Food for Naught.

When he was little he ate everything. He stuffed his face with tofu and Quinoa, spinach and avocado omelets. Now? Not so much. I've written about my struggles trying to feed a picky eater (I should own stock in Annie's Mac & Cheese) before and it's nothing new:
I'll be honest. It makes me feel like a better mom when women I love, respect and admire are in the same boat. 

Behold:



I like to think this is a phase and Archer will soon be back to eating organic greens out of the bag, preferring goat cheese scrambles over a handful of dry Cheerios in a baggie. (WTF is that about anyway?)

In the meantime, I have a few minor pointers for parents like me who wrestle with children who don't eat as well as they should/could:

1. Eat Outside - I bring fruit and nuts pretty much everywhere I go and Archer will gladly accept all berries, bananas and the occasional peach when outdoors. We attend our local Farmer's Market every Sunday as a family and Archer will polish off three baskets of raspberries under the tent. At home? No way, no how.

2. Smoothies - We live blocks away from a Jamba where Archer will totally down a giant Acai smoothie. Months ago, twas my mom's idea to ask the smoothie makers to mix a shot of wheat grass in with the smoothie and voila! Three days a week, people. That is some expensive vegetable trickery. 

3. Dessert bribe - Sometimes this works. Maybe 42% of the time. Oh, who am I kidding. 22% of the time. Might have something to do with the fact that the BIG EXCITING DESSERT is a square of dark chocolate because I'm the food gestapo and am absolutely insane when it comes to processed food and corn syrup OMG I will END YOU with my HATE!

I just hope Archer's rejection of all the best foods doesn't turn into rebellion. I seriously would rather come home to a pack of cigarettes in his backpack than a fast food burger wrapper because that shit is JUST as bad for you but I'm not going into that or else I will probably cry because bad food hurts my feelings. 

Anyone have any tips to add to my short-list? What do you do to ensure your kid's well-eating? What has worked for your family? Or are you one of the lucky ones* whose kid snacks on Asparagus and eats something other than rice at a Chinese Restaurant?


GGC

*HOW DID YOU DO THAT!!????



127 comments:

Nicola Proctor | 3:06 AM

We're in the very same boat; my Ben is 4 and a half and he would exist entirely on yoghurt, grapes and cheese if we let him.

One thing that does go down a storm is making our own pizzas. He won't eat pasta with tomato sauce or anything, but for some reason pizza sauce is acceptable... so what I usually do is roast up some yummy vegetables in the oven the day before and then stealthily puree them, and then mixing them unbeknownst to him into a jar of organic tomato sauce. When he's 12 and I break it to him that he's been gobbling up hidden mushrooms, courgettes, olives, etc. I'll probably wind up giving him some complex or other, but for now I'll take my little pleasures where I can get 'em! :-)

Hellena | 3:19 AM

I have no kids and thus no tips on how to deal with picky ones. I do, however, want to say: yay for you! I'm so excited to see a cool chick like yourself detesting processed food and corn syrup as much as I do. I say again: yay for you! And good luck with the veggies!

Hanasu | 3:22 AM

Hey, Rebecca!! My mom had exactly the same problem with my brother and me. She ended up solving it by making us participate in the "food process". We would make salad or tomato soup or whatever that was simple enough (when we started I was 4 and my brother, 7), something that we could stick our hands in and experience the textures and stuff. After that we were so proud we had made dinner ourselves, we'd eat it all. Even when it was crap and tasted like it (sometimes we experimented with spices and stuff).

Maybe that'd help you with Archer. Hope it does!

Love n' hugs from Spain.

Lila | 3:58 AM

I can't think of the name of the article I read this in right now but you should be able to find it on google.. It's actually a sign that your child is developing a-ok if they're picky eaters. It was proven somewhere (stupid memory fails me where) that fruit, berries and vegetables taste far more bitter to kids between walking age and about six or seven years old. It's natural selection's fault; the kids who thought berries etc were gross at the time they started to be able to get their own instead of cave-mommy handing them to them are the ones who survived, by never going and picking their own delicious handful of completely poisonous berries, and passed on that survival reaction. I know that doesn't help your situation, but when mine went through this stage (and I promise they do get through it - I've got all boys and one day sure as the sun rises you won't be wondering how he survives on so little you'll be wondering WHERE DOES HE PUT ALL THAT FOOD?!) I found it helpful to remember that mother nature designed them to live on pancakes, cheerios and air for a little while, until she deemed them old enough to understand that they should only pick the fruit and veg cave-mom picks! Good luck and your babies are GORGEOUS!

Rosie | 4:20 AM

I must admit to having a diet worse than a small child. To be honest, I have very little education in what is healthy/what isn't, and though I know obviously that buying loads of veg is good for you, I'd have no idea what to do with them. i vote for a Girl's Gone Child food-guide post! Tell us what's healthy and maybe a few recipes? That would be awesome!

Anonymous | 4:37 AM

I confess! I am aheretic. I just don't make ti an issue. Seriously. My kids don't eat all organic and we don't abstain from all fast food, btu since we are broke, it's easy to forego it. If we eat it once a month, I'd be surprised. I don't keep them from mac and cheese, but I don't cater either.
The weird thing is, we get kids coming up to us at teh swimming pool saying things like "So you're the mom whose kids eat like bunny rabbits."

Most of my kids are easy to entertain when it comes to food. They start making simple things like egg salad at five years old and they will eat celery and carrots all day long. Raisins? Dessert!

But, my mother never let me even so much as taste lucky charms. i still resent it, and to celebrate my freedom, I go out once or twice a eyar and buy a box to eat. WITH MY CHILDREN. Evil, I know, but it works.

The thing with organic is that eventually, you may move, like I did, to a place without Trader Joe's and then, you learn, you really can live without. It's a matter of being in touch with balance and not pushing. I let my kids have treats, but most of the time they enjoy whopping large bowls of split peas or garbanzos or whole wheat and organic peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Does that make any sense?

Every one of them loves spinach and broccoli and even cabbage, so I think it is a fair deal.

No bribes. No deprives.

kipker | 5:03 AM

It makes me smile inside knowing mine is not the only one living and surviving on mac n cheese. I am convinced it has something to do with color. i've tried vegetables the same colors as mac n cheese. not to many out there but hey, whatever works. oh, and we are totally eating lunch outside today. Thanks for that little tip.

NicoleC | 5:03 AM

Save your money and make your own smoothies at home.
4 oz oj
4 oz cranberry pomagranate juice
(Or 8 oz of the juice or milk of your choice)
1 cup frozen or fresh fruit (the brighter the color, the easier it is to hide the "good" stuff)
1/2 cup yogurt
Heaping handful of fresh spinach
1 tbsp milled flaxseed (or weird hippie food of your shoice)
Ice if you use fresh fruit
Blend until smooth and put in a cup he can't really see through. Voila.

Stephannie | 5:05 AM

In my family, I was just encouraged to try new foods. If I didn't like it, I didn't have to eat it. All that was expected of me was to try.
I think having the pressure removed from having to eat it all if I didn't like it, helped immensely. I tried ANYTHING that was put in front of me.
On another side note: never allowing your child to have the "bad" foods once in a blue moon, will make them want to try it all the more. I remember one particular girlfriend I had in public school would be all over a can Coke because it was forbidden in her home.
I'm just saying, man...
Also, I'm pretty sure, a pack of cigarettes, is far worse than the occasional fast food whatever - be it a burger or fries.
Good luck!

Sarah | 5:14 AM

My son began asking questions about the body and "skelingtons" when he was 4 so i bought a childrens anatomy book it is quite indepth but the pictures are child frendly drawings so it doesn't freak out the little ones. The Book talks about the digestive system and how food efects you. He has always been good with food when he can back up what i tell him about the heath benifits with facts and pictures in his book i go quite indeapth with the explanations answering his questions about the benifits of each particular food as best i can. And now when his little sister shows signs of being fussy with her dinner he instantly backs me up with "you have to eat that broccili its the only green thing on your plate and you have to eat green things because..."

butwhymommy | 5:24 AM

My daughter will eat any and every fruit invented but veggies are tricky. I've found if she helps me make dinner she will eat raw veggies like carrots and peppers off the cutting board so we do that a lot.

The only way she will eat green veggies is if its broccoli covered in cheese or edamame with soy sauce. Whatever works.

It also helps that she wants to be big enough to ride a certain ride at the fair this year so she will eat veggies if reminded about that (sometimes).

Ameya | 6:05 AM

My brother and I (and our mother before she married a Californian who would not put up with her potatoes-and-chocolate (not at the same time) living) are both picky eaters. To this day. (i didn't grow up with my fancy-eating father)

Honestly i harbor a bit of resentment at my mom for never getting me used to the things i hated. For me it's a texture issue more than anything, but she never once thought to be creative and make smoothies or try new things. I grew up completely on mac an cheese, ramen & mcdonalds (before i went vegetarian at 13). I now married someone similar to my father in that I drive him absolutely insane with the fact i literally only eat 13 things (he counts... all the time). I hate it too. It's embarassing and such a pain in the butt.

Its not that i wish she forcefed me nessesarily (and there are some things that are just GROSS and i dont want to learn to eat!) but i wish she would have tried to help us work through it. So.. don't give up! Smoothies and creativity is what i suggest. Oh, and peanut butter on bananas always worked for me ;)

renee | 6:12 AM

First, let me say that it gets better: my 4-year-old eats like Archer but my 6-year-old eats (almost) like a normal person.

