and beef (no, not even lamb) and cheese was banned in my house growing up b/c my mother didnt like the smell.
      While I agree, parents pushing their own food insecurities on their children often does cause children to be picky as well, I'm proof that there is hope for the restricted child. I turned into a foodie, I'll try absolutely anything and I love just about anything. Who knows, maybe its my own way of rebelling.

      1. re: hungryabbey

        a meat and potatoes family that doesnt eat cheese?? now THAT i have to see

        1. re: hungryabbey

          Hungryabbey, I agree with you regarding people who push their food insecurities off on their kids. There were foods that my mom liked and I hated and vice versa, and as an adult and a mother myself I try to impress upon my children that just because someone else doesn't like it (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa..) doesn't mean they can't like it. They have their own unique taste and that's what my goal has always been.

        2. re: milkyway4679

          I suspect that most bottled ranch dressing _is_ mostly fake.
          At the ranch where it comes from, they likely wear lab coats.

          1. re: milkyway4679

            I think you mean you hated buttermilk, mayonnaise, salt, garlic, onion, herbs ?

            1. re: milkyway4679

              I agree that commercial Ranch dressing is disgusting. However, as a foodie, you are now possessed with the knowledge that you can make it at home from scratch! You may still not like it if you're inclined to like vinaigrette over creamy dressings but believe me... homemade scratch ranch is far superior to what they serve "in the valley".

            2. well I have 3 kids, and they have all been raised basically the same way, presented with the same foods, and all 3 are very different in their preferences. Kid #1 is the "pickiest". He dislikes most meat, anything with lots of spice (but loves hot salsa), and prefers vegetables. He also has a freakishly good sense of smell. Kid #2 (only girl) is tiny, and eats almost anything in huge quantities. Kid #3 is one who will ask for broccoli at the store, loves certain foods, and dislikes trying new things.

              The kids know that I cook one meal for dinner, and that is it. There are a few exceptions, for which they can make grilled cheese or soup, etc, but not on a nightly basis. Since all 3 are exposed the same way to food, I find some of it to be personality. Kid #1 wants it plain, will try, but has a lot of dislikes. (again, freakish sense of smell seems to come into play here) . Kid #2 tries it all at least once. Kid #3 does not like to try new things.

              I guess my point is that in our (non-scientific) life experiment, each kid brings their own personality to the table & that despite the same exposure, some kids are just pickier than others. I don't fret about it - they won't starve. Husband & I keep making and eating good foods, trying new things, and let them come along for the ride.

              12 Replies
              1. re: elfcook

                I agree. My brother and I were raised the same way in the same house but are about 180 degrees from each other eating wise. We were growing up, and now that we are adults. As a very young (still in diapers) child I, apparently, once threw a fit at the grocery store because my mom wouldn't buy some expensive brussel sprouts, which led to her getting chewed out by an older woman who was watching. I've always loved to eat fruits and vegetables, try new things, and eaten a wide variety of food. My brother, on the other hand, spent a good chunk of his childhood refusing to eat anything other than peanut butter and jelly, coffee yogurt, or bananas, and after moving out on his own lived completely on fast food for a year or two.

                I find the whole nature vs. nuture question very interesting. Obviously, both come into play. Both my brother and I have a healthy love for Thai and Japanese food, and I would imagine that has to do with my father loving them and us going out to eat at Japanese and Thai places frequently while growing up.

                1. re: elfcook

                  I was one of four, and our tastes differed. My problem was that I was the eat-anything kid. This meant I was landed with the gristly bits, the deformed vegetables and the burnt toast.

                  This diet of undesirables has led to point where I eat pretty much anything, from brains to tripe, snails to oysters, chillies to tamarind, squid to raw fish, bok choy to fennel, squirrel to snake.

                  For some odd reason I don't like sprouts.

                  1. re: elfcook

                    I agree. When it comes to this topic, some parents proudly pat themselves on the back, some wring their hands wondering what went wrong, some condemn others for doing the wrong thing but a lot of it comes down to the children. If it were as easy as do xxx and get yyy result with people, all people, society would be perfect.

                    1. re: chowser

                      add another here to agree. My kids have *completely* different tastes and they've grown up eating all sorts of thing in this household.

                      1. re: DGresh

                        i remember a conversation when i was about 12 and my sister was 22; she was asking my mom to write down "what goes with what"; i could hardly believe we had grown up in the same household... my mom served some "normal" combinations, i.e. roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and peas; roast beef with carrots, onions and potatoes; sister once made spaghetti sauce with dill weed(yikes!) and did not know how to make stuffing for t
                        giving when i visited about 7 years later. her answer to me when i tease her is that she raised 4 kids and no one starved! truly she is a much better cook now

                      2. re: chowser

                        Do you really think most Americans *try* to expose their kids to food beyond a vastly bought/prepared supermarket diet and the occasional "ethnic" restaurant? I definitely do not think they do. What's more, I don't think you've can raise a kid with truly broad tastes without more work than most Americans are willing to put in.

                        1. re: Vetter

                          Do you really think *any* parents expose their kids to food outside their own backgrounds? It's not just American parents. I work in an international school and at lunch every day you see the kids eating the same things. Most of the Korean kids are eating Cup Noodle, the American kids are eating sandwiches, the Indian kids are heating up curry in the microwave.

                          1. re: Vetter

                            My comment was that a parent can give their children diverse foods and still end up with a picky child. As many have said in this thread, you can raise different children the same way and end up with different results. That doesn't mean the converse that you can give a child a restricted diet and end up with a child who isn't. I don't think it's about parents not wanting to put in the work. I think parents, as lulubelle said, feed kids the way they know. I don't know any chowhounds who feed their children only mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. I would believe that chowhounds probably have children with more diverse taste but, as evident in this thread, not every CH's child will be adventurous, at least while young.

                            1. re: Vetter

                              I've known many Turks living in Long Island who would only eat Turkish food and occasionally go out for pizza. I've known Israelis who only eat anything Middle Eastern. In fact, one man in particular, when going for korean for his son's b-day, would wait several hours to go for Mamoun's falafel afterwards. Point being, it's unfair to generalize Americans as being picky; people worldwide are capable of being narrow minded when it comes to food.

                              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                My father-in-law, who is Chinese and from Malaysia, has the most difficult time accepting any food outside of the various Chinese cuisines. This was reinforced by being offered tourist food in the US (he was a travel agent).

                                My mom, who is from Japan, eats Japanese food as well as Chinese. Some Thai will work, but nothing spicy or heavy. Outside of that, it's almost always a no-go.

                                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                  This is very very true. I'm open minded when it comes to food, more than my siblings, but we all grew up eating the same thing. I guess I feel fortunate that my culture incorporates a lot of different ingredients and vegetables so I'm used to eating them from a young age, where as I noticed many americans specifically have issues feeding their kids vegetables (I think because they don't prepare them in a delicous manner or one of both parents seem to have issues with a food too so kids pick up on that)

                                  It's good to hear when kids are willing to try new foods and are exposed to different cuisines or at least ingredients, that helps a lot. Great topic by the way JMCKEE, thanks for opening up the discussion!!

                              2. re: chowser

                                Definitely agree. Just looking at most of the families i know, there are often very different food personalities among them. With my own family, we are probably all about the same level when it comes to pickiness, but we all like totally different types of food. I have no idea how that happens when we all grew up under the same roof, but that's how it is.

                            2. I don't think that Ian is out of the ordinary. I fully agree that if you are raised on chicken fingers and mac and cheese that is all you will like. My kids are 11 and 14 and will eat anything at least once, however, they have always been expected to try new things, and are presented with a wide variety of food choices. We like to dine out as a family and skip the kids menu. They eat duck, oysters, all veggies.

                              1. Even the best-intentioned parent can end up with a picky kid, but the good news is that eating habits at age 10 (or even 17) don't necessarily foreshadow what they'll eat as an adult. My mom is a fantastic cook and will eat almost anything herself, but as a kid I stuck to the "beige diet" - pasta, cheese, chicken, carrots, & ketchup, mostly. As late as high school I refused to try Thai food (my mom's favorite). Now, at 24, I made my own larb last night (and set off the smoke alarm making the toasted rice powder for it), and can't wait to try the new Ethiopian restaurant downtown for lunch tomorrow. The OP's method may still leave you with a picky kid, but the good news is they'll likely grow out of it.

                                21 Replies
                                1. re: Emmmily

                                  I was a very picky eater for a while as well. I don't really think it always has anything to do with your upbringing. My parents will eat about anything, but I was just not into it for most of my childhood. I eat a good deal more now than I did 10-15 years ago, so there's no guarantee that a picky kid now means a picky adult.

                                  1. re: queencru

                                    Whatever few foods I disliked as a child (lamb, bulgur, salami, and some dishes) I now crave and absolutely love. I'm obsessed with them and it all just came out of the blue one day.
                                    I feel like I was missing out, but somehow I didn't like them back then, so I believe tastes can change as an adult and mature.

                                    What I do know is that my mother is the type to try anything, and whenever she was she'd grab one of us and say "just try it" so I would. When parents or guardians make an issue out of it like the times I remember my grandma saying "she won't like it" or my aunt saying "nooo, don't try it" because she didn't like it herself then I felt that uneasiness, and it affected my decision to try it a bit. Though I still did most of the time, but I can imagine this sort of thing affecting children.

                                    My significant other is pickey, and I honestly don't want him interfering in any way with how I raise and feed the children (once we have them) :P

                                    1. re: queencru

                                      I agree, queencru and emmmily. We attempted to raise our son to be open-minded about food, but it didn't work. He was a pizza-chicken nugget-hot dog-mac & cheese eating kid. We let him because he was so skinny that I was afraid he'd starve otherwise.

                                      Now at age 21, Indian is his favorite food, anything spicy especially. He voluntarily eats salad. He'll at least try anything I cook now, and likes most of it. He even has a decent beer palate:)

                                      Don't give up hope, jmckee. You could end up with a foodie child yet!

                                    2. re: Emmmily

                                      Your "beige diet" is actually far more adventuresome than my nephew's version of it. I think he survived for five years of early childhood essentially eating plain cooked pasta and graham crackers. Parents cooked everything from scratch save for the occasional takeout Thai food from down the street, offered him everything under the sun, and never tried to limit anything to 'kid's food'.

                                      And he'd essentially hunger strike if he didn't get one of his five acceptable foods at a meal. His pediatrician eventually said to just let him have his pasta and make sure he took vitamin supplements. Nephew is now in high school, and still picky to the point where if he goes out for fast food, he'll only get fries because he doesn't like fast food sandwiches.

                                      Maybe someday he'll grow out of his insane pickiness, maybe he won't, but his limited dietary preferences aren't from a lack of effort on his parents' part.

                                      1. re: beachmouse

                                        I definitely survived a few summers at sleepaway camp as a kid on nothing but bread & butter or cream-cheese sandwiches (pb&j was a no-go - and still is actually; I still don't like peanuts). For me the real game-changer was that most of my close friends in college were Asian - peer pressure can be much more persuasive than parental pressure. I certainly didn't want to look stupid in front of my new friends by refusing to go out for Thai or insult my roommate's mother by not at least trying her saag paneer. When your nephew gets to that stage in life, he'll have a leg up over a lot of people in that while he may not have tried other foods before, at least he's seen them and seen other people enjoying them, so they're not totally foreign and scary. Now pardon me while I go cook up that bok choy for dinner :-)

                                        1. re: beachmouse

                                          So I'm the parent who would first find out if he was using food as something he could control, if he felt repressed in too many other areas of his life, and if THAT weren't the case, then I'd tell him suck it up and he can eat what I serve or he can just drink water.

                                          I don't have kids yet - but I do have 3 poorly raised niece and nephews who do better under my husband and I than under their own parents. : /

                                          1. re: JReichert

                                            All kids do better "under" someone other than their parents. Think back to your own childhood.

                                            1. re: JReichert

                                              Good luck with that, JReichert. I was already underweight as a child despite eating until I was full consistently and being watched like a hawk by my pediatrician. I would have gotten really sick if my parents had done that. I don't think it's too much to ask for parents to let people put sauce on their own pasta at the table or leave some plain rice, put gravy in a container so people can serve themselves, leave some of the vegetables raw, whatever. It's no extra work.

                                              1. re: JReichert

                                                This reminds me of the comic strip when the mom says, "Yeah, i was a much better parent before I actually became a parent."

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  That is very funny and true! My sister has a son (now age 9) who has always been (and still is) about as skinny as a toothpick and a very picky eater. It is painful to sit at a meal with him because you just want to see him eat something. Before I had kids I was at the top of the list of people who had advice for my sister on how to get him to eat. Then I had kids.

                                                  I have a daughter, age 7, and a son, age 5. My daughter always ate anything and everything and still eats everything. She may not love everything, but she will try anything and likes most everything. My son, on the other hand, started off as one of those that would eat anything. Then he turned 2 and the whole story changed. He became one of those picky eaters that I swore I would never have. The good news is that he likes to eat, the bad news is that he has a limited repertoire.

                                                  I do not give up, however. I am always cooking new things and I make him at least try something before he declares that "this is gross". I do not make new things every night because it is so frustrating to cook something and hear those words, even from a 5 year old, but I try to mix in new things at least once during week and sometimes I find a new dish that my whole family enjoys. I don't cook my son separate meals, per se, but for example tonight we will have fajitas with steak. He will eat the meat and the rice that I make to go with it but no peppers or even the tortillas or cheese. So be it.

                                                  I never force my son to eat anything. My husband grew up in a house where he was forced to eat things that his father deemed healthy (tuna fish, various vegetables, etc.). Now, at 42, my husband would die before he would eat tuna fish or most vegetables and fruit. So that tactic clearly backfired.

