When the picky comes out

I had a feeling it would happen eventually, which is why I chose to be thankful for each day Liv would eat ANYTHING under the sun. I’ve found that a lot of things (just like with an adult) can affect her appetite, especially if she’s been sick or is teething.

Scooter girl

Now that she’s much better after being sick a couple of weeks ago, we’ve all noticed that her preferences are very different. Aaaaand she only wants sweets.

“Livi, do you want pizza or chicken for dinner?”

“I want ICE CREAM for dinner!”

We have dessert fairly often over here, but the rule is that you need to have some healthy food before you have dessert. She knows that we definitely won’t get gelato if she doesn’t eat her main meal, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to trick us.

“I’m not hungry.”

“Ok, you can be excused.”

“I want a cupcake.”

For now, I’m still offering everything, but there are still some days when she has two cereal bars in a row because it’s the only thing she wants and will eat. Also, we’ve decided to cut down the sweets a little bit over here… it got a little out of control for all of us for a while. Usually it works well if she doesn’t see or know about dessert until dinner is over.Β Giant fail of the week: I bought the gluten-free mint chocolate cupcakes for us to all have at my mom’s on St. Patrick’s Day. I slyly put them into the shopping cart -it was almost time for lunch and I knew if Liv saw them there was no way she’d want a normal lunch- and while the cashier rang us up, she held the cupcakes up and said, “These cupcakes are SO DELICIOUS!” Needless to say, I checked out with a flailing toddler in my arms in a cupcake-induced meltdown. Thankfully, she forgot about it when we got to the car and I could give her a sandwich and pear I’d packed up. The pear was thrown (I still haven’t been able to find it) and the sandwich was ripped into tiny pieces, so who knows how much was actually consumed.

Any tips for a toddler who has suddenly become picky?

For now, I’m thinking the best bet is to keep offering the usual foods (sometimes she surprises us with what she prefers) and ride it out. She also gets two gummy vites per day, which hopefully help to fill the gaps.

Lunch today:

Toddler lunch

(Chicken tortilla soup, cheesy crackers, an egg and a peeled apple, which she peeled with my help. The avocado and cheesy crackers + some more were eaten, not much else.)

A kid will survive if they only want bunnies and smoothies, right? (I hope)Β 

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Comments

  1. Ok so I totally thought by the post title that you were going to talk about Livi picking her nose, haha.

    Max’s food right now is pretty much all about the same thing. He does like certain meats, grains and veggies (obviously no problems with most fruits and other sweet things) – but some things he will not try at all. BUT according to my daycare lady he eats stuff like sweet potatoes, raspberries, chicken all the time at daycare – but not at home. So for dinner, I usually just rotate between food i know he will eat. Luckily he does like at least one or two veg’s, meats and grains – but I do wonder if the kid is sick of pasta yet….

    I found that for meats and certain veggies – having a healthy option dip helped Max eat some new things. I also hid these like peas in some food items, but he is too smart and notices πŸ˜‰

  2. Pickiness comes in phases. The key is to just keep offering what you’re eating and nothing else.

    I have an almost 4-year-old and a 16-month-old and they are both overall really good eaters, but they definitely have their “off” times.

    Try not to get freaked out by her not eating anything. If she doesn’t want what you give her, than she doesn’t eat (usually my kids will guzzle their milk once they realize they’re not going to be eating much for dinner). It’s especially hard with the baby, but I usually try to have at least one thing on her plate that she’ll go for.

    I think a lot of parents get to the point you’re at and then fall into the trap of offering them a bunch of different things just to get them to eat something. Be strong! It will pass! πŸ™‚

    • Fitnessista says:

      good to know! i’ve already decided that i’m not making her something different than what we’re eating. she can eat it, or not. but if she skips it, no dessert

    • I was going to comment, but I’m just going to ditto this comment instead πŸ™‚

      H has had a phase or two of finicky eating, but it never lasts long.

