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Picky eaters are the bane of my existence...and now I live with them

When I first started dating my husband he was a very picky eater, but over the 3 years we've been dating he's opened up to new food quite a bit--I might still call him picky, but only slightly so. His kids are another story. We were married just 2 1/2 weeks ago and now his daughter has come to live with us. She is the pickiest of picky eaters. She could sustain herself on chicken nuggets, fries, and slushies alone. When pushed she might eat pizza or a hamburger, and canned corn and canned peas are the only vegetables she will eat. And she's 15! She makes faces, refuses to try anything on the limited list, and eats other foods prior to dinner!

I realize I am walking this line with food that oddly blurs with parenting. I'm unlikely to suddenly change her palate. But it annoys me to no end, and the way it's done is a clear act of defiance. Food is so important to me and I'm not sure my husband understands that. Maybe my chowsers will? It's my hobby, my outlet, a way of expressing love. Weird thing is that the more I try to cater my menus to her (last night I made a breaded chicken cutlet stuffed with cheddar, corn on the cob, and salad with ranch), the more push back I get. I'm at my wits end. What do I do? I'm about to think the best thing I can do is let her buy frozen dinners and have at. Any ideas before I throw in the towel?

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  1. Well, you have to look at the underlying issue. Is she being defiant because you joined her family and she isn't happy about it, or because she's a teenager and hates everything right now? Does your husband support you trying to change her eating habits? You have to go along with that he thinks is best -- I hate to say it, but you are the outsider in this picture right now. As her dad, he can either say "keep trying" and encourage her to try as well, or he can say "leave her alone".

    If you have a good relationship with her, have you tried asking her about it? Ask her what she wants to eat. Maybe let her make dinner once a week if she wants, or ask her to help you in the kitchen. If she didn't grow up in a house where food was important, it's not going to be a big deal to her. But since you've only been married less than a month to her dad, I would proceed with caution and let him guide what you do so you don't jeopardize your relationship with her.

    1. First of all, sorry for your pain in dealing with a stubborn picky eater. Who knows what issues she's dealing with, and maybe it'll improve with time.

      I think the best approach is to NOT become a short order cook. Just make the meals that you would normally, and tell the 15-year old to help herself to the chicken nuggets and fries in the freezer.
      She's old enough to make her own food if she refuses to eat yours.

      Just keep what she eats in stock, and let her deal with it.

      I wouldn't indulge her.

      Good luck with this, it's a tough one!

      7 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        I'm in total agreement with monavano and you've gotten lots of good advice so far. She's old enough to be cooking for herself and really should know how to if she doesn't. Not that preparing nuggets and fries is rocket science but she should learn.

        I have step-grandchildren that are somewhat picky eaters. When we have them over for dinner (generally holidays), I make what I want. Since we usually bring everything over there to eat, if they don't like it, the parents can manage their needs.

        Food is important. Over time, as others have said, she may become curious. But recalling my days as a teen (back when dinosaurs ruled the planet), trying new things was daunting. I found it much easier when I was in my 20s and older.

        Just continue expressing yourself with your food as you are. If you want to invite her in advance so you can plan, she may find it annoying but she may appreciate it. If she is curious at dinner time, you could always offer a taste of what you have. If she likes it, then you can plan to make it again in the near future. Maybe incorporate her assisting you in cooking?

        Let her drive the bus for a little while but don't make a big deal about what she's eating. Some would say it's a good thing that she's eating something and not dealing with an eating disorder.

        Best of luck and keep us posted!

        1. re: monavano

          Excellent suggestion. It avoids the drama, and you'll see whether it's really about the food or not.

          1. re: monavano

            that is a similar approach to the one i used with my daughter regarding laundry. she didn't like how i was doing her laundry.
            i happily went out and bought her her OWN hamper, detergent, and softener and off loaded the responsibility of doing her laundry right back onto her.

            many years later, when she went to college, she was shocked to see how many kids had NOT YET STARTED to do their own laundry!! by then, it was second nature to her.

            1. re: monavano

              I agree with this. You won't convert her, but if this becomes a non issue, she might become less rebellious. She probably gets a thrill pushing your food buttons.

              I think that telling her she can fix anything she wants from the fridge herself is a good strategy. Do keep things she likes in the house, and respect them. And tell her she is welcome to join you for a meal anytime.

              Every time you express your frustration with this, you are just encouraging her difficult behavior. And she probably is always going to be at least a somewhat picky eater. Some things have to be accepted. And if there is something you fix that she actually likes to eat, I'd make it for her from time to time.

              Good luck.

              1. re: monavano

                Reminds me of when I was little and my parents bought me "Bread and Jam for Frances". :) Now I've probably gone a little too far the other way and crave what might be an excess of variety!

                Excellent advice.

                1. re: Torina

                  One of my all-time favorite books, and my daughter's as well. It actually *DID* make me think consciously about trying new foods.

                  Funny story....in reading to my daughter one day, I mentioned something about badgers. My daughter replied, what are badgers? "Like Francis....Francis is a badger". Then, with a look of absolute terror and disbelief "What do you mean, Francis is a badger???!!!! Oh my God...she has fur and claws!!!!!" The anthropomorphizing was so successful, she never once questioned whether Francis was a little girl! :-0

                2. re: monavano

                  Agreed. I was a short order cook for my two picky eating kids. I know I did them a disservice but I didn't mind being the short order cook at the time. Instead of them being interested in food and cooking because I did it so much they took the other direction and became disinterested. My daughter is know learning to cook and is showing some interest. But when she was home after college I told her I would teach her anything she wanted to learn. Still no interest. Only now when she is hundreds of miles away living with her boyfriend is she getting interested.

                3. First of all, if all she wants to eat is chicken nuggets, fries and slushies, you are not going to be able to change her eating habits overnight, if at all. She's almost a grown woman, not a 2 year old who you might be able to influence easily.

                  You said she eats other foods prior to dinner...what other foods? Are you talking about the same chickn nuggets, fries and slushies? And you feel she's defying you because she won't eat anything else? Something is wrong here...

                  I can relate to how you feel somewhat. I have a fiance who really could care less about food except to fill his stomach and only with certain foods. We are complete opposites when it comes to food. It's my creative outlet, my art, if you will. I love it and am always thinking of ways to express it in the kitchen. He has opened up a tiny bit more about food since we've been together but he will never be on my level. At first, I tried to convince him to try new things...sometimes it worked and sometimes not. Then, I started only making things he liked to eat and I got bored to death. Then I decided to make the things I like and make him something else. Sometimes, he'll try what I'm having but I no longer care to rack my brain to come up with ways to get him to eat new things. That's where I'm at now.

                  I suggest you give the girl what she likes. Make yourself things you like and maybe she will try them. If not, don't push it, and don't take it personal.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    You're in a tough spot. I would go crazy if DH didn't eat what I make for dinner. I'd lose my mind if I thought I'd have to cook 2 dinners for the rest of my life.
                    Bless your heart!