                                                  And I no longer give unsolicited advice on people feeding their kids. I refuse to give my kids chicken nuggets every night and I work hard to get my son over this picky phase (which is now in it's 3rd year!) but I keep at it and keep my mouth shut where other people's kids are concerned.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    That's no comic strip, that's my brother-in-law. He was full of advice for other people before he and his wife had kids, but their kids are among the brattiest I've ever known.

                                                  2. re: JReichert

                                                    I had similar thoughts to that effect since my nephew was so picky. But becoming a Mom 3 years ago - wow, did I get an education in picky children! (And I'm a complete omnivore! Apparently, this trait didn't pass down to my son yet!)

                                                2. re: Emmmily

                                                  I was one of those picky little buggers too. Oh, I had my love of spice and garlic, but really I was annoyingly picky, though my mom tried. Somebody mentioned a freakish sense of smell (and taste, any hint of bitter just bites at my tongue), and that was an issue for me too. I still get pissed at my tastebuds for rejecting many foods I really really WANT to like. For instance, I am fascinated with and love to cook eggs, and reportedly have a knack for it. But for the life of me I can't stand the taste! How weird is it to want to cook something for somebody else that you can't stand to eat? I have several things like that, foods I love to cook, but don't actually like the taste of.

                                                  1. re: Popkin

                                                    I imagine would find that very difficult to do. I need to taste the food as it is prepped / cooked so I can imagine changes it may need, or opportunities for variation. Luckily I eat almost anything.

                                                    I have one of those freakish senses of smell. And I dislike most perfumes.

                                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                                      "I have one of those freakish senses of smell. And I dislike most perfumes."

                                                      Me too!

                                                  2. re: Emmmily

                                                    Your post reminded me of my first pediatrician in Monterey CA. He assured this scared new mother, far from family and my own mother's advice, that my child was at least as smart as my dog. "No animal" he said "will voluntarily starve to death in the face of food. This is not a hill to die on."

                                                    1. re: Sherri

                                                      That wouldn't be Dr. Wooley, would it?

                                                      Put healthy food in front of the kids, and more often than not they'll eat it. If my kids don't like what's served, they can always make themselves peanut butter and jelly. But not until **after** they've sat through dinner and participated in family conversation. It's amazing what they're willing to try when everybody else is enjoying it and they don't have other options at the moment.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        Talcott Bates, MD. The commonsense guru for the centuries. He absolutely advocated putting various foods out for the children to sample and let them make up their own minds; no pressure, no histronics. "This is dinner and you may leave the table when we are all finished eating".

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          Hi Alan, I was thinking about Dr. Wooley. He was a partner with Dr. Lusignan who was my doctor while I was growing up. My father, Joe Turner was a GP in Monterey. Lusignan married the widow of Al Capp, the cartoonist. I think I vaguely remember that. I don't think I ever saw Dr. Wooley; just knew the name. Dr. Talcott Bates was very well known on the Peninsula. His son was president of the senior class when I was at Monterey High. I moved back to California after being gone a long time; being back brings back memories.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            "But not until **after** they've sat through dinner and participated in family conversation."

                                                            That's a very good ploy. When in Rome . . . .

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              I took to making my own food very quickly for this reason. I eventually started making my own food while my parents cooked and then sit down and eat it with the family. Mostly because my family took forever to eat dinner and I wasn't going to wait until I felt sick to make myself something to eat if I had tried and couldn't stand what was for dinner.

                                                        2. My sons are older than your 16 year old boy. I really don't know if I was blessed with a pair of non-picky eaters, was a superbly brilliant parent or what happened but we did not have the "pickies" at our home. Dinner was dinner. Everyone was allowed a couple of "No, thank you" food choices but other than these, we did not entertain daily menu selections, especially for children (chicken fingers and the like) nor did we have mealtimes as battlegrounds ("oh please honey, just take a taste and you can have your favorite dessert . You'll make mommy so happy ......."). I figure that mommie's happiness is her own business and not dependent on whether or not Jr. tries his eggplant.

                                                          Our philosophy has always been that meals are a pleasant time for families to come together; to share their day's triumphs as well as the bruisings and revel in the unconditional love of your closest relatives. It is best shared around a table without benefit of TV or phone interruptions. I do not buy the "I'm too busy" argument because it makes no sense to be too busy to nuture those you love in all the best ways possible. This nuturing does not include the backseat of the family SUV watching a video after getting your paper-wrapped whatsis from the drive-thru window while mom drives you to some pseudo-important scheduled event.

                                                          I live in the Phoenix AZ area and today's newspaper carries an article about a restaurant with an unlikely/upbeat children's menu. Instead of hot dogs and fries, children are offered "real food" such as ziti baked with tomatoes, mozzarella topped greens or corn & tomato pizza, chopped salad, teriyaki chicken with vegetables and brown rice, etc. When children are treated with respect, they respond in kind. There is no need to pander to whims based on advertizing schemes. Besides, chickens don't have fingers! Get the children involved in the growing and preparation of their meals and the "pickies" become history.

                                                          What a wonderful young man you are rearing to respond to life's challenges with the upbeat "Let's give it a try" attitude. This is a priceless gift for the rest of his life. You are to be congratulated.
                                                          P.S. be prepared for his slack-jawed amazement when he encounters the extreme "pickies" in college from some of his fellow students.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Sherri

                                                            He is very involved with an outstanding a capella chorus at school, and some of his friends are terribly picky. It amazes him and makes socializing with some of them a bit of a culinary crapshoot.

                                                            One of his closest friends is a girl who will not eat beef, but at least she has a fairly understandable aversion. In sixth grade, she did a huge report on cows, including having a hoof, a skull, and a bone or two. She lived with them in her room for about three months, and now she says that it freaked her out and gave her what looks like a permanent refusal to eat beef.

                                                            1. re: Sherri

                                                              Getting children involved in the prep of meals can help...unless you're still forcing kids to make food they find disgusting. I'm an adult now, and I can make a lot of things I'd never eat (which I think is really important when you don't live alone), but I still won't eat them. I just have my boyfriend stand by as taster or rely on my sense of smell (which seems to do a freakishly good job).

                                                            2. Different kids are different. My son always ate everything as a small child. My daughter ate at the same table with us, and disliked most meats and anything that had any spice, any sour flavor, and anything that was mixed with anything else. At 18, my son will pretty much still eat anything if he's hungry enough, but he doesn't go looking for 'different' food. My daughter at 16 still hates spicy, and is not a fan of any sauces, but she'll try anything once. And she loves rare filet mignon and eats sushi all the time.

                                                              My takeaway here - serve everyone the same thing at meal time. I always made sure I had something on the plate that my daughter would eat, and I supplemented with lots of fruits and vegetables, but I didn't cater to her taste.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                And an update almost 5 years later. The now 23 year old has the palate of a 6 year old. He prefers fast food, pizza, etc., to a home cooked meal. The now 20 year old will eat anything and loves spicy, the more the better. She's not only an adventurous eater, she's getting to be a pretty good cook, too, since she's lived on her own.

                                                                I'm not convinced you can 'do' anything to raise an adventurous eater.

                                                              2. My god daughter will try anything. She has since she was a little girl and her favorite treat was going out for sushi. Her younger brother, on the other hand, willing ate about three things, (cheese, salmon and Ovaltine) until middle school. He is still very fussy and recently turned down a $20 bribe to eat one strawberry.

                                                                The differences go way beyond food though. He has always had "issues". Soap bubbles freaked him out, the itchy tag on a shirt used to drive him to tears. He gets fidgety if the cuffs of his shirt aren't even. Basically, he is hyper-sensitive and food that seems benign to us must seem grossly textured or terribly spicy to him. I think a lot of kids suffer from this to one degree or another, and that they grow out of it.

                                                                On the other hand, I do think that if kids aren't exposed to different foods, they probably won't try them on their own. So yes, parents help to create non-fussy eaters by exposure, but the kid's own taste has more to do with it.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: lulubelle

                                                                  I suffer from this. It's co-morbid with both autism and ADD. As I've grown older, I can tolerate flavors I couldn't before as my tastebuds age, but food textures and shirt tags are still a major issue. I was the youngest kid I knew who owned a seam ripper. :P

                                                                2. A good rule about offspring: You Never Can Tell.

                                                                  I am fortunate to have two budding Chowhounds, but I realize it could have turned out differently. Of course, if the parents shriek in horror at the idea of eating something, chances are the kids will too, but there are no guarantees about progeny.

                                                                  1. I was the pickiest eater out of three children but now (at 40) I'm the most adventuresome. Who knew? Having dinner with my Dad is always a blast because he's always stunned by what I order (but...but...you once stayed at the dinner table for 3 hours rather than eat those green beans/brussel sprouts/lima beans/fish)

                                                                    Personally, I've started to hate it when people start bragging about how 'chow-ish' their children are. Children go through all sorts of different phases and develop different likes and dislikes based on so many reasons (Dylan at daycare doesn't like it, it's not perfectly symmetrical, I don't like the color green today) and that's not even touching what simply cannot be controlled (immature digestive system which makes digesting food painful, etc.)

                                                                    I am simply thankful that my three old currently likes most veggies yet am also wondering why he doesn't really seem like red meat.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: sebetti

                                                                      True. I went through the "it's not perfectly symmetrical" phase. Drove my mom crazy. I wouldn't even eat a cookie if it was broken or chipped.

                                                                      1. re: silvergirl

                                                                        You wouldn't've eaten many cookies--or much else-- at my place then, but see abarnes & Sherri above. I expect you were smarter tham a dog too.

                                                                        1. re: silvergirl

                                                                          I did the opposite. I ate all the broken stuff first and then saved the perfect ones for the end! :D

                                                                      2. We have two kids - a 10-year old boy and 7-year old girl. Both were raised pretty much the same way - I don't think any two children are brought up identically.

                                                                        Our son will try anything at least once, and likes most things. Like the OP's kid, he doesn't like onions - raw ones but will eat them if well-incorporated into the dish. I think most kids fear foods like raw oysters - he destroys them.

                                                                        Our daughter is far more reluctant and picky. But on a relative scale compared to other kids of similar age, etc., our daughter probably rates above average, just because she is offered a fair amount of variety and seems to like a good amount of it. Her biggest problem is trying things that are new - this is part of her personality. New foods, new places, new activities - she has always been suspect and fearful of failure and of the unknown. We get a laugh out of this at times because she was honestly born like this - many of her baby pictures show her looking out of the corners of her eyes and furrowed eyebrows with this serious expression of doubt and suspect. We use this as a prod to get her to try new things. "Remember your baby pictures? Don't be a Doubting Dora - give it a try!" She laughs most times and will eventually give in. What is encouraging is that she has lately been on a streak of sorts. She has been willing to try a lot more things and finds them appealing - even oysters - raw.

                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          This makes me wonder (again) about my niece's attitude towards food.We are a family of foodies including my sister's husband but my sisters daughter is not just picky but almost afraid of food. My sister and I, in our various conversations about how we would raise our children, always said that what we put in front of our children was what they would eat. We found it crazy how modern day parents would cave in to their children's demands about food. WE were above all that. HA!! After years of constant arguing about food my sister now feeds her daughter the limited menu that she has demanded. Mac and cheese, bread and carrots. She will eat some fruit but is exacting about that too. The last time my brother in law tried to bring home red grapes instead of green there was no hearing the end of it. Did I mention she is 6. It didn't take long for my sister to "cave" and I don't blame her . That is one stubborn little girl (I think she takes after her Aunt)

                                                                          1. re: nutzyP

                                                                            I know this is obvious, but being a parent can be very challenging. Do we use persuasion, discipline, coercion, rewards, retract privileges, or just give in? For me, giving in is almost never an option unless it's part of a bigger strategy. I don't know if this kid's behavior goes beyond food, but when kids start to establish their boundaries and the rules at such an early age, I personally think one is creating a serious problem later on in life. It's good to be a little assertive, particularly for girls, but letting them make their own rules is something I would reconsider...

                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                              this is the only issue with my niece. Other than the usual 6 year old stuff she is very well behaved. My sister has never given in on anything else. This wasjust too much and finally her Dr. recomended she just relax on this issue. I think that my niece only has issues with food. I worry about her.

                                                                              1. re: nutzyP

                                                                                I didn't want to sound preachy but it's good to know that your niece is otherwise a good kid. We've seen our fair share of kids ruling their parents, and it's a road to ruin for everyone.

                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                  I don't want to preach either, but lots of studies of anorexia point to parents letting food be a power struggle as a cause/early indicator. Extremely compliant girls (in non food issues) are particularly prone to it.

                                                                                  1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                    My mom avoided forcing me to eat anything at a young age for that very reason. I was an extremely skinny child until puberty (around third percentile for my height/age) and my mom thought that as long as I was eating something, she didn't want to go into the specifics for fear that it would only worsen the situation.

                                                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                                                      Amen! I did best when there were no histrionics. And guess what? Inexplicably, when I hit college, I went from 5'7" and 102 lbs (when I graduated), to graduating at a much healthier 135. I was so happy! If you are underweight and people are constantly commenting negatively about your weight and accusing you of being anorexic, you can develop the opposite problem. I almost became a binge eater because of this. People have to be careful, because it's not just big girls who can develop eating disorders from being bullied about their size!

                                                                                      1. re: Kairuka

                                                                                        >>Inexplicably, when I hit college, I went from 5'7" and 102 lbs (when I graduated), to graduating at a much healthier 135.<<

                                                                                        That's called the Freshman 20. Typically, students first entering college gain a fair amount of weight because of the change in diet, activity and study regimen. Freshmen typically start to eat stuff they want to eat (as opposed to what their parents want them to), and their activity level typically goes down as their study load increases exponentially compared to their relatively easy high school years.

