Parent Poll: What Do You Do With a Picky Eater?

My 2 and a half year old was such a good eater before he was able to talk. He’d eat fruits and veggies of all kinds and hardly ever turned his nose to new foods.

Then one day, he discovered he had a voice. And his voice meant he had a choice.

I started noticing him only eating one thing at a time. He’d get onto something such as hotdogs (I know, a lovely choice) and demand to eat it every day. I’d cook up chef-inspired meals from HelloFresh and he’d push it off his high chair. “Dog, Dog!”

Sooner than later we had a picky eater on our hands. I’d pull something out for him to eat and he’d cry. I’d have to pull out 3 or 4 different meals until I found out what made him happy.

Side note: No I was not slaving over the stove, I’d make easy things like peanut butter and jelly, mac-n-cheese, etc.

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes about now. “Eat it or leave it buddy.” But that’s just not my style.

So here we are.

My child has turned into the pickiest eater that he’s ever been. He goes to school and I get notes sent home from his teacher saying he didn’t touch his lunch. You have to know as a first time mother, this completely breaks my heart. I don’t want him to starve and get behind on the charts again. (Yep, we’ve had that talk with the pediatrician before.)

So, as always, I reached out to my community of parents to see what their best advice was for picky eaters. I started off with a poll.

“Parents: When your little one (TODDLER AGE) shows no interest in your food choices do you:

  1. Screw it, let them starve
  2. Offer something else

According to the results (which were a little bit skewed because I had some non-parents answer) out of 108 votes, 52% said to offer something else. These results made me feel a little bit better about the hassle I go through trying to get him to eat something else but the tips they left in the comments were even better. I had 45 helpful comments and took 18 of them to share with my Smother Mother community.

18 Tips for Parents With Picky Eaters

  1. First and foremost….I’m no mother by any means but when watching friends kids overnight and long periods of time I would just sit them in my lap and start eating my meal and they would eventually grab something off of my plate and eat or want me to feed them instead of myself. I do know this probably wouldn’t work all the time. -Kaitlynne
  2. My feeling is kids are picky – I was picky. My brother was picky, I make sure she eats mostly wholesome food. She loves most fruits and veggies, and yogurt – she’s always down for a hot dog or Mac n cheese haha I figure as she grows she’ll like more. No sense in fighting. -Taylor
  3. HadLee has to try it at least once. If she doesn’t like it then we don’t make her eat it. There is very few things that she has tried that she doesn’t like. Since day one I haven’t made a separate meal for her. She has always ate what we had for dinner. -Alisha
  4. Kinlee lived on chicken and rice for like a year because that’s the only thing she would eat- as she got older we would make her at least try whatever it was that we had and if she didn’t like it we gave her something she did. She’s going on 6 now and is super adventurous with food and will eat almost anything! -Josilyn
  5. We do a lot of repeats when we find something the kids like. Random, but almost every kid loves ketchup so I include that in the meal somehow and they are more likely to eat it. I have a crockpot chicken that I mix ketchup, honey and soy sauce with and the kids love it. -Nikki
  6. I believe meals should NOT be stressful. I put out fresh fruits and veggies, with the meal. It’s all healthy options. They eat what they want to. I’ve never made my kids eat anything. And they are unbelievable eaters. One may only have raw carrots and fruit for “dinner” and I let that be fine. The other may eat some of the whole meal. It’s w/ev. And you have to serve a kid something 20 xx before they may like it. Food therapy I know. “Smell it, kiss it, lick it, little bite, big bite” thanks for trying. If they didn’t like it. -Jillian
  7. Both boys are very picky eaters so their doctor has always told me to give them what they want(within reason). If they want spaghetti every night, make spaghetti. I use to make Levi lunch for school everyday but then he got to where he wasn’t eating it. So we tried lunchables and he eats those everyday for lunch at school. I also give him one pediasure everyday to make up for whatever he doesn’t get. -Kristi
  8. Julie was very picky eater – my friend’s kids always ate stuff like beans, broccoli, etc. She told put them on the plate every night and had them just eat one or two, then they started eating them. They ate a good balanced meal. Keep putting out a variety of fruits, veggies, meat and if he can’t find anything he likes, he’s not very hungry. Don’t give in or you’ll have harder time. He’ll thank you later & he will be much healthier. -Barbara
  9. I make Scarlett take one bite (as she’s younger) but Jaelyn has to have three. I rarely make stuff I know they wont eat though. If me & adam want something I know they won’t eat (b/c it’s too spicy or just a really weird dinner) then I will make something different for them. That isn’t often though. I won’t force them to eat something they truly don’t like BUT I also am not going to make a meal for me & Adam then make them mac and cheese/nuggets every night. Ain’t happening. When Scarlett doesn’t really want to eat, then when everyone else is done she can get down from the table. If she ask for food later, I always offer her the dinner she didn’t eat. I would also make sure he isn’t snacking too close to dinner. I will notice that if Scarlett eats a snack too close to dinner she is more likely to refuse dinner. -Tiffany
  10. I think in the long run your children will remember being punished for not eating what you think they need….when you want them to remember a happy family supper that includes conversation and laughs. Vitamins and milk will fill gaps….peanut butter for protein….life’s too short to sweat over Brussels sprouts. -Shannon
  11. Usually I’ll make a small dessert for something to look forward to and they do eat EVERYTHING! If not they don’t get desert and that rarely happens. It’s not a fight because I started them at a young age. I will say they have went to bed hungry PLENTY of times and girl they will eat a breakfast like you wouldn’t believe. -Brittany
  12. We bribe them with fruit. One bite of the food they don’t want, one bite of a banana, slice of orange, raisin etc… it’s hard work, but Dalton is playful and patient with them. I usually try to make meals that they like and introduce new stuff along with it as well. -Ashley
  13. I’d say always GIVE options if you have that ability, but within your means. So if I grilled steak, with a couple different sides you can always have them choose and add some fruit. As long as you give him a choice he will feel more in charge and more open to eating what you’re providing given he gets to choose between a few sides etc. -Ashley
  14. My friend started making smoothies so they got all the fruits and veggies their body needed! -Samantha
  15. Penelope has eaten a steady diet of fruits, crackers, and bread since she was 1. About 6 months ago I started making her just smell certain foods, and a couple of weeks ago I started making her try one new food per day. She’s currently not eating anything new yet, but she has admitted to liking three of the things she’s tried. And there are less tears than in the beginning, so it’s progress. -Brandi
  16. Clark has been in feeding therapy for 1.5 years and we are finally getting (some) progress -Katie
  17. When my kids were younger I always told them they had to try everything on their plate (at least 3 bites) and then I would find ways to make it exciting to be adventurous. For example, they still love all the different greens because ‘it makes their eyes sparkle!” Kids learn from example. -Lauren
  18. A wonderful pediatrician once told me (when my kids weren’t eating) that toddler’s tend to be too busy to sit down and eat. His solution was finger type foods that could be available whenever. The stage doesn’t last forever. -Kelly

After reaching out to my tribe and reading every article on the internet, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is totally normal and hopefully, it’s just a phase for his age. I’ve also learned that we as parents should lead by example. So my stinky eating habits probably haven’t helped the situation. Parenting is hard though, and I’m learning as I go.

What’s your best tips for a picky eater?

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