                    1. re: monavano

                      To be fair to DF, he does sometimes eat what I make. For example, if I grill some meat and make sides that we both like, he has no problem with that. But I like lamb and meats like beef shank or tongue. He will not eat them. Now if I make myself a lamb chop and him a pork chop then make sides we both like, there's no problem there. But there are times, like yesterday, when I had asparagus soup and he had chicken & pastry that is aggravating somewhat.

                        1. re: monavano

                          Yeh, I have to say, there was alot I didn't eat before I really got into food...tongue was one thing I used to look at and think "nope". But that was years ago...

                  2. I think there are multiple factors. I don't think I'm even that much on her radar--she has all the accompanying 15 year old stuff to deal with. Her life has just changed a lot and maybe she's trying to hold onto how things went before when she had a single dad who didn't cook and would buy any fast food she wanted. My husband knows its a problem but, like me, is not sure what to do about it. She's not 4, after all. And he doesn't want to cause MORE problems. Because of the fast food-before-dinner debacle of yesterday, he has imposed a new rule of no outside food snacks before dinner. And he insists that she sit at the table with us. But he still doesn't understand why it's a big deal to me. I know I may need to let the dinner situation with the teen go, but it does bother me and I cannot seem to explain why.

                    I think I'll take the advice of letting her make her own meals. This way I avoid the food fights and someone loses. Does this mean I only buy food for the two of us? Any other ideas? Foods and recipes?

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: bblonde

                      Of course you don't only buy food for the two of you, she is a minor and living with you. You need to buy her food also.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        I'm sorry you misunderstood this--of course I meant in the case that she refuses to eat, let's say, lamb chops, it would probably be wasteful to buy said lamb chops for 3 when what she wants is frozen potato skins. But in the event she did want to have the dinner with us I would not want to not have enough to share. In every situation, her food needs would be taken care of.

                        1. re: bblonde

                          I think you prepare enough food for 3, and assume she's going to eat what you serve (meanwhile you have the frozen stuff she's used to). That way she knows you care about her enough to both cook for her and know her preferences. If she doesn't want the lambchops (or whatever) kindly but unbudgingly tell her that she's welcome to get up and make her chicken tenders herself. Sit and have a nice conversation (as nice as possible with a teenager) and try not to make it a bit deal, but also don't stop making what YOU want. And if she doesnt' eat it, that lambchop will make a perfectly nice lunch for one of you.

                          I also like the suggestion of having her make dinner one night a week. It gives her the chance to cook what she wants, and it also helps her feel like she's doing her part for the family.

                          Good luck!

                      2. re: bblonde

                        Can you tell the daughter what you plan on making and ask if she'll be partaking?
                        That leaves you covering your bases as far as making the right quantity, and having what she likes on hand.
                        Maybe plan the week's meals and give her the plan and she is responsible for letting you know what she thinks she'll eat.

                        Don't make it the elephant in the room. Deal with it head on, without judgement.
                        If she wants to eat like a 4-year old, let her.

                        Don't let food become a weapon and take the wind out of those sails asap!
                        For both of you ;-)

                        1. re: monavano

                          THANK YOU! I think this is a wonderful solution. Lack of planning I think will wind up with more confusion and backlash. I will make my menus, and I already have the grocery list on the fridge. I will instruct her to choose the dinners she will be eating with us, and add alternatives to the grocery list for the times she is not. And in any event, her dad wants her to sit down to eat with us.

                          1. re: bblonde

                            I hope it helps!
                            I think your DH's insisting that she eat with you is great. The family dinner is so important.

                            1. re: bblonde

                              I think that is the perfect way to deal with it. It lets her be in control(very important to a 15 year old!), and makes meal time about togetherness rather than the food. We had a similar issue a few years ago with a foster child who was super-picky and had control and food issues. At her group home there were constant quarrels about food and she would steal food, hide food, gorge on snacks, refuse to eat at meals, etc. They responded by locking up all the food and requiring her to eat what everyone else ate, and it just increased her problems. When she stayed with us they wanted us to be very strict and lock our pantry and make her eat the family meal, but I took the exact opposite approach: Here's the food, eat what you want, this is what is for dinner, if you don't like it make a sandwich and join us at the table, if you're not hungry at least sit and talk with us. The first few days she was touchy and suspicious at meal time, then when she realized it was a non-issue she was fine and often just ate what we were all having.

                              1. re: bblonde

                                I would not have "must eat with us" as part of the dinner routine- if she decides to eat earlier or later alone that's fine, just must sit with us and have conversation at dinner time about our day/week/life etc...

                                I became vegetarian when i was very young (11), and mom would tell me what was for dinner, i would say "sure, mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus sounds great, but i'm still going to pass on the chicken...." And then i would either make scrambled eggs or whatever instead of meat if i wanted to.

                                So maybe your new stepdaughter will share your corn on the cob and she can make her own chicken nuggets or whatever as the other portion of the meal. Encourage her to come grocery shopping and participate in planning her own meals. In a few very short years she will be 100% responsible for this anyhow.....

                              2. re: monavano

                                That's what I've always done. Everyone in my house doesn't like the same things. And I'm certainly not giving up my favorites because other's don't like it and I don't expect them to either. So I consult them and we work out what to get based on who likes what. My daughter was vegetarian for a couple years, I let her know if I was making steak that week and asked what she'd like to have the night we had that for dinner.

                              3. re: bblonde

                                I think you've just given your own answer.

                                Give her time to get her head wrapped around all that's happened recently...all of the change, plus the normal stuff that 15-year-olds go through, means she's likely having a pretty tough time trying to process it all.

                                At this point, I wouldn't push...as much as I hate being a short-order cook, I'd probably even cook for her for a little while (it's not like chicken nuggets and canned corn are a challenge...).

                                I'd make your regular menu for you and hubby, with a little left over -- my guess is that she'll eventually get tired of her own rebellion and may even want to try what you're eating, and you and hubs can take the leftovers for lunch if you're so inclined.

                                But for now? Yeah...right now you're the irresistible force and she's the immoveable object -- the more you push, the more she'll dig in, and that's probably not the best way to start your relationship.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I just backspaced over everything I just typed because sunshine said it better.

                                  And P.S. congrats on your marriage.


                                2. re: bblonde

                                  No, continue to buy things she like and keep them in the house. When the teen sits at the table with you & hubby, is she eating or just sitting? If it's just sitting, I don't see how that is going to help, but then again, I don't know the back ground of your family situation. What is your relationship with the girl like? Is she resentful in any way or just indifferent. I think it's going to take time to have her feel comfortable living with you; perhaps you & your husband can speak with her and find out how she feels and what you can do to help the transition. Then maybe you can invite her to assist you in making something she likes to eat. Does she likes sweets? Perhaps you can both make cookies or some other dessert together; it can be a bonding experience.