                                                                                    2. re: saacnmama

                                                                                      Of course lots of studies indicate that self-esteem is an issue and that the conflict with food is only one of the symptoms of conflicts. Forcing kids to eat something is one thing. Letting the kid berate the parent for not bringing a specific item home is another:

                                                                                      >>The last time my brother in law tried to bring home red grapes instead of green there was no hearing the end of it. Did I mention she is 6.<<

                                                                                      This is not just a food issue - IMHO, this is an issue of respecting one's parent.

                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                        Starving oneself is a 'symptom' of control issues with much starker, more dangerous consequences than other symptoms of anything else I can think of!
                                                                                        I'm not saying to rush out and buy the kid's favorite food immediately, but that kids shouldn't be forced to eat things they don't want.
                                                                                        If you were coming to my house, part of my prep would be to think about what you like to eat and to try to have some of that on hand for you. If I got the 'wrong' kind of grapes, and I found out what your preference was, I'd try to remember and get your favorite next time. If the ones you rejected were my favorites, or I didn't like your faves, I'd probably serve them together fo us each to choose to be adventuresome or stick with things we're comfortable with according to our mood that day. Why shouldn't I do the same for a small person who lives with me?
                                                                                        I'm not saying kids should be permitted to berate one's parent, but 6 is an age when kids are learning and experimenting with language (we're living overseas and my kid knows more "dirty words" in German than in English--wasn't interested in them before), so nasty language about food should be handled the same way as nasty words on any other topic. In our case, modeling appropriate ways of expressing the same thought helped for a while, but now that I know he's more aware of what is and isn't appropriate, I insist he use appropriate phrasing (but there too, I prefer to avoid power struggles that are waged for their own sake).

                                                                                        1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                          I think you and I might be interpreting the post-in-question differently.

                                                                          2. Most kids will pick up the family vibe when it comes to food. But that doesn't mean that they will pick identical things as a sibling to be picky or open-minded about.

                                                                            My experiences in raising kids in a food-adventuresome household are that kids can and will use food as a mechanism of control. If things were not going well at school, I could always tell because only safe "comfort" foods were going down well.

                                                                            Moral: don't try out that new octupus recipe the first week back to school!

                                                                            Returning to the international theme: I was really taken aback when we lived in Italy. Some of the best cooks I knew turned out to be really unadventurous about cuisine OTHER than their own. And I don't just mean other than Italian food. There are wars about regional differences. Our friends from the Abruzzo came with us to visit family in Puglia, one "province" away, and turned up their noses at much of what was on offer. Their conversation in the car on the way home about the food they had been served that weekend verged on the scathing.

                                                                            You can see a bit of this in the Jamie Oliver "does" Italy TV show.. Maybe it is this fierce regional pride that makes the food of Italy so wonderful, but there is nothing pickier than an Italian kid out of his element!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: LJS

                                                                              Or an Italian adult, really! I had the same experience living in Italy. Seems that many Italians are simply uninterested in trying new food. I have many thoughts about this, but it's more suited to a master's thesis :)

                                                                            2. Some people just like things that others don't. I think sensitivity to certain flavors and/or textures may play a substantial role. For example, my 12-year-old daughter has a hard time with anything that has even a hint of bitterness. Funky smells (tripe, coriander seed, thousand-year eggs, etc.) also give her a hard time.

                                                                              But the notion that something is "icky" regardless of its flavor or texture is a matter of upbringing. I mean, why is it okay to eat chicken legs, but not chicken feet? It's a strictly social construct.

                                                                              Taking upbringing out of the picture, I think kids who like a variety of things are more willing to try different things. For them, the risk of trying something different has more often than not been met with the reward of finding a new tasty food. Somebody who has numerous dislikes, on the other hand, has lower odds of encountering a new food they enjoy.

                                                                              Happily both of my kids are willing to try different things, although the 15-year-old likes a lot more of what she tries than her younger sister. She found a new favorite food this weekend - jellyfish. It was dressed with sesame oil and chile paste and served alongside some beef shank at a local Cantonese place. She's agitating to go back soon...

                                                                              1. Can't tell you how normal your son is, but mine has always loved broccoli and onions, but won't touch cheese. I'm using your post as a place to vent.

                                                                                My 6-yr-old son has been lots of different places with me, likes a few foods you wouldn't expect of his age group, used to have a very adventuresome palate and now is settling into a more narrow routine which I assume he will grow out of if I keep exposing him to lots of different stuff and eating a variety of types of things myself. Sherri, I do a lot of the things you mention; he's very dear to me, and our household is just the two of us, so we prized dinnertimes as a chance to connect with one another and talk. We discovered one of his long-time favorite foods when I asked at a Thai restaurant what they recommended for my then 2-yr-old; when they pointed out to the chicken nuggets, etc I asked for Thai food for kids and they looked confused. I finally asked if they had grown up in Thailand (yes) and what they ate when they were little. That brought smiles and pad see ewe. A year ago he wouldn't eat breadcrusts; the other day he ate nearly all his pizza crust and when I said I was glad to see that, he snapped up that bite too. I think we're heading in a good direction. I certainly would never beg or force a kid to eat even "3 little bites" of something they don't like--too much has been written on anorexics using food as a way to get control, and the battle over diet as one aspect of serious health issues involving self worth and strong familial relations.

                                                                                So now my gripe about my mother: On a recent visit, when plan A for dinner failed, we ordered pizza. She managed to make that more of a production than I make out of cooking a whole dinner. One of the jobs she invented for herself was to dish out the salad, find out what dressing everyone wanted, and place the dressing near their place (at a table of 4 I find very little difference between "near" and "far"). Anyway, at last she announced dinner was ready and after we were all seated, my son made some comment about the cukes in the salad and I realized he didn't have any. I served him some right away, at which point he refused it. Grandma says he proved her right--he wouldn't eat it any way. Seems to me he would've gone right along with the assumption implicit in a bowl at his place, and would've had at least a few bites (though he probably would not like the tomato these days).

                                                                                My point--give the kid the benefit of a doubt, make the default be 'eating' and force him to go tot hte effort of 'rejecting' (but I don't think kids should be pushed to eat anything they don't want, either.)

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                  My daughter, now a really good and adventurous scratch cook with her own food-oriented business, went through a picky period at age 6...after a long period of being up for anything on her plate. I think it is just one of the healthy signs of growing up ("hey, I am still part of this family unit, but I can choose what I like and thats part of what makes me who I am"). I did as you mention you are doing, and kept offering an array of choices. I did discover that, while going through a phase of eating ONLY fish sticks and PB&J at home, she was sampling sushi at a pal's house!

                                                                                  I have all sort of good resolutions for how I will host my grandchildren at my table when that happy day arrives. Mostly, they involve doing exactly what my kids seem to want me to do when it comes to feeding THEIR children.

                                                                                  But Moms aren't mind-readers...I know it can be trying (hey, my Mom lived with us and my husband's mom lived next door!) but try to see that whole cucumber thing from her perspective...maybe she was casting her mind back to when you were little and didn't like cukes?). Moms, as you will discover, carry a lot of baggage!

                                                                                  1. re: LJS

                                                                                    I certainly that my mom carries a lot of baggage! My son's a lot like me. She loves us, but if we were strangers, I think she'd avoid getting to know us. If it'd only been the salad (we've both always loved cukes, which is why he commented) I'd get over it faster but she spent the whole visit making up ways he was being difficult or trying to use him as an excuse--"oh, looks like we should head home b/c kiddo isn't enjoying the museum and doesn't want to gofor a walk by the river" instead of just saying she was bored or tired or whatever.

                                                                                  2. I once read that kid taste buds are far more sensitive than our aged ones. So it isn't surprising that some of them are picky when it comes to certain flavors. WIth my own kids, I am less concerned with them liking any one particular dish but rather getting then used to trying new things, experiencing food of different cultures, and food shopping so that they have direct contact with new ingredients. My 11 yo is not particularly interested in food but the other day at the farmers market he sought me out to make sure I would purchase some cucumbers that he had sampled. The 7 yo loves to eat and cook and often volunteers to food shop. Over the weekend we were at a large Asian grocery and I gave him a list of ingredients to hunt down. He came back with jalapenos, bean sprouts, and tofu, then set off to tackle the fish counter. While I would prefer that they happily eat what I prepare for them, I am ok with planting the seed of food curiousity and seeing how it grows.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                                                      This! I could never eat spicy food as a child, but now I love buffalo wings and pepperoni!

                                                                                    2. My son is in his early 20s now and when he was small, I always stuck to the "never force him to eat anything and never assume he won't eat something just because he's a kid" principles. He'd usually try most things, especially after seeing someone else eat them a time or two, and he's grown into a fairly broad eater. He'll eat almost any kind of meat or seafood and most vegetables, though he has his quirks: he won't eat mac and cheese, lasagna, or any other form of pasta with cheese. And he does feed himself with Hot Pockets and similar microwavable crap happily, though doesn't turn down better stuff if offered.

                                                                                      That being said, recently I went to the Whole Foods next to my doctor's office to console myself after a fairly unpleasant bit of testing. I was eating some of my kalamata olives in front of the TV when I got home, when I noticed him watching me. "Oh, I'm sorry, do you want some? Do you like black olives?"

                                                                                      "I'm not sure. Let me try one." He popped it in his mouth, bit down, then literally ran into the kitchen, spat it out into the sink, and rinsed his mouth out with the sink spray.

                                                                                      Later, after dinner, his grandfather and I were tucking into another of my purchases, "two bite" coconut macaroons. "Want a cookie, D? They're good."

                                                                                      "Um, no offense, mom...but after this afternoon, I just don't trust you any more."


                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: xdrea

                                                                                        LOL! xdrea, that story about your son is just priceless! I'm afraid I would have done the same thing as your son (although not sure I'd have used the sink sprayer to rinse out my mouth!) Love olive oil; detest olives. But I would still trust you. ;-)

                                                                                        As for myself - no children of my own. But growing up, we ate what was put in front of us, or we didn't eat. Children won't starve themselves. But I also don't think they should be catered to. Family dinners meant just that - we all ate as a family and ate the same thing.

                                                                                        We had to at least try something on our plate. Mom always made something that we'd eat, but often would introduce something new (or Dad would if he brought home an idea from his foreign film trip travels). Most of the time it worked, sometimes it didn't. My sister detests peas to this day. Lovely, fresh, green peas! Fine - more for me!

                                                                                        My first boyfriend's younger brother only ate cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off, plain cheese pizza, plain chicken, and I think mashed potatoes. He was 16 when I met him! I eventually coaxed him into trying something I had made for his brother, and he surprisingly liked it! Don't know if he ever grew out of the bland diet, however.

                                                                                        So get kids to try something - it won't kill them. :-) And they just may like it!

                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          xdrea, I gave my son a kumquat (which I just love) from a neighborhood tree once when we were walking over to grandma's house about five blocks away. Poor kid spit it right out and gagged all the way to grandma's house. I felt terrible, but he did get over it.

                                                                                          He was a pain in the butt about food for a few years but eventually having his folks and one grandma who gave him lots of opportunities for adventurous eating paid off. He's almost 21 now and I'd call him a chowhound.

                                                                                          But as a lot of people here have pointed out, it's probably as much luck as anything, I really think.

                                                                                      2. I do think that it's important to remember that people's tastes are different, tastesbuds do develop over time, and not everyone is as enamored with food as chowhounds are, lol.

                                                                                        And to reassure all the parents of picky eaters out there, my brother was one of the pickiest eaters around with downright weird eating habits. He would go through cycles of living on fried chicken and hamburgers and then periods of living on iceberg lettuce and white rice. He would not eat Chinese food growing up (challenging since my family is Chinese), and it was very frustrating to my parents. Sometimes I'm amazed he didn't develop scurvy in his teen years.

                                                                                        At some point in his early twenties, quite on his own and with very little outside prodding, he started trying different foods. As an adult, he'll try almost anything, and his palate is actually quite a bit broader than my parents'. Japanese, Thai, Ethiopian, Italian, Indian, etc., he really likes most kinds of food. A lot of Cantonese food still bothers his stomach, but most other Chinese is okay.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: sidwich

                                                                                          Do you think he had a physical reason not to like Chinese food all along? Did whatever hurts his stomach in Cantonese food show up in your hhold a lot?

                                                                                        2. I was an exceptionally picky eater for most of my childhood. My parents are not to blame at all; they exposed me to all kinds of delicious food from all over the globe. My mother was heroic in feeding me pasta with pesto for something like 3 years straight, followed by 3 years of tacos. I did not like peanut butter or jelly or traditional kids food including potatoes. I ate white skinless boneless chicken, many vegetables but not zucchini, and rice. And then at my grandfather's bbq at age 15 or so, I was hungry. The tandori chicken was an elegant shade of pink and I had fallen under the sway of Diana Vreeland's bon mots including "pink is the navy blue of India." And, shockingly it was delicious. From there Indian food entered the rep. Sundried tomatoes and even fresh tomatoes followed suit. It took me until 23, living in Paris, before I ate a non fried potato. Chronologically, I had and enjoyed blood pudding before potatoes. I'm still picky in odd ways now at 30, not that you'd tell from my reputation as a cook and adventurous eater.