    • I do this EXACTLY! Jack (same age as Liv) knows he isn’t getting anything different than what I serve, but after multiple persuation tactics and asking for ‘more milk’ a thousand times, he finally gives in and will eat (mostly) what i put on his plate (if he is hungry).

      I have come to realize that he isn’t going to always want to eat what i make, but he eats enough of a variety that i don’t stress about it. Liv was (is) such a good eater, i bet she bounces back to her old ways!

      As far as sweets go, are you sitting down, my son does not like them, it is the craziest thing – the only sweets he likes are fruits. But as well all know, this could change at the drop of a hat, so i will enjoy it now:)

      Oh, and not sure how much Liv likes pasta (Jack would eat it every day), but my go-to is kale pesto, he loves it and i love him eating it!

      Good luck!

  3. Would you mind doing a post on how you are establishing rules and guidelines for a toddler? You touched a little on it here when you said that she knows she has to eat her meal before ice cream. How have you established those rules? Any tips or tricks?
    Also I (and i think a bunch of others) would LOVE another Livi-isms post! She is a riot!

    • Fitnessista says:

      i think consistency is the key. when we tell her “no,” the answer is no. the end. when i notice she does something especially wonderful, i give her a sparkly sticker. like “i noticed you said ‘thank you’ to the lady at the whole foods, and that was great manners. you get a sticker.” i give her stickers for extra special things, not just everyday things she’s expected to do (like helping to clean up her toys, be nice to the dogs, etc)
      there’s a new livi-isms post in the works. lots of zingers this week haha

  4. I love that you keep it real! It’s not always rainbows and butterflies and it’s good to see that!! Thanks Gina!!

  5. I was a pretty picky eater as a child and really hated when my parents made me eat stuff I didn’t want to (or even “made” me in the sense that they did not let me eat anything else). This was especially true with meat. I have always not wanted to eat it for as long as I can remember.
    Anyway, with my own children, I plan healthy meals every night. I try to think of things they all like to eat, but if they truly don’t want to eat what we are having, and have tried it then they can have a sandwich. That is always an option. I also don’t force them to eat all their food. We very rarely have actual dessert in our house though (not to say we don’t go out for fro-yo often enough. . .), so something sweet for them at home is fruit.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i like the sandwich idea! we don’t make her eat anything if she doesn’t want to, but offer what we’re eating. usually we don’t have a ton of sweets in the house, but when we go over to my parents’ or out to eat, there is always dessert

  6. That’s what we did. Our daughter is five now. She had to eat what was offered. We didn’t make special meals for her. If she was full that was fine, we just saved her plate until she was hungry and she could eat. This is normal and it will pass. Hang in there mama!

  7. Have you ever heard of Ellyn Satter? She is kind of the gold standard in the nutrition world as far as feeding children goes. I’m currently an undergrad dietetics student and we have to read “How to Get Your Child To Eat… But Not Too Much” for our lifecycle nutrition class. I don’t have children, but I enjoyed her tips and look forward to using them in the future. (Disclaimer, sometimes she focuses on manners, which may be good or bad depending on what you’re looking for)

    Here’s a link to her picky eater page: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/thepickyeater.php

    Hope it helps you some!

  8. No picky eating tips, but instead of the ice cream how about some blended frozen bananas with chocolate chips/nut butter as a topping? When the kids I nanny for a really craving ice cream but I don’t want them to eat anything else with (too much) sugar, that is usually what I offer them πŸ™‚

  9. This is a really cute post πŸ™‚ I know you’re struggling with her and probably don’t want to hear that it’s necessarily cute, but it is. I am going to be a mommy to a little boy in July, and think about this kind of thing all of the time. What happens if he doesn’t like my food? Let’s face it, some of it is a “stretch” on the flavor-meter according to the husband, but I guess I am just so used to cooking a certain way. I think you are doing a GREAT job at giving Livi healthy options! I bet it’s just a little phase and will soon pass! Her lunch looks really yummy! I am around 22-23 weeks pregnant and could live on bunnies alone, too. I get it, Livi πŸ˜‰