My tip: feed them veggies for snack, when they're hungriest. I give them cut-up celery, carrots and cukes before dinner and don't worry about what they eat during.

Also, don't talk about it! I'll share with you my single finest parenting moment: the kids are at their little table eating their snack crap (booty of some sort), and I find a bowl of cold steamed green beans in the fridge. Without saying a word, I put the bowl on their table. They finish the booty, and go straight for the green beans. Ta-da!

Krystal | 6:14 AM

I have that same stinkin problem with my 2 and 3 year olds... Grrr... Gets me so upset.
I how ever figured out if I put the food, doesn't matter what it is, in a coffee mug, my boys will eat it!!!
I cant even tell you why they like the coffee mug so much? We dont even drink it, nor own a coffee maker. Yet the mugs are magic!

Anonymous | 6:34 AM

Make your own salad. My kids love it.
Put out on your table:
raw spinach
cut up hard boiled eggs
cubes of cheese
whatever cut raw veggies you have around (peppers, celery, blanched green beans, etc)
nuts (sunflower seeds, soy nuts, walnuts, toasted almonds and pine nuts, etc)
slices of salami or ham or whatever you have
pickles
etc, etc.
You get my drift.
They get to assemble it however they want.
I promise you, my kids think it's greater than sundae night. I think it's because they have control over their choices.
Might work, good luck

Dyar Baby Momma | 6:39 AM

Right now for our almost 2 year old bribery works best, but she likes most things so far... generally if she doesn't its a texture thing - like bananas. (Well that and she doesn't like sweets - don't know how I have a daughter who doesn't like sweets but we go with it).

So generally she'll finish the one thing she really likes 1st, and to get more we say she has to eat just a couple bites (and we usually lay them out) of whatever else we want (usually the meat, she is pickiest about that). She seems to get the concept, will eat it and we give her more of whatever she wanted, just a small portion.

We do make sure (90% of the time) we are eating the same thing.

Other tricks - if I go to eat it off her plate with my fork, she'll take my fork and eat whatever it was. Or just us actually eating off her plate she'll usually try whatever.

I am trying hard not to force her to finish anything, just want her to try things. If she likes it great, if not, we'll try again another time.

I am lucky so far in that she does eat a pretty wide variety of foods (she loves broccoli of all things). I don't think its necessarily anything we did. Her avoid list is any really sweet fruit or sweets... can't really complain there. Oh and boca burgers - she decided she won't eat those for some reason.

Karina | 6:46 AM

I don't have children of my own, but i have this talk with friends and family quite often.
As a child I remember having to sit at the dinner table until I ate atleast of half of what was on my plate. Oh i would kick and scream and cry, try every angle to get out of dinner. But i was NOT allowed to get up.
I disliked a lot of vegetables during my childhood. But one thing that I remember that made me want to eat different foods, and healthy foods was how "cool" my parents thought i was for having such a wide palette and how proud they were of me for eating healthy.
I remembered feeling really honoured when my dad let me help him make dinner, by measuring a cup of water for the rice or veggies and so on. And that made dinner feel more special.
OH, also we had a small garden in the backyard and my parents included me on the watering and tending. Because I felt so apart of it, I used to eat snap peas and cherry tomatoes by the handfuls some day.
Once I hit about 10 I was eating and trying everything; fiddleheads, squid, gorgonzola cheese, and stuff most kids wouldn't like.
Sitting together for dinner has never really been a big thing in my family. Instead we would plan meals, go shopping together, and all take part in making the meal and compliment eachother afterewards.

I dont think it is a big issue that archer is a bit picky at that age, from the sounds of it you are definitely not alone. I have friends who's parents only cooked them mac and cheese, hot dogs, and steamed chicken every night. They just gave up on getting them to eat new foods and now they are in their teens and they order chicken fingers and fries every restaurant they go to.

And hey! Now I am an adult, I've been a vegetarian and very organic loving foody since i was 15 and there isn't one vegetable I don't like.

Jules | 6:54 AM

Sorry. I'm one of the lucky ones. My 3.5 year old has been a great eater from day one and just last Wednesday happily tried an oyster on the half shell at the Santa Monica's farmer's market ("Mommy, I'm eating the beach. Do you taste the beach?").

I read that a lot of pickiness is inherited, either via nature or nurtre. You don't seem picky, but is Has as good an eater? If so, I have not thoughts. But I do credit my kids' good eating in part to making homemade baby food for them and also getting them off purees as soon as possible so that they understood what real, fresh food tastes and feels like.

Good luck. I don't envy your position, but really, in the grand scheme of things, he'll either outgrow it or he won't (I have an adult friend who eats pasta with tomato JUICE and very little else) and with a good mulit vitamin, it makes very little difference in life, ya know?

Anonymous | 7:03 AM

My kid is crazing about dipping things. He loves to dip veggies in humus, chicken in BBQ sauce, anything in ketchup (I make it myself or else ewww.) That seems to help.

Otherwise, my friend picked up the book by Jessica Seinfeld about deceiving your kids by hiding veggies in their food until their habits change. I think it's a cop-out, but her kid now eats broccoli and mine doesn't it.

Go figure! Good luck!

Carla | 7:17 AM

Like you I'm extremely comforted by the admissions of other moms that mac & cheese & frozen pizza are all their kids will eat. We're going to try to get our daughter involved in the process which means we're going to have to learn to cook more from scratch. We can't blame her for loving the food she does when half of our meals are made in the microwave =(
Here are a few things I've done:
-Green smoothies once a day (popular one = spinach, bananas, blueberries, soy milk, avocado) you can mix so many good things in & you can't even taste it. The whole family has them.
-DD loves yogurt & cottage cheese so we'll squirt some flaxseed oil into it.
-She loves apples & bananas so we stock those in the house all the time. If it's healthy or even remotely healthy & she likes it then we'll buy it by the boatload!

Good luck to you! I think lots of toddler moms are in the same place so it's totally just a phase they go through. I know I was a picky eater & now I'll try anything.

Adrianne | 7:18 AM

I don't have any kids yet, but have decided that when I do, this will be my "big thing." I'm so fed up and disgusted with the food situation in America! It's just horrible the kinds of things we eat and feed our kids (the collective "we" that is). So even though I know you're looking for more tips, I actually have a question for you. At what point did Archer's eating habits change? I know that I'm kidding myself to think that I can keep ALL horrible foods away from kids, but my hope is that I can at least keep the really bad stuff away, so they never even develop a taste for it. I tend to think it's all about habit, and if I can establish those habits early on, hopefully they'll stick. So I'm a little disenhearted to hear that you have trouble with Archer because I imagine you did things pretty similarly to the way I want to do them. Any suggestions?

I also wanted to add that I really liked the idea that someone else said about teaching the kids about their bodies and explaining how food keeps them healthy (or on the contrary, makes them sick). I don't think it's wrong or even a lie to tell your kids that some of those "great tasting" things can make them VERY sick and they shouldn't eat them. Is it wrong to scare them into not drinking soda and eating fast food? Because to me, it's just the truth, but again I have no children, so I don't know the proper way to go about that. Anyway, sorry for all of the questions, and I understand if you don't have time to answer them. Best of luck to you with this!

Nancy | 7:26 AM

My kid is very picky too, but I just had to boast about one tiny little thing, because I think it's amazing:

The kid eats cauliflower. I have no idea why. I think I didn't even like cooked cauliflower until I was in my 30s. But he eats it without fail.

The one other guaranteed veg we have is edamame.

In every other way, he's a picky eater. One time he threw a screaming fit because we only had Diego yogurt and not Dora yogurt.

Go figure.

Kristi | 7:31 AM

My daughter is 14 months old, and still hasn't reached the picky stage, thankfully. Like you, I feed her "real" food and she rarely has any processed food.

We went to my in-laws for lunch and they tried feeding her Kraft singles and lunch meat, which she has never had. Annabelle simply made a face and took the food out of her mouth, examined it so she knew what she didn't like, and put it on the table.

I was so proud!!! Annoyed at my in-laws for serving such food when they know what we eat at our house, but that's a whole other story.

Anonymous | 7:32 AM

Being a very picky eater myself, I make a conscious effort to keep variety in my daughter's diet. My husband does all of the cooking, so that makes it much easier! Here are my tricks:
- She gets to choose one meal per day. If she wants pancakes every morning for breakfast - that's just fine! We get to choose what she has for lunch and dinner. Snacks are always fruit, yogurt, other healthy options.
- She gets two choices. You have to eat the green beans or the broccoli. You choose.
- She's really into dessert so if she doesn't eat at least SOME of each thing on her plate she won't get any. A small scoop of sorbet is the only bribe I'll use.
- The big girl trick works most days. Mommy's eating broccoli and she's a big girl.....

One caveat - My daughter was a preemie and was in the NICU for weeks....several just to gain weight. So I'm a bit crazy about her eating. Obsessed, in fact. She must eat something and she knows it. She's a healthy kid and certainly isn't malnourished so sometimes I just have to let it go so that I can enjoy a meal myself. :)

Lauren | 7:32 AM

Have you seen the "Deceptively Delicious" cookbook? It's incredible as sneaking good for you foods into stuff kids will actually like! My sister in law swears by it. http://www.deceptivelydelicious.com/site/

Amanda | 7:44 AM

my kids are 5, 2 and new, the older ones eat everything only because I dont give them an option. You eat my food or you starve. We have never even made Mac and cheese out of a box before. And seriously my kids beg for broccoli!

