Getting a picky eater to eat

It’s time for me to come out of denial. There was a time, a few months in fact, where X would eat anything. As he munched on spoonfuls of caramelized onions, Z and I would smile smugly at each other, both thinking: We are such awesome parents. We so do not have a picky eater. (By the way, all parents have these smug thoughts at one time or another. It’s a way to deal with the lack of sleep and social life. Don’t hate us too much.)

But then, things changed. X doesn’t have much of an appetite, which I find crazy since he is so active, you’d think he would spend half of his life refueling. But nope. He doesn’t eat much and sometimes I find myself near tears, begging him to take just one more bite as he laughs in my face then spits out whatever’s in his mouth. X can be kind of a jerk sometimes. So it’s time for me to ‘fess up: I have a picky eater.

Especially since he is so active, I think it’s all the more important that whatever he does eat is high quality and will help keep his little body growing. He’s grown quite a bit in height since we arrived in Geneva, but has hardly gained any weight, so I’m nervous for his next weigh in. Before anyone freaks out, he does get enough to eat and he is growing just fine, is super high energy and very healthy. But it takes work. As he spat another veggie in my face, I realized that I was going to have to be creative in getting him to eat healthy.

To start, I sat down to make a list as to what he does like to eat and what he will occasionally eat. As it turns out, the list looks like this.

What X will eat any time, anywhere: Chocolate, with a special subheading for Nutella

Seriously, the boy loves Nutella. I have on occasion smeared things with Nutella to get him to eat. Nutella on broccoli. Nutella on chicken. No, I don’t think I’m a super parent when I do this, but it gets him to eat. People who’ve grown up in Europe assure me that sounds very similar to their childhood so X probably is going to be okay.

What X will eat occasionally: Everything else. Literally.

There is no rhyme or reason to what X will eat at any given time. Usually it’s nothing, or white bread with Nutella. But then sometimes, he’ll be all like yes please more wild-mushroom-salmon-something, and I do a double take then spoon as much as I possibly can into him before he changes his mind. I then go and make a huge quantity of wild-mushroom-salmon-something, thinking thank god finally something that doesn’t make me cringe when he eats it. And I go to give it to him the next day and he spits it in my face. Jerk.

I’m learning I have to keep things interesting, new and the veggies hidden. No pressure or anything. I’ve been experimenting with new recipes. A good site I found was Melissa D’arabian’s Picky Eaters Project, on the foodnetwork. I tried a bunch of her recipes, with pretty good results (the first time around. Haven’t tried any of these for a second time, and there’s no telling what X will not be into the next time.)


This Turkey Pot Pie Turnover went over really well with Z – he loves meat and veggies in some sort of pastry. I thought it was pretty good too, and met my requirement of having veggies pretty well hidden in there, although the pastry isn’t the healthiest thing we’ve ever eaten. X was sort of convinced – but he certainly was more into the puff pastry than anything else. It got him eating, but he wasn’t eagerly devouring veggies (is that too high of an expectation to achieve?)


For something a little different, I tried some homemade Pad Thai with Turkey. I like making my own sauce because I can control how much sugar goes into it. This was good, although not as yummy as the pad thai I used to happily get at the mall and devour back in Canada. Not a hit with X, and I’m not sure I’ll make this one again.


This meal was heavenly. We started with Roasted Tomato Soup, with a healthy dollop of creme fraiche mixed in. This soup was to die for. I am not a soup person, but I think I can say this was my favourite soup I’ve ever had. There’s not too much to it – tomatoes that had been roasting in the oven all day, with a few subtle spices. What really made it was the herbes de provence. They brought such a great flavour to this – and yes, finally X was gulping up his veggies. He adored this. I actually got a little resentful as he ate more than his share (I thought). But that was the whole point of this exercise. This recipe is definitely a keeper – I totally recommend it. A little fussy with the roasted tomatoes, but SO worth it.


The soup was accompanied by another sure-to-be family favourite. Homemade Baked Tater Tots. I found this recipe on the Wishful Chef blog. They taste really close to the store-bought fried kind – you know, the kind you get in a giant bag and stick in your freezer and eat way more than you’d like to admit? This is its healthier cousin, and they are super tasty. Okay, I added bacon to them because: bacon, so that takes away from the health points a little bit, but by not frying these you’re doing yourself a favour. They are yummy and crunchy with a delectable crust. Oddly enough, X didn’t really go for these – he was too busy with his tomato soup. Z and I were ready to arm wrestle for the last ones, though. Sometimes you gotta make something for yourself, I guess.


And for a little bit of a healthy sweet, I tried some Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins. If you’re wondering how these went over, you didn’t read the one thing that X will eat at anytime. God he loves chocolate. I guess he’s in the right place. These went over TOO well. Once he saw one of these, or within a couple of days, once he saw the container I was keeping them in, it was over. He would scream, throw himself against the floor and weep helplessly, refusing to let anything pass his lips unless it was one of these. I wish I was exaggerating. I will make these again – there actually isn’t that much chocolate in them and I love that it uses apple sauce instead of butter or shortening. I made homemade applesauce from apples I got at the local farm, so I felt extremely precious about these. Next time, though, I will keep these well hidden and only bring them out at the last possible instant.

This is my own picky-eater project, and it’s a constantly evolving process. If anyone has any stories of their own – hints, tricks, secrets or recipes, I would LOVE to hear them. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that X will one day magically wake up and eat all foods again, hopefully before he turns 18. I promise I won’t be smug about it this time (probably).


6 thoughts on “Getting a picky eater to eat

      • I made the Baked Zucchini Pasta with Pancetta Olives & Broccoli when we had some company and it was a BIG hit. Also made the cauliflower grilled cheese (with apples inside) but it didn’t feel particularly healthy. Truth is – J loves Kale. These were all for me lol

  1. Hey! I found your blog through the Lainey Lurv group and just had to comment on this post. I have two kids, one picky and one not, and I’ll give you my perspective. My guess is that if your kid was once not picky, he’ll come around again. My not picky eater went through a phase of being super picky about *everything* but has since come back around to being willing to try things again. Just keep at it and keep offering everything, and eventually he’ll probably come around. As for my picky eater, well… he’s been picky since day one (I’m pretty sure there was one year where he survived on nothing but milk, yogurt and crackers). He’s sloooooowly expanding his tastes, and I have now resorted to having an after dinner treat always available. The catch is that he doesn’t get it unless he tries one bit of everything on his plate, and picks one item to finish completely. It takes the conflict and stress out of the situation, and I figure if nothing else at least he’s trying lots of tastes that he would outright refuse otherwise. My hope is that this will translate to more well rounded tastes down the road. Fingers crossed. 😉 Good luck!

    • Hi Sharolyn,
      Thanks so much for the comment. I sometimes despair that everything I do is crap as a Mom – it’s just nice to hear from others who went through a similar experience to know that it’s normal. I’m so hoping that X starts to eat more soon, but if he has to survive on his limited diet, I know he’ll get through it. I like your idea on having some rules with dinner (try everything, finish one thing). When he’s a little older I think I’ll give that a try! Thanks for sharing, I really appreciate it!

  2. Pingback: Soup Diet Revised | Lifestyle Junkie Abroad

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