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How to make my kids chowish? They started out that way...... what happened?

I have 21 month old twins who ate very well until recently. They used to eat veggies of all sorts, grains, fruits...while one was pickier than the other, we managed to get good food into them.

They loved quinoa for about a year... and now refuse to eat it. They ate broccolli and sweet potatoes 2 or 3 times a week, and now throw it on the floor. The kid who loved avocados... forget about it now. Tonight's quinoa with tomato sauce with both real and fake meatballs ended up on the floor. I've given up on steamed carrots.

I've tried hiding the veggies in with ravioli and tomato sauce. That's not working. Last night I tried spinach on pizza...and it didn't work either. Cheese isn't working.

Help! I know this is a common issue. What works? I'm really trying to raise my kids to eat well. Right now, all they'll eat is fruit, frozen peas, tuna, eggs, bread, cherrios, yogurt.....Quinoa probably isn't good for the dog either.

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  1. Because they are really very young, they will go through periods of tolerating some things then not..when my kids were young, I just kept rotating the food. Sometimes it went over, some times not but just keep at it. As they get older, they'll be more prone to establish some roots where food is concerned but right now, they'll be more pickier.

    On another note, giving them broccoli or any food more than maybe once a week might be the problem. They might be bored with the repetitiveness and need more rotation.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I am a bit ahead of you in this ongoing process, my son is 12. What you are describing is totally typical. Our best laid plans and aspirations for our offspring as parents but alas they have other ideas. Just wait until they go to school and get exposed to all the good and bad things their peers are eating!

      I agree with cherlotw, you just have to keep trying. But you also need to relax about it. The current selection that you have listed is really good for their age. Children and the species have been around far longer than us and we wouldn't be here if children didn't eventually eat what was put in front of them :) Your attention and concern is admirable and congratulate yourself for feeding your children so well, even if at the moment it isn't up to your ideal.

      I troll constantly for new ways of offering "good", ideally organic, well balanced delicious food. I also make my son come with me to the market and be part of the process. I know your children are young and it can be a pain with young ones but it helps, trust me. When we go now he gets to taste, choose and help plan meals and knows that he can't eat ice cream for dinner, etc. We also go to our local Farmers Market at least twice a month.

      The fruit and veggie thing is still tricky. He must try whatever is put in front of him and if he doesn't like it he has a fall back choice that he must pick. Right now its spinach. Fruit is tricker because of seasonal choices. The point is you have to roll with it, research, subscribe to recipe sites, read magazines, etc. WholeFoods has great tips for kids, so does VegFamily, Epicurious, the Food Network, Martha Stewart, Michel Nischan, Jamie Oliver, Chowhhound, and loads of other folks. I wish I could say there is an "ah ha" moment or a magic trick that changes them into their former vegetable and fruit eating selves, but its really an ongoing adventure.

      I vowed I would never be a short order cook in my family's house and that we would all eat the same lovingly prepared foodie meals that I envisioned, but thats just not reality.

    2. I wouldn't worry about the dog eating quinoa ;) I have never seen it on any 'bad for dogs' list.

      At least their current list allows for a balanced diet.

      Maybe you could try some expansion around what they will eat. For example, what about canned salmon? Frittata? Ricotta? Cottage cheese? Kinds of fruit they haven't tried before? Black-eyed peas or other field peas?

      1. Um, your kids are about to turn two? This sounds like a normal developmental milestone, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

        Also - you might enjoy the book "Hunrgy Monkey', about raising a food-interested kid, its funny and speaks to this topic well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: andytee

          disclaimer, no kids, but I've been reading Animal Vegetable Miracle which I love and think that if I did have kids I might incorporate a lot of what they talk about into my family / food experience...actually I do a lot of it and don't have kids...good luck...

        2. It is frustrating, I know. My daughter, age 5, eats everything, and I mean everything, and she always has. People kept telling me not to be surprised if her tastes change, but that never happened. She eats things like smoked salmon, pesto sauce, asparagus, lobster just to name a few things that many other kids do not eat. People are amazed at the variety of foods that this kid will eat. And even if she does not like something, she is almost always willing to at least taste something.