Laurie | 7:53 AM

As a mother of 21, 19 AND 14 year olds, I look back on those days with bittersweet nostalgia. OK, not really. None of them would eat, and I quickly settled on this: put good food in front of them, require them to try it one time to see if the might like it (artichokes, while yummy, can certainly appear intimidating when presented as food;
so can mashed bananas I'd guess). If they (say they) don't like it, give them something easy, dull and acceptable to them, along with a multi-vitamin. Assure yourself that they will not starve, nor perish due to rickets.

Eventually they all find their palate without the lifelong food hangups associated with being force fed canned peas in childhood. (That one's mine - don't even consider trying to feed me peas of any sort.) Try to relax. The more you make it an issue, the more it becomes an issue, and nobody's having any fun.

And yes, they all now eat nearly all vegetables (no celery - what's with that?), sushi, tofu, artichokes and bananas, typically unmashed, these days.

mommablogsalot | 7:56 AM

My son wouldn't even eat the rice at a Chinese restaurant - he'll hold out for the fortune cookie. :P

Livia | 8:04 AM

My daughter's (age 4) tastes seems to change weekly, it is hard to keep up. I try not to stress too much during the weeks when she will only eat pb&j and ice cream. Why don't I let myself stress? Because my mother is STILL stressing about my brother's (age 28) eating habits. She tried SO HARD, and my brother certainly did not make things easy for her, when we were growing up to make us love our fruits and veggies and yet she was only 50% successful. I love fruits and veggies and my brother is strictly meat and potatoes. I try to set an example in my own eating habits for my daughter and coerce when I have the energy to coerce but I don't drive myself crazy cause worrying about it is no guarantee of success. I also raise a lot of my own food because that's something I enjoy doing and hope that that will also encourage her, but again, my childhood gardening memories involve my brother throwing rotten tomatoes at me and me screaming at him, "DON'T PICK THOSE CARROTS, THEY AREN'T READY YET!!!" He would run away laughing with the baby carrots, one of the few veggies he ate and still eats.

Elizabeth | 8:04 AM

I was totally that picky kid, and grew out of it eventually. Now that I'm expecting, I'm definitely glad to be getting tips on how to deal with this! I was hoping exposure to a variety of healthy foods would work, but it sounds like that's not always the case.

I realized in my late teens that a lot of my food aversions related to my parents' bad cooking. I'm sure that's not your situation, so I'm sure he'll realize that your food is good when he gets over the picky.

Jelena | 8:05 AM

My kids is little but I have some pointers I picked up in my Nutrition doctoral program.

1) Cook with your children. You will amazed. Archer is likely to eat what he actually makes with his own hands.

2) Do not cook a special meal for Archer. Eat a healthy family meal together (when possible).

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com | 8:06 AM

I am the cure for my nieces' picky eating. Literally. My SIL uses me to get her kids to eat. We only see them three or four times a week, so it is only three or four meals a week, but apparently I've somehow convinced the girls to hero-worship me, so when I sit down and eat kale, they are all about it. So that's one option, I guess. Find someone you can totally use to bribe him.

Outside of that, the only thing I have is that you can probably blend your own smoothies if you want to cut back on the expense of it. I don't know if it would work, it might be the novelty, but it might be worth a try!

And yeah, that's all I've got. I basically grew up grazing on oxygen, so I think it's probably a phase and Archer will be just fine at the end of it =) Good luck!

NicoleC | 8:10 AM

Me again.
Wow. Have you looked at the nutritional information of that smoothie from Jamba Juice? I'm not sure what size you get Archer, but the 16 oz has 50 grams of sugar. That's nuts. By making it at home with light yogurt and 1/2 sugar juice, you can really reduce that, as well as increase dietary fiber and protein.

Hiker - Kelly B | 8:16 AM

Dessert can be a way to sneak some good stuff in. Try adding a can of black beans (food proccessed smooth) to a box of dry brownie mix instead of egg/water/oil. He'll never know they're in there.
http://www.mysweetconnection.com/recipeexchange/sweettooth/blackbeanbrownies1.html

genesee(herbloom) | 8:22 AM

I love the other comments you received. I have just a small bag of tricks too so I'm learning here.

Bland is grand? I love it.

Here is what works for my 2 yr old who has slowly rejected all those great things he used to eat when he didn't know he had a choice.
1) Let him stir, pour, or squish what we are cooking. Followed by a taste off the spoon if not too hot.
2) Cook one dinner, if he doesn't eat it he usually gets it for lunch the next day at "school". I have to say that I mainly do try to cook things I know he will eat, I'd hate for him to skip dinner and then have a lunch the next day he will skip too.
3) Outside eating, I see you mentioned this too. Also works to let him sit in a different chair at the table. He's totally into "big chairs" and "big forks" and things like that.
4) Making smoothies. Dude you can put anything in there. In our case, pureed veggies of all sorts, always some kind of flax. Always a banana to sweeten it. When I was in college my favorite, which is going to sound really weird: organic apple juice, italian parsley, squeezed lime, and a banana pureed with ice.

How do you pronounce Quinoa? I think I'm saying it wrong.

lonek8 | 8:28 AM

I'm lucky because what my kids want to eat all the time is mainly fruit - we go through lbs of blueberries, strawberries grapes and bananas on a weekly basis. They are also very happy to have peas and corn and sometimes carrot sticks. The rest of the time they want frozen waffles or hotdogs (aaagh!). I have learned that it is never a good idea to ask what they want, becaues theyn I can't change their minds and they always want the same things. but if I just prepare something I know they like (spaghetti, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets or fish sticks, etc)then they will eat it without protest. I have also started getting into "this is what is for dinner, you don't have to eat it but you aren't getting anything else until you do." It doesn't always work and there have been some amazing tantrums, but eventually my daughter will calm down and come back to the table to eat. If the choice is hungry or food, they will usually pick the food. And hungry every once in a while won't kill them either. I applaud your ability to keep them from all things processed - I try, but my own addiction often undermines my efforts. Also, what is up with the dry cheerios? I think all kids must have a gene for liking those that we lose as we grow up because yuck.

Anonymous | 8:43 AM

I put flax meal into my daughter's yogurt. It has omega-3's and fiber and since we're vegetarian she doesn't get that from fish. You could probably put it in mac n' cheese too. There's also the teeny ravioli's from Trader Joe's that have a healthy surprise inside of a cute package, just serve with butter. Or she eats lentil & cheese burritos, she doesn't know what's inside, it's just a burrito, and burrito's are awesome.

Helene | 8:43 AM

We rename food. If I say today we´re gonna have vegetable soup, nobody eats. But if I say we´re gonna have pirate-soup, then it´s totally fine with them.
And both of my kids have a day each, where they get to decide the dinner. They´re not allowed to answer pancakes every time, and there has to be vegetables. And on their cooking-day, they have to be assistants. So they see how much time and energy it takes to make dinner. That has really worked for us.

We never have alternatives either. They have to eat what we have, or not eat at all.

Anonymous | 8:51 AM

chocolate pudding which is just 3 tbs cocoa+2 tbs honey+1 package silken tofu+a blender=protein & iron.

Anonymous | 8:57 AM

I was a picky eater as well-I drank the cream for the coffee at restaurants, I would only eat the skin off the chicken (eew), and only the skin off the baked potato. Uh, maybe i should rephrase that-I was a gross and weird eater.

Ashley | 9:01 AM

Just thought I'd let you know I tagged you for the Honesty Scrap Award on my blog. Check out the details here.

foodiemama | 9:06 AM

My motto- don't make an issue; their kids and it a learning process and all of them go thru it at some point or another. i just keep offering and he either rejects or accepts. We don't do fast food, processed foods, either so I offer what I have which is healthy food and let him decide what he wants. With kids its all about stages. One day he'll eat portobello mushrooms for a snack and the next day it is nothing but corn on the cob and plums all day. its all healthy and fresh and they'll survive as long as the food is good. One thing I do do is make smoothies everyday. I juice carrots, apples, spinach, broccoli and beets. pour into a blender with fresh orange juice, frozen mangos and strawberries from our csa box, cup of oatmeal and a couple tbl of flax seed oil. blend and yum! Gus also loves superfood- the green drink from Trader Joe's. And also a side note- wheatgrass needs to be consumed immediately after being processed or else you lose most of the nutrients- that's why it comes in a shot! Just one of those annoying facts!

Issas Crazy World | 9:11 AM

Mine go back and forth. I used to talk about what awesome eaters they were and then I jinxed myself.

On veggies, we do lots of dips. My kids will eat veggies if and only if they can dip it. But i also do cucumber, sweet peas, radishes and red peppers, not just carrots and celery. In fact, I don't do celery, because they plain won't eat it. I do the same thing with fruit, although mine will generally eat fruit. I cut it up and give them yogurt to dip it into. I also make smoothies or we buy smoothies. I adore jamba Juice. But maybe if you let Archer pick which fruit he wanted in it?

Avocado? Will he eat that? As guac? With tortilla chips. I know you are a health nut, which is awesome. But guac and chips are the awesome. Oh and the other thing my kids adore is edamame. Mostly because they get to play with their food.