                                  1. re: Cherylptw

                                    Just one little dinner table suggestion. If you ask what she did/learned in school today, like most teens, the reply will probably be "nothing". So don't give her that option. Change it up - a different question daily, at random, along the lines of, "What's the most interesting thing you learned today?"... "What was the most boring class today?" ...
                                    "What's the funniest thing that happened at school this week?" ... "Who's the kindest kid/teacher in your school?" As about her world in ways that draw her out and give you a peek into what she thinks, how she gets along with her peers, and what may be troubling her.

                                    I recently read a suggestion for getting kids to try new foods, which is to make a deal: the kid eats what you're cooking for dinner today, and she can have whatever she wants (within reason) tomorrow. It's a healthier approach than the default "no dessert unless you eat your vegetables".

                                  2. re: bblonde

                                    Believe me - you're on her radar. She's a teenager. Everything is angsty to her. And I mean EVERYTHING, including her father's new wife. As you said - her life has changed a lot and she's trying to hold on to what was.

                                    My mother's and father's rule was that we had to at least TRY a food item - Mom made one meal and that was it. Most of the time, we ended up liking the item, but sometimes we didn't. If we didn't - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were easy to make.

                                    Your husband had laid out the rule of "no outside food before dinner." So she needs to follow those rules. But have apples, oranges, other fruit available for her to snack on in-house (and not those gawdawful slushies). BUT...as others have said - don't be a short-order cook. Cook one thing for the family meal; if she doesn't want it, she can make some frozen meal or a sandwich.

                                    Also, try making a few items of what she WILL eat in a homemade form. Chicken tenderloins can be cut down, breaded and baked or tempura'd and fried, and become homemade chicken nuggets, with your own homemade sauces for dipping. Try using foods she's used to and changing them up - what about chicken satay on a skewer, with a peanut dipping sauce? Pasta - will she eat that? Keep a basic homemade tomato and meat sauce in the freezer so she can boil up some pasta and top it with sauce. Making individual pizzas with lots of toppings laid out on the counter can be fun - and it involves her.

                                    Plan ahead. Ask her to help you cook ONE meal a week - her choice. Yes, maybe it's going to be chicken fingers or pizza, but she has to help prepare things and cook them.

                                    But don't push it. She abides by the house rules, you make the dinner you are going to make, and if she won't eat it, she either doesn't eat or she makes something on the list of "acceptable substitutes."

                                  3. Just because food is so important to you, doesn't mean it has to be for your step kids. Do you want to start out your marriage and co-parenting with a battle of wills? I wouldn't. Let it go.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: rasputina

                                      Thank you, I realize this which is why I come here for thoughts. I'm not really sure what "let it go" means in this context. Does it mean cook for her and if she hates it get over it? Does it mean cook the food she likes and let go of the foods I like? Does it mean not cook anything for her, and just let her figure it out?

                                      1. re: bblonde

                                        The last think I'd do is cook to the lowest common denominator.

                                        1. re: bblonde

                                          Cook enough dinner for three, don't start running a cafeteria, and don't give her a lever to tip things her way. Keep the frozen things she wants in there - if she doesn't like what you eat, she can go fix chicken nuggets or whatever from the freezer. Don't fight it, don't stress over it, just let it be. Leftovers are never a bad thing. Turning yourself into a hash-house short-order cook is.

                                          1. re: mcsheridan

                                            Most things make wonderful leftovers. If the OP is preparing lamb chops or other quite pricey protein that is best eaten immediately, then she can check with daughter.

                                          2. re: bblonde

                                            I mean stop letting it drive you crazy that she doesn't like the same things you do. Obviously her eating habits were already in place before you came along. So they aren't about you.

                                        2. First off, I don't envy you:-( In addition to keeping her favorites in stock that she can fix herself. Maybe you should also fix enough dinner for her too. That way she can't pull a "Well, I would have eaten with you guys but She didn't fix enough" act. You or your husband can have it for lunch the next day so it won't go the waste. Just a thought.

                                          1. First, congratulations on your marriage! Second, she is your DH's kid to parent, not yours. I would go with the other suggestions here--make dinner for you and your DH and if the daughter wants to partake, great. If not, she can go heat up her chicken nuggets. But I don't think you can buy food only for you and your husband--that would be hostile. If you can't abide buying nuggets and the like, have her father do it. And, just because food is important to you doesn't mean it ever will be to your husband; life is short, get over it.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: gourmanda

                                              I think it shows support to stock the house with what the daughter eats.
                                              Cooking, on the other hand, is really a gift to your loved ones. I really believe that.
                                              To take the time to cook good food, food that is nutritious and varied, is a very warm, personal way to show you care.
                                              It shouldn't be taken for granite and the cook of the family should never be treated like a short order cook.

                                              I'm a bit soap box-y about it. I watched SIL feed her kids process, shitty food (asking them what THEY wanted for dinner every night) and now they've grown up and can barely order off a menu because they're so picky.

                                              1. re: monavano

                                                If can go either way, though. We ate very little processed food and were allowed to choose dinner exactly once a year, on our birthdays. My brother was hugely picky as a teenager. My stepson ate basically nothing but processed food until he was ten, and he'll eat anything. He's dying to get his grandma to try pho but she won't because she thinks it will have dog in it; this is the environment he spent his early childhood in. Kids have their own personalities.

                                              2. re: gourmanda

                                                << If you can't abide buying nuggets and the like>>

                                                my girlfriend is a strict vegetarian. her husband is not.
                                                she "abides" getting food for him that he likes to eat (dead animals).
                                                i "abide" picking up food for my daughter that i'd never touch.

                                                this 15 year old is FAMILY.
                                                what would the benefit be, for THE FAMILY AS A WHOLE, for you to start trying to manipulate her eating habits? (there is NO BENEFIT to that kind of manipulation)
                                                this is about YOUR FAMILY--not about you.
                                                this kid is not a guest.
                                                I highly recommend that you accommodate her and let her be a 15 year old with food preferences that are ALREADY DEVELOPED and were developed without your input. always cook enough food for her AND have food that she likes that she can cook for herself.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  Couldn't agree more-there's no requirement to short-order cook, but refusing to keep food she will eat in the house has absolutely no upside. And someone who literally cannot stand to purchase chicken nuggets is either a really unpleasant person or in need of medical help.

                                              3. I am from a blended family - based on my relationship with my step-parents as well as watching my own parents struggle as step-parents, please let it go, don't cater to it but don't fight it either. A step-parent even in a good relationship walks a thin line - food can easily become a big area of contention. Cook what you and your husband want to eat for dinner, if she wants to eat other things she won't starve to death. As long is she is nourished don't worry about it. Do not start a war on food its a battle with no winners.

                                                Both of my step-sisters did this in one way or another - still do and they are in their 40s - ultimately this is really not about food but about family dynamics $ power.