          My son, on the other hand, is a different story. He is a little over 3. He started out eating everything, like your kids, and then one day, his taste changed. He stopped eating peas, broccoli and carrots. My heart was broken! Now he only eats corn. He eats some fruits (bananas, strawberries, grapes) but, for example, takes one look at a pear and says "I don't like it" even though he has never tasted a pear. I want to scream. I try to remind myself that this too shall change (god I hope so!), but in the meantime, I keep trying different foods.

          In my son's case, he is still a moderately good eater despite his quirks. The things that he likes, he will eat a lot of (as opposed to my nephew who take a bite of food and says "I'm full").

          You don't mention if your kids will eat chicken or rice, but my son loves most kinds of chicken and he loves rice. One thing that I do is that I make various stir fries (sometimes with ground turkey) and serve them with brown rice. Yes, I know that some may not agree with this tactic, but for my son, I take frozen broccoli and carrots, cook them and puree them in the food processor, and mix them in with the chicken, rice and sauce. He happily eats this. He will sometimes point to a tiny piece of carrot and recognize it as a carrot, but somehow in this format, he likes it and is willing to eat it. I do the same thing with the pureed carrots and broccoli in tomato sauce mixed with pasta (or in baked ziti). I know that you said it didn't work, but maybe if the vegetables were pureed, it would go over better.

          My son also loves turkey chili. Another great way to mix vegetables in. Spinach is a tough one. I have tried to mix it into baked ziti or spaghetti and meatballs...did not work.

          Tomorrow night I am making chicken with an apricot sauce and serving it with couscous. My son may or may not like the chicken...I have never made it before. He likes couscous, only problem is that it makes a total mess and we do not have a dog! But I find that for my son, he likes most things that can be mixed together. So I will mix the chicken with couscous and sauce together and we will see what happens.

          It is a challenge. No matter what anyone says, kids have different personalities. My 2 kids are 2 years apart, raised by the same parents in the same house, and they just have different tastes. I keep going along and presenting new foods to my son, and I keep hoping that one of these days/months/years, my persistence will pay off.

          1. At just under two, I wouldn't be all that worried. Kids go through about a zillion phases, and discerning different tastes and textures is on that list. One of my kids (now 12) lived on Cheerios, milk and peanut butter crackers for almost a year before she started eating "real" food again. There's no telling why, but we couldn't even get her to swallow ice cream.

            I'd say cook what you usually cook for your husband/partner and yourself, keep the "try it" mentality going, and let the chips fall where they may. Trust me when I tell you that you have MANY MANY MANY years of feeding them ahead of you. It'll work out.

            1. your kids ere hungry babies, now they are becoming more discerning and their tastes are very sensitive - everything is new. Just keep presenting them with the variety of foods you are eating and they will learn to accept them and be fine over time. Its much more important that eating be relaxed, enjoyable and NORMAL than that they accept any particular thing, at a given stage. Dont cook them special meals, give them too many options etc or you will be setting yourself and them up for trouble.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jen kalb

                Agreed. Don't cook them special meals and don't give them a "kid-friendly" alternative if they decide they don't like whatever you've cooked for the meal. That means no cereal instead of supper,offers to make Kraft blue box, etc.

                They will get the message. You don't have to be a hard-ass or mean about it, just don't offer or allow alterna-meals. That's a very slippery slope. I have an acquaintance from college who only eats chicken breast, cheese pizza, select whole fruits, and bread. He's 27. What a boring life he must lead.

                1. re: ChristinaMason

                  My son is 10 and right now is adventurous about foods. But I agree that kids have phases of pickiness. There were about two years in between when he was clearly pickier--although still not so much as many kids. So I'm lucky.

                  One trick: Because it's just him and me most days, I've taken to serving each of us in courses at the kitchen island. I make sure the veggies are done and in front of him before the pasta, in particular, because side by side, he'd eat all the pasta and ask for more before eating the veg. Downside is that I've almost forgotten how to eat sitting down!

