Picky Eaters

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

January 15, 2012


Eat what’s on your plate.”

“Don’t take more than you can eat.”

“If you don’t finish it now, you will have it for your before-bedtime snack.”

“No, I will not make a special meal for you.”

This is just a snapshot of the phrases my husband and I heard from our parents, growing up. There was no option, ever, of special meals. If we didn’t meter our food intake properly, it was saved for the next meal. For my husband that included soggy breakfast cereal! We ate with our families and we didn’t get up before anyone was done.

Last night, our friends invited us over for dinner. Levi and their son played well together. Mostly, they played with trains and Magna Tiles. As dinner time approached, I said we should go. Their son, the always generous and amiable kiddo, invited us over for dinner. Mom reiterated the invitation, sweetening the deal by asking me if I had anything planned. We agreed, and extended our visit. I warned my friend not to be insulted no matter what Levi decided to eat. Why? Because we are going through a picky eater phase.

I can’t believe I am the mother of a picky eater. My mother would never have stood for the level of tolerances my husband and I showcase. We are usually really good about eating dinners together, but we’ve gotten lax since my husband got off the apprenticeship program.

Our friends served a simple dinner of cheese and chicken ravioli in pesto with a green salad and green beans. We topped our salads with an Italian or Ranch dressing, dried cherries, and slivered toasted almonds. My kind of meal. We kept the kids’ raviloi plain, without sauce.

How much of this yumminess did Levi eat? None. He ate 5 dried cherries. That was all. One of his favorite foods are noodles and cheese, so you would think a noodle stuffed with cheese would be the next best thing – but no.

Luckily, some fellow moms are going through the same thing. And one mom shared her strict rules of her house. And, luckily, my husband and I are both absolutely tired of this picky eater phase. My fear is that Levi will continue this pickiness into adult hood like one of my cousins did.

So, the rules are thus, from here on out. First, it should be noted, we are not starving our kiddo and he sleeps, well, through the night. If your kiddo doesn’t sleep through the night, I am not sure I’d encourage this. We are confident his other needs are being met and that he’s not silently sick. As such, we feel confident that these rules will address this picky eater problem.

  1. You must try everything on your plate. You cannot say you don’t like it without trying it. You must take a “no thank you bite” before exerting your opinion.
  2. Rude behavior will result in the meal being taken away.
  3. We all eat together. No one leaves the table until everyone is finished.
  4. You must ask to be excused. You must clear your own plate.

So, we did step 3 and 4 at our friends’ house with no problems. In fact, their son followed suit too (it could be a norm in their house). But, Levi refused, absolutely refused to eat anything other than the 5 proffered dried cherries. He did drink one full glass of apple juice and one full glass of milk.

After I told my husband this story and offered these rules, we came to quick agreement. My husband added that packaged sugar will no longer be allowed. And, sweet foods like yogurts and fruit will be allowed after the staple has been consumed.

How did today go? Well, a test it was. Levi was informed that the egg scramble I made for breakfast was breakfast, the only thing offered, and the only thing he was going to get. He was not allowed any fruit, as we often do in the morning, nor was he allowed any yogurt. He was not allowed any juice. He was only allowed to eat, at least one bite, the egg-brocoli-cheese scramble.

He refused. So, he didn’t eat. We saved two bites on a plate for lunch, and packaged the rest with all the egg leftovers into a container for my husband’s work lunch.

We ran errands, and then came home. Levi, of course, stated he was hungry. We informed him, again, that he must have his no thank you bite before having lunch. Lunch was made-to-order sandwiches. My husband and I opted for meat and cheese.

Still, he sat there. I started zoning out and thinking of other things, while my husband took matters into his own hands. One of my husband’s gifts is using humor to diffuse a situation. (Levi probably gets his ability from him!) So, while my focus was elsewhere, my husband was being silly and feeding Levi his no thank you bite of the egg scramble. And, you know what? Levi loved it and gobbled up the huge piece of brocoli left.

He eagerly ate his made to order PBJ, served and made in two separate halves. He accompanied his lunch with a half glass of juice, one mandarin, and a banana.

We napped, and awoke, and I took a cue from my friend. She has a recipe book by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry’s wife) where she describes a program of sneaking in pureed vegetables into regular meals. So, tonight, I made homemade hamburger mac ‘n cheese with pureed carrots in the cheese sauce. I didn’t puree the carrots very fine, so the puree was a little chunky. Despite all that, Levi had three helpings! Eagerly!

We’ll see how tomorrow goes, but it sure feels like good progress.

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1 Comment

  1. Jas

    I, too, fear a picky eater. The Man and I have discussed the possibility at a high level, and our solution is almost identical to yours. Of course, it will be awhile before we have to worry about implementing it, but it’s good to know we’re on the same page ahead of time. I don’t want to end up being a short-order cook in my own house.

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