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Mommy Problems: How to Handle the Holidays with My Picky Eater

So as many of you know, I often like to wax poetic about how wonderful my child is, or dole out tips on how to be as awesome at parenting as I am. (Ha!!!)  But I am now humbly asking for your advice, because there is one parenting subject which I’m convinced I am totally failing: My son, Owen, is a ridiculously picky eater. No, like seriously. He’s the worst.  And, with the holidays fast approaching, I am having actual anxiety over what to feed my kid amidst all of the typical holiday fare. I really do not want to be the mom who has to bring a cream cheese and jelly sandwich to Thanksgiving dinner.

Applesauce is on the short list of Owen-approved foods

Applesauce is on the short list of Owen-approved foods

I want to preface this by saying that I’m not super concerned about my son getting enough nutrition: he eats just enough of a variety of proteins, carbs, and fruits/veggies so that I’m, like, 92% sure his growth isn’t going to be stunted due to vitamin deficiency or anything like that. But what bothers me is that he doesn’t even eat a lot of what you would typically consider to be “kid” foods. He won’t eat macaroni and cheese, for one. What kid doesn’t eat macaroni and cheese? That seems against the laws of human nature!  He won’t eat dips, sauces, or condiments of any kind, except ketchup. I can’t fool him by sneaking veggies into his meatloaf or hiding them in a smoothie, because he doesn’t eat those things. He also is very, VERY particular about brand: food has to look completely familiar to him, or he won’t even try it. He will only eat a certain kind of waffles and a certain brand of yogurt. If he sees the packaging and it looks wrong, forget it. The other day I tried to get Owen to eat a turkey sandwich. He likes (deli) turkey, and he likes bread. But when I put the turkey ON the bread, he cried as if I had just told him there was no Santa Claus. I gave in and took the turkey off the bread, but then he wouldn’t eat the turkey because it had “bread parts” on it. Did I mention that he’s the worst?

So, Thanksgiving looms before me like a recipe for imminent disaster. Owen does not eat mashed potatoes, stuffing, or cranberry sauce. He will only eat raw carrots and raw spinach, so salad might happen, but no other vegetables will gain entrance into the party in his tummy. And I have never been successful in getting him to eat turkey that wasn’t in lunch meat form, or chicken that wasn’t in nugget form (he won’t even eat the home-made nuggets that I’ve tried to prepare for him. It’s Purdue or nada.) He won’t even eat PIE! Also, he’s not all that polite about not wanting to try new foods. He will have no qualms about telling my family members that the food they’ve made him is “ridiculous,” “disgusting” or “evil.” Embarrassing! (And also, tough not to laugh about!) Owen is so fearful of new foods that it’s kind of alarming. He will only attempt to try something new if I bribe with with chocolate or ice cream, which I know defeats the purpose, because that’s teaching him to value those sugary junk foods over the healthy ones I want him to love. But I’m totally at a loss at this point.

Does anyone have any tips on how to cure my picky eater? And what should I do for the holidays–make him eat what is served, or just say to heck with it and pack him a special, Owen-friendly meal?


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6 Responses to Mommy Problems: How to Handle the Holidays with My Picky Eater

  1. Avatar
    Melissa Whitehead November 18, 2013 at 10:48 PM #

    At this point it sounds like the biggest hurdle is successfully encouraging him to try new foods… have you tried including both his favorites and a new food in one meal? Play a game, like eat just one bite of something in every color of the rainbow. If he completes the rainbow challenge, he gets a [insert non food treat here – like an extra book at night]. That one keeps us honest too, making sure we’re providing variety and I think it would be easier to accomplish at a big holiday dinner. Have you tried including him in planning (and/or preparing) a meal? If he wants raw spinach, ask him if he’d want to make little cocoons of mashed sweet potato inside spinach leaves, or to pick up other foods on his plate using only spinach leaves! Food can be fun!
    Oh, and my two year old won’t touch mac & cheese either!

  2. Allison Hughes-Randall
    Allison Hughes-Randall November 18, 2013 at 10:50 PM #

    I don’t know if I have any advice, but do know that he will likely grow out of this – unless he isn’t challenged to try new things. My mom was a picky eater – much worse than your son, and in turn raised two picky children. It wasn’t until my brother and I lived on our own that we found food was more than plain chicken, potatoes, and a few mixed fruits. Would you believe I never had yogurt or a bagel until I was in my twenties? I think the reason it took so long for us, though, is because no one really encouraged us to eat new things. We were just the picky kids our friends’ parents made special meals for. It won’t be overnight, but keep trying.

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    Greer November 19, 2013 at 9:01 AM #

    Thanks, ladies. I do involve him in the planning of dinner by giving him two choices, but those choices are often between two dinners I know he’ll eat. We talk about new foods all the time, and I try to encourage without forcing (although sometimes with bribing, as I mentioned.) I have indulged his pickiness to a certain extent, but I want to stop doing that–he’ll be turning 4 in a few months! Too old to be coddled like that. I haven’t tried the “rainbow” tactic but it’s a good idea, thanks!!

    My Facebook friends almost overwhelmingly told me that I should bring a special Owen meal to Thanksgiving. I thought that was interesting. I was sure people were going to say offer him what’s there and if he doesn’t eat it, then too bad. Frankly, that’s the way I’m leaning.

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    Alicia November 20, 2013 at 2:39 PM #

    I agree with your friends… bring him his own meal. My kid was as picky as Owen (seriously… I feel your pain), and now she likes to try new foods. It just kind of happened on its own the older she got. She still doesn’t really like mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce or stuffing or even turkey (unless it’s deli turkey, just like Owen). I don’t push it because there are now so many other foods she WILL eat. It’s the textures of the foods for my kid, and I totally get her. If she wants an omelette on Thanksgiving instead, I’m gonna make it for her because it’s healthy and she gobbles it down. That’s what really matters. My two cents.

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    ashley November 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM #

    I completely understand where you are coming from. My 15 month old rafael will not eat cheese so I have been online trying to find any smoothies with cheese. He wont eat spaghetti or any noodles. But im more worried about his cheese issues. He wont eat cheese puffs and pasta. He will fight kick scream and holler until I leave him alone. Any ideas?

  6. Avatar
    Elysa November 25, 2013 at 9:12 PM #

    Ashley,you can try cottage cheese in smoothies.

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