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Parenting a Picky Eater

Many children can be very picky eaters, causing concern and frustration for their parents. This is a guide about parenting a picky eater.


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By 12 found this helpful
December 2, 2011

I have taken care of over 200 kids (not all at once). Several of them had brought soda and candy bars for breakfast. I said no to that and made oatmeal. They never had oatmeal and refused to eat it.

I told them it was magic oatmeal. Before I dished the oatmeal into bowls, I put a couple of drops of food coloring in the bottom of bowl. I told them that they had to stir their oatmeal once the milk was poured. One had blue oatmeal and another red, green, and yellow. They got so excited they couldn't wait until they got their next bowl of oatmeal. They learned their colors at the same time!

By cj from Minot, ND

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By 3 found this helpful
October 23, 2012

I bought a clear glass dinner plate from the $1 store. I set the plate on top of my granddaughter's Strawberry Shortcake placemat. When she eats her food, Strawberry starts to show through. My granddaughter gets all excited about seeing what is underneath.


By lnygaard from Billings, MT

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By 0 found this helpful
July 12, 2007

If your child is a poor eater, put their child size portion on a big dinner plate. That way it looks like you're only asking them to eat a little bit. It's amazing how willing they are to eat a 'small dinner'.

By Mums' Page from Ireland

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By 0 found this helpful
August 3, 2006

I often have my grandson at my house. Being a toddler, he is a picky eater. I came up with this idea when we were reading a book called "Eating a Rainbow", which was a book to help learn colors.

When Joshua eats a meal with us, I try to fit in at least three foods with different colors. Breakfast might be red strawberries, yellow eggs, and orange juice.


Lunch might have blueberry muffins, red tomato soup, and yellow grilled cheese sandwiches.

We have fun together thinking of ways to make our meals more colorful and eat a rainbow. He is much more willing to try new foods this way and eat healthier.

By Bobbie G from Rockwall, TX

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June 9, 20170 found this helpful

Young children can often be picky about certain foods. However, eating a healthy diet is an important lesson to learn even if it means a few tears are shed. This is a guide about 7 year old won't eat healthy food.

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March 18, 2009

Children are greatly affected by "shapes" of their food. The smaller bow tie pasta is great way to encourage them to eat.


Get creative and serve food in different sizes and shapes for those picky eaters!

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

October 26, 20070 found this helpful

My child is a very picky eater. Over the top. He will only eat a certain type of chicken nuggets from a certain store. That was for a few months, now he won't eat them. He is the same with salami. He won't eat really any veggies except the occasional not cooked carrot or canned green beans. He will not eat meat except a certain type of hamburger cooked only on the stove top. He is afraid of the texture and look of food. Last night he cried for 20 minutes because we made him eat 1 piece of broccoli and 1 cooked carrot that were dipped in ketchup.


I know, make him sit until he eats, well he will go for over 2 1/2 hours (he is 7). Any suggestions to help a picky eater with sight and texture phobias? Being cruel and forceful with this child is a waste of time. In every other aspect he is a great caring fun loving child. He is not autistic so I know that is not his problem. Thank you. Lisa


By (Guest Post)
October 26, 20070 found this helpful

I have a picky eater also. I try and give as much variety as possible that she will eat and supplement it with children's vitamins.
Children's taste buds are way more sensitive than adults. They are much more likely to eat bland foods such as Mac and cheese, chicken, potatoes, eggs or sweet things like fruit.

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October 26, 20070 found this helpful

try letting him get involved in fixing his foods. He is 7 so I know he would be interested in it. For sandwiches use cookie cutters in animal shapes let him cut out his bread even meats like ham bologna cheese etc. with the shapes. buy the soups in the cans with fun characters like Dora, Spiderman, etc, and maybe he will find those of eye appeal to eat.


I would not making eating an argument or be forced. At 7 if it's of interest in some way maybe it would look and taste more appealing to him. here are some helpful sites
http://www.eart  10waystoeat.html

http://communit  t-Healthier.html

http://www.asso  hild_to_eat.html

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October 26, 20070 found this helpful

it sounds like he might be OCD or autistic. check them out. but he will eat when he is hungry. fussing over his not eating will probably make him worse. give him his food and ignore. i would think he would start eating maybe several days but he will eat.

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October 26, 20070 found this helpful

Welp! if he's hungry enough hes going to eat. (may it be what you have cooked or not)

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October 26, 20070 found this helpful

i read somewhere a while back that kids would eat just about anything if it was served in a flour shell (rolled up like a burrito)
It's been a long time since I had a 7 yr old to worry about so maybe the flour shell idea won't suit you or your child - but one can only hope- huh !?
good luck !
http://au.answe  023182900AAohhST

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

My 8 year old son is getting pickier and pickier with food. He used to eat Chicken Nuggets, Grilled Cheese, Mac N Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Burgers and Hot dogs. Now all he wants is pizza.

