Meal Time

This Viral Reddit Thread Is A Treasure Trove Of Advice For Parents Of Picky Eaters

A viral Reddit thread is filled with incredible advice from empathetic parents on how to deal with our picky eater kids.

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One-year-old boy eats pancakes with his hands
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Why didn’t anyone tell us it would be so hard to feed a kid? When it comes to encouraging our kids to eat nutrient-dense foods — or, hell, any food whatsoever— the struggle can be real, and real frustrating.

Complicating the situation is the fact that our reaction or rules to picky eating can have real and long-lasting consequences for our kid’s health. This is why it’s so essential to be mindful of how you’re framing food to your kids and to stay away from the draconian rules that have been proven to contribute to disordered eating. Which, yes, feels impossible at times. That’s why we love when fellow parents chime in with been-there-done-that advice on what’s worked or what hasn’t, and there’s a viral Reddit thread that’s a treasure trove of incredible advice from empathetic parents.

On Reddit, in the popular Parenting Community, user u/recercar sought advice on navigating their child’s picky eating habits. Posting the question, “What's the age where you can say "eat it or don't eat" and mean it?” u/recercar shared that their 6-year-old daughter “grew into an exceptionally picky eater,” and after trying advice from an occupational therapist and their pediatrician, nothing has worked and not sure where to go next.

“At my wit's end, and I just can't bring myself to let her starve because of it,” they wrote, “because she literally will, and that can't be helping building a relationship with food.” The community came through with some amazing advice that balances the line between encouraging their child to engage in mealtime without the pressure.

Focus on the event, rather than the meal.

“We started with a timer when each kid (4 and 5 now) were like 2 years old. I make one meal, and we serve it at the table,” u/ran0ma wrote. “The kids are served their plate. If they “don’t want” to eat, we totally respect that, but we set an (age-appropriate) timer and tell them that dinner time is family time and they don’t have to eat, but we will be sitting as a family until the timer goes off. They can get up when the timer goes off or if they’d like to eat some food. We use dinner time to talk about our day and ask a “question of the day,” so while they can choose not to eat, sitting together is non-negotiable.”

“We implemented family meals at age 5, the summer before [kindergarten] (his school makes school lunch only, no packing, didn’t want him to go in with no exposure),” another Reddit user shared. “We do a little tasting plate with a few spoons of each thing. That’s the first course. If he eats the meal and wants more food, he can ask for any of the meal components he’d like. We adjusted as we went and tried to tailor it reasonably toward his preferences. He tolerates most vegetables, so we often made that a focus. We also don’t make him eat things we know he legitimately hates (corn? I don’t get it).”

Have one component you know your child will eat or serve deconstructed.

“My go to at this stage was have one component she would eat,” u/_thunder_dome_ wrote. “Shrimp and pesto pasta would be buttered noodles for her. She’s 15 now and more adventurous, but still sometimes has buttered noodles.”

“We’ve been eat-it-or-don’t since they started eating solid food,” u/drmariopepper shared. “Their meals are frequently deconstructed, for example if we’re eating pasta, they might just get plain noodles with the other ingredients on the side, but the meal is essentially the same.”

Don’t make a big deal out of it.

“We have always served family meals, and I do not ever concern myself with if my kid is eating or not,” u/oklahomecoming wrote. “I don't comment on his food consumption. He eats or doesn't, he doesn't complain because he has no reason to. Because there's no pressure for him to eat or not eat. He will eat when he eats. You stressing just makes it more of a control issue for your kid.”

“Don’t make it a big deal if they don’t eat as long as they’re respectful about it,” u/Bonaquitz shared. “I usually try to get them to have a ‘polite bite,’ but the less pressure the better.”

They will grow out of it — so you can wait it out.

“My youngest did this, and everything had to be chicken. If I told her it was fish, she wouldn't touch it. If I told her the fish was chicken, she loved it,” u/Irondaddy_29 wrote. “After some time, she slowly grew out of it on her own. Hell, the other day, she was eating a bowl of kimchi.”

“My son spent 10 years not eating pizza. He would eat cheesy bread, but not pizza with red sauce on it,” u/mnewberg added. “Just yesterday he finished my personal pan pizza I had for lunch. Just keep trying, don't make a big deal about it. It gets easier.”

Let them eat cake — after they bake it.

“If OT said it's not sensory/neurodivergence than you should feel safe to let them choose when to eat,” u/Rua-Yuki shared. “A neurotypical person will not starve themselves, she just knows she's gonna out stubborn you and win. Let her help you make food. Don't be sneaky about veggies. If she won't eat them talk to her doctor about multivitamins and fiber supplements. Even with my neurodivergent i-have-3-safe-foods-max kid she will TRY food she doesn't like if she helps make it.”

“Having her learn to cook will greatly help. She will get excited and want to try new things,” u/Capital_Reading7321 added. “I am less picky now than I was at 6 but I am still 100% vegetarian and won’t eat eggs, celery, sometimes broccoli, and many other things. Forcing her to eat something she doesn’t want will only make her relationship with food suck and make her issues worse. Start meal prepping for her with the foods she likes and that will help a lot. Positive reinforcement is also great at that age.”

Your kids will get older, and how you talk to them about food will have an impact.

“I just want to give me .02 on food battles which may or may not be a popular opinion,” u/elevation24 wrote. “I have a son who will be 22 this year. I had him young and I staunchly enforced food rules. We had many food battles, many tears, me frustrated, him frustrated. He would usually relent as a small kid but now 15-18 years later, guess what…. he’s still picky! My efforts did nothing and I kind of regret it.”

u/elevation24 has a daughter now, and they’re taking a different approach. “I also have a daughter who is 10. I’ve decided I won’t do the food battles. I’m older and a lot more patient so that probably plays some role,” the Redditor added. “My daughter is a vegetarian and she’s “picky-ish” but a better eater than my son was. I’m sure there’s other factors but I just hate that I went through those food battles and it accomplished nothing.”

You can read the full thread on Reddit.

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