The greatest irony of my life

Nutrition is important to me.

While I love cheese and bread and dessert, I’ve learned that my body feels best when I stick to whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and legumes. There isn’t much I won’t try and enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with new ingredients, tastes and textures.

For the most part, my family is enthusiastic (although they draw the line at my serving clean eating treats to their friends; I get this, as when I was a child, my father bought only ground turkey, not ground beef like everybody else. I was mortified to have friends over for dinner on ‘hamburger night’. Turns out the man was way ahead of the game, ground turkey being a fabulous source of lean protein…).

My husband will eat most anything I put in front of him (although he frequently feels the need to add ‘more’ to my recipes). My 7 and 12 year old sons are a little less accepting, although they’re always willing to try and more often than not end up enjoying my latest culinary exploration.


My 9 year old daughter, however, is a picky eater. Not your garden-variety-I-don’t-like-green-beans picky eater. A GIGANTIC, ENORMOUS, PULL-YOUR-HAIR OUT PICKY EATER!

This is what she eats;

  • Cheese pizza (no sauce)
  • Cheese quesadillas
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Bagels (plain, of course) with cream cheese
  • Cheese strings and toast
  • Goldfish crackers (which are flavored with, you guessed it, cheese)
  • Rice cakes with melted cheese
  • Cheetos and cheesies (not real cheese, but the same orangey-color as cheddar)
  • Plain pasta with ‘sprinkle cheese’ (Parmesan; not the fresh grated stuff, only the pre-shredded powdered variety)

Oh yes, and tonight, she tried (and liked, although not enough to eat the whole thing) a home made, whole wheat cheese scone.

Are you sensing a theme here? Her whole diet consists of variations on the ‘bread and cheese’ theme. Thankfully, she is okay with whole wheat, having never been exposed to white bread.

Oh yes, she also likes chocolate (cookies, cake, ice cream, brownies, bars, chips and syrup, but not, curiously, milk).

The only other foods that regularly touch her lips are peanut butter (on a spoon), waffles (with chocolate syrup, of course) and Cheerios.

No fruit, vegetable, meat, poultry or fish has been knowingly consumed by this child since she was about two.

Can you tell that this drives me stark-raving mad!?!?

What’s a nutrition-conscious mom to do?

I’ve tried bribing and cajoling. She’s more stubborn than I.

I’ve attempted starvation (okay, not really, but not allowing her to eat anything other than what I’ve served for dinner and going to bed hungry). She’s fine with that.

For years now, people have been telling me that she’ll outgrow it. She hasn’t.

I do have a couple of tricks for getting healthy extras into her;

  • wheat bran, quinoa flakes, flax seed and eggs in her waffle mix
  • pureed banana or applesauce or zucchini or carrots in her chocolate chip muffins
And of course, I give her a multi-vitamin with omega-three fatty acids.

For what it’s worth, I have a theory about why she’s so resistant to trying new foods. It has something to do with her early health issues and hospitalizations and the urgings of our pediatrician to forget about introducing fruits and veggies to her at 4-6 months. She needed to put on weight quickly before an important surgery and we were encouraged to give her calorie-dense foods, including sweetened yogurt, high fat cheeses and scrambled eggs made with whipping cream. My theory is that we simply missed the window of opportunity when a child is willing to explore new tastes and textures through food.

Maybe, maybe not.

Regardless, I am at an impasse. There are no answers in this post. I am keenly aware of the danger of making food an issue with a young girl. I don’t want her labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I would however, like her to develop a more adventurous palate and of course, to be eating from all four food groups on a daily basis!

Do you have or have you ever had a picky eater in your family?

How are you dealing with it? How did you resolve the issue?

Suggestions for me, please?

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  1. Does your daughter still have low-weight issues?

  2. OOO, that was an assumption… or did she ever have low-weight issues?

    • Julie, no low weight issues as in anorexia, bulimia or body image.
      But, she was a low birth weight slightly premature infant and she has has always been below the 20th percentile in both height and weight. She has hit all her milestones, though, so may just be petite.

      • That’s important information. That makes it more challenging because maybe the fear is that if she isn’t allowed to eat whatever she wants, then she could lose weight and the weight loss could affect her health. Is that what you’re dealing with?

        • Yes, in part I worry about the health consequences of her losing weight. She has pulmonary hypertension (high pressure in the pulmonary artery due to damage done between her first and second open heart surgeries before she was two) and takes meds four times daily to control it so weight loss is not desirable. But also, I know that eating more heart healthy foods would be good for her too. So it’s a fine line between respecting her food choices (or lack thereof, LOL) and insisting on the inclusion of more, healthy options. Man, is parenting ever hard work!

  3. yikes, lil punkin is picky

    When I hear picky, I think of my JJ and go…yup…got one of those too.

    mine goes thru phases where he will be adventurous and when he won’t. when he won’t I make smoothies and he loves them so YAY there but he’s 3 and not 9. I doubt if he were 9 I could get away with it…but I’ve always had a rule which is “you don’t have to like it but you have to try it”

    and yes, he gets what I serve him and he can chose to eat it or chose to go to bed hungry.

    most days he choses to eat at least some of it.
    sorry, this wasn’t very helpful. I tend to think your theory is right.
    my only suggestion is to continue to bnmodel the behavoir you would like her to adopt. and maybe explain why her diet might be a tad off balance.

    and maybe not make a huge deal out of it.
    good luck!