                                                edit to add - but do cook enough for all three - if it looks like you cook "only" for your husband that is not nice - even if she does not like/partake

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                                  I agree- don't weaponize the food!
                                                  Worst thing ever.
                                                  I feel badly for people who grew up with dimwit parents who have a battle of wills with a child over food. Making the kids eat everything before they can get up, or serving the food over and over again until it's eaten.
                                                  That sh*t is abusive and can scar people for life.

                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                    I also feel bad for people who grew up with stepsisters out of the Brother's Grimm (not that I would know anything about this ;)- ugh I can still smell the defiance laden Chunky Beef Stew if I think about it.

                                                    A spiteful step-child can be very brutal too I will leave it there.

                                                2. She's 15 and she won't starve. I wouldn't waste a lot of time on it. I'd let it go. She can eat what you prepare, or not.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                    I was going to say it might only be a few more years, but I changed my mind.

                                                    FWIW, my "real" family can be pretty annoying when it comes to meals.

                                                  2. What is your meal planning style? Weekly, daily, seat of the pants? In a good week, I try to sketch out the basic meal plan after I get my farm share and before hitting the grocery store. I solicit input from my 16 and 12 y.o.s. No guarantee I'm make everything they suggest but a meal or two, if possible. I'm also a big fan of repeated exposure and sneaking in ingredients, even for an older kid. For instance, if they like rice, make pilaf or spanish rice. Often it is accepted, at least a bite. And the next time they like it better. Much like with a toddler, actually.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                      Very good advice, thank you. I really think a portion of it is a lot like my husband--never really being exposed to food and so not being comfortable with new foods. Some meals she will not like, there just really isn't a way around that, but rather than trying to guess at meals she likes, i will flat out ask her what she'd like for me to make. Thanks!

                                                    2. I'm a step parent as well to a 13 year old girl who is just as picky as yours. As a step parent I've learned that dis engaging is the best you can do. As someone else said... she's 15, not 2!!

                                                      Don't cater to her tastes. By all means keep things in the house that she certainly can prepare herself.... but don't go above and beyond to just please her.

                                                      My motto in my house? "This is what's for dinner. If you don't want it, there are plenty of other things... you can MAKE YOURSELF! Too bad, too sad!!

                                                      I love her to death but I can't change her mother's menu of fish sticks, tacos, and no veggies.

                                                      On the bright side, I DO have a bio son with my husband. He's 20 mmonths old and loves things like tabouli, chimichurri sauce and most veggies. I hope I had something to do with that :)

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: JennyCraig1970

                                                        Yes, too bad so sad is really going to get a new step parent relationship off on a good track. Dropping the attitude is the first step.

                                                        1. re: rasputina

                                                          I don't think that's what Jenny is saying. She's agreeing that cooking one meal, and offering that daughter can prepare her own if she doesn't like what's being served should be the way to go.
                                                          So, yes, too bad, so sad that I'm not going to be a short order cook.

                                                          1. re: rasputina

                                                            For the record I have an excellent relationship with my step daughter and she often jokes that she wishes that she could be snarky like me someday... she knows I mean no harm by it...I did not mean for bblonde to be a bitch to her SD... I guess that came off wrong. Thank you for a lesson in steparenting.

                                                            1. re: JennyCraig1970

                                                              I knew exactly what you meant. And thank you.

                                                            2. re: rasputina

                                                              It's more about not being rattled by a teenager acting just a little defiant than it is about actually mocking them or belittling their needs.

                                                              You can be warm and understanding towards teenagers/stepchildren without painting a huge bullseye on your forehead and making yourself a target for their angst.

                                                            3. re: JennyCraig1970

                                                              I love seeing little kids eat a huge variety of foods. It's really a gift to your child to broaden their food horizons.
                                                              As adults, they'll thank you.

                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                Agree but be aware (speaking generally, not specifically to you, monavano) that today's adventurous 20 month old can turn into next month's picky-as-hell 2 year old. And then back again. It is always good to share different foods and your love of food with a child but you can't always predict where that will lead.

                                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                                  YES. and it can change from day to day -- even when they're teenagers.

                                                            4. Perhaps you can explain to the daughter why you don't eat salt and sugar-laden processed foods, and that you prioritize quality and diverse foods for your health and enjoyment.
                                                              Processed foods are OK once in a while, but a 15-year old should be broadening their horizons.
                                                              Not that you can do anything about it as she's not your child, but at least she'll know where you're coming from, and that it's not personal.

                                                              Personally, I'd be sick if I ate crap every day. I crave greens!

                                                              1. Three possibilities:

                                                                1) Her behavior is about sticking it to you
                                                                2) Her behavior is an immutable preference that has nothing to do with you
                                                                3) Her behavior may be changeable given time and exposure and positive associations with trying new foods; her resentment might be the result of you pushing too hard

                                                                IMO, happily there is a perfectly good solution to all three potential issues:

                                                                Quit giving a damn.

                                                                Leave frozen nuggets and fries in the freezer. Make food you and hubby like, and enjoy the crap out of it. 15 is too old to easily sway via (step)parental suggestion on its own. Form a positive relationship with stepdaughter outside of the context of food. Enjoy food for your own sake and don't expect her to. She'll come around if she's ready or able to come around. Having the pressure off her gives her less to rebel against. And not being bothered so much by her rejection of your cooking gives her less power over you and less encouragement to keep on acting up if the problem is really option 1.

                                                                1. I think if you let daughter have her nuggets, and don't make the table a battle ground, she must might one day realize that you two are really enjoying your food and dabble a bit.

                                                                  1. It's just food.

                                                                    Take a deep breath.

                                                                    The "teens" are hard. Even for biological parents.

                                                                    If you can't accept that, perhaps you should consider booking an appointment with a therapist.

                                                                    Let her buy the frozen dinners in the meantime. Perhaps even take her shopping.

                                                                    1. My daughter was a picky eater yet a friend's mother could get her to try things that I never could. Now as she is older I'm amazed at the wide variety of healthy foods she has come to love. I believe that it's something that comes with maturity.

                                                                      1. You are describing my situation with my DH's oldest daughter to a T. While she never lived with us full-time, cooking for her for the six weeks she spends here every summer is an enormous challenge. She has an extremely limited palate and is happy to subsist on quesadillas, hot dogs and french fries, often eating the same two meals for weeks on end. Her mother doesn't cook, so she and her sister are accustomed to a steady diet of fast food AND being able to choose their own meals every night.

                                                                        DH and I, on the other hand, are fairly health-conscious eaters and maintain a low-carb diet most of the time. DH has become particularly health-conscious over the last couple of years, as he started working with a personal trainer to lose some extra weight he has been carrying around since his first marriage. My younger stepdaughter has a serious weight problem but is grateful for our help in that regard and enjoys eating healthier, lower-carb fare when she visits us. However, that still leaves the issue of what to do about the older one.

