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My Kids Eat Everything! (Not.)

September 14, 2009

I’m not going to offer up a slew of tips on raising adventurous eaters today. I’ll be happy to share the things that work for me—at least work some of the time—but today I just want to say that I am not enchanted by people who say, “My kids are such good eaters, they eat everything.” The only responses are, “Wow! Good for you, and good for them!” or “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Some kids eat a lot of different foods—my own kids are pretty darn good. However, they don’t eat everything. Who eats everything? And why does eating everything make you such a spectacular human being? I just talked to a mother who smugly said, “____’s favorite food is bay scallops.” Well, hoop de hoo for her.

My kids like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. There I said it. Judge me. I happen to make a pretty rocking homemade macaroni and cheese, riddled with different cheeses, laced with milk and cream, oh oh oh. It is the hit of dinner parties, and my kids like it, too. BUT they have been known to sigh while looking at the browned crust of panko blended with Parmesan, sitting atop a bubbling casserole of al dente cavatelli nestled in a sauce fragrant with Gruyere and cheddar, and say things like, “Kiefer gets to have the macaroni and cheese in the box every night. Why can’t we ever have that?”Cooking for kids is not always the most gratifying experience, I’m the first to admit. And one of my kids usually picks a moment where someone I’d like to impress, just a little bit, is sitting at the table to say, “Ew, mom are those capers?! I’m not eating that.” To which I usually respond, smiling with gently clenched teeth and stiff cheeks, “Honey, you ate that last month, and you loved it. Really, he loved it. He asked for seconds. No big deal, it’s just so funny that he doesn’t remember!” It’s so FUNNY!

I am no food snot. We just returned from a trip to Florida, and I’m telling you there were chicken nuggets as far as the eye could see. We embraced the moment, Zen nugget-like, and I resisted urging the kids to nibble on the parsley garnish.

So like all parents, I continue to juggle away, and would love to hear from ya’ll about what work for you and yours. No perfect eaters need apply.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 5:41 pm

    My middle son is picky. What I did was instead of dwelling on what he didn’t eat we made of list of what he did like. It turned out that he did like quite a few things and we add to it when he finds something new that he will eat. He is still not as eating everything the rest of the family does but it is getting better.

  2. September 14, 2009 10:43 pm

    It’s about balance baby. I am thinking I am ahead of the game if I can keep the brawling about food to a weekly occurence. Take last night for example. In honor of the first day of football season, I spent the better part of the day making a delicious and healthy and not too spicy turkey chili because my 9-year old son loved it the last time. My sister and 3-year old niece came along for the party (I mean who can really make chili for 3 people?)

    My niece is eating plain pasta with butter (she even brought her own). My son decides that’s what he wants, too. “But you liked the turkey chili the last time,” I pleaded. “But this one is too spicy.” So i calmed it down (easy with the addition of lemon juice and some lovely vino cotto) and he tried it again. “Nah, just the plain pasta.”

    Fine. But I have the last laugh because tonight it’s repurposed leftovers: turkey chili and spanish rice burritos.

    You win some. You lose some.

    • September 17, 2009 12:52 am

      My daughter, now 27 adores food, cooks and loves almost everything. When she was growing up, not only was she a picky eater but she had numerous food allergies. Our only rule was that I made dinner for us with one part of it I knew she would love. As she grew and became interested in food, our rule was that if she was interested in something, she could taste it and decide for herself. When she was 9, we went to Italy…she discovered fabulous food and fresh porcini mushrooms. That December we went to a terrific Italian restaurant in NY where she insisted on tasting pasta with fresh white truffles and she loved it. That was her turning point.

  3. September 15, 2009 1:49 am

    I must admit….if I make macaroni and cheese (from the box) for my now 25 year old daughter (who still loves it)…..I sneak a bowl for myself!