  10. I need more picky eater tips myself! My son is 3 1/2 and it started about a year ago. I have noticed if I only offer certain snacks (healthy choices) when we are in the car it works great, because there is nothing else available! I have also been giving him Juice Plus gummies, which interestingly seem to help him eat more fruit and veggies after only taking them a couple of days! I know people sell them, but I got them on eBay. I researched the best fruit/veggie supplements for kids because it was getting to the point where he wan’t eating any in a day!!! So far they are helping and giving me piece of mind! I hope Liv doesn’t get too picky! πŸ™‚

  11. I need more picky eater tips myself! My son is 3 1/2 and it started about a year ago. I have noticed if I only offer certain snacks (healthy choices) when we are in the car it works great, because there is nothing else available! I have also been giving him Juice Plus gummies, which interestingly seem to help him eat more fruit and veggies after only taking them a couple of days! I know people sell them, but I got them on eBay. I researched the best fruit/veggie supplements for kids because it was getting to the point where he wan’t eating any in a day!!! So far they are helping and giving me piece of mind! I hope Liv doesn’t get too picky! πŸ™‚

  12. Happens to the best of them!

  13. My daughter was a very picky eater-lived on PBJ-she is now a register dietitian and a very healthy/adventurous eater :).

  14. Amber Schumann says:

    Oh, I am SO following the reader comments on this one!!!!! I feel like my toddler forgot all her vocabulary and replaced it with “COOKIE! BAY-EE HAVE COOOOOKIIIEEEE”.

    She’s kicked veggies to the curb. The only things I can distract her with during her cookie demands are cheese pizza and bean/cheese burritos. *sigh*

  15. I remember being super picky as a kid (I didn’t like pb&js…who was I?!), but now I love everything! (including cupcakes before dinner sometimes…oops! I would have grabbed the TJ’s ones as well!)

  16. I always found it helpful to put a small serving of dessert on my children’s plate. If they ate it first it was fine. 2 cookies was not usually enough to fill them and they knew they weren’t getting more. It got us through some very picky times. I also think it helped to discourage the mind set that you need to clean your plate to eat dessert which can lead to over eating.

  17. You’re doing the right thing, and are a great mom. Just remember, she won’t let herself starve, just have healthy options for her when she’s ready to eat. And, keep track on a weekly basis not daily. All toddlers must go through a picky phase, mine did. Thanks!

  18. You are doing a fabulous job, and definitely know your daughter better than any of us!! I would so eat her lunch above. πŸ™‚
    When I was a nanny, years ago, both the little girl and twin boys went through the craziest food jags. At one point in time, Grace would eat nothing but scrambled eggs with cheese, macaroni & cheese, and raisins. Let me tell you her bowels were most interesting! Then there was one phase where the twins would only eat PLAIN canned black beans, goldfish crackers, frozen Amy’s Mac & Cheese dinners, and milk. Luckily for the parents, these patterns only lasted a couple of weeks, and at least they ate SOMETHING. I noticed, during this time period too, that their eating habits/ patterns/ food preferences changed SO much and every couple of weeks. So did their nap schedules!
    If Livi sees someone else, like a friend, aunt, cousin, etc., eating something does she ever want it because they eat it? For example, if Meg eats something, say a vegetable of sorts, and “oohs and ahhs” over it, would she want it just because of that? Worth a try since sometimes the little ones just want to rebel against the ones that discipline. Ha! Smart little cookies, but like to show off for others. πŸ™‚

  19. Not that I wish a picky eater on anybody, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Bloggers finally have picky eaters – I’m not alone!! B has been picky since we started solids, and because of that, desserts/sweets are rare for her. One thing that has worked for us lately is the “no thank you bite” and a bite for a bite. The “no thank you bite” sometimes ends in a standoff (we’re working on it), but often I can get her to eat her veggies by putting something I know she’ll eat, like grapes, on the table and if she’ll eat one bite of the veggies, she’ll get a grape. It works better than insisting she finish all the veggies before she can go to town on the good stuff.