                                                                        After a couple of summers of hand-wringing that she wasn't being properly nourished or eating anything that even resembled a vegetable, I decided that this picky eater was no longer going to be my problem. She isn't my kid, and I get along with my stepdaughters largely because I stay out of all matters parenting-related - and this includes food. I always cook enough for leftovers, so if something I wanted to make for dinner appealed to her, there would be plenty. Otherwise, she could put together her own meal (AFTER I was done in the kitchen). DH made sure to stock the place with hot dogs, tortillas and pre-shredded cheese, and that was that. If she wanted further junk food, the grocery store is a block away and she could go spend her allowance on whatever crap she wanted.

                                                                        This worked out fine and alleviated much of the stress surrounding meals in the household. She's 19 now and has just as limited a palate as ever - I was never going to be able to change that. I hope that eventually, for the sake of her health, she'll change her habits, but it may never happen. She's an adult, so it's her decision.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                                                          Thanks for sharing. That was a really good read.
                                                                          You're a very wise woman!

                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                            I don't know about that - but thank you! A part of me still feels terrible about how unhealthy her diet is when she's with us, but even if it wasn't entirely up to her when she first started spending summers with us (I think she was 12 or 13 the first year), it is now. I hope that being around other adults as she goes through college will open her eyes and help her to expand her horizons a bit. And of course, my cooking will still be available to her any time she visits :)

                                                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                                                              That's so nice!
                                                                              When she goes to college she might feel childish being so picky, and that could force her to expand what she eats.

                                                                              1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                New college friends and peer pressure and all of the food choices available in college could very well change her mind.

                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                  Yes, that's what I've been thinking while reading this thread. Good, old-fashioned peer pressure might force her to expand her horizons. I was even wondering if something like that can ever be engineered - it would probably backfire, I guess.

                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                    An even bigger influence will be a romantic partner who likes a lot of other things and encourages her to try them.

                                                                          2. Bblonde,

                                                                            First, kudos to you for trying so hard.

                                                                            When I was twelve years old, I stopped eating meat. As all my family ever ate was meat and bread; I had to cook my own meals. As a result I love to cook and bake.

                                                                            I would suggest that you let her eat whatever she wants as long as she cooks it from scratch. You can buy the ingredients and show her how to cook chicken nuggets from fresh chicken, fries from potatoes, etc.

                                                                            Good luck!

                                                                            16 Replies
                                                                            1. re: maccrogenoff

                                                                              That could come off as a bit hostile, just saying. Additionally, when will daughter do all of this cooking from scratch?
                                                                              I can't tolerate 2 cooks in the kitchen. Unless the OP's got a huge, well equipped kitchen, that's not going to fly.
                                                                              Does daughter have to start cooking when Dad and SM are sitting down, enjoying their dinner?
                                                                              Does daughter have to wash all of her pots, pans and dishes?
                                                                              Is there enough equipment for 2 cooks to prepare meals from scratch?

                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                Also, if stepdaughter doesn't know how to cook, she may not be interested in learning from stepmom. My stepdaughters have been invited into the kitchen to watch me cook/learn to cook any time, and neither of them has ever taken me up on it.

                                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                  They don't know what they're missing ;(

                                                                                  As I said, cooking delicious, nutritious, varied meals for one's family is a gift and it is to be honored with gratitude.

                                                                                  The OP needs to hold on to the honor and dignity of that and not let anyone erode what is such a palpable act of love and caring.

                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                    Lets hope OP can.. I sincerely wish her the best

                                                                                    I have tried the act of love, the education, the EXPERIENCE of food.. all kinds! I have tried to make it fun and interesting. I never pushed nor did I force. I tried tweaking things in the hopes she may enjoy. I too have always invited her to participate in any cooking... grand or small. To no avail. Her Grandmother is Puerto Rican and makes the most OUTSTANDING pernil and rice and beans. I told my stepdaughter that she NEEDS to spend time with her Grandmother and learn these things.. It's so important!

                                                                                    I did this for 7 years. 7 long years.

                                                                                    Bottom line is you can lead a horse to water... well, you know...

                                                                                    Fact is she just truly does not care for a wide variety of food! She's not being defiant. She is not unloved. Her tastes will change. And hopefully the OP's stepdaughters will as well.

                                                                                    1. re: JennyCraig1970

                                                                                      Or they won't . Food is simply not important to some people.
                                                                                      I love to cook and consider my efforts an act of love, but the reality is that it is not always experienced that way.

                                                                                  2. re: biondanonima

                                                                                    I really do think there are things kids should HAVE to learn, like basic cooking, laundry, ironing, changing a tire, changing washers on a faucet, replacing an electric outlet, etc. There's stuff they're forced to learn in school that they may never need (depending on career path). Trigonometry, in my case! I am old enough that in my day, dads would never have thought to teach their daughters anything about cars or wiring, nor would their daughters have wanted to learn. Mine could
                                                                                    do all that stuff, and as an adult I regret that I never thought to ask him to show me (he'd have been in his glory). I did learn the "woman's work" but have known guys who wish their moms had taught them to roast a chicken, mend a seam, or sew on a button.

                                                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                                                      I think greygarious is right. Making sure that your kids grow up to be adults who can take care of themselves is one of the primary responsibilities of parenting. It could be that teaching your stepdaughter at least enough skills to make chicken, scrambled eggs, fries, mac and cheese, etc., will be both a good experience for the two of you AND a real contribution to her life as an adult.

                                                                                      I know that my kids were amazed when they left home to find that their cohorts did not know how to cook a simple meal, do their own laundry, load a dishwasher, or many other necessary skills. (Not even going to go as far as maintain their car, mow the yard, change a furnace filter, paint a bedroom, etc.)

                                                                                      So, a few cooking lessons (for things she likes and picks out -- even if it's close to heat and eat) could be a win for both of you.

                                                                                      1. re: DebinIndiana

                                                                                        Yes, a bit off topic but this makes me chuckle. I had an intern a few years back who was a college student that came from a privileged oversees family. When I asked her to wipe down a counter, and provided her with a sponge/scrubby combo, she sort of looked at it like a foreign object and started oddly pushing it around on the scrubby side! She had never wiped a surface with a sponge!!! I had to teach her how..... :0

                                                                                      2. re: greygarious

                                                                                        I am, alas,not a kid.. but I still don't know how to change a tire, change a washer on a faucet, or replace and electric outlet! On the other hand, neither does my mother..

                                                                                        1. re: rstuart

                                                                                          Well, those are jobs for which it would be fairly common to hire a mechanic, plumber or electrician. Wiping off a counter? Not so much!

                                                                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                                                                            True!!! I actually don't even drive, but it sure would be handy to know how to do some of those things! Oh well, you're never too old to learn..

                                                                                          2. re: rstuart

                                                                                            AND, rstuart, i'd bet that you live a fine and full life without knowing any of those things!

                                                                                            my father didn't know any of that either, yet he was a wonderful father, a wonderful husband, an excellent supporter of the family, a giving member of the community, a well-respected member of his profession, etc.

                                                                                            there is no legal nor moral requirement that someone be handy, or be proficient at housework, or be a decent cook, or know how to sew, be craftsey, or ANY of this sort of stuff in order for them to be an extremely successful human being.