  4. September 15, 2009 4:00 pm

    My 3yo currently lives on pasta (no sauce, please), Trader Joe’s frozen mini-meatballs, hot dogs, yogurt, and fruit. Lots and lots of fruit, thank god. I’m trying not to sweat it, to keep giving him the same food we’re eating, but oh my god it’s driving me crazy. Dude, eat something!

  5. September 15, 2009 5:05 pm

    I don’t have any kids (yet!) so forgive me for the silly question, but why are kids such picky eaters? Is it b/c certain foods actually taste bad to them?

    • Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
      September 16, 2009 12:19 am

      That’s a great question, and not having kids is no excuse for asking a GREAT question. It’s a combo of things. Sometimes it’s us (who, me?), the parents, indulging our kids in their lack of desire to try things. Sometimes it is the food itself — while we’re tearing our hair out, there are in fact developmental and environmental reasons why kids poke at their food. The reasons are kind of varied, and I am no expert, but to list a few: parents’ habits, strong flavors, control issues, temperamental moments…um, the weather, being a gemini, skinning your knee on the playground…

      I do think that they key is just introducing your kids, exposing your kids to as much as you can. And being as cavalier about it as possibile (oh, you didn’t like the scrod? what ever. Honey pass me the potatoes). I want to teach my own self the lesson that the more attention paid to all of this, the more angst created, the more wrestling matches).

      So, Abby, did I make you totally psyched for kids just now?

      • Elizabeth permalink
        September 25, 2009 12:44 pm

        Why are kids picky eaters? Depends on the age of the kid. I have two teenagers, ages 15 and 17, and they are finally getting better but still have their moments when I want to throttle them. My 17-year-old son has an abnormal distaste for lasagna because of the “crusty, toasted cheese on top”. Well, somehow he does not object to that same crusty, toasted cheese on top of pizza. My 15-year-old daughter will dissect a bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh, deliciously brined and then broiled with a honey-mustard glaze, and complain about the hidden pockets of fat and how the meat looks undercooked. She also complained the other night that the chicken breast I served tasted too dry. She looks directly at me, the cook, when she says these charming comments, with an accusatory glare.

        So why do they act this way? I think it’s the teenage equivalent of the husband kicking the dog when he gets home from work. The teens are grumpy, feel like taking it out on someone, and voila, dinner is served! Mom’s food is such an easy target for complaints. You combine that with a mother who is tired, had a long day herself, and it turns into an emotional crisis.

        Thankfully, every night is not like this. I do know for a fact that my teens have great table manners at OTHER people’s homes, and eat OTHER people’s food without complaining. I suppose that is all I can ask for, and have faith that some day they will decide to stop giving me grief for crusty cheese and chicken thighs!

      • Abby permalink*
        September 25, 2009 3:14 pm

        Wow — kids and their eating habits sound a little anxiety producing. Who knew?!

    • Elizabeth permalink
      September 25, 2009 4:52 pm

      Abby – Don’t worry. I was exaggerating -it’s not as bad as I make it out to be (tales of my 15-year-old and my 17-year-old). It’s actually not anxiety-producing, and even a bit fun, if you step back and view your children with a healthy dose of philosophy and humor. Just keep your perspective; don’t tie the quality of your cooking to your ego, and remember that we adults were kids once, too, and probably did the same things to our parents. (I’d hate to think that my comments kept anyone from having children!!)

  6. jgooch permalink
    September 16, 2009 1:46 pm

    My niece and nephew eat whatever I cook. Roasted potatoes, chicken cutlets, caesar salad. If my sister made it they would not eat it. If my mom says she is making uncle Jeff’s potatoes (even if they are not the same) they will eat them!

  7. Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
    September 16, 2009 2:17 pm

    That’s very true – Kid eating law #27: the fun uncle’s food is always better than the mom’s food.

  8. Elizabeth permalink
    September 16, 2009 8:17 pm

    My kids will eat anything that you cook. Now, how do I get them to eat something that I cook?

