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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Please, oh please, no advice.

This week over at Momversation, Rebecca brought up the topic of picky eaters, and I laughed; oh, how I laughed. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you may remember my periodic rants about Henry's eccentric eating habits. I wish I could report that my son's diet has evolved even a little since that time, but alas, I cannot. We are dealing with it, in our usual clumsy manner, with the help of a nutritionist. It is not easy. Our son is more than a little strong-willed. It is a characteristic I'm sure I will someday come to admire.

As you may have noticed from the title, up there, I am not seeking advice, thank you anyway. But feel free to share your own picky-eater stories.

Reader Comments (127)

And I keep telling my husband to least the boy eats radishes (!) and broccoli. So what if he doesn't eat said hubbies' bok choy/tofu/flax seed stir fry. Heck, I only eat it because I'm grateful someone else is cooking! A friend once told me of the approx. 8 characteristics you'd like your child to display (good eater, good sleeper, easy-going, etc.), you're very lucky if you get TWO. I'm trying to count my blessings....
July 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
My four year old niece is a classic case of learned helplessness. She will not feed herself if her parents are around, but eats fine if they're gone. They started force feeding her when she was about two, and now that's the only way they can get her to eat. They load up her plate with too much food, insist that she is not getting down until she eats all of it, and then after force feeding her half of it they let her down. They argue back and forth with her. She gets dessert and rewards no matter what. Mealtime with them is full of contention and I have gotten up and walked out on more than one occasion. I never say a word in hopes of sainthood, but I am just waiting for their first words of helpful advice when I have kids. It's gonna be ugly.
July 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim
I am so totaly bummed that I missed this post when it was actually current, but I have to comment anyway.

I am the mom of a picky eater. When she was 4 we made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins together. She then took a mouse sized bite and declared that she hated them. The next day she ate four crayons!

Now she is 6 and wants to be a bug scientist. To further this career (I think) she has announced that she wants to lick a fly! This is from the child who will eat no fruits or berries except apples. She said she wanted to try a banana. So I got one, waited till it became ripe, peeled it, sliced it, (she said she had changed her mind) so I rolled it in colored sprinkles and she sat at the table and cried, and then licked the sprinkles off of it...

My pediatrician says it is genetic, and my husband and I were both super picky as children ourselves, so we were doomed!
July 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClarissa
My mother always said, "If it's put on the table, it's good food and you will eat it." She didn't make us any special meals if we didn't like something. We weren't allowed to trade foods with each other. We had to eat the food that was on our plates. Or else. If we didn't eat when everyone else ate, my mother would set a timer. If we didn't eat our meal by the time the timer went off, we had a choice: to bed immediately or a spanking.

I only went to bed early once. Even if I was gagging it down, I'd find a way to eat. I'm not advocating for this tactic, certainly - or any tactic, actually, since this is a story and not advice.

I don't have kids, but my sister took a different route with my niece. She was a decent eater when she was little, then kind of turned picky in the 4-5-6 range. My sister read a story in a magazine about how tastes change every seven years, and told this to my niece. She also told her that when she turned seven, all her tastes might change. So when my niece turned seven, my sister told her she had to try everything she didn't like at least once that year. My niece agreed to this since there was science behind it. After all, what if her tastes did change? She'd have to test it out. Then my sister had her try it all over again when she turned eight since it had been seven years since she was one, and now she might like all different things. And again at nine. And then it was basically over because she went a little Hoover on us. She's 11 now and has tried alligator, sushi, you name it. If you suggest something is edible, she's first in line to eat it. My sister bought edible Easter basket grass this year (that tasted like cardboard but wasn't made of plastic) and she ate it with gusto.

My point: There's hope yet, Alice. It'll all work itself out.
July 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Myszkowski
I'm still the pickiest eater I know. It took fourteen years of battling with my mother over EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. before she gave up and took me to a nutritionist. Said nutritionist talked to me for five minutes, turned to my mother, and said, "Did you know she's got severe sensory processing disorder and physically can't handle the textures of most foods?"Yeah. I wish that had not been as a teenager.Regardless, once we figured that part out, EVERYTHING made sense. Suddenly my mother could see the logic in my refusal to eat almost any food she offered -- too mushy, too crunchy, too dry, too wet, or any number of things. But it was no longer a fight multiple times a day.
July 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarbenais
I was a picky eater as a child. Turns out I'm a 'super taster' I just have more taste buds on my tongue than most and therefore simply can't tolerate the strong flavors. about 25% of the population is like this, maybe Henry is too. The good news is it makes him have a lower risk of obesity! =)
July 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
I am convinced that some children actually photosynthesize.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfavabean
honey, my kid lives on cheese, pasta, and crackers. and cheese-flavored crackers. or sometimes, for variety, cheese-flavored pasta!

i ate nothing but bologna as a kid. i grew out of it. eventually.