                                                                                            to sciencechick: so what?
                                                                                            for most of my life, even when i was earning minimum wage myself, i CHOSE TO PAY housekeepers more than my own hourly wage because i felt like it and i COULD.
                                                                                            there is no moral requirement for being a capable housekeeper, or, even if you have the skill, for actually spending your time doing housework as long as you are earning the money to pay someone else.

                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                              No, BUT nobody has ever suffered because they learned to iron their own shirt, change a tire, replace a doorknob, or make scrambled eggs.

                                                                                              At some point, we've all been poor enough to not have the money to pay someone to do any of those things for us. (we've been doing well enough to have gas money and an egg....)

                                                                                              NOT saying you have to be a certified mechanic, a five-star chef, or a licensed contractor. But the ability to take care of simple things yourself is good.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                in my life, being a particle physicist would be good too.
                                                                                                so what?

                                                                                                lots of things "would be good"

                                                                                                doesn't mean that knowing most of this stuff is at all a requirement.
                                                                                                it's just a choice.
                                                                                                not a moral choice
                                                                                                not a life or death choice
                                                                                                not a safety issue
                                                                                                not an ethics issue
                                                                                                not a "financial ruination" issue (my experience demonstrates THAT)

                                                                                                ok, it's good to know things.
                                                                                                what those things are varies from person to person.
                                                                                                also the timing of the knowledge varies from person to person (from NEVER really necessary down to toddler)

                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                  I never even implied that knowing how to do things for yourself was any of those things.

                                                                                    2. re: maccrogenoff

                                                                                      when a parent does something like that it is tough love and a "life lesson" when a step parent does it can induce blood curdling rage - It's whole different set of rules - even with a good relationship.

                                                                                    3. Many thanks to all the great responses. I just wasn't sure how to satisfy the both of us and what I've gleaned from the responses is to not take it personally, for her it's not a big deal. I'll let her decide how involved she wants to be by asking if she has one requested dinner that she can help me cook, and then let her know what other meals I'll be making, go ahead and prepare enough for 3 but plan for leftovers and have her add frozen options to the grocery list.

                                                                                      Yesterday was also the first day of school and I think that might have had more to do with her mood than anything. Today has been quite a different story! I'm sad that we can't bond over food (at least yet), but I wouldn't want it to get in the way of bonding over other things.

                                                                                      Oh and to the person who mentioned baking with her: I think this may be the way to get her interested in cooking. She does like making cookies.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: bblonde

                                                                                          I had a somewhat similar situation to yours many years ago.

                                                                                          Here's what I would do if I could do things over, and this is my advice to you:

                                                                                          Let her eat what she wants. Buy the food she likes and cook it for her. The suggestions about making her cook her own food are really rather mean-sounding to me.

                                                                                          Act gracious about meal prep (even if you have to fake it).

                                                                                          If you are wise, you will not add more difficulties to your husband's and your step-daughter's lives. Things are challenging enough for all of you.

                                                                                          Believe me, you are the odd man out. Do not make demands re food/meals on either your husband or your step daughter. YOu will be the one who loses. Inevitable.

                                                                                          I do agree that she should be required to attend family meals. Take the food issues away and maybe each of you can enjoy being together.

                                                                                          This is one of those pick your battles things. There will be things you can't waiver on such as grades and curfew, so let the food go and try to create a relaxing household for her and your husband.

                                                                                          You WILL reap the rewards someday.

                                                                                          Good luck!

                                                                                        2. bb, there is already wonderful advice and discussion going on here. It's so nice to have a place to vent with like-minded people...Thank you, Chowhound!

                                                                                          That said, be easy on yourself about your feelings of frustration. I'm blessed that my step daughter has a curious pallet and has enjoyed learning how to cook with me. The kitchen has become a bonding experience for all of us, as my husband started out as a picky eater as well. However, she drinks tons of sugary drinks and eats sugary cereal, and snacks. Although, I make my stance on these things known, I have to remind myself that if it is not an important issue to her dad then I need to let it go. He decides what values he wants to instill in his child. I do not buy these things for her, but encourage her and her dad to do grocery shopping for the things she likes. You are in a tough situation. I wouldn't hesitate to seek family counseling if issues continue.

                                                                                          1. This thread has been so wonderful to read because I didn't know how many Chow-step-moms there were on here! I want to share my experiences, because, for my step-sons and I, food was an important aspect of our relationship and became more so as they grew older. There aren't too many interests I share with teenage boys, but we all love food. We taught each other a lot in the time we've been married.
                                                                                            They were 2 and 4 when I became their stepmom and due to the miracle of 50/50 custody I was able to influence their eating and they influenced my cooking style. They love salad and fruit and hate cooked veggies, so the weeks we have the boys, our side dish is either salad, or fruit. Easy, and no food battles (I don't serve bread though, or they'd eat nothing else.) They eat a lot of processed food at their Mom's (no judging here- she is a great mom just not into cooking) and the youngest one has been known to complain about her microwave-lasagna (although my homemade is not terribly impressive). (Wow I guess I like parenthesis)
                                                                                            I've broadened their palates enough that we can try new foods on vacation and they trust me to order for them at a restaurant where nothing is familiar to them, because they know I don't try to force things on them that they don't like.
                                                                                            I think they actually know my cooking is an expression of love and are very gracious, even if they don't like something I made they try to spare my feelings, which is unbelievably sweet especially for the older one who has recently discovered sarcasm.

                                                                                            I also have the luxury of having every other week off from stepparenting, so DH and I can eat more adventurously those days.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                              Nice story, iheart. I have teen boys and one is a real food lover and loves to cook. It is fun when he comes home and tells me about things he ate, what he would have done differently in preparing them, and how they weren't as good as my version.

                                                                                            2. When it comes to teenagers you have to pick your battles. This is not the one I would pick.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: Berheenia

                                                                                                when my daughter was a teen she went through a few "stages."
                                                                                                when her bff was a vegetarian, she became a vegetarian.

                                                                                                later, she connected with a boyfriend who was lactose intolerant, so she became a lactose intolerant meat eater (i know, i know.)

                                                                                                i'm lucky she didn't end up with a gluten-free pal or i would have had to deal with that.

                                                                                                i blithely went with the flow.

                                                                                                my relationship with her at this very critical point in her life was WAY more important than getting into a pissing contest about food.

                                                                                              2. I hear you, blonde!! What a site to behold when my darling little chow pup, adventurous as all get out, was in her mid-teens and trying me at every meal. Teens need SOMETHING to push back up against, regardless of the reason (new family situation or just plain orneriness). Worst thing to do, in my experience, is to push back against it. You have to choose your battles with kids of any age, and food just isn't worth it, especially considering all of the other dangers/limitations they are faced with at this age. Best thing to do is NOT become a short order cook. I prepared my meals as usual, staying away from complete deal breakers, and tried to provide the best example I could for healthy eating. I also provided some healthy, acceptable "grab and go" items around the house that I knew she liked. I would not provide unacceptable unhealthy items. She would frequently eat on her own schedule and was out of sync with the rest of us, although I would always insist on a family table for at least a short amount of time each night she was with me (divorced family also, with stepdad present a lot).