                                                                                          1. My daughter is almost 17 and will eat just about anything (especially seafood). Here are some examples of how we created a food enthusiast-

                                                                                            -Now that I look back at how I raised her (I never approved of the US custom of leaving small children with teenagers as babysitters) so we always took her with us to parties. And she ate whatever was served....
                                                                                            -We traveled with her extensively and to exotic destinations since she was a toddler and we all ate only local food.
                                                                                            -We stared her with solid foods at 3months, with home cooked soups (usually chicken or veal), never anything from a jar.
                                                                                            -We also never buy fast food, which I think is the worst sin of our society.
                                                                                            -Oh, and I never said in front of her when she was young (as did many parents I know) -"I hate fish". And the child wouldn't touch fish for years, because mom didn't like it. Just a sad example, but so true.

                                                                                            1. This is fascinating. I've always thought that if parents ate everything happily, then the kids would too. And it is pretty much been that way for my family. The 3 kids, now grown, were happy, pretty adventurous and eclectic eaters. They delighted in church dinners where they could go down the line and load up on whatever they wanted. Every day they saw DH eat pretty much anything I made. Since I always told them I was a good cook (!) and no one disputed it, they believed it. I became aware of preferences as they got older, but I let them have some say in what they liked. We didn't have any dinnertime fights.

                                                                                              1. I don't have any children to comment on but I grew up with an English Mum in Canada who never let garlic cross the threshold of her house and when I wanted to eat spaghetti my Mum was horror struck. When I put ketchup on my pasta [circa early 70's] I thought I was so experimental. The one thing we did have was curry a couple of times a year and I thank her for that passion in my life. Once I was living on my own I loved trying all sorts of new foods - some I liked/loved and others I never enjoyed but grateful to be in control of what I was eating.

                                                                                                Conversely [they NEVER had curry], my husband grew-up in a home where salt and pepper were the only condiments allowed and his Austrian Mum prepared a very meat/two veg diet for their entire childhood. His Mum didn't like fish so they rarely had fish unless they were at a restaurant which wasn't often. When he went to university his friend told me that he would not eat pizza or Chinese takeaway! Then I came into the picture and he is much better than me now trying new foods. We are always trying new ethnic foods/ingredients as well as working on the foods we love. We just spent three weeks in Italy/France/UK basically eating our way through Italy and France.

                                                                                                So, still not sure about the nature/nurture theory but considering I met him at 26 as a very fussy eater and given how dramatically he changed I'm going for nurture. I'm happy to say we are both in love with good food - fancy or not.

                                                                                                1. Well, my own "social experiment" with my twins definitely leans toward the "nature" side of the argument, that many others on here have affirmed - that kids have their own food personalities. My twins are now almost 3, but from very early on, were always fed the same foods. Now, one is ridiculously picky (he's a little carb monster) and the other will eat anything and everything (how many 2 year olds request the arugula from your salad? He also loves lentils, salmon, onions, broccoli, etc.!) So, it's interesting how kids can be so different in their likes and dislikes.
                                                                                                  Some of the stories of what things picky kids eat remind me of my husband's nephew, who to this day (he's 11 now) subsists on ketchup sandwiches on white bread. How on earth he survives is a mystery to me!!

                                                                                                  1. Our grandson is 14. He'll eat anything except asparagus (which he dislikes) and scallops (which he's allergic to). We've taken him to dinners everywhere since he was about 5 and he orders for himself from the menu. His parents owned a restaurant from before he was born until he was about 4, when he became big brother to his sister. He thought everything was chicken when he was 2-3 years old, because our son would tell him he was eating "mahi chicken" or "lamb-chicken" or "sweetbreads chicken" etc. He'll try anything. His sister, on the other hand, only orders chicken fingers, burgers or spaghetti when she's with us. We keep thinking she'll change when she gets older, but I don't know if that'll happen in our lifetimes.

                                                                                                    1. Common sense about pickiness.

                                                                                                      --kids have a more acute sense of taste the younger they are. Hot spices, strong flavours, may truly be too much for them. As their taste buds "calm down", they like more things. Bide your time.
                                                                                                      --"hunger makes the best sauce" In our world kids can eat just about every hour if they really want to. Full kids are picky kids.
                                                                                                      --Food is Power. It makes kids feel powerful to make mommy and daddy jump through food hoops for them. Don't do it. It makes Mom and Dad feel powerful to stand over the kid and ensure they are eating. Again, don't do it!

                                                                                                      Best advice I have comes from a book. It is the parents' job to buy and prepare wholesome food. It is the kids' job to eat it. (paraphrasing Ellyn Satter.) Meals should be pleasant, happy affairs where no one pays to much attention to what someone else is eating.

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: applgrl

                                                                                                        Excellent. I loved Ellyn Satter's How to Feed Your Children But Not Too Much, too. Make it all available to them, don't treat anything as something different. They might not like it at first, even for years. But, they'll be familiar with it.

                                                                                                        1. re: applgrl

                                                                                                          "It is the parents' job to buy and prepare wholesome food. It is the kids' job to eat it. "

                                                                                                          I love the quote although I am sure I have seen it elsewhere before on CH ;-)

                                                                                                          Having a bit of experience raising a daughter who just turned two, I completely agree with your three points too, especially the first one. I am blessed that my DD has the attitude to try just about everything presented ever since young, and was a bit surprised she knows right away to turn away her head, the few times I accidentally offered her the usual salad but with a bit of raw onion added. The little ones must have a super sharp sense of taste and smell, even compared to myself who already have a sharp sense already.

                                                                                                          I have been following more or less these principles and, while not holding my breath, I am proud to say that my DD loves many things, from heady Chinese fish head soup, to everything on the cheese platter that many would find too stinky, runny or moldy. She recently looked interested in the oysters we were having, and apparently enjoyed the sip of liquor and the tiny morsels we gave her! And whenever she eats with her grandparents (who eat very well themselves), they always marvel how she seems to enjoy everything!

                                                                                                          I just hope that more kids can have the chance to be properly introduced to food because it is such great joy -- to themselves to the people around them.

                                                                                                          1. re: tarteaucitron

                                                                                                            Our kids followed a very similar path. They would try just about anything, and they liked a lot of it. But don't be surprised if she starts to change - become a little more "discerning." Our son continues to be very open-minded and frank about food - what he is willing to try, what he likes and the short list of what he doesn't. Our daughter has become a lot more particular about eating certain foods, and is not the adventurous type that she was as a toddler. She's still better than her peers - just not what she once was.

                                                                                                          2. re: applgrl

                                                                                                            I strongly associate with this point of yours:

                                                                                                            ""hunger makes the best sauce" In our world kids can eat just about every hour if they really want to. Full kids are picky kids."

                                                                                                            I am baffled by how often snack food (cheerios, goldfish crackers, yogurt in a tube) is foisted on kids now. I ate 3 meals a day as a kid (2 with my parents, 1 at school), and maybe had a small snack (a piece of cheese and an apple, for instance, or a navel orange, or a kiwi) when I got home if I was very hungry, before helping cook dinner. By the time dinner was ready, the smells were driving me almost crazy. My mum was an excellent cook, but even if she wasn't, I wouldn't have *dreamed* of turning down the food my parents were providing for me at the dinner table.

                                                                                                          3. I read this and thought of this discussion:


                                                                                                            Sounds like the US isn't the only place where picky kids default to plain or almost plain pasta.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: beachmouse

                                                                                                              LOL! Did you see the 2nd piece on that blog about the "Cooking With Dog" episode where "a "unique Japanese" take on spaghetti, featuring a sauce of ham, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms -- and ketchup." is made?

                                                                                                              The blogger calls it the "Sanjaya Malakar of pasta recipes: a jaw-dropping train wreck of a dish so strange and shameless you can't help marveling at the very fact of its existence."

                                                                                                              LOL! That is a BRILLIANT description!

                                                                                                            2. I know I'm posting almost a year late, but I had to respond. I would love to tell you that your excellent parenting has resulting in raising an open-minded child, but this has has much to do with genetics, and quite possibly, birth order (onlies and firstborns are more adventurous) as it does with parenting. My oldest is 15 and she is definitely a "foodie." I just assumed it was due to my excellent cooking and the broad variety of food experiences to which we exposed her. But her younger brother, now 13, got the same cooking and the same exposure, and he is terribly picky. He eats like a stereotypical American child. Part of this, and perhaps most of it, is due to his food allergies. As a child, he was allergic to milk and eggs and was actually in some pain before we had him tested. He also suffered a life-threatening reaction to peanuts when he was 3, and I think this made him fearful about trying new foods, even when he knew they were safe. So although he will taste what I make, and does like certain foods not commonly liked by picky people (my nut-free mole sauce, California or tamago roll, mangoes, broccoli), what he naturally prefers is stuff like pepperoni pizza, burgers, fries, fish fingers, etc.

                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Isoldamay

                                                                                                                I'm not buying that birth order deal, Isoldamay! In my family of 5 siblings who grew up in the 50's & 60's, everyone but our middle brother will try anything. He is strictly meat and potatoes. Of my four grandchildren, specifically my two youngest granddaughters, the older one is chicken and beef, potatoes and green beans. Her younger sister will eat anything you put in front of her. Their cousins are exactly the opposite, my grandson has always been adventurous, while his younger sister is beyond picky. Where do you think the genetics come into play?

                                                                                                                1. re: bucksguy14

                                                                                                                  People inherit skin tone, eye color, etc. Why not tastebuds and taste sensitivity? There's actually some research in this area; for example the ability to taste substances like PTC, thiouracil, sodium benzoate is genetic. I think we can extrapolate this to cover other tastes as well. I don't think taste is completely explained by genetics--both of my parents hate cumin, I love it--so there's certainly a nurture factor as well, but I don't buy for one second the idea that if your child is a picky eater, it's because you didn't expose him to enough variety, which is what the OP seemed to suggest.

                                                                                                                2. re: Isoldamay

                                                                                                                  "birth order (onlies and firstborns are more adventurous)"

                                                                                                                  Maybe some that you've met - but a lot of only childen are unhappy not having their way, a bit awkward as adults (the majority of ones I've met) - and older siblings tend to be less adventuresome in my experience - hubby's the middle and I'm the youngest, and we've hiked Europe, 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and explored the East Coast. Hubby's sister hasn't visited more than 4 states and doesn't care to travel and explore (and she loves McDonald's), and my brother is kind of boring too and only travels because of his job (analytic stuff within Dept. of Defense).

                                                                                                                  1. re: JReichert

                                                                                                                    Never good to generalize - I'm a firstborn and am constantly looking for something I haven't done before, or eaten before, or visited before, or..or..or - you get the idea! My middle brother still eats and drinks the same things he did as a 6 year-old, hasn't been outside the northeast US except once and rarely ventures beyond the county he lives in.

                                                                                                                    1. re: bucksguy14

                                                                                                                      I knew someone who was a psych major and big believer in birth order. She went on and on about how it was obvious I was first born. Finally, I told her i was middle child and she was floored.

                                                                                                                3. I think people are a little quick to assume that those who have a large list of foods they don't like are "picky eaters" as if they are being selective out of pretension. According to research (Google it), fully 25% of people taste significantly more than the other 75% of the population and have the increased number of taste buds to prove it. Before I ever discovered this, I noticed that I could taste things in food that others couldn't. A huge issue for "super-tasters" is bitterness. Vegetables, along with many other foods, have a bitterness that is not strong enough to be offensive to people with average or subpar taste sensitivity. However, to those who can taste it, they can be just as offensively bitter as an item a regular taster would consider to be offensively bitter. It's not just bitter. Overly sweet fruits, sour or spicy sauces, and a number of things can be overpowering to the point of absolute disgust. And just to put it out there, I dislike ranch dressing, I always have. The taste is entirely too strong for me. I can add a little to mayonnaise for a sandwich spread, but just plain ranch is like being slapped on the tongue with a ruler for me.

                                                                                                                  The reason why your kid is not afraid to TRY food is half your influence and half his taste buds. If most things you put in front of him didn't taste good to him because they tasted too strongly of things he didn't like (like a super-taster often experiences), he'd be reticent to try things. The other thing that can make a kid shy to try things is being forced on threat of punishment to eat things that taste horrible to him/her. Certain vegetables tasted so disgusting to me as a child that I remember sitting at the table from dinner time to bedtime a few nights in a row before my parents realized they needed to just cross a few foods off the list and try something else. I didn't throw a fit, I just sat there and told them that it tasted terrible and I wasn't going to eat it. If they had kept punishing me for not liking something I had tried, I probably would be profoundly screwed up about food.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: Kairuka

                                                                                                                    "Before I ever discovered this, I noticed that I could taste things in food that others couldn't."

                                                                                                                    I don't think I'm a super taster, but I concur. I simply do not like onions and could taste them in any food, despite my parents not telling me or telling a white lie. I was always right.

                                                                                                                  2. I was a somewhat picky eater as a kid, although in a weird way. I would eat any vegetable you put in front of me, but wasn't a big fan of fruit. (I know, I know.) Most other issues I had/still have stem from the fact that nobody realized I was severely lactose intolerant until I was 14 - I have problems with a lot of dairy products because of this. However, my parents always expected me to try everything once. I didn't have to like it or finish it, but I was expected to have at least a couple of bites.

                                                                                                                    My 11 and 9 year old cousins on the other hand, are chowhounds-in-training. They will try (and usually enjoy) just about anything you put in front of them, which makes it fun to go out to eat with them. When the now-11 year old was about 3, we went out for dinner, and someone at the table had escargot as an appetizer. She asked if she could try it, not knowing what it was, and actually liked it. We weren't quite sure if we should tell her what it was or not.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: whitneybee

                                                                                                                      We have a one-bite rule in our house, but it's been getting more contentious lately as our 3-year old has been getting pickier. For a few months now he's been in a phase where he refuses to eat anything with sauce or anything that's not dry, and he's never liked anything mushy or creamy (any starchy vegetable, peanut butter, pudding, cream soup, or anything with a similar texture). He basically eats things that he can pick up without getting his hands dirty. I'm sure he'll grow out of it, and he'll generally try things that aren't typical "kid foods" that meet that description.