He refuses the Nuggets saying they are not cooked right (but they are the same as always). Hot dogs he says we burned once and now he will not eat. Burgers, can only be cooked on stove and now he is saying he does not like the taste.

I think he has a thing with textures. All he wants is pizza or sometimes cheese tacos and only Granny Smith Apples. Any suggestions? We do try and make him eat other things but it is a long drawn out fight of wills. Is there a doctor I can take the child to and they would explain to him the importance of eating good? Help, I am so frustrated.

mom of 2 from Westland, MI

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By 0 found this helpful
October 4, 2010

I can't get my 6 year old to eat anything besides junk. I know if I don't buy it she can't eat it, but she won't eat anything then. She's an only child so it's not like she has a big kid to follow. I eat everything healthy you can think of, but she pays no mind to that. I'm constantly fighting a losing battle. Any ideas?

By CraftyMom from Pasco, FL

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November 15, 2006

My 3 year old son with autism won't eat anything but McDonald's fries, pancakes, and PB & J sandwiches. I have tried every trick in the book. Any suggestions? (Accepting potty training tips too.)

Robin from Palm Bay, FL


By Lee-Ann (Guest Post)
November 16, 20060 found this helpful

I am not sure, Robin, but I have a 3 yr. old daughter newly diagnosed with autism and would love to hear from you, if you're interested...You could leave a response and let me know.

My daughter is in the midst of potty training. It's not progressing too far and she will only eat carbs/junk food. I can get her to take a multivitamin though.

I am beside myself and feel like this is too much for me to handle. I really feel lost.

God Bless.

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November 16, 20060 found this helpful

My daughter is 3 1/2 and was diagnosed with autism late last year. She is super picky and is also a carb/junk food-only eater. I would love to talk more and share ideas with you guys if you'd like to. My daughter is nearly potty trained finally! She fought it for months and all of a sudden it seems as though something "clicked" and a couple of weekends ago she just ran up to me and said she had to go potty and she hasn't looked back since. I guess up until then she just wasn't ready and now she's diaper free during the day and wears a pull up during naps and nighttime. Good luck - it's such a hard time going through the whole potty training thing - especially when you're child is autistic - no matter how well functioning they are. Sending hugs and hope to hear from anybody who'd like to talk more.

Jennifer, Michigan

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November 16, 20060 found this helpful

Lee-ann you need to find some support. It is a lot to handle but after time it becomes easier. Please communicate with someone all of your concerns and if you'd like, we can talk about it thru emails. my address is robinflanary6 AT Feel free to write me anytime. Smiles.

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November 16, 20060 found this helpful

Robin, I have a 3 y.o. grandson with autism. His Mom finds he accepts finger foods better than others. Have you tried fruit with peanut butter on it. cubes of cheese, crackers, and small pieces of veggies. Sometimes he does better if he can carry his food around with him. I know this is not good manners, but may help at home. Linda

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By carla bledsoe (Guest Post)
November 16, 20060 found this helpful

along with getting support from others you might check out the gluten free websites for tips for children with autism. many are found to have gluten sensitivity and shouldn't eat foods made with gluten containing grains. primarily wheat. as in buns, cookies and cakes. a lot of parents seem to find the gluten free diet a great help to their autistic children. i do not have autism but i am gluten sensitive and you wouldn't believe the difference there is when you stop eating foods that contain gluten. i have so much more energy and focus and thank heaven, less depression. good luck

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By Julie (Guest Post)
November 16, 20060 found this helpful

We have a 2 year old daughter, not autistic, but very simular symptoms. We are looking at chelation therapy for her to get her system right. We recently ran a Heavy metals test on her hair, with astonishing results, she has heavy levels of lead, among other things. Her natural elements are all messed up in her body. I believe once we go through the chelation, she will be rid of everything negative in her body, thus making her normal again - No bad eating habits and no hyperisms....Please, if anything, try to run a heavy metals test on your child, that will at least tell you what you are up against here. I have read many success stories for autistic children with this therapy. A friend of mine has a 3 year old who was autistic and is now 80% cured doing this chelation. It's important to find a doctor who knows about it. God Bless and Best wishes! Mom of 4, twinsand2more

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November 16, 20060 found this helpful

1st to your question. i work with autistic kids. we are told from the get go that they only eat certain things. some wont drink juice, some wont eat yogurt or veggies or anything yellow or green. what we find at school if they are REALLY HUNGRY they will eat. we make them taste everything. i am sure iit is devestating at home that they only eat certain things. but these kids are smart in their own way. we find that they usually have everyone bamboozeled. i really would suggest offering her what you want her to eat and nothing else. these children really learn what they are taught and if they are taught the adult will give in then they are just as stubborn as can be.
i do ask you to be careful with the chelation. i am not saying it is bad but 1 of my kids at school is doing it and his behaviors have been much worse since starting chelation.