                                                                                                One other possible suggestion, as others have raised, is to have her doing some light cooking as well. Perhaps she could even find a recipe SHE is interested in and you could help her a little bit to prepare it? Sometimes engaging in the cooking process and meal planning/selection can help with control issues.

                                                                                                In the end, now that she is in college, she is one of the healthiest eaters I know and loves to share her "finds" with me. The good example will come back. Of course, the mother-daughter vs. stepmother-daughter relationship is certainly decidedly different...but it isn't your job to change her. Just hang in there...it will get better in a few years, I promise!

                                                                                                1. my point of view...
                                                                                                  food is control... it is the first thing that kids learn they have control over...they spit it out..they cry for it and mom brings it...etc...when You are a teen food can become a huge weapon...and sometimes morph into a real problem( but that is another topic)
                                                                                                  1. Do not let her steal your joy
                                                                                                  2. Do not worry about her starving
                                                                                                  3. Do not let her use it as an excuse not to be at a family meal.

                                                                                                  Meal times at my house as as much to do with being together as it does the food. My sister is juuuuust now starting to embrace a wide range a food and many meals were her sitting there eating a bowl of cereal she fixed herself while we ate axis lobe. The point is Do not make this a battle. The more this is a non issue with you the more you are creating a comfortable atmosphere for her to explore things at her own pace and time.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                      <<Do not let her steal your joy>>

                                                                                                      AND even more importantly, the OP shouldn't be trying to steal her daughter's joy!
                                                                                                      there is no reason for a stepmother of a 15 year old to decide to take over control of the kid's, relatively normal, food choices. the kid is not eating spiders or dogs or poisonous mushrooms.
                                                                                                      the kid is eating food that has been and is socially acceptable in her own social group.

                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                        I'm not sure where you're reading that the OP is trying to "steal her stepdaughter's joy" OR "take control" of what the kid eats.

                                                                                                        She just asked for suggestions on how to help her stepdaughter eat something more nutritious than chicken nuggets and slushies while she lives at her and her new husband's home. In no way is the OP demanding that her stepdaughter eat what she cooks. She was looking for encouragement.

                                                                                                    2. I am also a stepmom to two picky eaters- they are now 12 and 18. When my husband was a single dad, he relied on takeout, frozen pizza, and the occasional meal on the grill. When I moved in, I started cooking dinner most nights. Over the last 3 or 4 years they have become less picky about certain things- they have embraced sushi and Szechuan cuisine with a passion- but they don't eat any vegetables and are not, um, enthusiastic about home cooking. However, I have tried to really pay attention to what they like and what they order in restaurants, and have found some things they like and other things that they at least tolerate.

                                                                                                      As others have posted, I think the best thing to do is to give her time, and don't take it too personally when she doesn't embrace your meals. The other good tactic is to make dinners that give everyone a little bit of control- for example, I'll make chicken and cheese quesadillas for the kids and chicken/veggie quesadillas for the adults. You can do this with individual pizzas, sandwiches, etc. I'm not going to cook a separate meal, but this doesn't require much extra effort and keeps the peace.

                                                                                                      I leave it up to the husband to be the food police. I'd probably be a little more insistent about at least trying food before it's rejected, and eating more fruit and fewer chips, but it's his call. He's very good about making sure the freezer and pantry are stocked with alternates when dinner is just a bridge too far.

                                                                                                      Hang in there!

                                                                                                      1. Speaking from having watched my friend deal with her 15 yo stepdaughter (whom she loved very much and had been the primary mother figure for since the kid was 5 or so)... you gotta pick your battles. Focus on what's actually important (her schooling, whether she speaks to you and others respectfully, etc). And if the girl has picked this as HER battle, because she sees she can get to you this way, time to retreat.
                                                                                                        Although with a range of foods that limited, it sounds like the issue is deeper than just trying to piss you off. And not something you can change overnight or through force, especially if her parents aren't on board. So the above advice still applies. Good luck and try to find other ways to relate to this girl.

                                                                                                        1. I recall my college biology prof saying teenage defiance is biologically programmed. Without it kids would never leave the nest.

                                                                                                          As a step parent/spouse you have to pick your battles. And engaging in a food fight is not a good idea. But I would not make two dinners.

                                                                                                          Good luck.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                              AND if the parents avoids getting into an all-out pissing contest with the adolescent, at least in my experience, the relationship doesn't get as damaged and it can be easily reconstituted later on.

                                                                                                          1. bblonde, you have my sympathy. It is hard enough to be a parent to a 15 year old girl (which in my experience, having had one, was the WORST age of all for teenage angst, etc.). But a 15 year old teenage stepdaughter? almost impossible to navigate those waters unscathed....

                                                                                                            I've never been a stepparent, but hubby has. He and I got married when my daughter was 15, and she did live with us. A few thoughts based on my own experiences and observations from that time:

                                                                                                            First, yes, of course, it is an act of defiance. Being 15 is all about defiance (especially for girls, IMO), and add to that the fact that she has to deal with a stepmom. Of course a part of her is angry. So (as others have said) don't buy into it by insisting she eat your foods. That will only escalate the war. If your husband insists she eat with you at dinner, insist that HE enforce that rule, not you. She is old enough to make her own decisions, and live with them.

                                                                                                            Related: don't feel bad about the defiance. Others have said 'don't take it personally'. Well, frankly, it probably IS at least in part personal. A part of her feels like you've stolen her Dad from her at a tough point in her life. Don't feel bad regardless. You can't control it, you can't change it. There is plenty of love to go around, plenty of anger too. Don't try to fix it, or her, whatever you do.

                                                                                                            Secondly, while I think it is great to try and involve her in cooking, baking, whatever, IF she is interested, DON'T push it, and whatever you do, don't ever let her think you are doing this to try and help her or for her benefit. She will just resent you and think you are interfering. Especially don't give her the message that you are trying to help her grow up by giving her life skills that she can use when on her own. The message she will hear is 'Stepmom thinks I am not good enough as I am. Besides that, she can't wait to get rid of me. *()#($)# her.' IMO, the way to involve her is sort of the same way Tom Sawyer got others to paint the fence: let her know you are going to bake cookies (or whatever) and that you are going to have fun doing it....and you are perfectly happy to do it alone, because it is FUN, but if she wants to join in and then get to taste test, well that's ok too.... Note that I am NOT suggesting you cater to her: let her know that you are asking about the menus so that you can plan what YOU are doing because that is important to you. If she doesn't like the offerings she can figure it out on her own, and cook from the freezer. Don't force, don't cater. Let her come to you when she is ready. If she is never ready, that's ok too.