                                                                                                                      Different kids have different eating habits. Their habits will change over time. For those of you who have kids that will eat anything, consider yourselves lucky, but don't judge those of us whose kids eat plain pasta and carrots. I think turning mealtimes into battles will have worse effects over time than giving him what he likes to eat now (within reason, of course, and making sure that he's eating a healthy diet -- if it were up to him, he'd have hot dogs and cookies for every meal).

                                                                                                                    2. My older sister is the pickier eater out of the two of us and she definitely takes after my mom. My parents always encouraged us to at least *try* everything, especially if we were eating at someone else's house. My husband who is Asian is the same way. If I ask him "what's that?" He won't tell me what it is until I try it. He says in Asian culture it is impolite to ask what something is. He probably made that up so that I would eat tripe at dim sum, which I ended up liking very much.

                                                                                                                      I once heard a man in the grocery store tell his kid who wanted to try a sample of cheese, "it's blue cheese. Don't touch it; you probably won't like it." In the end the kid tried the cheese and said he liked it.

                                                                                                                      We have a friend who is a picky eater and I don't invite him over to eat because it's so much work to feed him: "I can't cook x because he doesn't like tomatoes" etc. It's very annoying. Picky eaters in my house just don't get fed!

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: ladooShoppe

                                                                                                                        I hate when parents tell kids what "isn't good"
                                                                                                                        Just because they don't have a taste for it doesn't mean the kids won't. My mother was that way with lamb, she clearly showed her displeasure with the taste/smell and also goat cheese and the like and for such a long time I feared it until adulthood when I finally tried it and loved it.

                                                                                                                      2. I'd say you did exactly the right thing, and your son is very out of the ordinary to his own benefit. IMO, mostly because most parents don't do what you do. They project their own food issues on their kids and expect them to NOT like most things.

                                                                                                                        My perspective is that my kids don't have a right to eat only what they like. I want to raise kids who are thankful for what they have and are good guests, even if the host is a poor cook. I feed them mostly excellent food, and sometimes garbage from McD's or the like. (Although once we had Baskin Robbins for dinner because dinner was so poor ... and that day lives in infamy in my house!) I take into account what they like AND introduce them to new flavors on a regular basis. My oldest son doesn't like onions, for example, but I require him to take a very small taste so he can make an educated opinion on whether he really doesn't like onions or just onions prepared certain ways. He can appreciate the difference between different preparation methods, and he's only 8. I tell the kids that tastes change so they can taste foods previously not liked and see if anything is different. Same son went from not liking apple pie to loving it. They're allowed to freely express their preferences respectfully at home, but as guests, my children are allowed to be thankful that the host has prepared something (usually their best) out of kindness to them. That includes eating what they're given and appreciating the effort if not the flavor. Because this approach has exposed them to many different flavors, my kids enjoy a variety of foods. They have different preferences and don't like everything, but good attitudes regardless.

                                                                                                                        I say, good job jmckee, your son is able to enjoy a variety of foods with a great attitude and will be a pleasure to cook for, for any future hosts.

                                                                                                                        1. Everyone has foods that they aren't too fond of, and kids are more sensitive to tastes and smells, I think, so they usually have a stronger reaction. However, what kids won't eat varies a lot by kid. I was not generally called a picky eater, not because I liked everything, but simply because my taste in food was so different from the standard picky eater.

                                                                                                                          My parents didn't give in on food very much. If we started shuddering in revulsion or gagging, they'd allow us to pass on a food. If the food we disliked was unhealthy, they also didn't push it. They are both rather terrible cooks (mom overcooks everything, which is the easiest way of getting me to retch), so I found out that asparagus is tasty when I was 17, at a friend's house, because for once it wasn't overcooked.

                                                                                                                          Anyway, I grew up with a decently long list of stuff I wouldn't eat, but that list overlaps really, really well with the list of stuff most picky eaters like. I wouldn't eat burgers (unless they had sauerkraut on them), fries (unless covered in vinegar, but I'd eat anything covered in vinegar), chips, fried chicken, most deep fried food, pizza, creamed corn, turnips, parsnips, most potato dishes, coke, pepsi, processed cheese, cheap ice cream, white chocolate, cake... You get the idea. It's not a bad list of gross foods from my parents' perspective, as it's mostly unhealthy, but imagine me going to a birthday party... My friends' parents were usually not too fond of me. I never ordered from the kids menu at a restaurant, because it sounded boring. My favorite foods when I was 5 were chopped liver, shrimp, crab, lobster, sushi, chinese food, lamb, greek yogurt, fancy ice cream, dark chocolate, pesto, oatmeal, brie cheese... So, I was plenty picky, but in really bizarre ways. I also had very expensive tastes. My tastes are still similar today, honestly, although I've been exposed to more food, most of which I'll eat. I'll eat anything on my list of less-tasty food if necessary, but I don't see the necessity, because it's not nutritious. I've always found greasy food gross, which makes sense given that I don't digest it well (pizza usually had me in tears from a stomach ache). Even my dad, who'll eat almost anything, refused turnips until his 40s. Which is good for me, because I find the taste comparable to chewing on an advil. So, I think we all have things we won't eat, although exposure to interesting food helps, if you find it unpalatable, you still won't eat it. Currently, my most problematic pickiness is my preference for food a little underdone by my parents' standards. I cannot just root around in the fridge and find something tasty as a result. Kids can be picky because the food isn't their favorite and they aren't forced to just get used to it (most of my least favorite food is in that category. I'm sure I could learn to enjoy fried chicken, but why would I bother?), and some foods are just found to be repulsive (parsnips and black walnuts both have me shuddering, gagging, and chugging water). The foods in the second category are probably not going to be enjoyed unless my tastebuds lose a ton of sensitivity over time.

                                                                                                                          1. I love all the replies on this thread!

                                                                                                                            I do think exposing your children to broader food choices may make them more likely to try new things, if not while they are still young and picky, at least when they get old enough to want to try things out for themselves. Also, new research is proving that mother's en utero diet does have some effect on what their unborn children will eat. I personally think that, for the most part, people who feed their children junk food will have kids with destroyed palates, who won't care much for anything of a natural flavor (although certainly there are those who grow into trying new things). I would say a good 8 out of 10 times, the people I know who declare themselves "picky eaters" as adults are those who were raised on junk food, and still do not eat a very healthy diet. And probably the same percentage of adults I know who cook well and eat well are those who were exposed to same at home growing up. And I would say probably all of the adults I have ever met who don't cook at all (not even simple things) are those who were raised on junk food.

                                                                                                                            That being said, of course I have my own family history to go from. As an adult, I became quite the foodie, and have introduced plenty of new foods to my own family. As for my kids, I have two that will eat anything (or at least try it), including spicy foods, and one who could probably live on bread and air. Now, I don't *let* her live on bread and air, but I do make an effort to cook and provide foods that she mostly likes and/or can stomach. She doesn't like meat very much, or anything with a strong flavor, and doesn't like food mixed up. She doesn't like condiments, dips, or dressings, and doesn't like soda or hamburgers. In fact, if she had her way, she'd eat off a salad bar for every meal - raw fruits and veggies, cheese and bread. She's a healthy picky eater, but still, some of us in the house do like to have a proper cooked supper sometimes!

                                                                                                                            Just because a kid is picky, I don't think that means you should be forced to let them subsist on junk food. I think it's very possible to find the whole foods that your child will eat, and then help them to expand a little at other times. I think it's a good thing to encourage your child to at least try things. I never serve a large amount, and never force the children to eat something they don't like. But I always encourage them to try it, and make sure that they have plenty of healthy options, and also try to do at least one meal in the day that is geared more towards specific tastes, although I do not cook to order. We all eat the same thing at each meal. Still, I think it's important (and possible!) to have expectations that your children at least try to participate in the family meals, and also to nudge them just a bit out of their comfort zones.

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                                                                                                                            1. re: emilyjh75

                                                                                                                              I couldn't agree with this more.

                                                                                                                              Picky eating does not have to mean crappy processed food. If kids are not introduced to McDonalds and pop tarts and white bread... they will never know to love or hate them. If the only things given are wholesome, well-prepared foods, then they won't prefer processed food. They may be picky, but they'll still make *healthy* picky choices.

                                                                                                                              I do think that the over-processed and EXCEEDINGLY salty foods you find on the middle shelves of the supermarket and drive-thru window ruin young taste buds. It can last their whole lives, even.

                                                                                                                              People may have picky eaters, but there is a difference, IME, of "They'll only eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets" vs. "They only like a handful of homemade, whole, natural foods". If all they'll eat is junk food, it was the parents' fault to give it to them in the first place.

                                                                                                                              I also think that kids can be picky because, in general, the average busy American can't cook anymore. They never learned!! And if you don't put the effort into making something delicious, no, kids are not going to like it. Open a can of peas and boil them and I can almost guarantee a child won't like them. But if you get frozen peas, steam them, season them, add a touch of butter... not very many kids WOULDN'T like that. And if they don't like them, then there is always another way to prepare them. Boiled brussel sprouts... ick. Roasted in the oven... yum. Parents need to know that just because a child didn't like a food prepared one way doesn't mean that they won't like it in another presentation. I think parents can make the picky eaters just as much as the children themselves.

                                                                                                                            2. "Who ever heard of a suburban American kid not liking ranch dressing?"

                                                                                                                              LOL - me! I'm 27 and have never liked ranch. Grew up on a small farm near a city of 100,000+ - so mostly suburban. : )

                                                                                                                              I think this is firmly a nature vs. nurture debate.

                                                                                                                              For instance - you always hear stories of twins separated at birth, meeting each other years later into adulthood, and discovering that they're both left-handed, have a penchant for skiing, rainbow trout, and always get the hiccups after eating popcorn. You know, oddities that they share together, despite being raised separately. So nature is very powerful in determining presets like this.

                                                                                                                              You have to determine how much an inherent personality plays into it - for instance, take the Meyer-Briggs test if you have not yet done so. Beyond introverts and extroverts, there are very real deep-seated reasons for how we deal with things in the manner that we do. Like a litter of pups - out of a litter of, say, 10 pups, you'll have 2, maybe 3 pups that are dominant and leaders, 3-4 that are middle-of-the-road, and 1-2 that are scared of their own shadow and happiest as followers. Despite equal handling/opportunities, the majority of litters will turn out like this.

                                                                                                                              So whatever quirks you're born with are either enhanced or downgraded as you grown and learn. You can be encouraged into perpetuating really bad neurotic behaviors or you can be encouraged to overcome them - though I think that plays more into manners and personal dealings, not your preference in food. I've never liked onions - I'm just now tolerating onion powder in my foods - despite the years of my parents putting it in many dishes. They eat onions - I don't. My brother loves hominy - I don't. We were awarded equal culinary opportunities, but things like this just really boil down to personal taste.

                                                                                                                              That being said, sounds like you have a very easy-going, confident son who won't shy away from a lot in his life - great!

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                                                                                                                              1. re: JReichert

                                                                                                                                I didn't realize until recently that there were kids who <em>liked</em> ranch -- I find it exceedingly strong-scented and obnoxious even to be sitting across the table from, and as a kid if you tried to get me to eat it I'm sure you would have been treated to a fake-gagging-tantrum the likes of which any parent is probably familiar.

                                                                                                                                Personally, I think the best bet is to give kids lots of options, not force food choices, but not do too much catering to them, either. I was an oddly picky child -- vegetarian and with a deep hatred of tomatoes and vinegar as a kid, but would eat spicy stuff and pretty much all green vegetables. So I looked super-picky when faced with a kids menu consisting of meat items and pizza, or a barbeque with lots of potato salads drenched in vinegar-y sauces, but I'd happily eat pretty much anything veggie at an Indian restaurant, and when they took our middle-school class to an Ethopian restaurant for a "cultural experience" I think I was the only one who left full.

                                                                                                                                (I eat tomatoes now, although I'm picky about raw ones -- only in season. The vinegar aversion hasn't changed.)

                                                                                                                              2. I'll join with the commentors whose kids, while fed lots of adventurous good food, might still be picky. I cook lots of good, diverse food and eat just about any kind of ethnic food. I feed (or try to feed) all of the above to my kids. Do they always eat it? No way. Do they sometimes eat it? Maybe. Does what they will eat change from day to day. Definitely. Am I hoping that their refusal to eat various things (like spicy food or certain textured food) will ease up at some point in time? Absolutely. Do I think they are "picky" (in some regards) because I have failed to give them anything other than chicken nuggets? Not at all. (Side note: they love chicken nuggets. Maybe because they don't get them very often. Or maybe it's because, as with the innate love of all things Elmo, children are born loving chicken nuggets?) As a child, I was picky. Wouldn't eat cooked vegetables. Ate mac n cheese every day for lunch for like 4 years running. Favored buttered noodles over all other food (to the point I named our dog "Noodle"). And, grew up to love all food (save certain cooked vegetables, which I still find gross). So, long story short, some kids are picky, some aren't, and I'm not sure how you get one over the other. Lucky you that your child has always been game to try new things. Happy eating!

                                                                                                                                1. Here's an article from tomorrow's Parade Magazine that should be shared with all the picky eaters - http://www.parade.com/news/2011/12/th...