Besides that, if you don't make it a big deal and encourage him to at least try things from time to time, he will most likely grow out of it. He's four, it's what they do. Give him time.

Maike | 9:22 AM

At daycare my kids both eat a decent enough Peruvian/Mexican vegetarian diet. They'll eat rice, beans, lentil soup etc.

At home, toddler is doable but the preschooler only eats toast with earth balance butter, yoghurt and most fruit.

I don't get it. WTF????
I suppose it's a 'lack of peer pressure' issue.

MJ | 9:25 AM

I don't have kids yet but I learned this trick working in daycare which might help you out when Fable gets old enough to brother worship and refuses to eat anything he doesn't like. The kids were not allowed to say "I don't like that" because the youger kids would instantly mimic and not eat it. They had to take some on their plate but did not have to eat it. The younger kids would never notice if they actually ate it or not and it kept the little ones from picking up the big kids eating habits and allowed them to form their own food opinions. Keep this in mind too if you're trying to get Archer to eat things you or Hal don't like. Take some and push it around on your plate a little bit.
Also for those dealing with grown up picky eaters there is hope. My boyfriend grew up on processed foods that I consider unhealthy. After 7 months of living together he hasn't noticed (or at least complained) that our eating habits have changed. I just started out eating closer to what he was used to and have gradually switched things over to more healthy options. I didn't make a big deal about it and I don't make him eat things he doesn't like (Quinoa, sweet potatoes, and cheese, Yes cheese of all things!) but I request that he try new things. And I've noticed that things he wasn't very receptive to in the beginning and only ate a few bites of he will eat two servings of now. And he didn't even say a word when his packed lunch yesterday consisted of a tuna sandwich, a small handful of chips that his parents gave to us, and several fruits and veggies. In fact he told me it was really good. He's come a long way!

abi | 9:32 AM
This comment has been removed by the author.
abi | 9:35 AM

I'd like to "third" the folks above who suggested growing some veggies and involving Archer in the process.
Container gardening (perfect for appartments)
http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-336/426-336.html
It might be fun to tour an urban farm to see where your food is coming from~
http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/
http://www.silverlakefarms.com/
Good Luck!

Sarah | 9:38 AM

Joseph is five now and for the most part has been a really picky eater his entire life, things have gotten better lately however because he is very into whatever I am into, so, Tuna Kabobs with pineapple and pepper? "OMG, I LOVE these, they are so heavenly, you will love them..." And he does. Spicy Tuna with Brown Rice? "You will die and go to heaven..!" And he does. Multi colored peppers with peanut butter hummus, "I've never tasted anything so yummy." And it's true. Can't say this will work for Archer, although Joseph does have an extreme independent streak and usually just rolls his eyes at me (yes, it's started at 5), so maybe?
I like the idea of eating outside, that's where we discovered the joys of Tofu Samosas at our farmer's market and now, every Saturday for breakfast we are up and out to the market. Good luck! And it could be worse, Cheerios in a baggie are by far preferable to demanding "fruit" snacks, thank fully my guy has stopped asking for them. Food with HFCS in it are on my do not discuss list as well!

Serial Mommy | 9:42 AM

i actually have TWO picky eaters...well kind of...my oldest son has a sensory disorder, so all the foods that make you gain weight (which he REALLY needs as he is very much under sized) he doesn't want to eat..honestly, i bribe him...eat your potatoes you get an ice cream sandwich (and the ice cream helps with dairy consumption AND it puts weight on him), it usually works...my younger son (was going to say youngest, but we are expecting twins, boy/girl twins, so the 3 year old is now "younger son") is a vegetarian, by choice, always has been, he WON'T eat meat, at all...ok, if smother it with enough mayo (think chicken salad) and the very rare slice of deli lunch meat, but that's IT...so he eats peanut butter in place at the dinner table...he'll eat all the fruits/veggies/and starches you put in front of him and he LOVES his dairy...we make smoothies at home...a tub of yogurt, skim milk, frozen peaches and strawberries, fresh bananas, blend it all up, yum yum..sometimes we'll add one of those "smoothie" packets...all the kids love that stuff...by the way, pretty much the only meal the kids eat with any meat is dinner anyway, otherwise they live on wheat bread, peanut butter, gold fish crackers, unsweetened cereal (why can't we have sweet cereal? because you don't need ot start your day with a bowl of sugar, that's why), cheese sticks, yogurt, fresh fruit (apples, bananas, grapes), raisins, and water to drink...it's kind of limited, however it works and they eat it so i go with it...dinner time is when i get them to try some different things, and they get their veggies then...

Sandy | 9:49 AM

Oscar still eats breastmilk exclusively but I sympathize because I have visions of him eating tofu, greens, and brown rice, lol. Of course, I LOVE mac&cheese and ate pots full while pregnant (seriously, straight from the pot). Therefore, I am doomed.

NotCarol | 10:14 AM

My 3 year old is not super picky, but I sneak nutrition in where I can like spinich into mac and cheese Green Macaronni!

She was introduced to the horror of cocoapufs while camping with friends this weekend which was fairly tramatic for me. She did not know before this weekend that cereal came in non-kashi-esq varieties.


I also find that involving her in the food prep process really goes a long way to her wanting to eat what winds up on the table.

Uncle Dave | 10:21 AM

Remember how picky your own brother was when he/I was Archer's age? You need your own Pickle Juice trick with Archer (i.e. find out that he likes pickles, and make everything he eats taste like pickles by dipping it pin pickle juice).

mfk | 10:36 AM

I have no solution except for gummi bear vitamins. The pickiness will pass in time as long as he's exposed to enough types of food, I think. I also heard somewhere that kids have to try a food something like 27 times before they like it? Not sure if that's true.

Also second the commenter above -- check out the calories/ sugar in Jamba Juice, it is INSANE. Obviously he's little so you don't want to "put him on a diet" or anything like that because he will probably run it all off anyway... but lots of sugar in those dudes. Just FYI of course... personally I don't think it will really hurt him in the long run.

Amanda | 10:37 AM

OMG! Edamame. My son LOVES them. If you salt them a bit (I try not to because well...duh) it's like eating peanuts. We've been pretty lucky with Jack. I'm waiting for the day where he will only eat Gushers and corndogs. Although, I think if you keep kids away from that stuff as much as possible, it shouldn't become a huge issue. I'm trying to keep him away from so much of the overly processed crap that America is so fine with.

merseydotes | 10:44 AM

We are the lucky ones whose daughter doesn't like french fries, eats plain yogurt with a small squirt of strawberry syrup on top (yay for actual active cultures!), loves beets (they give you prink princess power - did you know?) and broccoli, and asked for sushi the other night, though she doesn't eat much fresh fruit. Maybe we are truly lucky, but here's what we did: We eat dinner as a family every night, usually at home (not takeout or eating out). We make one meal for the whole family. My daughter can eat it or not eat it - that's her choice but if she's hungry later there's a choice of more dinner or nothing. We have never worried about whether she's getting enough to eat, so we don't offer her other foods so she'll eat SOMETHING. She can have what we're having or she can go hungry. We've done this since she was old enough to eat table foods and - voila - we have a good eater. Mostly because I *refuse* to make food the subject of a power struggle. Or maybe it was just luck. (FWIW, I don't think you could just try this with a four year old; I think if you do it from the time they're little, then they learn them's the rules.)

Anonymous | 10:46 AM

I'm going to go with all of the people above who suggested giving Archer options. I was an insanely picky eater as a toddler, but my dad took me grocery shopping with him every week and let me make choices for what I wanted for snacks and meals. (E.g. did I want yogurt or applesauce in my lunch this week? Should we have spaghetti or chicken for dinner?) Maybe if you took Archer with you and let him pick out things, especially fruits and vegetables, he might be a little more into eating them.

Jasie | 11:07 AM

As a woman who grew up in a house with wildly disordered eating being the norm, we kind of navigate a tricky road.

My son is going through a "I hate food of all kinds, except grilled cheese sandwiches and yogurt" phase. Basically. I do what Dana does... if he won't eat something, he doesn't eat at that meal. If he won't eat that same food at the next meal... I'll go 10 rounds with you, boy. I could do this all day.

Basically, we only cook nutritious food, we don't assign moral values to food, and we only cook ONE dinner. He's about to turn 8 and no one has died yet. :P

Susan | 11:18 AM

Yeah for the Food Gestapo! I am so glad to know I am not alone.

Things that have worked for me:
1- Broccoli "pesto" (pureed steamed broccoli mixed with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan); it helps to let the child sprinkle the cheese on himself (preferably on whole wheat pasta)

2- pureed steamed cauliflower in mac and cheese

3- lentils (with caramelized onions stirred in, or plain) or plain salted black beans

4- baked or fried tofu (my kids love it, thankfully) Thai grocery stores sometimes sell already baked tofu, it is delicious

5- dipping baby carrots in hummus (or crackers in hummus) (kids love to dip)

Sometimes kids fall for the "lets see who can eat the carrot fastest" trick... but not often enough.

Stacy | 11:26 AM

I have finally reached a "donotworryaboutitatallever" state with my two-year-old son. Where did my Zen attitude come from?