  20. Like some others have said, I was quite a picky eater as a child and grew up to be fine and to eat healthy foods. I agree with the comment above that maybe having a safe fall back as an option is a good idea (ie a sandwich). I did not like being forced to eat certain foods as a kid, especially meat, and as soon as I realized I had a choice in what went into my body I ate very little meat (and have been a vegetarian fully for over ten years). I think you are doing great and just try to remember that it takes time! Don’t be too hard on yourself (or Livi) trying to reach an ideal. You are a great mom!!

  21. My normally adventurous 2.5 year old daughter is going through a picky phase. My son went through it, too. Now he’ll eat pretty much everything. Just stay strong. One thing I think helps is to serve the stuff she’ll usually eat but in a different way. My daughter has been anti-apple lately, which is strange because she used to love them. So today for lunch, I cut her apple up into “baby apples” (just cubed). She loves anything to do with babies, so she ate every single baby apple on her plate. If she has a sandwich or a quesadilla, try cutting out shapes with a cookie cutter. My son loved stabbing his food with a toothpick instead of a fork. Just change up the way she eats her usual favorites and see if that works!

  22. We just had a sitter that was really awful about the food thing. She would just feed Squish dried fruit and chocolate all day. Now we’re with our regular sitter again, and it’s painful trying to get him to eat real food! He keeps pointing at the place where we stash treats when we have them and says, “Chocolate! Chocolate!” We’re just surviving through the food-induced toddler meltdowns too at this point.

  23. My son has been picky since he started eating solid food. I’ve always been jealous of toddlers that would eat normal kid foods and found myself saying “How easy it would be if you liked mac n cheese, pasta, etc!” so often. But we have just had to go along with what we know he likes…which changes every other week. One week he will like chicken nuggets and the next he will not. Very frustrating to throw away food when he won’t eat it. We try to give him those fruit/veggie pouches, low sugar juice fortified with vitamins, and whatever healthy stuff we know he always likes, likes strawberries and grapes. Livi will do great…you have had so much luck with her tastes before, maybe it’s just a stage.

  24. I am a a pretty picky eater so I feel for you! It’s frustrating to not like much and I think that was because when I was younger my parents let me eat whatever I wanted.. If my mom made something for dinner and I didn’t like it my mom would make me something else. I know it’s tough to deal with Liv and her picky eating.

  25. Just ride the wave and be consistent. Our 2 1/2 year old WAS such a good eater then Bam! But it seems to go in waves. And out of the blue she loves broccoli and will eat anything.

  26. Stick to your guns! My son went through a pretty picky stage around 2 years and we held strong to our food rules and kept offering healthy foods. He still would choose ice cream over regular dinner food any day but he knows that what’s put in front of him is what he gets. One rule that works well for us is that he has to try at least one bite of everything on his plate. He can then ask for more of anything and doesn’t have to eat what he doesn’t really like. More often than not he discovers he actually likes the food he was first refusing to eat. When I feel like he’s lacking in veggies I add in more green smoothies into his diet until he’s back on track. Hope this stage passes for you soon!

  27. Have you read the book “Intuitive Eating”? It has a whole section on how to raise an intuitive eater…its based on the premise that if children are allowed to choose what they eat without any emotions or judgments attached to them (like vegetables are healthy, cake is not), they will intuitively choose a balanced diet. Super interesting!