i survived. my kid will, too. and so will henry. you're doing a great job.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia
The munchkin will try nearly anything, albeit one tiny bite. I feel so very lucky. I dont know if I did it, or not when I warped her little brain by pointing out that she didnt like her first experience of icecream (the cold), and once she had to try chocolate for the first time (icky-looking brown stuff). Now she rats out her friends when they wont try a bite of something. Oops. Even so, stuff that falls out of frequent rotation risks becoming unacceptable (spaghetti with red sauce for pity's sake!).I wont cook separate meals, but I do try to make sure at least one part of each meal is on the acceptable list.It amazes me that a kid who wont eat most fruits will make me need to buy 2x if I'm going to make a pie or something. If I slice it and put the fruit at lunch, the trash gets it. If I slice it for pie? Those little fingers are stealing the sliced fruit faster than I can get it into the crust. What's with that?
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMic
Dana scares me. I am a big fan of doing whatever it takes for peace and quiet. Me being a hardass is asking my son if he could be flexible. He decides he can and he eats whatever non-beige item I set before him. As long as nothing else is touching it.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
My wee brother used to crawl under the table and cry if anyone ate a salad around him. He was and is the most laid back person ever, so we figured there must be something up for him to freak out about it. We would just have salad when he left the table at the end of the meal, German-diner-style.

He introduced my parents to arugula dressed with olive oil topped with proscuitto a couple of years ago.

Go figure.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate
oh lordy, I was the picky eater in my family. there was a year when I would only eat cheese sandwiches. I only ate things like plain pasta, bread and butter, bananas (not mixed with anything), ketchup (by itself), parmesan cheese (by itself), and plain vanilla ice cream. also, my food couldn't touch (geez, maybe I was OCD), so if we had taco salad, I had little piles of the mix-ins on my plate which I would eat separately. I did grow out of it, have no fear, but not until I was like 13. so good luck to ya, darlin'. I think I was just a neurotic kid and maybe needed a little medication. but, I eat healthily now.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
oh and the peer pressure thing did work on me, but only so much as I could appear to eat the same things as my little friends. I would beg my mom to make me PB&J and she would remind me that I didn't like that, but to no avail. she's give in, I'd take it to school, show it to my friends, then leave it in the lunch box for my mother to find that night. so much for peer pressure.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
I posted once before on this, but do so again because nobody seems to mention it and I'm convinced that for some people (maybe only a tiny minority) it may be something to consider: My 10 year old is "picky" too -- though has enough on her "will eat" list that I think she's healthy enough -- but she also has a lot of food allergies that manifest as vomiting (nb all the stories about kids vomiting up what they've finally eaten) or pure aversion. It took us a LONG time to figure this out: chicken, turkey, oranges, apples, fish...many of the staples of kid life. Indeed, it turned out (to our chagrin) that her refusals almost always corresponded to things that she was allergic to. So, it's just something to think about. She's still picky and we still battle with her about how to construct a healthy diet balancing the things she wants (pasta, pasta, pasta) with the more rounded if limited list of things she can have (tofu, broccoli, cooked tomatoes, pork...)

July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeb
Oh, the picky eating...wade through it, Alice--he'll figure it out someday. :)

In regards to Dana's food approach, there is nothing wrong with that methodology. If it works for her and her family, then she is simply doing what all the other moms here are doing:

Trying to be the best mom possible.

If her way is not *your* way, so be it. We all have to do the best we can with the kids we have and the situations we are in.

July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
I used to be an extremely picky eater when I was a child, and it lasted until I was 16 and got a job at this eclectic, vegetarian restaurant where I got free meals each shift. After that first strange and delicious meal of curry, my whole world changed! Now I love all sorts of flavorful and different international dishes.

For me, pickiness always had a lot to do with fear of strange things, and very little to do with what food tasted like. Sadly, that picky eater is still buried underneath the foodie. Sometimes, I'll try something I'm *afraid* of and, even though it tastes good, I still can't get over the idea of it being strange.
July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermartha
I have 2 daughter's one is 8 and the other 3. The 8 year old is extremely picky, will only eat mac & cheese (but only certain kinds) chicken nuggets but only from Wendy's and White Castle. Mashed Potatoes but only if it's the instant kind. Eggs but only boiled or "fried in Pam" with salt. She'll eat peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) with white or potato bread no crust. Bagels (only the white kind and never frozen) with cream cheese. Skim Milk, lemonade, sunny D, water, Brownies (Entemans Little Bites are her favorite)and Chips ahoy chewey cookies from the red box and no other. And bubble gum (only bubble gum flavored) and the only thing she'll eat a variety of is cereal. We have over 10 kinds of cereal in the house at all times. She will eat no meat (except the 2 kinds of chicken nuggets) or vegetables (except the occasional carrot)

The little one is more accepting of foods, but if given the choice would live exclusively of anything chocolate and lucky charm marshmallows!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
I got nothing, so I'm glad you asked for 'no advice'. #1 son is/was fussy fussy fussy, but has not sunk to the level that some of you talk about. He's almost 9 now, and improving. He was a baby who would eat anything until he was about 2 or 3 when it all narrowed down to pasta with cheese. Fortunately he eats a reasonable amount of fruit, but won't touch vegetables or meat or tofu or eggs... I've done it all too - yelling, pleading, bargaining, rewarding, reheating. Nothing works. I got so sick of making two meals, that we had a lot of fights and a lot of going to bed after two mouthfuls of dinner. Somehow something has changed - he eats a few more things and will try food now. Son #2 is 13 months and eats most things, but is/was refluxy and things like tomatoes and beans seem to give him trouble.

