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May 1, 2013 02:30 PM

I have a REALLY picky 2 year old..

I have a 2 year old boy, he is an extremely picky eater. He goes through phases of what he will eat, right now he is on a rice kick.
I need help getting him to eat, I can't get him to eat hardly anything. I would LOVE suggestions and recipe idea's!

Note: I appreciate all the help I get in advance, however I do NOT want overly healthy recipes (I love healthy stuff for the family but right now I will just be happy getting him to eat ANYTHING.) Once I get him eating actual FOOD, I'll start on the healthy stuff.
Also, I don't want to see any negative comments about how the parents shouldn't make multiple meals for the kids or I should punish him for not eating. He is 2 years old. I've tried everything with no results. If I have to cook separate meals so he wont starve to death (and yes, he will starve because he WILL NOT EAT)then I will happily do it.
I don't want to see how I should punish him or yell at him or tell him he eats or starves or how he should eat almost grain muffins..
Please, real recipes that a toddler will eat.

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  1. You mention he's on a rice kick, so what about something like this cheesy zucchini rice? The zucchini adds in some nutrients but it's hidden enough, and the cheese has some protein... and many kids like stuff that has cheese in it. You could maybe even try cutting up some chicken to put in it to see if he'd go for that. Ham would be good too.

    Are there any other ingredients he will eat? Or is it just rice right now?

    Also in general, that site, Mel's Kitchen Cafe, has a lot of kid friendly recipes. The blog author has 5 young children so her recipes are generally geared in that direction.

    5 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      Ok I'm making this. Like tomorrow.
      Have you tried it cooking the rice in water?

      1. re: cheesecake17

        I admit, I've never actually made it... it's been sitting in my collection to make for awhile but it was the first thing I thought of when I read the OP. I'm sure it'd be fine though, I interchange water/broth in recipes all the time and it would certainly help keep the sodium down.

        1. re: juliejulez

          I've got all the ingredients. Hopefully it'll be dinner tomorrow night.

          1. re: juliejulez

            I've made a similar dish all through my poor years...cooked rice, shredded or cubed cheese., seasoning to match cheese, into a small casserole dish for one and baked til hot and the cheese melted. some veggies if I had them. Still love it

        2. re: juliejulez

          This sounds really yummy, I will definitely be trying this!!
          Thanks so much!
          And I will be looking through that website, I LOVE recipe pages!

        3. The original comment has been removed
          1. I agree with juliejulez about hiding things in rice; you could cook the rice in vegetable or chicken broth, for one.

            When my son went on a year-long picky phase at about that age, I discovered that he would eat any and all grocery store samples. We called it his "food-on-a-toothpick" diet. We carried this through to home and made "sample plates" of food that looked like the sample trays in the stores. He ate EVERYTHING presented this way.

            Check to see if your local grocery stores have any sample days, or maybe go to a warehouse store.

            5 Replies
            1. re: sandylc

              This is actually a really interesting suggestion, I will have to try this and see if presentation helps with his eating habits!

              1. re: countrygal90

                We had to do the toothpick thing with DD for a few weeks.

                1. re: countrygal90

                  Yes, presentation and form matter! My 2 (now 3) year old will eat carrots if I buy them in the "dip chip" ridged cut, but won't touch them as baby carrots or just sliced into coins.

                  I also lie to him about what stuff is...he refuses pork, but will eat "chicken" if I make pork tenderloin.

                  I also find dipping sauces help. He'll eat almost anything with a cup of ranch dressing for dipping.

                  1. re: jboeke

                    My son who used to adore chicken just started refusing it, so I thought I'd try a dipping sauce to see if that would entice him. He very quickly learned to dip the chicken in the honey mustard, suck off the sauce and re-dip the chicken. Punk kid!

                2. re: sandylc

                  My friend's son is the exact same way! He won't eat ANYthing his parents serve him but if it's offered to him in a mini-cup at a grocery store, he'll try all food. It's the only way they get him to eat.

                3. Instead of zeroing in specific foods I suggest you bring him into the kitchen with you and have him "help" you. Start getting him used to foods, handling them and helping you prep. Give him choices to make: do you want an apple or egg with your rice? Once you bring him into the process it will be very difficult for him to say no to something he helped to create!

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: scoopG

                    Great advice, both as to getting him to help with the preparation and giving him limited choices. Never give him an open-ended choice, just let him select from 2 options.

                    And, at a certain point I'd stop worrying that he will starve. If he is hungry, he will eat and it's not critically important that he eat a well-balanced diet every day. That said, I'd banish all forms of sweets and other non-nutritious snacks until he gets back on track to a more balanced diet. The terrible 2s are all about asserting independence and learning the power of "no." He will outgrow it.

                    1. re: masha

                      I agree with this. Give him choices of only healthy foods. Don't offer crackers and cookies at snack, only fruit, veggie stick or other whole foods. Instead of hiding vegetable in his food, let him choose what veggie (from two) that he has in there. Also, make him take "no thank you" bites. We did that with food our child didn't like and she eventually learned to like a lot of foods after enough no thank you bites.