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By Linda (Guest Post)
November 16, 20060 found this helpful

Do not give in to tantrums for this unhealthy diet. I am a special ed teacher and know from experience that hungry children will eat. PB&J on a healthy bread, made with low or no sugar fruit spreads is pretty healthy. Can you sneak in sliced banana or thin-sliced apple or pear? I would end all trips to McD"s immediately. Sneak pureed fruits and vegies into pancakes, or maybe he will eat pancake rol-ups with sausage or bacon, or fruit inside. Many kids like to dip foods-will he dip pancake rolls into yogurt or the like. Does he drink milk or eat any dairy. Calcium is very important. Be sure he gets a multi vita and maybe a calcium supplement daily. Offer foods in a no-stress manner, just put them on plate and after being confronted with a food many times he will probably take a taste. Don't get into power struggles over food-you can't win these.

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November 16, 20060 found this helpful

First, from a GRANDMOTHER: your child has learned some tricks!! However, if you stay AWAY from McDonalds for a month, you will see that there are OTHER things this child will eat or drink. Perhaps you could try a type of reverse psychology with him, regardless of his Autism?

Since his choice is salty AND sweet, I'd postpone eating normally yourself, to eat ONLY the things you KNOW HE likes to eat, but do NOT look his way OR offer him any UNLESS he comes TO YOU for a bite or two.

Let HIM approach you. STOP TRYING SO HARD TO GET HIM TO EAT. He really likes to PLAY at McDonalds,you know, and you likely prefer to have him "happy" and "fed", but you are doing him NO GOOD by going there. (Have you seen the video, "Supersize Me", about the man
who deliberately ate ALL of his meals at McDonalds
and almost DIED? )

Until McDonalds KEEPS their many past "official"
PROMISES to TRULY make ALL of their "food" nutritious and healthy, rather than the reverse, WE

Also, when you cook, get a stool and allow him to "Watch" and "help", IF he seems interested. Give him:

a spoon to stir
a plastic bowl to mix something in
a tiny spatula to "turn" things, if he's able
and a wad of mixed dough for something to squish
or shape, perhaps a few "spinkles", then cook and taste, IF he wants.

Don't fear his lack of appetite, rather purchase Bugs
Bunny Brand Sugarfree Chewable Vitamins/Minerals
Complete to have on hand to crush up and sprinkle on whatever food/drink he might show "interest" in that YOU are going to consume NON-CHALANTLY in his plain view. Even if a week of nagging, crying, begging passes, DO NOT GIVE IN. The vitamins WILL increase his appetite !

One medical doctor on TV said that phosphorus in one form or another is added to things to encourage
"addictions" to that food/drink, which WORK. Ordinarily, I'd be against it, but in your case, you MIGHT find it working to your advantage?

In analyzing your son's "choice" of foods, you might
begin eating your OWN PB & J sandwiches EACH DAY, with the crust cut off so he can see the contents. Do NOT offer him one, or even MAKE him one UNTIL he ASKS for it.

Another day, make your OWN FRIES, NOT offering him a single bite UNTIL he asks for it. Do not even LOOK at him before, during, or after the meal UNLESS he ASKS for it during this "trial" time.

Make your OWN pancakes, except add EXTRA VANILLA flavor to them, because he is obviously attracted to the fragrance to the Vanilla AND the
MAPLE syrup fragrances. THESE CAN BE THE VERY
DRAW for you, IF you CAREFULLY IGNORE him,...
WANTS ....unless he ASKS! Stick to your guns for
a month and I believe you will see a turn around!

May God bless your efforts, give you the strength
to stand firm, and help you to help the child He has given you to steward. : )

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November 16, 20060 found this helpful

Oops! I forgot to add to my feedback below this, that AFTER you get this child WANTING to eat at home, GRADUALLY you can begin to add something DIFFERENT to what YOU eat in his presence, THE SAME WAY YOU DID WITH THE FOODS HE "PREFERS", BUT gradually thinking along the "granola" lines, and SunChips, and mixed nuts, etc., being EXTRA CAREFUL NOT TO ADD THEM TO YOUR OWN DIET FASTER THAN ONCE A MONTH for the first six months. He obviously has difficulty with changes?

This will prevent your child from reverting BACK to being "set" in what tricks he has learned that you will respond to. It should be a WAY OF LIFE for you to REQUIRE that he ASK for something you are cooking or eating, even if it's a cry or shout.

