Parenting Sucks!: Picky Eaters

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Dear Joanne,

My five year old is so picky about eating. I thought he’d grow out of it by now, but he hasn’t. Any ideas?


Dear Cheryl,

Yes I do! I too have a picky eater and I know first hand how frustrating it is to get a kid to eat a variety of foods instead of just mac n’ cheese and some kind of nugget.  But there is hope.  With a few kitchen gadgets, and a few deceptive tactics far greater than any used in the military, your kid will be eating a variety of healthy food (although I don’t think you should tell him that!).

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    Hide the good stuff. Long before there were cookbooks (and subsequent lawsuits) by women such as Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, moms were hiding healthy foods in their kid’s diet. My personal favorite hiding place: pancake batter. If lack of protein is your issue, use two egg whites to replace one whole egg. If lack of fiber is the problem, use less flour (or pancake mix) and add flax seed meal, a great source of fiber and omega-3. No matter what you’re hiding, add a splash of vanilla extract to the batter to pump up the flavor so it’s less noticeable. Other ideas are to put pureed carrots in tomato sauce, pureed cauliflower in mac n’ cheese, and even pureed spinach in brownies.

  • Make food fun. You think kids would eat celery with peanut butter and raisons if it weren’t called “Ants On A Log”? Give food a silly name or make it more kid friendly, and your child will be gobbling it up faster than sand at the playground! Add a few drops of food color to turn a boring breakfast into “green eggs and ham”. If you child doesn’t like milk, add a few drops of blue to create “Blues Clues Milk”. A once forbidden slice of whole wheat bread will quickly become a favorite if you toast it, cut it into a circle with a large biscuit cutter, scrape off eyes and a smile, and present it as “Tubbie Toast”!
  • Make food plain. Finicky kids like things simple and texture free. Strain pulp from orange juice, put canned sauce in a blender to get rid of all those yucky chunks, and don’t even think about adding “lawn” (finicky eater kidspeak for herbs).
  • Have your kids help out in the kitchen. If you can get your child to help make their meals, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting them to eat it.
  • Use chicken stock or bouillon as a secret weapon. Any food will have a lot more flavor if it’s cooked in stock instead of water. Use it to steam veggies (especially broccoli!) and add some chicken bouillon to pasta water (they’ll even eat whole wheat pasta!).
  • Use peer pressure. This same influence that may one day lead to smoking and ultra low ride jeans can actually work in your favor now. If your child sees his friend eating something healthy, there’s a greater chance your kid will eat it too.

Although your child will probably never outgrow his fondness for all things pizza and ice cream (I never did), hopefully these tips will get some healthy food in him so you won’t worry about the other junk he’s putting in his mouth. Except for that playground sand because that’s just gross.

Joanne Kimes is the author of the bestselling “Sucks” series as well as “The Stay-at-Home Martyr.” Visit her at

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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