Well, Avery eats a lot of different foods (the kid loves yogurt, broccoli, spinach, etc), but he doesn't eat MUCH of anything ever. A few bites of oatmeal in the morning, a banana about 10am, 1/4 of a PB&J sandwich at lunch and like two bites of dinner is a great day for him...there are many days when he eats far less. This was driving me absolutely crazy, and my days were literally consumed with trying to get him to eat something. He's tall and skinny and very active, and I was so worried he was going to be malnourished because he never wanted to eat.

Finally, my grandmother (mother of 5, grandmother of 9, great-grandmother of 2) told me "Stacy, I've never seen a kid starve themself to death. Just offer him food, and if he eats - great. If not - it's one less mess you have to clean up that day." And so I developed my new, Zen, "I don't care if you eat" attitude. I fix whatever I would normally fix for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offer healthy snacks a few times a day. Some days he eats like a champ, some days he survives on a handful of pretzels. He's happy, healthy, smart, and growing like a weed. I figure it's all good. And I'M much happier not worrying about it all the time.

One thing I have noticed is that he's much more likely to eat well and eat whatever I offer if he actually comes to me and tells me he's hungry, not if I just offer him food when I think he should want to eat. Sometimes that means delaying lunch until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, but he always eats better if he requests food instead of just being offered at the "appropriate" time.

Lauren | 11:29 AM

My 3-yr-old is a pretty good eater but she's starting to protest vegetables so I'm getting creative.

We recently tried giving food musical sounds. Broccoli was a low note. Corn was high. We sang the note and ate a bite, then we pretended we could hear the food singing all the way down into our tummies. My daughter was enchanted.

She also loves to dip things so hummus or cheese sauce help green things disappear. Good luck!

The Tutugirl | 11:48 AM

My parents had the same rules with me that their parents had with them: you take three bites of everything at dinner, or you can't leave the table (there is a famous story of my uncle sitting at the table as a boy until 1am before giving in). There is no other food besides what is offered at dinner, and possibly dessert if you finish the food on your plate. You don't eat dinner and you're hungry? You can eat leftovers or tough cookies.

Yeah, so my parents basically starved and beat us into eating whatever they served. BUT my brother and I eat far more vegetables than any of our peers who could demand mac and cheese and chicken fingers. I have no idea if this was hard on my parents, but I know I'm grateful for their guidance when I want a side of broccoli to go with those nachos.

Anonymous | 11:53 AM

Sneaky chef, for those of you with some time on your hands. Seems to work great for some of my friends.

http://www.thesneakychef.com/

Charlotte | 12:05 PM

I was just recently horrified by the fact that my daycare lady thinks mac and cheese with peas is a nutritious lunch. I vowed, no, VOWED!, that my angel child will never have mac and cheese (unless it's organic, whole wheat, and made with broccoli and tofu). I suppose I'm in for a learning curve.

FWIW, we just introduced Little Miss Kickboxer to Dr. Sears' Go Fish! omega 3 supplement (aka cod liver oil) that tastes like bananas and strawberry, literally. She eats it in her morning oatmeal. One bottle will go a long ways since you need only 1/2 tsp daily from 6 months onward.

Perhaps you could have an eating contest between Archer and Fable that involves some of the foods he doesn't eat any more like tofu and avocados ...

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 12:11 PM

Yeah, I know re: Jamba sugarsituation. This is why I DO NOT drink their smoothies. (I do drink the carrot/orange juice and omgamazing.)

And although we don't have sweets in the house I'd MUCH prefer Archer drink smoothies pumped with vitamins than nothing - bring on the sugar, even. Kid's a featherweight.

I also know about the potency of wheat grass (I get lectured by someone in line at Jamba pretty much every time I order the shot) BUT! It doesn't lose ALL of its potency and that's good enough for me.

I think getting him involved in gardening vegetables is a great idea. Our neighbors just started a veggie garden in our shared yard so we'll see what happens!

Thanks for all your advice!

Rachel | 12:13 PM

My mother says that I used to eat spinach out of the can and other fruits and veggies by the basket-full until I was about 4. Then I stopped eating them altogether.

I still, to this day, absolutely abhor anything leafy and most fruits. Granted, I will eat most fruits in a smoothie, so I'm thinking it has to be a texture thing I never got over. V8 is nasty though.

Anyway, I don't want our foster kids to end up like me (although there's nothing wrong with meat and potatoes! Mmm...meat...) so we use the "whats on your plate is what you get" rule, within reason. When we make lunch or dinner, there is always a fruit and veggie included. The kids don't have to eat them, but they don't get seconds or dessert until they do. We won't make anything different, either. If you don't want to eat the main dish, that's fine, you're excused, hope to see you next meal!

To make sure they don't go into full throttle rebellion and develop food issues and/or think we're starving them, the kids have free and full access to their "snack cabinet" that is full of healthy options that they can eat whenever they want. They are also allowed any fruit or veggie whenever they want. However, there is a limit. We only restock the snack cabinet once a week and once it's gone, it's gone until the next restocking.

Jen | 12:25 PM

We just discovered the allure of anything eaten with chopsticks - my 18 month old veggie lover has stopped eating anything of nutritional value until we accidentally tried giving him some stir fry via chopsticks. Who knew that would work?

MissAnna | 12:29 PM

No kids here but I will definitely agree that it can backfire to make one food area off-limits/evil. My parents were anti any candy/chips/processed foods growing up. So what did I did when I hit junior high and could walk to the store? Bought piles (and piles) of candy and ate them in secret in my bedroom. Probably not the healthiest option. Now I'm much better about balancing the good & bad but I definitely think they could/should have introduced some unhealthy foods to prevent the swing the other way. Good luck!

Jen W | 12:48 PM

My eyes glaze over when I read how you can get your child to eat better if: you disguise the food; have the child help you prepare; make it look like animals; etc. Sorry, no dice in my house. What seems to be working is patience and no pressure. My son's diet has expanded to include grilled chicken, blueberries, turkey burgers. It's amazing, and it only took ten years. Yes--a LOT of patience. I think his problem was with texture as well as taste--he would sometimes gag--so we didn't want to scare him off. But now there's less peanut butter and more proper food. It's wonderful!

Attilla The Mum | 12:54 PM

For my 5-year-old it's all location, location, location! He's picky, but if I spread a picnic blanket on the porch, he'll gobble up all the crunchy sliced vegetables I set out. At Grandma's house, he eats pretty well. I worry about his protein intake, as he won't touch beans or eggs, but when I make a meat loaf (half ground sirloin, half ground turkey breast, then add processed carrots, zucchini, whatever vegs I have on hand), he'll eat that. Oy, and let's not start with the nuggets and fries! He could eat them daily, but I reign it in to once a week (Friday is our fast food day). He hates anything with cheese (mac & cheese and pizza included), hates any "breakfast" food (oatmeal, cereal, eggs, pancakes), and is a hater of all nationalities of food (Oriental, Mexican, Italian come to mind). I just keep telling myself, at least Alex eats raw veggies.

Anonymous | 1:02 PM

There are so many posts here so I am not sure if this has already been said - but puree veggies and just blend 'em in! Tell him (or ask him to choose the colour and then co-ordinate) that today is "green" day and his mac'n'cheese will be green (from the broc) and on "orange" day it can be sweet potato. i am lucky because my 2.5 year old now eats not too badly and almost always loves broccoli. On the days that she needs a little incentive we give her a bowl full of organic apple sauce to dip her broccoli into. This same child ate pasta and "secret" sauce every dinner for more than 365 days in a row. this is no joke. The secret sauce was tomatoes, herbs, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, green peppers and whatever other random veggies you want them to eat. And then pureed so she couldn't see them.
I asked her pediatrician just how bad it was that she ate the same thing for over a year and he said that he once had a patient who only ate pureed peaches (from a jar) till he was 12. And he is now 17, 6 foot something and eats everything.
Sounds like you are doing a pretty fine job. It's just not as fun for us, the parents, to watch them miss the chance to eat other wholesome and delicious foods!! It will come. Try not to put too much pressure on him!!
And for some inspiration: http://www.wholesometoddlerfood.com/index.htm

good luck!!

mom of another picky eater | 2:06 PM

My pick eater will eat these so we make them often.

Green pancakes (spinach crepes)
Can easily double recipe if you are feeding 3-4 hungry people.

* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup milk
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 cup frozen or a couple of cups of chopped fresh spinach.

Put all ingredients in the blender, adding spinach a little at a time till it's completely smooth and bright green. Should be consistency of thick cream.

Use nonstick pan--spray or lightly oil. Spread thin layer of batter and flip when first side is brown. Can keep heated in warm oven while you make more.

Fill with grated cheese for kids.
Goat cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms for adults--or whatever you like.

My son likes to help make these and eats them. Good luck. They freeze well for future meals.

CMP | 2:08 PM

love your tips, here's another:

plant a garden. in your yard, in a community garden, in a pot of you have to. kids eat what they grow, plain and simple. plus you'll shed a tear when they bite into their first english breakfast radish.

twisted momma

KatieNYC | 2:33 PM

You know it is true that kids go through a phase of not eating veggies as a throw back to days of yore when they had to be kept away from poisonous food. And also, I believe you are right with the taste bud thing, and bitter is the last taste bud to develop (around 3 I think?) and so suddenly a flavour that wasnt there shows up and it isnt a good one.Sadly I dont know how you fix this, but at least you know its just biology!

