Raising a Non-Picky Child

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I was an extremely picky kid, I admit. I didn't think I liked anything--no vegetables or any strange or new food. I was pretty much meat and potatoes, and sweets, of course. My parents would demand that I eat, forcing me, threatening, even hitting, and withholding desserts if I didn't "clean my plate."

I grew out of that when I left home and started dating more. (Young men who didn't think the Dairy Queen was the only place to take a date.) I didn't want to come across as a picky eater when I was taken to nice restaurants, so I began to eat a bigger variety of foods, and found that I liked them.


I married a great guy who loves to eat, and there's very little he dislikes. When we had our son, I was determined that he would not be a picky eater, so my husband and I agreed on certain things we would or wouldn't do.

  • Rule # 1: Never, ever force a child to eat something (unless he/she is going to die if he doesn't, which isn't likely).
  • Rule #2: Never ask a child if she likes something. Just put a small portion on her plate and don't make a big deal out of it if she eats it or not. (I think there are studies that say a child has to be exposed to new food several times before she'll eat it.)

    Don't give her portions that are adult-sized. Their little tummies are smaller than ours. Two-three bites are sufficient, and she can always ask for more.

  • Rule #3: Never say you don't like something in front of your child, no matter how much you may dislike it. As I've gotten older and dealt with elderly family members, so many of them, as adults, were as picky as little kids. I told one aunt, in her 90s, who didn't like chocolate, strawberries, or gravy that it was no wonder I was such a picky kid--all the adults around me were picky. My son didn't know until he was grown that I don't like coconut.
  • Rule #4: Let's retire the "clean plate club" idea. We have an epidemic of obesity in this country, and I believe making kids think they have to eat every last bite on their plate is one of the causes. I use smaller plates to keep myself from eating too much--still working on my husband. :)
  • Rule #5: Don't use dessert or any other kind of food as a reward. If a child won't eat but wants to eat dessert, it won't hurt him, but if it happens too often, then quit serving dessert. Personally, I like to eat dessert first sometimes. It certainly doesn't spoil my appetite.

    I offered my mother-in-law a small candy bar once, a mini Milky Way, before we went out to eat. "Oh, no," she said, "It will spoil my dinner." (She still believes all the old wives' tales.) I told her I could eat the whole bag and still eat dinner.

  • Rule #6: Don't turn mealtime into a power struggle. I've heard of people making their kids sit in front of cold food for hours, determined to make them eat. "People are starving somewhere in the world." Being mean to your kids won't help somebody halfway round the world. If you feel like the food is wasted, cover it and if the child is suddenly hungry an hour or so later, teach her how to use the microwave to warm it up. Don't make a big deal out of it!

    When we eat out, I nearly always bring home half or more of my order, and sometimes I can get two more meals out of a to-go box. Once in a while, we'll have dessert at the restaurant, despite the fact that I haven't eaten everything. They serve food on platters rather than plates in some places.

Well, it worked on my son. He's married, and travels all over the U.S. and even Europe for his job. He was the least picky kid I've ever known. I joke that I'd have to fight him off to keep him from taking my food away from me.

When he was about 3, my husband and I were eating some extra-sharp cheddar cheese, something I wouldn't have touched when I was a kid. He told me he wanted some cheese, so I went to the fridge to get some individual sliced American cheese for him.

"No. I want REAL cheese," he said. And that's what he got.

Of course, we wound up with a kid who would order escargot when he was 10 or 11. (I won't touch escargot--sorry.)

This picture is from my 40th birthday celebration. He and his little cousin had gotten a bit rambunctious, so his dad was telling him to behave. As you can tell, he hadn't missed any meals.


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March 30, 20195 found this helpful

I love that picture. It would make a good Norman Rockwell painting. So cute!!

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March 31, 20192 found this helpful

Here's another of him and his cousin that day, and an updated one (I call them the "bearded ones" now.

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March 31, 20192 found this helpful

Thank you! He grew up too fast.

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March 31, 20193 found this helpful

Handsome fellows!!

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March 31, 20193 found this helpful

Excellent advise. If you know what the child likes serve that I never forced my children to eat or my grandchildren.


My father was an inforcer. Offer them healthy food. Remember when they are grown they will eat what they like anyway.

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April 1, 20191 found this helpful

I used a 3 and 3 rule with my kids when they were small. When I served them something new, they had to try 3 bites of it and if they didn't like it that was enough, for most foods I would offer it and have them to try 3 bites on 3 different occasions. After that, they didn't have to try it again. I never made them eat anything they truly didn't like, but I wanted them to give new foods a chance. All 4 of them have grown up to be very adventurous eaters. Worked for us!

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April 5, 20190 found this helpful

I like this idea, but I never had to use it with my son. One time, we weren't eating at the table, and I served up our plates so we could watch a TV show. I got him and my husband served, and I finally got to sit down. Before I could even get a fork into my food, my son was asking, "Are you going to eat all that?"


I asked him if I could at least taste it before he took it away from me. He could be a little toot at times, but eating was never a problem with him.

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April 1, 20191 found this helpful

When I was growing up, I was not a picky eater like some of my friends were. They complained about the cafeteria food at school. I always cleaned my plate.

We didn't have junk food around like kids do today. We played outside and got a lot of exercise. When meal time came around, we were hungry.

I do remember that I did not like cabbage, beets, asparagus, nor onions. My parents loved these. Later in my teen and adult years, I gradually started acquiring a taste for these foods.

An old saying, which I really don't know if it is true or not is, "Your taste buds change every 7 years". I believe it.

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April 5, 20190 found this helpful

I never really liked broccoli, but I'd eat it. Same with cauliflower and a lot of other green vegetables. Then, I had my allergies tested and found out I was allergic to both of them and even celery. For a while, I could only eat asparagus and lettuce. So certain greens, wheat, and dairy were at the top of the list of things I was allergic to.


My mother said I stopped liking milk when I was about a year old, and to this day, I can't stand the taste of plain milk. (Now I love butter, ice cream, whipped cream, sour cream, and chocolate milk!) My father would force me physically to drink milk, and I hated it and him.

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April 26, 20191 found this helpful

My kids ate whatever we ate. We rarely served dessert. Children who are hungry will be less fussy. Having a garden also helped. They would decide what vegetables would be for dinner and go out and pick them. Our son always said vegetables from our garden tasted so much better.

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