Do you have a picky eater?

Is your mealtime a tug-of-war over what your child will eat?
Do you run a restaurant, offering a selection of choices at every meal?
Are you trying to please everyone at dinner?

Dinner should be a time for family to come together and share their day.

With toddlers, I know the sharing becomes more a reminder of rules to follow and how to eat, but it does get better with age, a little. 

We never purchased or made baby food. I nursed on demand until they were weaned around two years old. Before that, when a child wanted to try what we were eating, we made sure hot dogs were cut in half, apples were pealed, and no tortillas when they didn’t have teeth (they gummed it, made it like glue, then choked on it).
Because babies want to eat what we ate, they tried everything.
Salsa wasn’t hot until they reached a certain age— their taste buds started working then and they knew it was “hot” (spicy hot, not "hot" temperature).
Texture, spiciness and looks determine how they may originally respond to the food.
But if Dad likes it, they try it. Dad's pickiness effects how his children eat.
Our boys, as toddlers, sat on Daddy’s lap. They ate from his plate. They ate what he ate.
Since my husband eats everything on his plate with great gusto, this encouraged all my boys to do the same.

Toddlers graze all day.
Because of their little stomaches, they eat all the time. But in little quantities.
Little snacks work: fruit, nuts, cheese, crackers, dry cereal. Make them nutritious. If they only have healthy choices, then it doesn't really matter how much or when they eat. I do close down the kitchen after dinner so we can prepare for bedtime and the counters won't be covered with ants in the morning, until they can clean up their own messes.

Sometimes pickiness is because of sickness or allergies.
When a child has a stuffy nose and can’t smell, he can’t swallow crunchy, dry things. Soups, jello, puddings, and other soothing things can slide down a sore throat easier than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I cater to upset stomaches with the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and tea. No caffeine, low sugar. In order to push the liquids (to prevent dehydration) we get gingerale, Sprite or 7-Up and encourage little sips not big gulps. (Because we don't have pop regularly, this treat helps them feel special.)

When we first got our youngest (he was 18 months at the time), he ate only cup-a-soup and drank bottles. (He spit out oatmeal and wouldn’t try other foods.)
This attitude was not going to work for our family. We live on oatmeal for quick morning meals and cup-a-soup was not going to be his meal of choice. I found he had cold sores. When the cold sores were treated, he began to eat other things.

When dinnertime comes, toddlers won’t eat big amounts.
But what they do eat, make it healthy.
If they are snacking on healthy things, a small dinner is fine.
I limit snacks for our youngest after a certain time in the afternoon so he will not chatter through dinner.
We don’t make dinner time a fight. I serve everyone everything. Sometimes I serve them too much. They aren’t required to finish it, but they can't eat later. One sister of mine, who didn't like peas, would leave her peas in her drinking cup. We don't have piles of peas to clean up, but squash isn't the favorite of one of my boys, no matter how I fix it. 
But if they ask for seconds, they are required to finish it, because they asked for it. (This helps them think about their requests.)
If they are ask for less of something or not any, I honor that, after they’ve tried it.

If we have dessert, then we probably have liver for dinner. (It’s a bribe. Eat the liver; get the dessert.)

Most of the boys didn’t tell me they didn’t like something until they had been eating it for years. But the youngest has less inhibitions about telling me how much he hates something. I take his plate away while the rest of us eat. Hate it or not, don't be rude.

What if your husband complains about your food?
Before we were married, a wise man told my husband, “If you don’t like something, tell her after you finish dinner.” Those words have saved my husband from eating something he hates for the next 50 years. That has also saved him from going without dinner when he didn’t like something. (He ate it anyway. Then told me gently “It wasn’t his favorite meal.”)
My husband is not picky. He will try anything. By his bravery (to try anything) and his love (to like it) I feel free to try new recipes, experiment with different techniques and be confident in my cooking and baking abilities.