Angie | 3:00 PM

Hehe...I need to keep this post in mind in a few years! I am not there yet, but I can say that in order to get us (my sister and I) to eat things we didn't like, my mother told us we just had to take one bite. For example. We had cabbage every New Year, and she told us we had to take at least 1 bite. When I was a child, I hated cabbage and dreaded that 1 bite I had to take every year. As time passed and I got older, I grew to love it! That's the best advice I can give you, having never been there myself. Just take the pressure off him to eat an entire serving of his veggies. If he will eat just a bite that's a step in the right direction, and eventually one bite will turn into 2 or 3...Good luck!

aidonsmomma | 3:08 PM

Hey There! So my son is only 19 months but he sounds a lot like Archer. He used to eat pretty much whatever you put in front of him and now he hardly eats anything or is extremely picky! I try to get him to eat more than cheese and cheerios but sometimes it's hard.
I totally think that getting Archer involved in helping prepare stuff that's easy to make would help. I did that with my 9 year old stepdaughter and she thought it was so cool. Even if he just watches ya and hangs out that could help too.
But what I really thought might be of some good is there are a few books that might help. I've not had the chance to use them yet but I would check them out if your interested.
Toddler Cafe: Fast Recipes and Fun Ways to Feed Even the Pickiest Eater by Jennifer Carden
The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine
Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld
I hope that these help. Keep us updated! :)

Heather | 3:18 PM

Floradix makes a great food-based (with things like spinach & carrot extracts) vitamin liquid for kids called Kinderlove. I give my two-year-old a teaspoon a day in her cereal or her milk at dinner. It's available at health-food coops & Whole Foods type stores. Also found in those types of stores, there's a great fruit-punch-flavored powder made by Delicious Kids that contains extracts from things like acai, goji berries, noni juice, red cabbage, etc. It mixes very easily into water. My-two-year-old totally downs her "red juice." They also make a green version. xo

Maria Williams | 4:51 PM

I agree with some other posts...please let us know how YOU as a woman eat healthy! What is a typical day like? What are your favorite foods?? I would love to learn.

Anonymous | 5:15 PM

We use good old fashioned positive peer pressure. My kids will eat anything their friends are eating. So we have friends over a couple of times a week or meet friends at the playground for a picnic. We usually coordinate lunches or bring extras for each others children. Works every time (except for the cherry tomatoes).

I have also read that most children go through a phase and will eventually grow out of it as long as you continue to offer the other foods. We use the "No thank you bite". The new foods must be tried with one bite but then the child can say "no thank you" if they don't like it.

Good Luck!!

Loukia | 5:54 PM

Can we still be friends if I tell you my kids (yes, even my 17 month old) eat Happy Meals often? But don't worry, the rest of the time they're eating healthy as healthy can be, because well, we're Greek and I have 2 grandmothers and a great grandmother cooking for them all day long. And chasing them with food. Food is so important to us. It's like, "I love you, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat."
Right now my 17 month old is being very picky with his food. And it's totally driving me insane!

Samantha | 5:56 PM

On a totally off-topic note: I saw your wine ad in the Real Simple magazine I picked up this afternoon. (-:

Anonymous | 6:02 PM

What has helped, on a few occasions, is having our son help with the meal prep. Somehow, it takes away the scariness and uncertainty of new foods. Not always , but sometimes.

We've gone to a feeding specialist, and she stresxes desensitization and repeated exposure. Over and over, and never give up: if you leave it to them, they'd never try anything new. Keep serving it, keep putting it on their plate, they'll get used to it on their plate, and maybe sometime they'll even try it. Cook the same thing for everybody, and just keep on exposing.

mhilly | 6:07 PM

I feel your pain, my son is one day younger than Archer and USED to eat everything... I agree with previous posts, make one meal for the family and the kids won't starve themselves. My mom gave me the best advice - our bodies are tuned to get the vitamins we need over time, so as long as we're continuing to offer them a balanced diet, they'll get what they need over the course of a week. Haven't you noticed that they won't touch the broccoli one night, then another night it's all they eat?
I love to go to my 2nd favorite blog (yours is my fav, natch!) for recipe inspiration:
http://family.go.com/parent-to-parent/blogs/catherine-newman-blog/best-buttermilk-dressing-799891/

Little Miss Moi | 6:21 PM

Dear rebecca. OK now, I question my brother's parenting style (he's one of those bush types, where 'anything goes'), but he lets his kids play with his empty beer bottles, and of course they get a taste of the beer. And he was telling me that apparently, kids can't taste bitter tastes for the first two years. I'm sure that's just one of many things that goes on with their tastebuds. SO I agree with you about the changing pallette (?? spelling), I'm sure it, like sleep, isn't something that fully settles down until the kids hit, like, their teens.

B's Mom | 6:30 PM

I just read a very good book about a food editor with a picky eater. The book is Hungry Monkey, and it is by Matthew Amster-Burton. It was a fun read.
As for my son, he was a super adventurous eater at a year and two years, and then it tapered off to chicken fingers, yogart, cheese, and bread.
Around the age of 4, it started to change again, and it really helped to take him to the farmer's market, and let him pick the fruits and veggies that he wanted to eat. He does choose to eat carrots and peppers with ranch dressing, now. I also allow him to cut his veggies with a very small paring knife (when he was 4), and this really helped a lot, too. (As an aside, I work in the field of early childhood ed, and children around the age of 4, can use small knives, with supervision, and proper instruction. At 6, my son has never cut himself.)
It also works well to let him help make dinner, and to choose the menu.
Bad food also makes me cry, and I began gardening to control what my family was consuming. This year, my son is eating peas right off the vine because he helped to grow and weed them, and just said that they do taste really good! I know you live in an urban area, but if you even have a small area to plant, it might be fun to try this with your son, too. Good luck

Anonymous | 7:00 PM

I tried it all as a young mom. My son is now 16 and STILL the pickiest eater alive. I mean seriously. (Main diet: yogurt, crackers, juice, milk, apples.) His younger sisters will eat pretty much anything (twins, 11.)

If I had to do it again with him I would make one meal and if he ate it great. If not, too bad. I fear I accommodated him far too much. My biggest regret in life really.

Cynthia | 7:11 PM

WTF is wrong with dry cereal? AKA, the Cheerios in the baggie?

whitney | 7:31 PM

okay, so my suggestions are as follows and they seem to have worked so far.

1) make sure there is plenty to choose from on the plate. serve a little of whatever you're eating and then add a little of last night's leftovers (even if he didn't eat them then). plus, cut up some carrots and slice some strawberries and throw in a couple nuts. thus, he has a varitable menagerie of different flavors to choose from and can't help himself but find something to munch on. just make sure all of his options meet our standards.

2) SPICE it up. use fresh herbs. use dried herbs and spices and give your veggies a JOLT (roasting is almost always my reliable go-to, it gives most veggies a tasty carmalization thats irresistabe to most humans and all 4 year olds). my little girl has discovered her love for all things spicey, which is odd...but, if she'll eat a bowl full of fresh green beans - i'll sure as hell throw some red pepper flakes in the saute pan.

3) try to make them part of the cooking process. its hard when there are two of them, one of which needs to be held (mine are 2 and 7 mos). but if the babe will be content with a Haba rattle for a bit while Archer stirs the pot.

4) its simple: MAKE SOUP. you can throw every veg on the planet into a pot of soup and make it taste scrumptuous. roast or saute veggies, spice, puree. serve war or cold!!!!

good luck on your quest to raise a healthy eater: he'll come around.

whitney | 7:34 PM

p.s. don't accomodate. you're NOT a short order cook.

Visible Voice | 7:40 PM

If he's all about the mac & cheese, puree cauliflower and just put in a little bit at a time. Like a couple of tablespoons. I saw that tip in "deceptively delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld. I'm sure you've heard of that recipe book. It's got great ideas. And they all have hidden veggies in them. Maybe get him to help you do a meal plan?? He's at the age that he could contribute. Make sure you show him pictures and stuff so he can see what he's picking. Get him to help you...and then sneak a vegetable puree in when he's not looking. ;)

hayley | 8:14 PM

i second the gardening... my son is also a mac n cheese junkie and just started eating some lettuce and spinach because we got it from the garden which he helped to plant. okay, and i mean 3 pieces... not a whole salad. but i thought that was a great accomplishment! then of course, i gave him a brownie as a reward. (what can i say, it works!)

Alison | 9:01 PM

My parents never allowed me to be picky, my father's German so it was pretty much eat what we're making or don't eat. ("finish your dinner, there's people starving themselves in Beverly Hills!") My mom's a hippie, so I didn't even get bribed with dessert. I remember melting cubes of unsweetened baking chocolate in the microwave and mixing sugar into it, that was my forbidden dessert fix when my parents were out. I don't think I tasted soda until high school. (Then again, I didn't know our TV had channels other than PBS until high school, either.) I will probably be of the "force-feed them chard" parenting variety. My sister's daughter, who's ten, won't eat anything but pasta, but last time they visited I watched her 2-year-old son eat an entire lemon for dinner. Kids are weird. Just keep putting the good food in front of him and eventually he'll eat it. Biologically we're designed to be omnivores, which means we can survive for a while on pretty much anything. The mac and cheese won't kill him while he grows back into his love of quinoa.