    • Thanks Cindy. I do try and not make a big deal out of it, but some days I feel like ‘enough is enough’!
      It is particularly hard when traveling, eating at restaurants and visiting friends (and especially family) for meals. I guess it makes me feel like a bad parent when I make an alternative for her. I keep thinking how my mom would never do it this way…

      • and my mom MADE us finish man sized plates in order to get dessert and I had to unlearn to eat that way, so I don’t want my kids gorging themselves for sugar.

        so be the great Mom YOU are and stop worrying.

        sorry, I’m chatty today!

  4. i hate it when your comment gets a little long and WP starts making it BOUNCE so you can’t type without getting a migraine!


  5. A friend makes fruit smoothies that appeal to her picky eater.

  6. I was just reading your comment about your daughter being below the 20th percentile.

    My teenager was NEVER above 10th percentile after 1 year. His first few visits were at 50 and then it was 10th percentile or lower.

    Nobody panicked or thought it was odd (but me) I fed him everything calorie dense…he eats like a bird. He is still thin…125 lbs on his almost 6 ft frame but my Dad has the same body type and so does my brother.
    JJ was following in his foot steps but has left the 25th percentile and hit 50th. SHEW.

    Do you have her help you cook? THAT ALWAYS works for me too!
    as long as she is healthy….NO WORRIES MAMA.
    I would live off bread and cheese if I could get away with it!

    • Yes, in all probability, she is and will continue to be petite.
      I do get her to help me cook; her favorite things to help with are cheese pizza, grill cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies!
      Still working on getting her interested in cooking other things…

  7. Couldn’t find reply tab! Julie here…. So, that makes it really challenging, not only the fear with weight, but also the heart condition. Parenting is incredibly challenging and I’m certain you are a fabulous one. ..So it’s crucial to help her change her eating for her health, which can actually work in your favor. You may have already done this, but I’m wondering if it would help to sit down with her and learn about how she feels about food and why (sounds like she might be taking pride in her ability to control this area of her life) . And then perhaps honestly express how you feel and what your fears are. This could possibly begin to help break the ice. Perhaps a second step would be to very gently tell her that you need to change things at dinner time and that it pains you, but it’s necessary for her and for you all. Perhaps if you’re on the same page and she feels understood, it wil open the door for the rest to go smoother… What you have in front of you with your little darling is a big deal, and it’s worth the effort you are putting into it. I am certain that you will succeed….When I was raising my kids, the food I prepared was heavier on nutrition than taste. I guess I just took after my parents with dinnertime eating. The rule was that we ate what we were served. My parents were tougher than me, but in general I like the path they paved. Your situation is tougher because your daughters habits are already established, but I feel confident that things can be reversed. And it’s wonderful that you live the example.

    • Thanks Julie for your gentle and thoughtful reply. I really do need to address the issue now, as my hopes that she would outgrow it on her own are clearly unrealistic. I have Tosca Reno’s clean eating for kids and families and think that I will use that as a springboard for discussion as well as asking her to find some recipes that she would like to make together. I’ll keep you posted…

  8. Hi T,
    My 12 year old son continues to be a picky eater. Over the years I have done the same as you and ‘hid’ veggies and fruits in recipes. I swear my pancakes have more vitamins than a spinach salad!! I am happy to announce that he finally started to eat chicken at around 10 years old, we eat chicken often and I would put it on his plate every single time. I think he got sick of looking at it so he decided to try it. I never made a big deal about it, just served it and rarely prepared him a special meal. The other trick we tried was a new food trial night, once a month I would introduce a new food. Everyone in the family had to try it. This strategy was hit and miss, especially since my husband is probably pickier than my son…. Also, I have accepted the fact that sugar dipped strawberries are still strawberries – I am happy to report that he no longer asks for sugar. I hope it gets better soon, cause once they are teens you really lose control over their eating habits because they have so much more freedom (this has been a tough one for me personally to deal with!) Good luck!!!

    *missing your classes…

    • Hi Deanna,
      I really like your idea of a monthly new food meal. I will definitely try that!
      We had a small success yesterday. I have Tosca Reno’s ‘Clean Eating for Families and Kid’s book. I gave it to my daughter to read and asked her to mark any recipes that she’d like to make. She found a couple and we are planning to try them thiscweeken.

      Then, I had a little talk with her about my concerns and reasons for not wanting to try new foods. Fast forward to dinner, she willingly tried some brown/wild rice pilaf (said the taste was okay but not the texture) and licked a strawberry (it was just ‘okay’).

      So, I will keep offering and try not to make a big deal out of it. I’ve got 4 years until she’s a teenager; hopefully that’s enough time!

      I’m back to teaching tomorrow (Sunday). See you then?

  9. I just came across this today – and OMG I think we have the same middle child. My oldest and youngest are great eaters for the most part, but my middle one – horrible. Even when I was pregnant with him I couldn’t eat most foods (even my mother-in-law’s cooking – and she is an awesome cook). It started right at the very beginning I think. He was in the ICU at children’s in Vancouver for awhile after he was born as he had heart issues. One of the specialists that we saw said that because his tonsils are so big that he likely has issues with swallowing food. Not sure if I totally buy that one or not. He has got better with age though, so I am hoping that as he gets older his range of what he’ll eat improves. I also tried the “if you don’t eat it you don’t get anything else” and he lasted for two days not eating a thing. Sigh.

    • Wow! The similarities in our lives are eerie! Do you knit and exercise too…LOL!
      I am trying to chill about the eating thing but working on it just the same. Parenting is tough, isn’t it?

      • I don’t knit LOL (but my mom does, so I am well stocked in kids sweaters!). I do work out almost daily at PM, but am there early in the mornings before hubby goes to work. One of these days I am sure we’ll cross paths and i’ll introduce myself, and once the youngest is in school I might get a personal training session or two in!


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