Once he has done this a few times, you are on the path to better things for him. In the meantime, make your pancakes TINY, and your PB& J sandwiches LESS JELLY/MORE PEANUT BUTTER, then
let your fries get BIGGER with more potato and less grease...etc.

Learn to watch him from the corner of your eye, letting him think you are NOT watching, in hopes that you can bring all of this about. Watch his sugar, in the foods you have around for him to consider.
Salt is not as big an offender, but the sugar can truly alter some children's behavior. It makes my grandchild climb the walls in a remarkable way that even he recognizes it and now restrains himself.

I hope some of this helps you, dear heart. : )

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November 17, 20060 found this helpful

Please be aware that children with autism are not your basic picky eaters. They are not trying to be difficult either. The textures of different foods is what gives them problems. Their brains--which do not function like normal brains in every way-- simply will not allow them the pleasures a normal person finds in food. They are not able to make the choice to eat something and like it. An overwhelming repulsion to the texture of certain foods drives them to refuse the item.

The only thing I can equate this to, is a friend who was going through chemotherapy said that she acquired an aversion to foods she had loved and eaten for years. She claimed it was more than the taste, sort of the feeling of the foods in her mouth. She explained it as an extreme sensitivity her taste buds developed that made her nauseas if she exposed herself to these textures. Her body would not allow her to tolerate the foods. After being off chemo for a while, her taste in foods returned to normal.

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By Cindy (Guest Post)
November 17, 20060 found this helpful

My son, who is 7, and on the autism spectrum, also was very finicky. Ironic thing is, the things he craved the most are what he is not supposed to have. He has been on a gluten free/casein free diet for about 5 months, and we are seeing alot of improvement. You can find GF pancake mix from Bob's Red Mill. It won't have the gluten and he won't miss it. Also, try rice milk instead of cow's milk. It comes in white or chocolate. Our grocery store carrie GF bread, unfortunately it is pricey, but it cleans that out of his system, and once we did that, my son was much more receptive to new foods. I would also recommend staying off all food colors (red 40, yellow 6 and such) Feel free to write, there is so much more to know! cdircks AT

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By Pam Mundorf (Guest Post)
November 20, 20060 found this helpful

Greetings from another mother in your shoes! As far as toilet training, there is a site that gives some great tips. It is It was recommended to me and I have found some great tips. Alas, we are not trained yet, but we keep working. Bless you and your child, and we wish you successes.

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By Sheri Dean (Guest Post)
July 7, 20070 found this helpful

Hi, my son Conner (8) took forever to potty train too (he was almost 7 when we really got it). I'd like to share what worked with you!! Conner is an extremely visual learner, so I took some pictures of his (very cooperative) brother going through each step of toiletting...the pictures were clear, and showed what was supposed to happen in the toilet. I would take him to the bathroom and point to each stage of the process while using hand over hand to help with clothing and toilet paper. Soon after that stage, Conner was "trip-trained" he would go whenever I told him to...but never initiated the process. If I took him to the bathroom on a regular basis, he was dry, but if I forgot...we had a mess.
By this time he was able to read, so I wrote out a schedule for him, telling him where it was appropriate to pee and poop, and that it wasn't OK to do it in his pants. This finally seemed to do the trick!! After only a few days, he was nearly accident free. Apparently, my son just needed to know the "rules" of toiletting....and I had to be extremely vigilant. It took time for the Mom to be ready....once I was commited to the process, Conner progressed.

I hope this helps!

Love and Support,
Sheri D

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By Shannon (Guest Post)
August 22, 20070 found this helpful

My son is also three and will not eat hardly anything either. I use to live in Palm Bay, Fl and now live in Arden, NC. I wish i could give you some helpful advice but i'm in the same boat. Have you had any luck recently. I also am having a horrible time with potty training. I pray everynight for answers.
shannon28704 AT

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By 0 found this helpful
March 2, 2009

I have a 5 year old son who has autism and he is a picky eater. He only eats French fries chicken nuggets and pizza from Lil' Caesar's. Can anyone suggest any tips to get him to eat more foods?

Queede from Detroit, MI

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By 0 found this helpful
October 2, 2011

We recently moved from the UK to Florida. My son was already a fussy eater but would eat chicken, sausages, fish fingers, pasta shapes in tomato sauce, cereals with milk, bread, and yoghurts. Now here in the US he won't eat anything, except some chips (fries) and a fish stick if we are lucky. If we ask him to try stuff we think he'll like he goes into a panic and makes up his mind he don't like it. How can I get him to try stuff without him going into melt down? It's heart breaking.

By Athers1

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By 0 found this helpful
May 26, 2012

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to get my seven year old son to eat anything but bread and butter? I have tried everything I can thing of, but nothing works. Unless we give him his bread and butter he won't stop crying. I don't know what to do, it is ripping the family apart. Please help.

By Brooke

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