Lexie Loo & Dylan Too | 9:58 PM

My 4 year old has always been a great, healthy eater. Not exactly sure how it happened, but it did. His snacks of choice are fresh fruit, veggies, edamame, and pita chips with hummus. Weirdo! ;)
My 2 year old daughter, however, is one of the pickiest eaters I've ever seen. She's been to a nutritionist and food therapist and nothing helps! She only eats about 6 items of food...all grains. Not a single fruit or vegetable has passed through her lips in a year. It's incredibly frustrating! We're screwed if it turns out her chronic diarrhea ends up being Celiac disease!

Anonymous | 10:03 PM

I love the suggestions your readers have shared. My 3 1/2 year old son seems to go through phases. We do eat our share of Annie's Mac n Cheese. I use the suggestion to make it with plain yogurt instead of milk--it is really good that way! I also use plain yogurt as a garnish on soups and bean dishes too. Since we cooked a vegetarian Thanksgiving dish with butternut squash, my son will eat anything with butternut squash--I think mostly because he likes the name and the shape of it--I let him pick it out at the grocery store. Zucchini wheels on pizza are colorful and yummy. Whole Foods has a recipe for "Kid-Friendly Tuna Salad with Toasted Almonds and Raisins" (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/recipe.php?recipeId=2218)--it includes grated carrots and cottage cheese.

Alyxherself | 10:08 PM

I just made pancakes with my 9 yr old son recently...so much fun. And cooking with my daughter, shes almost 17...I let her come to me when she was ready to learna nd she did. Frozen fruit smoothies int he blender with some stevia takes two seconds. Very cheap and good.

Lots of good suggestions in here, all work, not all work for each family...but I'm with you on the food thing, I can't fight all theor influences so I just teach by how I live, and answer their questions honestly about why I eat the way I eat and why I excercise regularly and have fun doing it..
They're smart, they'll pick it up by exposure, promise :)

Alyxherself (again) | 10:16 PM

wow..totally forgot...molasses is the most nutritious sweetener...bvites and iron and I think...selenium? anway use it in everything...cookies, cake, pie, sauces, raisen bran...you name it. and almond milk. alomond milk rocks...oh, and coconut oil...mmm...peanutbutter with a drop of coocnut oil mixed in on..on whatever. okay, i'm done.

Armonia | 10:28 PM

Hi!
for sweetener I use Agave honey. and some food can be topped with cheese, either raw or goat its very good tasting. and making food kid friendly in funny plates ans small portions that way at least he is having some, i grew up vegetarian until the age of 8 when my dad passing a in and out said out loud "enough" hahaha!

This Must be the Place . . . | 12:10 AM

Hmm. I suppose I am one of the lucky ones. My 21-month-old eats only vegetables, fruits, chicken and fish, and grains (the occasional potato and egg thrown in). He'll eat any vegetable except raw tomatoes, and he loves beets, squash, yams, broccoli, and green beans. He's also a sucker for any kind of berries, bananas, apples, and mango. He drinks water only and loves taking his "dose" of fish oil every other day.

How did this happen? Well, I've never given him anything else. No cookies, no juice, no "Graduates" crap snacks, no nada. While I'm not the best eater all the time, my mom has instilled her beliefs and practices in my head (beat them, perhaps), and I feel too guilty to give my child food that I know has the potential to cause so many problems. Plus, the idea is there that if I give it to him once or twice, he's going to want that kind of food all the time, and veggies, chicken, and fruit won't seem like such a good deal any longer.

Lastly, we took him off all cow dairy (bad for you anyway . . . so no biggie), wheat products and gluten as he was shitting himself up to eight times a day -- figured he had a food intolerance. He did/does, and now he poops like a champ (meaning two to three times a day rather than 37). I have to plan carefully, bring food with me, etc., so it's become second nature to cook every meal (very little grab and go is wheat/gluten free).

Basically, you don't know what you're missing if you've never had it. I know that eventually he will discover pizza, Coke, ice cream, and the like, but I don't see any reason to give him this kind of stuff until he's exposed to it regularly (and I don't want to give it to him then, either. Also don't want to be that irritating mom who polices every bite of food that goes in her son's mouth). I like to think that I'm establishing a life of good eating habits and that he will make good choices as he grows up; everyone eats something junky here and there, but I think people who are raised on fresh, organic, non-processed food tend to crave that more than they do packaged stuff.

I know a few of my friends think I take things "too far", but you know what? He loves to eat, loves WHAT he eats, and eats three square (uh, big square) meals and a few snacks a day, and he's never been sick. He also is able to focus clearly since his blood sugar level isn't shot to shit all the time because of, well, sugar. These things are enough for me to know that I'm doing the right thing for my child. I don't police or comment on anyone else's food choices for their children. Everyone already knows what's healthy and what isn't (well, for the most part), and the parents who are shoveling crap in their kids mouth left and right are going to have enough behavioral and other problems with their children -- I don't need to reiterate that or sneer.

The other mantra I follow? Eat what I give you, or eat nothing. I haven't had to depend on this much since he usually does eat whatever I make, but it comes in handy when he's finished his yams and wants more while he neglects the other vegetables and protein on his plate.

Pinot after Playdates | 5:12 AM

picnics(and yes sometimes on the floor in front of the tv, but at least he's so enanmored with what's going on that he forgets he's eating healthy!

Kim | 5:29 AM

Calm down. Organic is great, but other food will not kill you. I try hard to make my kids eat healthy, but I refuse to get weirded out if they'd rather eat a bag of Cheerios. Food is meant to be enjoyed...in moderation.

Tickled Pink Brides | 5:58 AM

Cracking up about you being "the food gestapo"! love it!

Kendra | 6:04 AM

Oh, ugh. I am growing to hate food. My 5-year-old is the pickiest damn eater! It's all about texture with him, which means no applesauce, yogurt, bananas, probably no smoothies (only recently got him to try ice cream), no thick soups, no salad dressing, few dips.

I try to keep things he likes, like carrots, always handy and to offer him things that are compromises (like grapes--slightly squishy but still sometimes acceptable). There are some things that I simply don't offer him, because I know that doing so is simply choosing to waste that food. But most of the time, I try to offer him one fruit or veggie I know he likes and another that I'd like him to try. It reduces the pressure on him to eat new things, and on me to get him to eat well. But it's still a constant battle. Yes, we put veggies in scrambled eggs and wild rice (so tasty and nutritious!) in pancakes, but it's still always work to get him to try new foods.

One thing we have been working on is trying at least one new thing every day. Maybe it's a new food, maybe it's a new ride at the playground, maybe it's reading a new book. But that's helped too, since he can often pick the new thing that he's going to try, and I hope to encourage a little more adventurousness in all aspects of life (he's not naturally much of a risk-taker, so I don't worry about it going too far with him).

Haven't yet seen the video but I'm looking forward to it. And as frustrated as I am with trying to get him to eat food--any food--it does help to know that I'm not alone.

Sarah | 6:16 AM

We have the rule that if you want seconds of the main course, you have to have seconds of the vegetable first. Usually after another bowl of salad, they find they aren't really hungry for more anyway.

The other thing that comes in handy is not even putting the main course on the table until the veggies are gone. I got this tric from a family I nannied for and it worked wonders. If the only thing on their plate is broccoli, and they have to eat it to get the mac and cheese, they usually chomp it down.

I am also a fan of dipping veggies in dressing. Caesar or ranch can make veggies a lot tastier, and if you do your homework, you can get a dressing that is not too terrible for you.

Hope these help!

Carrie | 8:35 AM

Hysterical post, love your advice. Mine little one is still on breast milk only, but I'm glad to hear I'm not the only mom hoping to rule out McDonalds for their kid. Especially glad to hear someone else knows what Quinoa is :)

Mary | 9:41 AM

My parents never allowed processed food or corn syrup or brand name anything in the house, but never had time to make an alternate dessert. Result? I STILL don't like sweet things. Every now and then it's ok, but I can't stand soda or sugary cereals or anything from a mix.

Also, apparently I was a picky eater until the age of 18 months whereupon I downed an entire lobster that my parents had intended for their dinner. Ever since then, I'll try just about anything food-wise!

Megan Lessard | 9:43 AM

Hey Rebecca, I have an Annie's Mac N Cheese trick! Here it is: NO MILK. Instead, a full cup of pureed carrots. Just butter, carrots and the powdered stuff. It's really creamy and the kids both love it. My other one is pureed cauliflower in mashed potatoes. Also, pureed any veggies in spaghetti sauce. Peas, etc. Full cup of that too :)

Mamalang | 10:30 AM

In our house, everyone has to have a try me bite of everything that is on the table. (except beets. Yuck, yuck, yuck.) Every time. No exceptions. You can make faces, you can drink a gallon of water with it, whatever, but you have to eat a bite of it. I hate peas, but even I have to eat a bite of peas every time we have them. After that, I don't stress it. Eat whatever you want that is on the table. I also don't cater. I don't make anything different. Eventually, you'll get hungry and eat what is available. Of course, I still worry about what they eat, and how much, but I don't let them know that.