                      1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                        i don't necessarily agree with having to give veggie sticks and whole foods for a picky toddler. i feel like that's asking someone who has never run to go for a 10K immediately. i think it's ok to "hide" the food as long the hidden ingredient is communicated. we made kale smoothies for a long time. my child knew there was kale in his smoothie. now fast forward 2 yrs kale is normal for him so he'll eat it chiffonade with dressing. he's aslo acquired a taste for it. i think that can be the key sometimes.

                    2. re: scoopG

                      Right now he's still too young to help out in the kitchen, he's at the beginning of 2 years old so he wouldn't be able to do much of anything. But as soon as he's able, I will definitely try this out! Thanks so much!

                      1. re: countrygal90

                        Even if all he does is stir the pot a couple of times under your watchful eye (standing on a stool so he can reach it), or drops a couple of handfuls of ingredients into a dish as you are making it (say, grated cheese into mac & cheese), to him that will be "cooking" and help him take "ownership" of the dish, which may encourage him to eat it.

                        My son loved making meatballs at that age, which of course were miniature in size, given the size of his hands. So, we could always identify the ones that he made, and give those to him. And, the meatballs can be made sitting at a table.

                        1. re: masha

                          I agree. He is not too young. When we underestimate the intelligence and abilities of small children, we do no one any favors. Not to sound harsh; but it is true. They are very smart and respond well to being treated as such.

                        2. re: countrygal90

                          you may be surprised. (s)he can "help" you pour sugar, olive oil, "stir" the pot, fill pan with water, "cut" veggies, make you taste the dishes, ad nausea.

                          sometimes, but leaving the LO on the kitchen counter (while watched, of course, and not in a freaking Bumbo) will invoke a curiosity in the food.

                          of course, don't forget to teach the stove is hot, and the knives are "ouchie".

                          1. re: countrygal90

                            I have one three year old and two just-turned-two year olds. All three help me in the kitchen. They are excellent at stirring little bowls of ingredients or helping toss chopped items into a pot.

                            1. re: nat8199

                              wow, that is a busy kitchen! Good for you for getting them all involved.

                            2. re: countrygal90

                              I understand that, my almost 2 year old is also young to help, but he does love when I hold him and he gets to stir a pot, and he adores if I'm in the dining room and hand him veggies which he runs to daddy in the kitchen to put away. They're very small things, but it gets him interacting with the food and he does seem to really enjoy it.

                              1. re: countrygal90

                                He's not too young. Give him a small step stool and let him stir something, put oil in a cold pan, etc...

                              2. re: scoopG

                                At 2, my kids would put cut vegetables and cheese cubes onto a serving plate. A little ranch dressing on the side, and quite a few would disappear during the process. One thing we did with our picky eater was not force him to eat when we would be out to dinner. Too stressful for everyone. He'd sit and play in his high chair, and we'd have a peaceful meal. He could eat later.

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  I have had great success with this. Maybe give him a choice and let him help you as much as he can. My kid will eat anything I let her help with.

                                2. My brother was an exceptionally picky eater. By the time he could talk through high school (and maybe later) he had about 12 foods he'd eat. So my mother and/or grandmother made those for him.

                                  Have you made him risotto?

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: Jay F

                                    Ooh, I REALLY like the idea of risotto!!! Chicken stock, butter, cheese. I made a Marcella Hazan recipe recently that had no wine added. It was fabulous. And I didn't think it suffered from reheating, maybe with some water or stock, for a couple of days.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      My daughter actually likes leftover risotto. It's easier for her to eat by herself. (Because everything these days has to be "me self")

                                      1. re: cheesecake17

                                        What about arancini made pretty small? That could be fun.

                                    2. re: Jay F

                                      I've actually never heard of Risotto, I will have to look it up though, from the other replies it definitely sounds like something to try with him!
                                      And I was a picky eater when I was younger, I still am, just not as bad.. I bet he gets it from me..
                                      Makes me feel awful for what I must have put my mom through with dinner! :-)

                                        1. re: Jay F

                                          Thanks SO much for posting that. I have it in her "Essentials" and whenever I can I try to have faves on my computer as we have a second home.

                                          1. re: Jay F

                                            Awesome, thanks!! That actually sounds really good, I'll have to try that soon

                                            1. re: countrygal90

                                              For me, this is the absolute best thing to do with rice.

                                              1. re: countrygal90

                                                It's important to use Arborio or Carnaroli rice, each of which is a short grain "risotto" rice. It may actually not work with regular rice, but I've never made it with that way, so I can't say for sure.

                                                Don't worry about making your own stock, however. It works fine with watered down broth, either beef or chicken. Parmigiano-Reggiano is really essential, IMO.

                                                Good luck. My brother was a lot like your son. My parents just fed him the things he liked, and he grew up okay.

                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                  I agree with all you say. The right rice but the stock/broth DOES NOT need to be homemade.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    If we had known about risotto when I was young, it would seriously have been my brother's favorite food. Cheese and starch: mmm...mmm...mmm.

                                                  2. re: Jay F

                                                    Or if you're not wealthy enough, or close enough to a legit grocer, any Cal Rose rice can be cooked ala risotto. Far quicker, and no 2YO will know any better.

                                                    Again, if OP's DS is on a rice kick, the easiest solution is to go Asian.