                2. re: jen kalb

                  I always said that i would not cook separate meals for my daughter, nor would i feed her from a box. then she turned one and a half and decided she wouldn't eat a lot of what she previously ate. i guess this depends on the parent, but i wouldn't be able to just send her to bed hungry because she doesn't want to try my short ribs with horseradish sauce :)
                  so i would say keep experimenting with 'kid friendly' versions (say, without the peppers if it is spicy, or maybe without the blue cheese) of what the rest of the family is eating, and add something to their plates that you know they'll like. I have found that my daughter will eat things she might refuse otherwise if they are next to her favorite pasta, and she is engaged in talking to us (or her imaginary friend, or her doll or...) while she eats.
                  another trick we use is saying 'you know who loves this broccoli''?? (fill in the blank with favorite person, teacher etc) that way she will at least try eat.
                  this process is a crap shoot, so just be patient.

                3. I agree with other posters -- don't worry! At this age, they are generally trying to assert their independence and wills in any way they can. Food is just one of the easier ways to do it.

                  Our kids are somewhat in the middle -- adventurous on some things and not others. I agree with not being a "short order cook," but that doesn't mean there can't be some flexibility. We also encourage them to try at least a bite of things.

                  Other than cases of illness, we do not offer a complete alternative meal once dinner is served. However, there are some ways to be flexible without making a second meal on demand.

                  If there is something that DH and I would really like and we KNOW the kids will not (eg, something very spicy), then I will make them an alternative -- whether that's the same dish without a sauce (easy to do) or other leftovers if that's not an option. It's also a way we get veggies we like but they don't -- there will be a veggie alternative (even if it's raw carrots). But the difference is that it is an alternative that is served at the same time with the rest of the dinner, because of my choice for our meal. This way, we don't limit what we eat, and the kids are exposed to at least a bite, but we don't battle over it.

                  Another variation is that there are some meals I will separate portions for. For some reason, my 8-year-old does not like fried rice. She doesn't like the rice cooked with soy. The rest of us love it and it's an easy and economical way to use up leftover meat. But what works is that I save out some rice before it's fried, and she has white rice with the rest of the meat, veg, and egg components separately. All it takes is holding back a little of each item before final mixing.

                  For us, this works. We're flexible, but they learn that dinner is the dinner served.

                  Hang in there and don't stress yourself! You'll find the mix that works for you and your kids. At this age, there are no instant fixes! But you could have a whole different pair of eaters in a couple months!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: eamcd

                    Good advice. And just remember, OP, your kids are just about to hit the terrible twos. That's the age when they love to say "no" just for the heck of it. Don't worry too much, but don't always let them win, either! :)

                  2. FWIW: i don't think that it matters what you do. they will develop on their own and at some point you will lose all control.

                    my wife and i have 3 grown children: 30, 28 & 25. we are both 1st/2nd generation ethnic (russian/lebanese), have done a lot of travelling, and love to experiment with various foods. the kids all grew up in the same home, same foods, same restaurants, etc., etc., etc.

                    the two older ones are very adventurous and chowish - they now are teaching us about foods that we were not aware of. the 25 year old refuses to eat any kind of seafood and is extremely picky about everything. a bacon/cheeseburger will satisfy all tastebuds.

                    how does one explain this?

                    1. I agree with what everyone else says. This is just a stage. My son was like your twins until about 2, and then retreated into a pizza, chicken fingers, plain pasta, etc. phase for about 3 years.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: masha

                        Our eleven year old son ordered trout salad and sweetbread at a restaurant the other night. Out almost nine year old daughter won't touch a mushroom or an orange, let alone beg everyone for the "oyster juice" from their raw oysters.
                        Kids are different, like all of us. to this day I just cannot eat sushi. Just can't handle the texture.
                        But I am a CERY adventurous eater, and I am pretty sure that BOTH of my kids will be. That said they will have their particular likes and dislikes.
                        Keep putting it in front of them, don't become a short order chef that makes four dinners every night, and whatever you do, do not succumb to the absurd concept that too many parents seem to accept, that "kids won't eat anything but KID FOOD", blech. Avoid the "kids menu" and the crap. Children do not voluntarily starved themselves (except anorexics, obviously)
                        You're okay.