  28. Shaina Anderson says:

    Tripp recently started this too! I’m more lax during the day because it’s easy to throw together a plate of random stuff for lunch when it’s just the two of us, but dinner is whatever I cook and that’s it. Smoothies have saved me on more than one occasion….I throw spinach in there and feel much better. If Tripp had his way though, he would eat cheese and bunny snacks all day every day. He takes a multi, vitamin d and probiotics daily so I’m hoping that helps to fill in the gaps. I did try a new zucchini fritters recipe this afternoon that I friend texted me and he ended up eating the ENTIRE batch – 2 whole zucchini – so now I know what to always have in the freezer haha. I can email it to you if you want. I think the trick was the yogurt on top though. πŸ˜‰

  29. Wow, perfect timing for this post! Just today my toddler had a full-blown MELT DOWN at lunch time. Refused to eat a thing on her plate, threw everything on the floor, and shrieked for some Cheese-Its (a package was sitting on the counter). FAIL! Forget desserts, I have to hide “regular” snack foods or else she will refuse to eat anything other than the snacks. Hoping this phase will pass!

  30. We deal with picky-ness by continuing to introduce the foods that they refuse. If we gave up on every food that got the cold shoulder the first time around, we’d be really limited, but they usually come around after awhile. We also never order off of kids’ menus. We share our restaurant meals with our kids. My oldest loves a good steak and my youngest can polish off a piece of fish with me like nobody else!

  31. I was a super picky eater as a kid, but I eventually grew out of it. I think all kids go through that phase where they only want one or two things, or only want sweets. It seems best to ride it out by only offering the healthy, real food options. If they are truly hungry, they’ll eat those foods.

  32. Kids at about 2 have a (normal) decrease in appetite because their growth rate has slowed right now compared to earlier in life so don’t push too much. She’ll regulate her appetite on her own. Kids don’t starve themselves to death plus her key period of brain development is done so you can worry less.

    Keep offering and don’t cave on the sweets. My friend uses the ‘no thank you bite’ strategy with her girls- they can refuse any foods but they must take one bite to taste it before saying no thank you.

    Best wishes!
    Megan (developmental psychologist)

  33. This makes me feel so much better. My 2.5 year old daughter just started this within the past week. She is mostly pickiest for dinner “I’m not hungry” and suddenly she doesn’t like any meat (she used to eat almost everything). There have been a few nights she only ate avocado or strawberries for dinner and she claims she’s full. Oh well….hopefully this phase won’t last too long!

  34. We don’t do the eat what we eat or don’t eat rule in our house.
    I think there are different reasons for picky eating and you have to figure out what is behind each child before you can address it. Sometimes it is behavioral and as toddlers learn they are their own person they try to find ways to have some control over their domain. They spend a lot of their days being told what to do (from their perspective, it doesn’t matter if the stuff is absolutely necessary). For these situations, I think it is great to offer lots of options just like you did on the plate above and let them eat what they eat. Sometimes we will set out the meal options and let the child pick 3-4 things to make up their plate rather than having an adult do it. It gives them a choice and some independence.

    You also have to consider texture issues. My husband was labelled a picky eater as a kid, but his problem was a texture issue. To this day there are certain foods that absolutely disgust him and it didn’t matter how often he was forced to eat them as a kid. My oldest hates potatoes. Rather than make her eat what we eat, I give her the option of having more of something else on her plate or let her offer up a healthy alternative. We have been doing this since she was 2.5 or so and she knows better than to try to swap out peas for a cookie. ha ha. She isn’t a big beef eater either and I will let her swap out for a different protein like yogurt, cheese, beans,or left overs from the night before. She isn’t a defiant or difficult child. She has food preferences just like I do. The difference is, I get to pick what I am going to make for dinner. πŸ™‚ For example, you won’t find me cooking eggplant or parsnips. If someone else in this house does, I swap out for something else because I find those particular items disgusting.

    As for the sweets, I think a lot of kids have a sweet tooth and perhaps this is tied to carb cravings, which I think kids do need. We don’t limit fruit in our house and I am totally fine with swapping out fruit for veggies at times, especially if I know the veggie is really something they don’t like. I’ve read more than one published study which showed if a diet included a variety of fruits, especially berries, there really isn’t a need to freak out about veggies.