                                                                                                                                  1. My experience has been that one can turn an eater who is picky because of chronic exposure to bad food (my husband) into an adventurous eater with patience and good experiences. But if the eater has whatever genetic tastebud/smell problem that causes them to be picky naturally, that's that at least until they get older and their tastebuds start dying off.

                                                                                                                                    I blended our kids' baby food from homemade stuff and, as I liked to brag back then, they'd eat anything. Until one day they would only eat one thing, meal after meal.Until I had the refrigerator totally stocked with that item and then they would only eat something else. And now they're grown and will eat anything again. Do the best you can and leave the rest up to them

                                                                                                                                    However, your son in particular seems somewhat unusual for a boy his age. Kudos to him and you but don't assume you can serve his friends what he eats.

                                                                                                                                    1. I posted this is another thread but parents or potential parents may find this interesting:

                                                                                                                                      "Start from Day 1!!!"
                                                                                                                                      Most parents give their kids boring food for years and then expect them to suddenly love mushrooms or spices.

                                                                                                                                      I totally agree with you MAH about not underestimating a child's palate. Most parents in North America start with bland rice cereal or mushed peas for months on end, but a lot of evidence suggests that babies can simply start with regular table food when weaning onto solids at 6 months.

                                                                                                                                      Check out "Baby Led Weaning" by Gil Rapley for more information.

                                                                                                                                      When my son started solids at 6 months, I simply scooped my food off my plate and put it on his. He ate just fine - just be reasonable about any choking hazards (but puree not required) and let them go. Babies don't hate "gross food" if they don't know it's "gross"! My son was eating the same food as adults by 8 months (chopped easily and within reason of course but he had lots of teeth). Other diners were often shocked.

                                                                                                                                      My boy is now just as likely to eat my Hungarian chicken paprikash as a goldfish cracker. He is 19 months old. of course, this may change with time as he becomes more independent, but I think it's a good way to start.

                                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: poloprincess

                                                                                                                                        It is a good way to start. But remember you haven't hit that magic age of 2 yet. I've seen lots of adventurous "babies" turn into only white bread eating toddlers!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                          ain't *that* the truth. I'll lay money right now that in a year, your kiddo won't be eating even half the stuff he eats today.

                                                                                                                                          And it will get worse at about 5 or 6.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                            Yes older toddlers and kids become more picky of course, I don't believe it is the 'parent's fault' (rigidity and colour aversions being more of a mental/evolutionary trait being one major theory) but babies who are weaned from the start with a much larger palate may be more likely to be open to accepting different foods than children who are only served bland food from day 1. Look at picky adults, most of them grew up eating a lot of blah crap and that's part of it. I find a lot of vegetable haters seem to have ate half-defrosted frozen vegetables nuked in a microwave growing up.

                                                                                                                                            I'm not saying "table food from day 1" will cure pickyness, that's a natural trait of children, but I am saying it can help.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: poloprincess

                                                                                                                                              Good luck with that...come back in a few years and let us know how it's working for you.

                                                                                                                                              I, and I'm sure DGresh, started our kids out with the surefire conviction that our kids would never be picky because we were feeding them (insert description here -- homemade, organic, etc., etc., etc).

                                                                                                                                              We both learned that kids can't read, so they don't understand all those books that say that method such-and-such works.

                                                                                                                                              They will turn up their nose, and the food that they devoured yesterday is now LIKE POISON today...and tomorrow they won't eat red things, and the day after that everything tastes like hair (not mine, but seen it), and the day after that GEEZ MOM IT'S ALL TOUCHING....

                                                                                                                                              And there will be days that you'll be completely convinced that they are absorbing nutrients from the air, because there's no way they're eating enough food to sustain life.

                                                                                                                                              But kids have been surviving childhood for centuries...and most of the moms survive it, too.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                There's no need to be condescending to me. Yes, my son is younger than yours but I am not so naive as to think that a child will do and say exactly what I have planned, believe me that went out the window on day 1. I have never claimed that this method is in any way perfect or will ensure a non-picky eater, I'm simply saying that it can help - and I have plenty of friends who have used it with some decent success (and yes, their children are older too). The book itself is just an expansion on her dissertation that analyzed food habits in children in university studies.

                                                                                                                                                I don't care how anyone feeds their kids, I am simply saying that it worked well for us (especially as my son had a serious food/mouth aversion due to severe acid reflux) and that some people may want to give it a try.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: poloprincess

                                                                                                                                                  I thought your idea was pretty insightful, polo! And it gives me hope for my picky 3 year old!! I also have a 7 month old - I'm definitely going to try it on him. Hope he likes curries... :o)

                                                                                                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                  Trying to reason with a three year old:

                                                                                                                                                  Honey, do you like corn? Yes.
                                                                                                                                                  Do you like peas? Yes.
                                                                                                                                                  Do you like carrots? Yes.

                                                                                                                                                  Honey, why won't you eat your veggies tonight? They're all mixed together...WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

                                                                                                                                        2. I don't think there is any guarantee out there that will keep your kid from being a picky eater.

                                                                                                                                          My father is a total foodie. My mother is a health nut. All kinds of foods were in my home growing up, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Despite this, I had VERY definite ideas of what I liked and disliked. If I couldn't get it past my nose, I wouldn't eat it (seafood, peas). I ate milk, ice cream, and cold cheese, but hated anything creamy like yogurt, cream cheese, sour-cream-based dips, and yes, ranch dressing. I even hated pizza because I didn't like warm, gooey cheese (same for lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti, etc.) My older brother will eat anything you stick in front of him and always has. I was always skeptical of new foods, assuming I wouldn't like them. Even things I thought I would like would sometimes repulse me once they were on my plate and I could smell them.

                                                                                                                                          Some of my pickiness was odd, but some of it was typical. I also liked foods many kids shun. I hated mac and cheese, but I was more than happy to have spaghetti marinara. I wasn't anti-tomato sauce (but anti-raw tomato) and ate a few veggies and many fruits.

                                                                                                                                          My eat-everything brother OTOH, has two kids who are far pickier than I ever was. They hate all fruit and won't eat tomato sauce. They will eat more seafood than I eat, but that's about as open-minded as they get.

                                                                                                                                          You really can't account for some people's taste.

                                                                                                                                          1. As a child I was not forced to eat a certain food, Conversely I was also not denied a certain food. My mom comes from an ethnic background and was born in another country and my stepfather is a huge "foodie" so I was exposed to many different foods at a young age. I employ the same idea with my three children and while there are certain foods we each individually don't care for we all enjoy a relatively wide variety of foods. By contrast my sister in law and her family have what I believe to be a limited amount of foods they will eat as her hubby is extensively picky and her four year old daughter will not eat anything but cheese as far as I've ever seen...

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: lilpixy

                                                                                                                                              My one rule was....try it once. My son ate most foods from a very young age, would order mussles in garlic aioli at 4. He has some pronounced dislikes on food I love...eggplant being a topper, but what are you going to do? He will pretty much eat anything presented to him at a dinner party to be polite, which I appreciate. When he was little, I always gave him the veggie first when he was hungry, so he loves broccolli and spinach, asks for salads when he's home from college. I used to make him sandwiches filled with different veggies, fresh mozz...he actually asked me to make some for friends who wanted them...made me feel good.

                                                                                                                                            2. It seems pretty ordinary to me I mean, nothing wrong about cringing in the produce aisle.

                                                                                                                                              1. yes it's ordinary, he's a perfect person.
                                                                                                                                                eating what he's supposed to eat

                                                                                                                                                1. Maybe in America, but definitely not in where I grew up as a kid (in China). My friends, family and I are all very relaxed around food. There is only one girl who would only eat plain rice (she was on medication). We of course have food preferences. I hate potato, bread of any kind (except for sourdough), noodles etc, but I don't whine or refuse the food if someone else is cooking the meal. One of my friends doesn't like greasy meat, but she will still eat some if we order it. Shortly, we don't get out of our way to make or avoid the food we don't like. Always give new food a try unless there's a medical issue. I definitely won't touch some foods on a normal day, but I would eat them if they were all I had. Your son is normal, maybe a rarity in the States though. Some Americans are very anal or whiny about food. Maybe something to do with their upbringing though. I know people who won't touch vegetables. It's so weird. I remember back home my high school canteen offers shit loads of vegetables and that's what we eat. People bring fruits or cucumbers to school as snacks. I still remember in my elementary school, every kid had a bottle of fresh cherries or strawberries on his/her desk in April.

                                                                                                                                                  1. I'm feeling very guilty about my "Mom is not a short-order cook" rule, but I know it's a good way to be. My two kids are picky (they're 5 and 3) and it's a battle to get them to even try something new just once. I'm so afraid I'll be stuck in pizza-hot dog-meatballs & pasta-chicken finger purgatory forever! It's making me nuts!! Any more ideas? (Besides lots of wine?!)

                                                                                                                                                    35 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                      As others have said - have something on the plate they *will* eat. If that's all they *do* eat, it's OK.

                                                                                                                                                      Just keep introducing the "new food" on occasion, and ask them to try it. As long as the kids understand you're not going to make something different just for them and that it's a WYSIWYG dinner, they may change their mind and try something new.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                        Thanks, Linda - I'll keep pressing on. :)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                          The "experts" say that kids need to try a new food 5-6 times before they realize they like it.

                                                                                                                                                          Keep at it....this too shall pass.

                                                                                                                                                          (we survived the hot dog phase...and the spaghetti phase....etc.etc. etc.)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                            I suppose the experts have long since forgotten their own childhoods. Unless you're offering more than one preparation of the same item (fried fish filet, baked fish filet, grilled fish filet, for example...), then 5-6 times is not even vaguely reasonable. We assume that children are stupid and have no idea what they like for some reason, but how would you like it if people continued to press the same exact item you disliked the first time on you? I've been there frequently, and I can say that I didn't appreciate it as a child, and I sure as hell don't appreciate it now either.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kairuka

                                                                                                                                                              it's actually pretty consistent with my own offspring.

                                                                                                                                                              I didn't ever try to force anybody to eat anything (Mom is not a short-order cook. There is food that everyone will eat on the table, but I cook *one* meal) -- but yeah, things would show up in the rotation a half-dozen times until they were eatnen.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                You're telling me that they tasted it half a dozen times and didn't like it the first 5 times and then suddenly loved it on the 6th try? O.O

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Kairuka

                                                                                                                                                                  Please find someone else to pick an argument with. I'm not interested.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                    Well, I can only apologize for being surprised then.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kairuka

                                                                                                                                                                      Kairuka - I doubt s842 used the tactic my parents did of returning the exact same uneaten plate to my place at the table repeatedly for a few days.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                          Was your mother Joan Crawford Mommy Dearest? BTW that is sadistic to treat a child in that manner.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                            all I'll say is that after 2 days some congealed and overcooked bacon with scribbled eggs and a glass of fermenting orange juice is nasty.

                                                                                                                                                                            that was what people did then I suppose. it was all I knew.

                                                                                                                                                                            it was their version of 'don't waste' and as a child I couldn't exactly say it was wasted before then.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                              That was not nice to do that to you but hey you still grew into one hell of a CH! So they did not completely ruin your appetite. My mom had 4 of us who ate anything and everything that was not nailed down. No waste in our house we devoured everything gladly.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                Mama - thx,
                                                                                                                                                                                I do despise waste. but always felt there had to be other ways to address this IMHO. yet hey! I lived!

                                                                                                                                                                                now THERE'S a basket for "Chopped"

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Kairuka

                                                                                                                                                                  I disagree as an adult I have found my palette to be constantly changing. Foods that caused gag reflex not ten years ago I can eat just fine. If people would periodically try new things then perhaps they would branch out.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                    Melpy - yes, static is stasis and stasis means the shelf-life of pre-packaged snack-cakes.

                                                                                                                                                                    it's like the theory of the galaxy - static, expanding or expanding yet contracting - it's always up to debate (I'll get back to you in 3 million years when the data is more conclusive I promise.)

                                                                                                                                                                    I always try to branch out, but sometimes retreat to the safe and known.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                            Don't give up! I looked at my response from 2 years ago. My kids were 7 and 5. My daughter (the older one) has always been a fantastic eater but my son, not so much.

                                                                                                                                                            They are now 9 and 7 and I still make new things. Some hits, some misses. While my son won't eat everything, he will at least try a bite or 2 of something. The rule is that he can't have a "substitute" unless he takes 2 bites of something.

                                                                                                                                                            But I have learned that if I force things on him, it backfires. If I let him want to try something, he often likes it. For example, my husband, daughter and I love sushi. We always order a chicken teriyaki for my son. In December, he all of a sudden said "can I try the spicy tuna roll" (he likes spicy food). He loved it. Since then, when we eat sushi, he eats spicy tuna rolls, spicy shrimp rolls, tamago (egg) and inari (bean curd). Of course, I have never really brought to his attention the fact that he is eating bean curd, but he likes it, so who cares.

                                                                                                                                                            Just keep trying. There are times when I want to dump the food over my son's head when he doesn't like something! But I keep moving on...and he eats way more variety than he did 2 years ago.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                                                              Thanks valerie. :) I never force either - but boy have I fought the urge to dump food over son #1's head - he's so stubborn! This is very encouraging. I have more hope now! :)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                Like in Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, "Eat it or wear it"!

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                              Well as someone who had no problem catering to my kids preferences and even making them separate dishes, mainly because I don't have any problem with people eating what they like. They grew up and eat a wide variety of foods. One of them enjoys cooking Japanese food and also loves spicy food and hot sauce.