One of my trials right now is that my 80 year od mother in law is staying with us and she is an incredibly fussy eater. It drives me beserk, she will not try things, and simply doesn't appreciate food at all. She's perfectly happy with steamed chicken and rice, which for her is a special meal. Her default lunch is crackers, frozen yoghurt and Coke. Or if she's feeling adventurous she might heat up some frozen vegetables with a can of beans. She can't understand why we "do all this gourmet stuff" (ie home cooked food). Accoring to my husband this is not a new thing. He is moderately fussy, but has nothing on her. I can't imagine what growing up in that house might have been like. In my family, food is a pleasure and sharing a meal is how we get together, so having fussy eaters really strains that time.... Gah...
July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMummy Crit
I hope I'm not the only one secretly in love with Michael Pallan. This article from alternet has an interview with him that echoes some of what was discussed on the video clip:

Not advice! Not advice! I don't even have kids, and I'm sure that when I do, I'll just come back here and ask for advice as to why Ignatious will only eat heart-shaped turkey lunchmeat and pop rocks.
July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjen
I was not the best eater. Still not very good but I am willing willing to try some things and like more things than I did as a kid. My brother is way worse even and he's 41 lol. Mine has a lot to do with my texture issues. I have some sensory stuff going on and I always have.

Both of my girls were great eaters until about 2.5-3 years old. Then the switch flipped. The oldest is way better than her sister. If I can get her to try it then she will most likely eat all of it. My stance for my kids is that they have to try stuff but no more than that.

My youngest however is a stink. She is into refusing to eat most anything. The other night we had salmon and she was yelling before I even started making it saying "I DON'T LIKE SAM!!!" I said that's fine but you do like salmon as you have eaten it many times in the past with glee. She refused at dinner for almost 30 min. then tried and deemed it edible and ate most of it.

I do think she is overly sensitive to taste. She has my strong sense of smell which is very related to taste. The other smells virtually nothing lol. The youngest is also a bit of a control freak. She is 5 and we all know what 5 is like.

So I am taking a new approach with her for now. She needs to try things and I don't want to not push a bit with that. But I am not going to let her sit all stinking night and eat up all of our time and attention sitting at the table whining. She will have the opportunity to eat. If she chooses not to, she will be hungry. She is the type of kid that if she realizes she isn't going to get negative attention she will move on and she will eat. I assure you that she isn't the kiddo that will let themselves starve lol.

She won't get a snack later however, and that will be that. I am sure there will be an uprising over this but I am going to give it a try since hounding her and harassing her is not really working. It may get her to eat at some point but I am tired of sitting for an hour convincing her. It turns mealtime into a miserable time. I will not make anything different for her either. I always make sure I have plenty in our meals that the kids do like.

I just want her to eat more of the things she proclaims she is less fond of. It's a bit different than some others' situations I guess. I do take into account the texture and taste issues. I don't ask for her to even eat things that are way out there. Heck I won't eat that stuff lol. I just want to be able to eat roast, potatoes, and carrots with her and not want to knock her out due to horror of me making her eat it and her reactions of misery.

My girlfriend's son is also on this kick. He's 5 too. It makes for an interesting dinner time. We are not feeding into the attention seeking though. They are looking for control. If they want control it's their's. They can choose to eat what is made for dinner or choose to be hungry until their next meal. :)
July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Ellyn Satter, "Child of Mine"; will change your life. Relief. No more pressure. Good vibes.
July 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeah
This video was hilarious and I laughed out loud! Obviously, because I've been there. Alice, you are so funny!
July 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKarenE
I think Dana's comments are ridiculous. I had a father who espoused her philosophy and made me eat whatever I left on the plate the next day, or day after that. It was disgusting, and now I cannot even look at certain foods without gagging. He also once made me eat my own vomit after I puked whatever it was he was forcing me to eat. What did all of his efforts produce? Someone who today is a very picky eater. My husband had a mother who gently encouraged him to try new foods, and I cannot think of a food that he won't eat
July 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKrista
A nutritionist. Huh. I can't believe I never thought of that.

Googling local nutritionists now...

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMignon
I don't have any advice to give, just a story about myself:

When I was young, my mom always tried to get me to finish everything on my plate before I could leave the table. One night, I sat there for a looooong time staring at a plate of peas that made me gag.

I figured out that I could swallow them whole with some milk, so I started working away at the pile of peas, little by little, swallowing them like pills.

And then the inevitable happened - one of them popped in my mouth, and I started to gag...and then went right past the exit to Gaggingsville and instead threw up all over the table.

I then looked at my mom and said "Can I please get up from the table NOW?" She said yes.

And she never forced me to eat something I didn't want to again. :)
July 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermellowknees

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