    We don’t do what most would consider dessert often so there isn’t an expectation on their end that they will get a cookie, cupcake, or ice cream, but when we do have something planned they have to eat a reasonable portion of their dinner to be able to have the dessert. We aren’t members of the clean your plate club though.

  35. I often say “if you’re hungry enough for dessert, you’re hungry enough for dinner/apple/healthy snack” Particularly if they haven’t had enough (or any!) dinner- and it sounds like you’re doing that. I don’t think you can start too young to teach kids to listen to their bodies. I agree with your other readers who’ve said they steer clear of the ‘clean plate’ club.

    The other thing, and you’ve shown that you do this too, is having my 3-year-old help make whatever we’re having, even if it’s a small job. She’s always more interesting in eating something that she’s had a hand in making.

    And ketchup. It’s amazing what toddlers will eat with sauce of some sort on top!

    Good luck!

  36. Great post and great comments! Thanks to all! I have a picky 3 year old and a 18 month old who will eat anything! I try to abide by the “parent picks what and when and kid picks how much” rule but I do think about what I would have eaten when I was a kid. I wouldn’t eat a pork chop or salmon when I was a kid so I’ll offer it to my boys…but if they won’t eat it I’ll usually make them something else quick.

    I second the comment above on sauce and dips. And presentation. Put something on a skewer (for older kids of course), or cut it into an interesting shape using cookie cutters, or offer a dip and it’s amazing what kids will try!

  37. When given the opportunity, children will often develop an affinity for processed foods vs. fresh. No matter how organic and natural the ingredients are, bars and crackers and cookies are less nutritious than whole foods and they affect preferences for flavors and textures. If she’s continuously choosing packaged snacks over fresh foods on her plate, try phasing out the processed foods!

  38. Yes, they can grow up on smoothies and goldfish. My picky toddler is now a picky teen. But she doesn’t have a weight issue or food/eating issues (besides being picky) so I just let her be.

    I just hope it’s a sign she’ll be picky about boys someday. Picky is ok sometimes.

    I wish she’d eat anything I put in front of her but the dogs take care of that for me.

    • Fitnessista says:

      hahaha bella has become even more of a garbage disposal lately. the second i go upstairs, she snags ANY food she can find. it’s out of control

  39. Even though I don’t have any children, I really enjoyed the post. I guess it’s because I have a puppy who throws tuntrums every now and then. I don’t feel so alone now! Ahahahahah!

    xoxo
    Olena

  40. Stick with offering her the nutritious food you’ve been giving her, I think my daughters picky period lasted over a year. She is finally eating more foods, she also used to eat anything. Look at the whole weeks worth of meals, and pack those smoothies full of nutrition.

  41. My SIL was a picky eater growing up, and her mom induldged it by becoming a short order cook. Now as a grown woman having her over for dinner is a nightmare and going out to restaurants is frequently embarrassing and unenjoyable. I am already dreading the food example she is going to set for our (future) kiddos.

    When I was younger I went through a short picky phase, but the pediatrician told my mom, “No child will starve if there is [healthy] food in front of them.” I am so glad my parents didn’t give into my pickiness – it is so frustrating to have a grown woman turn her nose up at a nice healthy meal I’ve prepared.

  42. I am going through this right now with my 3 yr.old daughter. She loves fruits and veggies, but hardly eats things with carbs, fats, protein, etc. She has always been small (0-1%) for weight, so I worry about her eating ALL THE TIME. Meal times are very stressful for me. I will be following the responses on this post. One thing that I have found that helps is saying stuff like, “This is princess pizza” or “This is Frozen chicken”. For some reason “tricking” her with things she likes works…(sometimes πŸ™‚ ) Just remember, you are not alone.

  43. I remember Caitlin (Healthy Tipping Point) did a post about toddler food where she made all kinds of fun “pictures” with Henry’s food….it looked fun! Maybe Liv would like that πŸ™‚ Dominic is only 3 months but I CANNOT WAIT to start giving him solids!!!

  44. I’m so not looking forward to this part of parenting. Good luck!

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