                                                                                                                                                              The idea that we have to teach them to like different foods as children or they never will is complete hogwash.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                Oh, good - so they won't grow up only eating the foods I listed above. :) I get so envious when my friends comment that their kids have eaten mussels, grilled salmon, and other adult-like dishes. Glad to hear their palates eventually get broader! I guess patience is necessary here, right?. :)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                  On the 'plus' side, Sra. Swanky, you won't have to turn to white collar crime to feed your young'uns if they eschew expensive foods while they're young. Instead of the afore-mentioned mussels and grilled salmon (or my boys' favorite - artichokes stuffed with crabmeat), you can happily feed them roast chicken, spinach and other less costly dishes. Good eaters will experiment soon enough. When they're in their teens, they can eat their own weight daily. Tough on the wallet if the foods-of-choice are pricey.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                                                                    Hi Sherri! Thanks so much - great point! I should be grateful if they have non-costly food tastes! LOL! I have boys too - and they both eat like birds. I ask my husband, "When are they going to eat us out of house & home like everyone says?!" Soon enough, I'm sure. :)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                      A few weeks ago my husband and daughter were out and my son asked if I could take him out for sushi. I ordered what he likes, and then ordered california roll and some kind of lobster roll for myself. My son asked if he could try what I was eating, but he asked what the "green" was. When I said avocado, he said "I don't like avocado" but I gently persuaded him to try the piece. Next thing I know, he is eating the rolls with avocado telling me how much he likes them.

                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, dinner for me and my 7 year old cost me $50+ and it would have been a hell of a lot cheaper to take him to McDonald's, but I was so thrilled.

                                                                                                                                                                      To me, it's not always about getting him to eat more variety now because otherwise I feel that he is destined for a life of chicken nuggets/french fries and pasta/meatballs. It's more about the fact that the other 3 of us in the family like to try new places and I don't always want to worry that there will be nothing for him to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                                                                        I feel the same way. I always worry what they'll want to eat depending on what restaurants we choose.

                                                                                                                                                                        You should feel thrilled. I would LOVE to spend $50+ on sushi for my boys and me as well. Sounds like a wonderful Mom/Son date. Dreaming of an outing like that!!

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                  I guess my feeling about making multiple things for different people at home, is that it doesn't promote the idea of being thankful for what you're served (by anyone, which includes mom or dad) and not making a fuss if it is not exactly to your liking.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                    Your post really resonates with me. Our kiddo is 12 and we are raising her to appreciate the gift of food from others. Food is such a cultural mainstay. The lesson is less about being picky, IMO, and more about being adaptable to one's environment. We travel a lot and there have been times, in 3rd world countries, where the hosts are providing a week's wages worth of food to guests.

                                                                                                                                                                    I know picky eating exists everywhere, but there are other things to consider when refusing food. Everything can't be to your liking, but learning to decline with manners IS something every parent can teach. That isn't nature... That is nurture 100%.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                      My kids learned to be thankful in many different ways. Food isn't the only way for them to learn that. When my kids were little we grew a lot of our own food including raising our own livestock for butchering, chickens for eggs and a jersey cow and goats for milk. They knew were food came from and how much work it was.

                                                                                                                                                                      As for preparing separate dishes, my kids didn't make a fuss. I did it for my own selfish reasons that I wanted to continue to eat my favorite foods that they didn't happen to like yet at the same time I wanted them to have a satisfying family meal. At my house food isn't just about eating to live.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                        I get that. There are a few things my son is not fond of, that my husband and I like (shellfish among them). When I do decide to make shellfish for dinner, I always ensure that there's something else he'll like, and *I* don't make a fuss if he takes a token amount of the shellfish, and he doesn't comment on what the main course is (he's 17).

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, I always made enough for everyone and offered it to them and sometimes they'd try something, usually not. This was mainly when they were small. Once they were old enough they were free to choose to cook their own dish and sometimes did but by then it was usually them wanting something I didn't want. For example my husband and daughter love rabbit but the smell of it cooking just disgusts me for some unknown reason. So they have that on occasion and I choose to not be home while it's cooking lol.

                                                                                                                                                                          As someone who was forced to sit at the table and ingest food that I despised as a child I vowed never to do that to my kids. I still have some lingering sensory issues with certain food textures and so does one of my kids.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                            I think there a huge difference between not being a short order cook/cooking one meal and being "forced to sit at the table and ingest food that I despised"

                                                                                                                                                                            I have always followed Ellyn Satters adage that it's my "job" to offer healthy foods at regular intervals and it's my child's "job" to eat (or not!) as they see fit. I never cajoled, bribed, forced or begged my son to eat. But I never made him separate meals either.

                                                                                                                                                                            In our house dinner time is about so much more than the food. It is a time and place to catch up, to model good manners and conversation, to laugh, to talk about tough topics and happy ones, etc. Who wants to battle about food?

                                                                                                                                                                            Offer known favorites when offering something brand new. Try different ways of cooking the same thing. Have one night a week or month where its kids choice, mom's choice, etc and of course gets the kids involved in the cooking, the shopping and meal planning.

                                                                                                                                                                            At least with my son he did "suddenly" start liking a food. Take salmon- one of my favorites so its in regular rotation but no matter the recipe he didn't like it. One day at a brunch he tried cold poached salmon and now eats salmon, in all iterations, all the time. He will often suddenly stop liking a food too. He ate old fashioned steel cut oats for *years* and now won't touch the stuff. Heck he now even dislikes oatmeal cookies! Go figure.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                    Kids are smart. They know what their options are, and they know how to get what they want. Kids are used to choosing from a menu of pre-selected, "kid friendly" choices.

                                                                                                                                                                    So, what if this menu of pre-selected, "kid friendly" choices is simply not available?

                                                                                                                                                                    Let me illustrate.

                                                                                                                                                                    If you take an American child that is used to eating mac & cheese and chicken nuggets, and bring them to Cambodia (for example), what are they going to do?

                                                                                                                                                                    Well, first they're going to demand mac & cheese and chicken nuggets. And they'll probably do it a lot. And throw a tantrum with plenty of irrational screaming.

                                                                                                                                                                    But eventually, they're going to look around and realize that nobody is eating mac & cheese and chicken nuggets. Eventually it will dawn on them that it simply is no longer a choice. They will realize it just doesn't exist.

                                                                                                                                                                    And one day, they'll look over and see another kid their own age drinking a tropical fruit smoothie, and some rice and fish, and decide they want to try that. They'll come to the decision on their own. When the alternative is to go hungry, eventually they will choose something from the menu of pre-selected, "kid friendly" Cambodian choices :)

                                                                                                                                                                    The trick is to create that type of "foreign" food environment while living in America. For example, chicken nuggets are not part of the pre-selected menu of "kid friendly" choices. Period.

                                                                                                                                                                    I don't claim that to be easy, but if that serves to help understand how kids think about these things. Let them make the choice, so they think they came to the idea on their own.

                                                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                      I generally agree, with some caveats. In our home there were no chicken nuggets on the menu, ever. And we "eat in" except on vacation. Not to say my kids didn't have a genetic taste for typical kids' menu meals. So when we'd eat out (on vacation, say) I let them eat that stuff. It was a treat for them, and they enjoyed it. But by the time they graduated off the kids' menu, they were happy enough to share an entree with us, or with each other, and eventually order their own. I think a big problem is the ratio over the course of a month or a year of real food to that limited menu, rather than the limited menu per se.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                        I agree too. When my boys were around 5 and 3 we went with my friend's kids to McD's. My boys had never been. Their friend ordered chicken nuggets so mine did too. When their order came, they refused to eat it because it wasn't chicken. I ended up eating them and ordering them hamburgers. They had never had that before either but they recognized meat and bread.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. sometimes I wonder how much of this is peer-pressure and media driven. after all there aren't too many commercials on TV showing 9-20 YO's chowing down on tom yum gai or trout meuniere. and if you're 15 YO and everyone wants pizza, are you going to demand we go to a charming boite that does the most amazing butter finish on their steak poivre?

                                                                                                                                                                      but then again a good friend (who is a very good cook) doesn't let her kids watch commercial broadcast TV. her daughter will only eat mac'n'cheese and her son will eat anything. go figure, and don't fight it.

                                                                                                                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                        True, hill - but it's so hard to not fight it when I live to eat and my kids eat to live. I guess that's a good thing though!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                          ehh just don't create 'issues' is the best I can figure.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                            Duly noted. Thanks! No, I definitely don't want to create issues. (As a young mom, I'm learning as I go!)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                              If the kids are babies that is the time for the parents to go out and buy the book "French Kids Will Eat Anything". Great book!
                                                                                                                                                                              Then it's up to the parents to decide whether to use the advice.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                yeah, no.

                                                                                                                                                                                French kids aren't subjected to the barrage of industrial-production processed food, so they eat a lot more "real" food.

                                                                                                                                                                                But don't for a second believe that French kids aren't picky and eat everything.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                  For anyone's perusal: Here is a typical weekly menu for an elementary school lunch in the city school system of La Rochellle, France:

                                                                                                                                                                                  Tomato Salad
                                                                                                                                                                                  Duck with Green Olives
                                                                                                                                                                                  Goat Cheese
                                                                                                                                                                                  Trio of Fresh Fruits (pear, pineapple, orange)

                                                                                                                                                                                  Carrot Salad
                                                                                                                                                                                  Fish sautéed with butter, parsley, and lemon
                                                                                                                                                                                  Sauteed vegetables
                                                                                                                                                                                  Caramel flan

                                                                                                                                                                                  Radishes and butter
                                                                                                                                                                                  Roast Veal with Shallots
                                                                                                                                                                                  Green Beans
                                                                                                                                                                                  Soft Cheese

                                                                                                                                                                                  Cucumber with chive and sour cream
                                                                                                                                                                                  Sauteed pork
                                                                                                                                                                                  Lentils and Carrots
                                                                                                                                                                                  Fresh Fruit with yoghurt

                                                                                                                                                                                  Roast Beets
                                                                                                                                                                                  Spaghetti with tomato sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                  Swiss Cheese

                                                                                                                                                                                  The menu lists where all the main ingredients come from. The fish is from off the boats at La Rochelle, which is a major fishing port on the Atlantic.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't cook foods in industrial quantities, but I think it would be hard to reproduce that sort of diet on the paltry amount that is allocated to school lunches in this country.

                                                                                                                                                                                      "For the 2012-13 school year, schools are reimbursed
                                                                                                                                                                                      by the federal government $2.86 per free lunch
                                                                                                                                                                                      served, $2.46 per reduced priced lunch, and $.27 per “paid” lunch. "

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh


                                                                                                                                                                                        This gives some insight into the prices of the school lunch in France.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                                          Absolutely fascinating. Thanks. So they manage to do it for a reasonable cost. I love the idea of "courses" with a veggie salad course first. We are really screwed up here.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                            No I don't agree with that interpretation. The cost(to the municipality) of providing the lunches could be huge--but they charge parents about the same as US parents get charged.


                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                              No, they charge a crap-ton more money for those meals than anything the US schools charge.

                                                                                                                                                                                              And while the menu sounds good, it may or may not be edible. The middle school where we lived had three incidents in 6 months where dozens of kids ended up in hospital because of contaminated food (once with a cleaning product, twice with bacterial contamination)

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                For some reason, the word crap-ton makes me laugh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Interesting info you have there about the contaminated food!


                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                From what I read it was a sliding scale based on income. $7-$0.20. I think Americans would be upset at te "unfairness" because typically the range isn't that large so it doesn't appear as if they are subsidizing other people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree that Americans would tend not to accept that big a variation, but it's still not clear whether the $7 is subsidizing the lower amounts, or whether $7 is the actual cost and the municipality is subsidizing the rest, or even if the $7 is to some degree subsidized. For that matter in the US it is certainly an option for the district to subsidize lunches, though I think in general they do not to any great degree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, those figures you're quoting are for Paris specifically according to the link you provided. But the immediately preceding sentences say "...prices vary between French municipalities. But the average price per meal paid by parents is somewhere between $3 and $3.50 (as compared to $2.70 for the SNAP-funded meals in the US)."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    So, Paris is an exception, but on average, French parents pay what American parents pay for SNAP-funded meals.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Absolutely not true -- we lived a ways outside Paris proper and still paid 7 EUROS for school lunch. Out of pocket. Not subisidies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      And quality just wasn't all that hot -- pretty much on-par with the school cafeterias I grew up with -- just a better-sounding menu, and more courses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't know anywhere in the Paris region, public or private, where the parent-paid price for school lunches is less than 5 euros (about US$6.50) per day, per student.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hmmm...seems that some of the hard data quoted in the story in the link might be questionable then?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm not really familiar with the site linked and don't really have enough interest to spend more time investigating the site's credentials, but really only wanted to caution people from drawing the conclusion that the cost to the parents cited in the link is necessarily equal to the cost of the meal to the municipality or school that is running the meals program.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I absolutely trust your real-world experience on this topic especially as I have none at all. :)


                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                          actually, most of the article is pretty accurate -- other than the cost information -- she either has woefully outdated information, or she's discovered some amazing type of psychotropic medication.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I will offer up, though, that she posts menus from some of the most affluent parts of the country -- Versailles? Puh-leeze. even the dogs wear Chanel in Versailles. (but it's one of the best markets in the Paris region...) so it's really not a realistic example.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Most schools farm out the cooking to service companies with absolutely nothing prepared onsite.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Never in five years came across a "restaurant scolaire" -- they post menus on the school website as "restauration scolaire", but that doesn't mean it's a restaurant!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Elementary, middle school, AND high school (primaire, collège and lycée, respectively) students are served cafeteria style. Only the smallest kiddos are served at table. Roasted guinea fowl isn't different or special in France -- it's simply an alternative to chicken (it's darned tasty, though!) School kids also eat things like rabbit, beef heart, pork cheeks, andouille (the tripe sausage of Lyon, not of Cajuns), and snails....but these are normal and ordinary things in a French diet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          What she absolutely never, ever addresses, however, is the very basic fact that the French have an entirely different relationship with their food than Americans do -- it's a deeply cultural difference. Food ties them to their ancestors (tradition), to history (tradition again), to the land, to one another (socially),and to being healthy citizens of the country....it would take an entire book to even begin to try to describe the difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                                                Correct me if I'm wrong, but that only discusses what the schools (or, more accurately, the municipalities) charge the parents for the lunches. It doesn't really discuss how much the school lunch program costs the municipality that is providing it. There could be a huge subsidy, for all we know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                (Very interesting link, thank you. At my child's preschool, they allow the kids to serve themselves milk and water as they wish throughout the day. I wonder a little bit about that. Also, they offer a morning and afternoon snack. Frankly, there's seldom any official school event my child attends where snacks aren't provided. Snacking is deeply imbedded in our child's educational routine. As a parent, I've pretty much had to accept that.)