CraezieLady | 11:23 AM

*lucky one? Yeah...
How did I do it? I think you hit the nail on the head when you called it *luck*! I didn't DO anything! In fact, I distinctly remember letting my teething 6 month old gnaw on a girl scout cookie to keep him quiet while I made a phone call. I've never been a food nazi, and my kids are certainly picky about some things, but they'll happily eat veggies, salads (and not just the croutons), fruits, nuts, brown rice, oatmeal, just about any chinese food dish that isn't spicy (and some that are), all sorts of tex-mex dishes, especially beans. I do let my kids eat fast food occasionally (not often, though because we can't afford it rather than because it's not healthy - that's Daddy's doing), and I'm pretty liberal with the treats (how else is a mom supposed to get 4 kids quiet at the same time?!), so maybe my kids don't feel like there's a food-power-struggle, or like there's a shortage of treats? My kids'll eat food even my hellapicky hubby won't eat, and I honestly don't know what that's about! I have one that loves veggies but won't eat fruit to save his life (well, an occasional apple or banana, but that's IT), and another who'll snarf down fruit like candy but won't eat a veggie to save HIS life (except for a loaded burger, or a salad), and my girls are ambivegitous.
But like I said, I don't know how I did it! I'm sure I haven't offered my kids any greater variety of healthful foods with any less frequency than YOU have, Rebecca! My toddlers also started out eating much more fantastic foods than they eat now (tofu? avocado? eggplant?), but they still eat pretty well. I don't know - I don't think much about it, I don't worry much about it, I just do my thing and they do theirs. They're more likely to ask me for veggies while I'm thinking "why can't you just eat macaroni and ramen and give me a break from the kitchen, just this once?!"

abian andres perez herrera | 11:44 AM

Rebecca tu no fuistes la niƱera del hijo de Beckamn o estoy confundido?

Saludos

Anonymous | 1:51 PM

I think I may be lucky but my kids (now 10 and 12) have always been pretty good eaters, except for a short flirtation with pickiness between the ages of 2 and 5. However, I suspect some of my success was having really hungry kids (much to some of my friends horror) - my kids were not eating many snacks as I wanted them hungry when they came to the table for a meal. I don't think picky eaters are universal, I think it's a problem in the U.S. because there is so much food being offered so often. Kids are quick to see what little power they have, and if turning down foods lets them feel it, they will run with it.

Christy | 2:17 PM

To be completely honest? I still eat like that and I'm 21. I've always been a super picky eater. I'd probably pick the bowl of cheerios over the veggie covered omelette as well! lol! Mmm mac and cheese.

Anonymous | 2:34 PM

Gotta say, cigarettes are way worse than a Big Mac, especially if you start smoking as an adolescent. There was a program on KPCC this morning (Air Talk) and an addiction psychiatrist was talking about how nasty nicotine is and how the adolescent brain is a million times more prone to becoming nicotine-dependent in a way that makes it sooooo hard to quit later.

beingbeatrice | 2:55 PM

Smoking is blatantly worse than junk food. Junk food = phase. Smoking = potentially for life.

As for whow to get your kids to eat what you want them too, my mum used to bribe me with smarties!

Amber and Robert | 4:37 PM

You should add a tablespoon of Peanut Butter to that square of chocolate to up the reward!!!

Anonymous | 6:50 PM

I hear yeah.. Glad to know I'm not the only one, I'm in pretty good company. I say with my 3 1/2 year old boy to not make a battle. Either you eat what' on your plate now or I'll see you at the next meal. No child will starve!!! This stage will pass and one day we will miss it:)

Brandy S

Anonymous | 6:56 PM

Honestly, you would rather your kid develop lung cancer than eat an *oh gosh, non-organic burger from McDonalds* burger and fries from mcdonalds every once and a while? What a hip mom you are.

Bella | 8:04 PM

All my daughter requests is Mac and Cheese. Only advice I have is, try to convince them to spice up there mac and cheese with some beans. I try to sneak in black beans, pinto beans or chicken all the time. She's not always up for the adventure, but it's worth a shot.

Shangrila | 8:07 PM

I have one word for you, darling: Edamame. Lots and lots of edamame! The wheat grass in the smoothie is genius (expensive genius, but still!)

g_unit | 8:57 PM

I'm a sniper. I hide it where and when I can - mash it up, puree it, cut it up so teeny tiny that if I dim the the lights low enough and waive shiny objects to distract her- she barely notices. Or I put like color veggies (corn, squash, peppers, carrots) in mac & cheese, or broccoli which luckily my daughter digs.

What's wrong with mac&cheese as a lifeline? I say hey, it's organic. Why not?

I'm with a few other people, edamame is a HIT at my house- warm, cold, in a shell or not. We also roast sweet potatoes, has the look of french fries and tastes like heaven. We also freeze grapes, no idea how why what - but she loves them (not hard as nails frozen) and freeze yoKids Squeezers. Yogurt in a tube. Who knew? It freaks me out but she loves it.

ps. You should get some stock in Annies- you'd do well based on some comments I read and our house!

The Adventures Of Mama Sun And Baby Light Beam | 4:31 AM

BABY LED WEANING ... I don't know if it's very common in The States but it's gaining more popularity over here in New Zealand.
It basically means you wait until 6 months to introduce solids, bypass the whole mushed up pureed stage and just go straight to finger foods. The parents who have recommended it to me say the babies are much more receptive to trying new foods, have positive attitudes towards meal times and grow to be children without "picky" tendencies towards food.

My baby is almost 6 months old so I'll be offering up the first steamed carrot stick very soon and recording the whole adventure on my blog. Here's hoping it works and she avoids becoming the picky eater I was as a child!

I know this doesn't really help with Archer but just wondering if other parents reading this blog have tried this approach to introducing solids. As far as Archer goes I have heard it repeated many times that a new food sometimes needs to be offered up to 10 times before a child will accept it. Also that if a child refuses one type of food one day to not make an issue of it and offer it again 3 or 4 days later. I REFUSED to eat pumpkin as a kid and Mum eventually gave up. At 25 years old (25 people!) I forced myself to eat pumpkin at someone's house just to be polite and was SHOCKED to discover that I actually liked it!

Kat | 6:53 AM

No kids here - but a very picky niece and nephew who spend a lot of time with me....when they were very young (around Acher's age), I started to have them "help" me in the kitchen. They stirred or added ingredients or picked the veg/starch/meat for the meal. Low and behold - they started to gobble everything up! It also opened up some pretty interesting conversation: tired old foods/recipes got exciting new names, whether they made sense or not! Eventually, I was able to try new things and the kiddos LOVED the idea of writing their rating of the dish in my cookbook using the star system.

Goody | 1:25 PM

I hope I'm not repeating stuff that's already been mentioned (I didn't give all 120 comments a close reading).

Feeding a vegetarian child has some real challenges. If you use eggs, then my advice is to cram as many vegetables as you can into a fritatta. Roasted red peppers are loaded with vitamins and not too weird to a kid's palette.

I let my son have two foods he's permitted to hate. He can change those at any time, but he's only allowed two off-limits foods at a time. Since he's stood by winter squash and cucumbers exclusively for over two years, I'm guessing it is a real dislike, and I can live with that. It also makes him feel like he has a say in the food decision.

Lentil-based curries are always popular at our house too.

Http://www.eattheblog.blogspot.com

Anonymous | 12:06 PM

My daughter, just over 2, helped me make pesto the other night. She was spooning it out of the food processor into her mouth and ate it for dinner that night (with much praise for both parents re: helping make dinner!). Leftovers the next night? No such luck. Guess the memory of helping wasn't fresh enough in her mind.

We resort to the dessert trick. We also do "two more BIG bites since you're such a BIG two year old." Some days are good, some days are bad. Our pediatrician has said that kids get their recommended allowances over one to two weeks - not all in one day. Hope that makes you feel a bit better!

amie | 2:18 PM

"Bland is Grand" LOL

I am in big trouble. My daughter is only nine months old and must have cherios at every meal.

If it is any consolation, I was the worst of the worst eaters when I was a child. I wouldn't even eat pasta. My mom finally melted cheese on top, popped it in the oven, called it PIZZA IN A POT and voila, I loved it.

It does get better. I am now a super healthy eater and have been my whole adult life.

Mindy | 2:19 PM

My little ones eating habits definitely vary from time to time and when we are going through a rough phase he loves pasta or annies. I will puree butternut squash and freeze it in little baggies and when he has pasta I can then mix it in. He doesn't know the difference.

Happy Veggie | 7:11 PM

I'm relatively certain it is part dumb luck.

The other thing doesn't help you much, but we never gave her much of a choice on the veggie thing right from the start. We also tried a lot to find ones she liked and then built on that. Now her palate is pretty varied.

There isn't a vegetable I don't like (except squash) so it helps that we eat a lot ourselves.

Good luck.

Christina | 9:26 AM

Cook with your kids. Getting them involved gives them ownership of what they are eating and that is powerful stuff. It can be simple and fairly mess free (although the mess is half the fun). Make English Muffin Pizzas topped with some spinach leaves or mini Hot Pockets by using store bought Pizza Dough and stuffing it with your choice of veggies, cheese, ground turkey (not for u-lol) etc... You can even stuff them with some apples and make a healthy dessert.

everything in moderation because my cousins were raised on only organic healthy food and as soo as they had free will, they went BUCK WILD!!!! They were served Molases and Milk and told is was chocolate milk- wow! Let's just say when they visited my house, Oreos were not safe in their company. SCARY!!!

Anonymous | 6:26 AM

Hold on.
You say you feel like a better mom when women you respect confess their own shortcomings in raising kids.
Wouldn't that make you both mediocre moms, and occasionally crappy moms?
Just wondering.
I suppose if you put mothering on a bell curve then the more less-than-wonderful moms there are, the better you look.
Is that it?