Picky Kids: There IS a Solution

First of all, I need to let you guys know there was a typo in my blog post yesterday. When I said that one 20-ounce Coke contains 67 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of 32 little sugar packets, I meant to type 22. This is a pretty significant difference and I had to let you know about it. I’m sorry if I shocked anyone, but I mean seriously, 22 sugar packets is still a LOT of sugar! When I re-read the blog post from my iphone yesterday and realized my mistake, I was a little annoyed with myself but sort of forgot about it. But then I got a phone call from my friend Therese saying that she enjoys 1 Coke every week or two and that now I have RUINED it for her, I felt the need to let you guys know of my error! Seriously, though, 22 packets is still a ton of sugar and I’m sorry if I have ruined soda for you but I think it’s time you know the truth! You should just be glad I didn’t provide the sugar packet comparison with other popular drinks, like Gatorade, Vitamin Water, Powerade, Nantucket Nectar juices, and flavored teas! You’d be shocked and again, I would ruin these drinks for you! Just go for plain old water…

Anyway… let’s move on.

This morning I read an article from yesterday’s Denver Post titled “What can parents do to get their kids to taste new foods? Nothing.”

Naturally, this caught my attention. My initial reaction was “I disagree!” and I sat down to read the article.

The author, Anne Brockhoff, basically says that kids go through many different phases with food and eating, and the best way parents can deal with this is by not catering to their needs. This is something I’ve talked about at PWN before, but I think it’s so important that I am going to write about it again. Since I do not have kids nor any experience working with picky eaters, I realize some credibility is at stake. But I have read many books and articles on this subject, attended a conference that focused on this, and since then become more interested, aware, and observant of this phenomenon.

Ellyn Satter, who is cited in the article, is an expert on this topic and has even written books for families who struggle with kids and eating. She states: “The trend in recent years is that almost everybody has become more anxious about it.” This appears to be very true. And the natural response when your child rejects the dinner you’ve made or decided to serve? I’m guessing it’s to rush to the kitchen and find something they will eat, because you want them to go to bed with a full tummy (and let’s be honest, there are probably selfish motives too – you don’t want them up at your bedside at 2:00 am whining about how hungry they are!).

But despite the title of the article, Brockhoff’s conclusion was not “nothing” (thank god!). She talked about the need to continue introducing new foods into a child’s diet, and reminded us that sometimes you have to introduce it 100 times before the kid is ready to try or accept the food. Her best point? In my opinion, it was this: “…serve children the same meal you make for yourself. They don’t need separate ‘kid-friendly’ foods or snacks, many of which are inferior to the grown-up versions in both taste and nutrition. Parents are often surprised by… the foods their kids will take to.” I don’t have kids, but when I do, this is going to be my rule. It’s so much healthier and so much easier, so therefore seems so logical. Making 1 dinner each night is enough work… I cannot imagine having to make 2 separate dinners! Not to mention I feel I’d just be encouraging this bratty, selfish behavior if I catered to them by only fixing foods they prefer. Okay, I’m obviously opinionated about this and have no right to be until I’ve experienced it with my own kids, but I really do think it’s unfair to a child to only feed them kid food. They deserve better!

Brockhoff provides some tips for helping kids overcome picky eating and developing a sophisticated palate:

  • Schedule a kid’s meals and snacks, and stick to the schedule. Remember the division of responsibility: Parents decide what, when and where; kids decide how much and whether or not to eat.
  • Skip the kiddie foods, as they often rely on sweeteners, salt and fat for their appeal. If you know it’s bad for your body, why would it be good for your kid’s body??
  • Don’t label your child. Calling them a “picky eater” gives them license to refuse food. Just don’t make a big deal out of it at all. If they choose not to eat, so be it. Maybe tomorrow they’ll be hungrier and try something.
  • Don’t give up. Take a long-term approach, and you’ll see the results as they become older and more open to new foods.

The content was actually strong and I ended up agreeing with almost everything the article stated. My conclusion? The title was misleading! There ARE things you can do to get kids to taste new foods. Check out some of Ellyn Satter’s books (listed here) if you struggle with this at home and want more information. She’s a great resource and is considered an expert in this area.


  1. Annie, that is sooo funny!!!! In retrospect, the call was a bit irrational, but I promise to make my coke once every three weeks. Also, my aunt bought me the food proccessor off my registry....and Deirdre and I had a convo last night about how exciting that is soley because of all your recipes. So keep-em comin! ~Ty

  2. Hi Ann! As a mom of 3, I'm obvs interested in this topic. I'll share just a few things I've found over the years: I agree with the notion that kids shouldn't be catered to and should be eating "adult" foods. I will say, however, to any new parents who may be struggling with this issue, backing off and not stressing about it may be helpful. Every kid has a few healthy things they will eat--try and round out meals based on those things. If the adult members of your family want to eat porch chops, maybe prepare them with a peach glaze rather than the dijon cream sauce so they will be more appealing to kids. Maybe they will eat only a portion of your grown-up meal--you can serve things minus certain spices or sauces and still have them eat the family meal. My third kid is by far the best eater--she was given a bit of this and that mostly due to lack of time and energy-but my other 2 are coming along. Every once in a while, I'll throw something crazy in the mix--kale has not gone over well yet!-but more often, I'll find them asking me to try new things. Sushi was a hit this week because my 6 year old had international week at school. Don't worry about it too much-the variety will develop over time; you can always sneak some pureed veggies in their taco meat!

  3. Hi Ann,

    The division of responsibility idea has been revolutionary in our house! It is amazing, too, to see what a two year old will eat over the course of three or four meals.

    Also Liam has decided that when he turns into Peter Rabbit that he likes vegetables. He covers his eyes and then transforms. All we have to do is pretend that Mr. McGregor is coming to shout "stop thief," and he gobbles up spinach, lettuce, cukes and peppers. Radishes too!

    - Mary Pat

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