  9. mbsings permalink
    September 17, 2009 2:32 pm

    This is my nightly conundrum. One day my 2 yo likes something and the next day she won’t touch it. There are always a few go to items and we keep hummos on hand because it makes everything better. As long as she gets a somewhat balanced diet I figure I’m doing something right.

  10. carolan permalink
    September 26, 2009 9:33 am

    Grandparent alert:
    Play dumb about knowing your grandkids’ food dislikes and sneak in just one “foreign” nibble on the side (NOT mixed into their “good” stuff.) Sometimes they’ll try a new food at your house which they might not try at home.

    • Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
      September 26, 2009 8:58 pm

      good tip!

  11. lisa permalink
    September 26, 2009 8:09 pm

    I have two kids, 9 and 6. Some weeks go smoothly at the dinner table and others are torture. The only tricks I’ve learned with my older daughter is relating things that she likes to new flavors. Last week I received 2 kolrabi in my CSA box, as I searched for the best way to utilize this veg I found a slaw recipe that also used Granny Smith apples. Heavy cream, lemon juice, a little mustard. Pretty harmless stuff. As I created this dish, my daughter looked on with concern (“what is Mom going to try and serve tonight???”). She asked what was in the bowl and I suggested she give a try. I said, “if you like cole slaw, trying this can’t hurt”. Wouldn’t you know it, she loved it and had three servings that evening and wanted to know if I could put it in her lunch box the next day!! Now, I’d be lying if I said this worked all the time. All I can say is it works some of the time, and as a busy mom. I’ll take those odds anyday….

    • Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
      September 26, 2009 8:58 pm

      The idea of a kohlrabi slaw-packing kid is delicious. Way to go.

  12. Siobhan Aramanda permalink
    September 27, 2009 8:55 pm

    I have 3 older children. My oldest just turned 25 today, and he was my easiest in every way. My daughter is 22yr and growing up she was awful. She’d smile and pretend to eat everything on her plate and when I was cleaning I would find different hiding spots for the rejected food. She is now a healthy eater. My youngest , 17yr hates veggies and it’s always a battle . There is one dish I can sneak them in and that’s a weight watcher recipe for Spaghetti Bolognaise.

    • Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
      September 27, 2009 11:50 pm

      My kids love a good meat sauce (not to mention my husband) — that’s always a crowd-pleaser. What’s the weight watcher version like?

  13. Kerry permalink
    October 12, 2009 9:30 pm

    My 3 kids (9, 6 & 2) are super-picky but the oldest one is finally widening her food horizons (she ate butternut squash ravioli last night and loved it). I love to cook but have learned to save myself the heartache and keep the food simple and familiar – offer new things but only make enough for my husband and me.

    To top it off my middle kid is allergic to wheat, eggs and peanut, plus she is picky. She’s pretty much living on Nutella, GF pretzels and cold cuts.

  14. carolyn stone permalink
    February 6, 2010 12:10 pm

    Is that you Siobhan, MR 1976?
    Carolyn Stone

  15. Sara permalink
    March 22, 2012 1:59 pm

    My almost 2 year old has oral hypersenstivity/oral aversion as part of a sensory integration disorder. It is a stand alone issue for him, and not part of a broader diagnosis. We noticed something was off when he did not do well with the transition from smooth stage 2 baby foods to the chunkier stage 3. He would gag and vomit on the new textures. When most 10 month olds would eat Cheerios, he would gag and vomit. Because of all of the gagging, he developed an aversion to trying new foods and we’ve had the help of an occupational therapist and speech therapist for several months. He is making slow progress, as they expect, and they tell me “Don’t worry. He won’t be eating baby food when he goes off to college.” We work to desensitize the gag reflex and to develop his oral motor skills. He still eats a lot of baby foods, but will now eat chunky mashed banana, mashed sweet potatoes, Spaghettios, applesauce, rice pudding and yogurt in addition to baby foods. He’ll eat Cheerios, Ritz crackers, smoothie pouches, Baby Mum Mums and Townhouse crackers. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear! Thank you!

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