                                                                                                            But here's the thing: it does get better. You may be surprised at what you get back some day. Someday she will show her appreciation for you and possibly even for the food you cook. Hopefully it will be before she turns thirty. :-)

                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                              This was so well-written and voiced! Great advice!

                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                ya well.. I am not ever going to be nasty or mean to my mom.. she is awesome.. and even if i roll my eyes sometimes.. I would never ever treat her the way I see and hear other kids treat their moms...and I cant see some weird magicbirthday kicking in making me into some sort of monster

                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood


                                                                                                                    Maybe, maybe not. There is not just one way to do this.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                      I'm just not very confident in someone being able to foresee the future, is all.

                                                                                                                      We've all thought at one point or another "that'll never be me".

                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                        I totally get that, I just didn't get pointing it out.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                          Yes, and to a quite young person who actually seems to have the "right" attitude. What's the point? Superiority?

                                                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                  OMG, this post is AMAZING! Susancinsf, please tell me you are writing a handbook on adolescent psychology, or the name of the one you have already written. Wow.

                                                                                                                  To the OP. I also have a daughter who is 15.5. And it's pretty hellacious! I agree with many who have chimed in here. It's really not about the food. It is probably even not mainly about you, her new stepmother. It is about her having an outlet for all of her complicated feelings/hormones as she goes through each stressful hour of each anguishing day. And she doesn't want to talk about it!

                                                                                                                  I keep a few options available for my daughter to make for herself if she doesn't care for "the family meal". It's not my idea of fine, healthy dining. But it is probably better than what 99 percent of the people of the world eat on a good day. Not a battle worth picking.

                                                                                                                  The other thing is that they are actually really hungry a lot at this age. They do march into the house looking for something yummy to shove in their mouths.

                                                                                                                  It is my experience with both her, and her older brother, that they actually do have preferences. I wrote in another post here that one day, recently, I made a basic vegetable soup recipe because I loved the photo of it here on Chow. The two of them devoured the entire pot of it. The next day they were asking for more. So I made it again and threw in some chicken. They wanted again and I threw in some rice.

                                                                                                                  Now they both want it everyday! And I am happy to accommodate within reason. My son just texted me from college asking for the instructions.

                                                                                                                  On my end the coping strategy is to just stick to good, simple basics that are time flexible. Chicken Soup, Pot roast, Pasta and meatballs, meatloaf, minestrone, beef stew. That kind of thing. The kind of thing where if they ask you what it is, they will dive in. This would not happen with lamb chops in my house, sadly. But I save these more "higher notch " dinner ideas, and try them out once or twice a week. Like a "date night" type of thing. They are welcome to eat it, and I hope they do.

                                                                                                                  But as to the larger issue: with a 15 year old girl, don't pick this battle.

                                                                                                                  My strategy for this fall/winter is to most days have a big pot of something like soup or chili or stew ready by the time she gets in at latish afternoon. If later in the night she feels the need to nuke a hot pocket or something, it will be here and there will be no shame on my part! Entirely her business.

                                                                                                                  1. re: nrthshr

                                                                                                                    I remember being 15 or so and just not wanting what my mom had made. Even if it was something I liked, just didn't want it.

                                                                                                                    She was always relaxed, well, you know where the cereal or the sandwich supplies are, and never was a big deal. We had fruit at the end of a meal, and she knew that I just didn't like (before teen angst) that I didn't care for oranges or bananas, so there were always apples on hand for me.

                                                                                                                    And now, well, I tone down my cooking when my parents come to visit.

                                                                                                                2. She learned her picky eating habits from watching your husband. Don't force your eating habits on them. Battling with her now, two weeks into your marriage, is going to set the stage for the rest of your relationship. It seems many in her generation are existing on chicken nuggets and ziti with marinara sauce. Just keep a supply of that for her to fix and cook whatever your picky husband is willing to eat. Save your fancy cooking for your friends. I was forced to eat as a child and my response was to be almost anorexic until I started datingy husband who said, "You don't have to finish that." That's when I began liking food!

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: moneygold91

                                                                                                                    You are making assumptions here...the OP does not say that the daughter picked up her dad's eating habits. We don't know if the daughter learned it from her mother, if she is in the picture or another family member with whom the daughter may have grew up with until this point. Dad may not have even lived with the daughter or have been around her enough to influence her habits. We don't know the family background such as if the girl has been raised on processed foods. If so, it will take time to open the child to better foods, if at all. She is 15 and not likely to just fall into whatever the OP thinks the girl should eat, even if her intentions are well meaning.

                                                                                                                    My parents are not chowhounds and does not veer far from good old country cooking. I have always eaten some of everything even from a child. It's incorrect to assume a child always gets their habits from the parents.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                                                      on the other hand, moneygold91's main point is extremely valid:

                                                                                                                      having someone else appoint themselves as sheriff over what you eat is unlikely to lead to a good result.

                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                        What are you talking about?? I said nothing here about the OP appointing herself as sheriff over the girl so what is your point for mentioning this? I'm talking about the assumption that the father is the reason the girl is a picky eater.

                                                                                                                  2. Lucky you. Let her fend for herself. She wants pizza, let her eat it.
                                                                                                                    Oh, and figure out why YOU'RE at your wit's end.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                                                                                      Yes, the woman who is seeking a solution to a problem, is the problem.
                                                                                                                      Oy vey.

                                                                                                                    2. For a younger child, I'd suggest locking up the snacks, and enforcing the rule of 'if you don't eat what I make you don't eat.' However she's 15 take her to the doctor, and let them show her what havoc her diet will wreak on her. She's lucky she doesn't have scurvy from the sound of it. It also sounds as if she doesn't like you.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: YAYME

                                                                                                                        "Locking up the snacks"? That only makes them all the more tempting! How about setting an example by not eating junk? That is what makes the most lasting impressive/impact. And BTW, 15 year olds don't like ANYONE, unless they are other teenagers.

                                                                                                                      2. I threw in my two cents worth yesterday. And you have had a ton of feedback, that I've benefited from reading through.

                                                                                                                        The thing that jumps out at me is that you need to come to grips with is why you are asking this question in the first place.

                                                                                                                        Giving her the option of nuking frozen food on her own will be a harmless, self-fulfilling approach to making her aware of better options. She will survive. There are much more important things to try to help a 15 year old with.

                                                                                                                        1. As you say, food is your hobby and the way you express love, but it is other things too and one thing it is is the A #1 medium for a control fight between parent and child. It might be helpful to have a few sessions with a family therapist to get at the facts that underlie the food.

                                                                                                                          1. What time is dinner? It could be simply as nrthshr noted "The other thing is that they are actually really hungry a lot at this age. They do march into the house looking for something yummy to shove in their mouths."

                                                                                                                            If she needs/wants to eat earlier than your normal meal time, you could try adjusting family dinner to that time. Or make sure that last-night's meal leftover is available for her to reheat and enjoy early. Then she can join you two later for conversation over your dinner.