                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                                        I really love the idea of this cookbook Food Adventures about introducing your child to the flavors of the world (which I haven't cooked from yet) and really wished I'd cooked from it when my child was just starting solids. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9032...


                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                    It's more than T.V. It is also learning at school. Kids see their peers turning up their noses at very simple and tasty foods like broccoli and suddenly at home they don't like it. That is when you begin the lessons of not being a lemming, "We are not like every other family."

                                                                                                                                                                                    My 12 year old has never had soda pop or been to McDonalds (we don't eat fast food). Her only complaint is that there are sometimes conversations she can't participate in. That goes for T.V. too, in which our tastes are not the American norm (hubby isn't American anyway). Some people don't have all the options we do, though. If you're making minimum wage you can't afford to expose your kid to lobster tail and opera instead of chicken nuggets and nickelodeon cartoons.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think home life trumps peer pressure.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. A year to two years ago when my tot was just starting to relish solid foods, I was a GENIUS. I was raising a chow-pup for sure. He wanted to eat everything off my plate. Whatever it was, you name it, he'd eat it. Now that he's trying to assert his independence he wants to eat ham, bacon, pizza, plain pasta, rice of any variety, waffles, cookies, and crackers and various and sundry fruits and vegetables at various and sundry times. And milk. Always milk. But that's pretty much it.

                                                                                                                                                                                    He hates cheese of all kinds (unless it's on pizza, but please don't point that out), chicken, except occasionally when he can dip it in catsup, and usually beef. He hates fish. Sometimes he likes roasted pork or beans.

                                                                                                                                                                                    He's pretty much on an all pork and carb diet. Thank goodness we aren't Jewish or Muslim.

                                                                                                                                                                                    It gets worse when he's not feeling well (like right now) so we indulge the picky eating more because we just want him to eat so he can regain his strength.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I feel like I'm winning the mealtime battles but losing the war. At least I don't have to battle him over eating fresh produce.


                                                                                                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                      welcome to parenthood! I pretty much could have written that post word for word with mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                      It will change...slowly, and erratically, but it will change.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I have a niece who ate nothing but hot dogs and cherry tomatoes three meals a day for months (yes, the pediatrician knew about it and while not condoning, said she wouldn't do it forever.) -- at 19, she still has her quirks, but not only did she survive all those hot dogs, but she's a happy and healthy normal adult, with a normal appetite.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you for the reassurance that I haven't totally ruined my child's palate or damned him to a life of fast food or something!


                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                                            You're more than welcome...I don't pretend to have all the answers, just the luxury of looking back at it!

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                            amusingly, she and I were grocery shopping the other day, and she mentioned that she's come a long way from eating hot dogs and cherry tomatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                                            She was asking me for my quiche recipe at the moment...

                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                            DQ - so well said - Winning the battle but losing the war is exactly what it feels like with my two. My older one is under the weather now too, so it was definitely an indulgent mealtime tonight.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Isn't CH great?! We all need a little advice and reassurance. But you're one up on me if it makes you feel any better - mine love their fresh fruit, but fresh veggies are usually turned away, no matter what form I serve them in!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                                              Just to give you some encouragement, my son (in 1st grade) came home from school on Friday and told me that it was someone's birthday in the class and the mom sent in chocolate chip zucchini muffins. He asked me if I could make them. Now this is coming from a kid who is most definitely a "non-green" eater!

                                                                                                                                                                                              I literally ran to my computer and emailed the mom to ask her for her recipe! It's not that I couldn't find a recipe but I didn't want them to be different or there was a good chance that he won't eat them. I didn't hear back from her so today I settled on a recipe that sounded good and made the muffins. He actually wanted one for dessert after dinner! Never would I have thought that this kid would request zucchini, in any way shape or form.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                                                                                                I was pretty stunned when I was a classroom helper a few years ago...we made pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and talked about how the Pilgrims might have made their pies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                We had math unit on graphing and reporting statistics that hinged on sorting handsful of 15-bean soup beans (no seasoning)...the kids would sort the beans by type, then produce a graph to show their findings. AT the end of the unit, I made 15-bean soup (with fresh beans!) for a class treat. I was stunned to see a classroom full of first graders completely empty a six-quart crockpot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Sometimes I think when you distract them from *what* they're eating, with *why*, they'll happily devour it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Try cooking with your kids -- let them help you pick things out -- try a small garden -- get them involved in their food, and they might be more interesting in eating their food. (full disclosure: I had varied success with these ideas, but they definitely helped!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do believe direct participation makes a difference. I can dredge all sorts of other analogies that would only be tangential at best.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  don't watch, help.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                    So true. And the participation doesn't have to be much, either. Stirring milk into eggs for scrambled eggs or buttering toast can be enough to make a very young child feel invested.


                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: valerie

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Definitely encouraging! :) Thank you! (And great score with the muffins!!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now that my kids are older, I look back and this is one of those issues that I worried about back then, like potty training and tying shoelaces that I look back at and wish I had worried less (as if we ever wish we had worried more). They survive/thrive--I've yet to hear of a child who didn't because he/she didn't eat vegetables. I have one adventurous eater, one picky. As long as i've laid the groundwork, I don't worry.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. My children are 7, 8, 9 yr old boys. I also have a 8 month old baby girl, but she's still on baby food;). We have always fed the boys what we eat. I have always added onion, garlic, and spices to their food. Cinnamon to batters, and different flavors to basic foods. I add Italian seasoning to all my pizzas( fresh, frozen, or take &bake) my kids eat everything!! When I was a kid,my dad had us eating raw garlic, & bone marrow. He would give us a quarter to eat weird things:) none of us are picky eaters. My husband also Wil eat anything. It's definitely the way parents raise their children. Also, my boys grew up eating all fresh veggies without dressing. If you start that way, they will learn to enjoy the flavor of the veggie, not the dressing. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mariars

                                                                                                                                                                                                  And they've always immediately accepted the meal you've put in front of them without question and without a power struggle at the dinner table, even during toddlerhood?


                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                    No, not always did they willingly eat it. Many times my oldest(when he was younger) would gag and vomit, but we prepare that dish again, and make him eat it. Those foods are now some of his favorites!! ( beans, eggs)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mariars

                                                                                                                                                                                                      OK, that makes sense, that they went through the normal cycles of exerting their independence and being randomly unreasonable, including at the dinner table, before eventually settling down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I feel much better about my own toddler right now.


                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                          TDQ - I totally empathize with you and feel your angst. I once said to my older boy (5) "There are so many kids who don't know where their next meal is coming from and you act like this?! You are so lucky! Do you see how spoiled and unreasonable you're being?!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                          (By the way -the rejected meal was chicken noodle soup! Grrrrr!!!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I know, I know... :o/

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mariars

                                                                                                                                                                                                      We are Chinese and have 3 boys and we love Chinese food. However, I was born in Texas so while I may cook Chinese the majority of the time I have cravings for Cajun, Tex-Mex and Vietnamese. My best friend is Malaysian and I was always at her house scarfing up curry. My boys grew up eating what we ate so while they may not have initially liked spicy curry, bitter melon or okra, they'll eat it. Now they love it when I make a pot of curry, gumbo, red beans and rice, pozole, or Chinese soups. I think it's a combination of nature and nurture. We didn't expect them to not like anything and they were exposed early on to a variety of foods so they didn't know any different. They do have foods they aren't as fond of but they'll eat it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Our nephew's kids are a little younger than our kids. They don't really cook a lot and when they do it's more western foods. We all went to a Chinese restaurant together because my SIL was visiting. She asks the kids what they would like to eat. Her grandkids replied fried rice, chow mein, etc. When it came to my son's turn, he wanted lobster. That's the downside in raising a foodie. $$$$ :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jzc

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree, mine love eating Al my good cheeses, sushi, and dark chocolate:)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jzc

                                                                                                                                                                                                          May I ask--how did you introduce your children to spicy foods? I don't mean foods with a lot of spices in them but, rather, foods with hot chiles in them?


                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen


                                                                                                                                                                                                            I am only half kidding. My son started out by liking things like pepper jack cheese and medium salsa. He also loved sushi and would occasionally have a bite of my husbands spicier versions. Then it would be penne arrabiatia or puttensca. He would see us eating mala lamb and ask for a bite. Now he eats buffalo wings that make me weap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Personally there if no honor in eating spicy foods, my son just liked them. I disliked spicy foods as a kid but thankfully my parents never forced it. My dad ate crazy spicy so eventually I dipped my toe in the water and eventually learned to love it and never looked back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                              OK, so how do you know that the level of spiciness is not too hot to share with a young child? And how do you warn them that it might be a little bit spicy so they aren't caught off guard but also without totally turning them off?


                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Spicy food is just one of the many things that is a cumulation of smaller experiences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I hear moms sweating over the "big sex talk". I shake my head thinking it's only big if you never talked about it before. We never had a big talk instead we have had thousands of small ones along the way. When it's part of the natural conversation the knowledge accumulates over time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Spicy foods are the same way. You don't start your kid on ghost chilis, you introduce it in small amounts based on natural exposures.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We talk about spicy hot the same way as physically hot. Since my son started solid foods we never made separate meals. He ate what we ate, with modifications to spice level. But we also talked about it. "Mom likes it spicy!!!! So I'm going to add some sriracha, chile flakes, Tabasco etc to mine" If he wanted to try it we would say things like "careful! It's spicy hot. Small bites". And we always had things like bread, rice, milk, cheese to help soothe if it was too spicy. If he didn't want to try it, no biggie, we didn't force it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Someone else said it earlier. Don't assume a child won't like something. It's not like there is some magical age when kids start liking x, y or z. So don't wait to introduce new foods because you think a "kid" won't like it. But also don't force a food just because you think a kid should.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I just toned down the spice level when they were young and just started to add more and more. We also like salsa so they came to tolerate mild to medium spicy fairly quickly since they love chips. Also, they love Hainanese chicken so the garlic chili sauce that goes with it. They would just eat the rice with chili sauce if I let them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We went to a Korean BBQ place for dinner with my friend and her 3 year old and had the spicy tofu soup to start. My friend gave her a spoonful and the little girl immediately starts to huff and puff to cool down her mouth from the spiciness. My friend just said "It's good huh?" and continued feeding her the soup. She was fine with it by the end of the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jzc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That's an amazing story about the 3 year old.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Good analogy! That makes perfect sense. I met a sex educator once and her advice was, "Talk early, talk often."


                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. My little one is an only child (at my house) and prides herself on being an adventurous eater. She laments the fact that her cousins and step siblings will not eat vegetables and insist on dousing their food in ketchup and/or ranch dressing. My daughter eats salads, raw tomatoes, sushi, all manner of vegetables, seafood and Vietnamese Pho is her favorite comfort food. I think the key is offering your child the foods you eat (and no other frozen/fried or other kiddy-fied food). I refuse to be a short order cook. As a result, my daughter eats salmon, mussels, spinach, balsamic dressing, asparagus, broccoli, peas, and any number of other foods, because all I ever offered was the same thing that was on my plate. Despite being offered processed pastas, PBJ's, chicken nuggets and veggie-less dinners by other caretakers, she remains willing and happy to try and consume "foodie" foods with me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: IvyFlowersMama

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I tend to agree. My kids are adults-in-training now (17 and 20), and certainly have their preferences. But from the time they were 9 months old they ate what we ate, with rare dinners out where they could, if they wanted, have the kids menu. But at least they will eat a bite or two of anything offered, anywhere, without a fuss. I think that in itself is a wonderful thing to go forward in life with, if only as politeness when you're a guest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: IvyFlowersMama

                                                                                                                                                                                                              There's a flaw in your logic here. You're assuming that because you offered your child the foods you eat, she's not a picky eater. I have two kids. My second one eats like yours-- prefers her vegetables without sauces or dressings, loves salads, sushi, noodles, salmon. Her favorite comfort food is onigiri. My first child, however, is about as picky as they come and subsists on a diet of peanut butter and jelly with a few other foods. I didn't raise them differently, but they are who they are and that's a lesson I'm glad I learned early.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              If I'd only had my second child, I'd be you, scratching my head at people with these picky kids and thinking in the back of my mind that it really was probably their parents' fault. Much as the way he eats drives me nuts, I am glad I have my first child, because it brought home the lesson that as a parent, there's only so much you can do to influence your child in anything. In the end, the goal is to raise independent people, and that may mean you get a kid who doesn't make the choices you'd want (or the choices that are best for him/her). All you can do as a parent is to continue to try to influence your kids in the direction you want them to go, and make them feel safe and loved and accepted even if they don't.