Early in our marriage, I made a pie. I couldn’t make crusts.
My husband was a baker for Marie Callender’s. He’d make 250 pies just for Thanksgiving. Even without his suggestion on how I could do it better, I felt my inability. He only commented on his ability to make those pies.
My Response:  I didn’t make a pie again for twenty years. (I’m not very good at accepting criticism.) Pie wasn’t worth it to me.

A husband’s pickiness effects his wife’s desire to make him a meal. 
I have freedom to try new recipes or techniques in cooking, because I know my husband will try it and attempt to like it. (His attempts are genuine and encouraging.) If he wouldn't try new things, we would be stuck with the same old recipes that worked twenty years ago. Think how much we would have missed!

If men only knew the power they hold by their words and actions at the dinner table, they can encourage or destroy their wives just by what they say and do.
If my husband had ever complained about what I made, I’d want to throw it away or “forget” to cook. 
Women respond. Men initiate. (That’s not to justify or excuse my reactions, only to share what I would feel like doing. And I’d then have to clean what I threw, so maybe that response wouldn’t be worth it…or maybe it would.)
Accepting who he is and working to be his helpmeet helps you to respond properly, in spite of his actions.

We rarely have desserts. My husband would rather have meat. If we do, it’s brought out after the toddler’s plate is clean.

One son was “too full” to finish his dinner. But when we brought out dessert, he suddenly shoveled his food so he could have dessert. When he piddled through the meal, playing with his food (not allowed) and complaining about his food (also not allowed), he could instantly find nothing wrong with it when dessert appeared.

I started having more desserts just so he would finish his meal. This allowed me to know what he really needed. Then when I figured out how much to give him, I stopped making desserts. And reminded him of the standard he already had established. Sometimes everyone had left the table when he finished.

Hunger does motivate. If no other options are given, then they will eat what is good for them.
It is easy to acquire a taste for junk food. Who wouldn't want chips, cookies or french fries? But a regular diet of these things can encourage problems when a simple sandwich would do. Who has that much extra money for a regular diet of quick and easy foods?

Do you make your man like what you eat?
Some women are vegetarian and force their husband to be vegetarian too. I always felt sorry for these men. I wondered if the woman realized what she was doing to him.
Eating is such a major part of life…and not to eat something they love seemed to be a great sacrifice of love on a daily basis. 

Nor do I know how I would deal with a husband if he didn’t like vegetables with his meat, or had to have special meals for his health, or if he needed to lose weight. But work to respect him...don't try to change him. Nagging never brings long-reaching results, except frustration for both of you. He isn’t a little boy, respect his choices, even if they aren't your "best."

I do not run a restaurant. I do not serve a selection of items at dinner that children can choose because one doesn't like this and another likes that. What I offer is what they eat. When I know they don't like something, I avoid making it (except, of course liver, because my husband likes that. The rest of us smoother it with bbq sauce and choke it down. Or squash, since that's our staple vegetable in the summer, because that is what we have. See here for recipes for making squash many ways.)

What happens at the table influences evening activities. 
If he complains through dinner, she remembers at night. She has spent all her mental energy trying to love him in spite of his nastiness. And now he thinks she has something to offer him?
It pays to be nice when you don't think it matters. Tell him

This article doesn’t help you much with your picky eater. The source of that pickiness is probably the dad. I’m sorry. You married him. And you really can’t change him (as much as you try).
But respect his choices and that will enable you to cook with a better attitude.
Tell him the power of his words can either break his wife or build her. He can choose.
And you must struggle to respond nicely to what he dishes out.
After all, dinner is for family.

Displaying 1 comment

Steve's sister's one child was a VERY picky eater and that was a big lesson for us when Jason was born. He grew up eating everything and the others followed suit. So we did this one thing right, but made our own other mistakes! I think you're right about the husband having a big influence on the kids. If their father complains about the food, why can't they? God article. And thanks for the information on using zucchini instead of oil. I've been using applesauce for I didn't know about zucchini, but I like that idea. Jeremy has a lot of zucchini for us this year and I still have some grated in the freezer from last year.

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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