Parenting column: 3-step plan will cure picky eaters

Well, as they say, better late than never. Two columns ago, I promised to share my “fail-safe, money-back guaranteed formula for getting kids to eat everything on their plates.” Then, as if I was in my 60s or something, I forgot and wrote a column about kids who argue constantly with their parents. Consider this my mea culpa or, as the young say, “My bad.”
Yes, it is possible to get kids to eat everything on their plates — spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it. Why, in the American Southeast, it is common for toddlers to eat livermush. Compared to livermush, broccoli is like ice cream (to me, anyway). Nonetheless, a kid who scarfs down livermush will refuse broccoli.
Why do so many of today’s kids have picky palates? Some people with capital letters after their names say it’s because their taste buds send weird signals to their brains when they eat certain foods. That explanation cannot be verified; therefore, it is a theory, and a bad one at that. So what if something initially tastes weird? When I was a kid, I thought spinach tasted weird. I ate it anyway and learned to love it. My parents didn’t give me a choice. That’s the real reason kids have picky palates — parents give choices.
Since the parenting revolution of the 1960s, experts have been encouraging parents to give children choices. And so today’s parents complain about children who argue with them about “everything.” They also complain that their kids won’t eat what’s put on their plates. “My child won’t eat anything but (some form of junk food).” Here’s the simple, tested, certified, three-step plan:
1. Fix the picky eater what you want him to eat for breakfast and lunch. If he does not eat it, wrap it or toss it. Do not allow him to snack between meals, even if he’s eaten nothing all day. You have to stop wanting him to eat. He will live, I assure you. My lawyer said I could tell you that.
2. Prepare the evening meal with no consideration of said picky eater’s food preferences. On his plate, put one level teaspoon of each food, as in one teaspoon of roast beef, one teaspoon of mashed potatoes with a few drops of gravy (“He loves mashed potatoes and gravy!”) and one teaspoon of broccoli. The rule then becomes: When the child has eaten everything on his plate, he may have seconds of anything, and the second helping of whatever — in this case, mashed potatoes and gravy — can be as large as his eyes are big.
3. It will take a week or so and much complaining and maybe even pitiful wailing in the interim, but he will eventually begin eating the green, weird-tasting thing. At that point, begin slowly increasing the portion size of the green thing, but do not increase the portion of the thing(s) he loves. Keep them at one teaspoon. Within a month, he will be eating a regular-size portion of foods his palate would not accept previously, upon which you can begin increasing the portion size of things he loves but not past the point where he can eat his favorite things and not be hungry.
Voila! The key to the success of this fail-safe formula — the variable that makes it fail-safe — is that the child’s parents do not sit at the table encouraging him to “just try” the food he hates. They must act completely nonchalant. If need be, they can feed him and then sit down to a pleasant meal. What a concept!

Parenting column: 3-step plan will cure picky eaters

Forcing children to clear their plates could lead to eating disorders

Forcing children to clear their plates could lead to eating disorders


Parents who force fussy toddlers to clear their plates could
make them more likely to grow up suffering from anorexia, bulimia
or obesity.

A study suggests that meal-time battles between pushy parents
and picky children could be linked to a range of eating disorders
later in life.

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Making children eat what they do not want to makes them
resentful of not being in control of their eating habits, the
research claims.

It also means they do not learn to properly regulate their
eating – making them more likely to over- or under-eat when they
grow up.

Research leader Dr Linda Gilmore. said: “Parents should not turn
mealtime into a struggle for control because some evidence suggests
that eating disorders such as anorexia stem from a desire to take
control over one’s own body.

"If children are forced to ‘sit at the table until they eat it’
this turns into a struggle for who has power over the child’s
eating habits which could well set the scene for later eating

Dr Gilmore said the dinner-table power struggle could also lead
to obesity because that condition is related to the inability to

“If children aren’t allowed some control over what they eat,
they cannot learn to develop good self-regulation,” he said.
“Ultimately children must learn to manage their own behaviour and
to do that, they must be allowed to choose.”

She said many parents were harsh on “fussy” eaters because they
thought the problem was much less common that it was.

“Some parents take their child’s refusal to eat food they have
prepared as personal rejection or think the child is just being
really naughty,” she said.

“But my research suggests that eating difficulties are
relatively common in early childhood. Some children simply don’t
like the taste or the texture, even the colour of certain

"Likes and dislikes may change from week to week but it’s
important to recognise this is fairly normal behaviour and not to
turn it into a really big problem that interferes with the
parent-child relationship.”

Dr Gilmore, a psychologist at Queensland University of
Technology, combined her research on 304 families with children
aged two to four, with another study of children aged seven to

She said parents had fewer children in modern times, meaning
parents knew more about the details of the child’s behaviour,
“sometimes to the point of worrying obsessively and responding in
ways that escalate a small difficulty into a much bigger

But Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the Eating Disorders
Association, said the study wasn’t large-scale enough to draw any
firm conclusions.

“There’s a chicken and egg situation here,” she said.

“We don’t know if the battle at the dinner table leads to the
eating disorder, or whether it is the other way round; that the
tendencies towards eating disorder are present first.”

She said there was growing research which indicated that eating
disorders were often the result of genetic factors coming out in a
child’s personality and the desire for self-control.

“So the genetic and personality make-up of the child, which make
the child want more self-control, would have come out in the food

"We don’t believe it’s the food that triggers eating disorders –
it’s the struggle for control that does that.”

But Dr Frankie Phillips, a dietician at the British Dietetic
Association, said: “If there is a culture of having to eat
everything on your plate I can see how that could lead to obesity
later in life.

"It says you are not controlled by your appetite, you are
controlled by what’s on your plate. That might mean that when you
go to a restaurant you might eat too much.”

Tam Fry of the National Obesiry Forum said: “It is so important
for a child at an early age to regulate their own intake.

"No child will willingly starve itself so force feeding should
never be contemplated.”

Dr Anna Denny, nutritional scientist at the British Nutrition
Foundation, said she agreed with the findings of the study.

“It backs up previous research showing that the Victorian
attitude of telling children they must eat everything on their
plate is not the way forward,” she said.

“We suggest children should be given small protions of
nutritious food regularly, and should not be expected to eat
massive plates of food.”

Dr Denny said young children should have a varied diet including
proteins such as meat, vegetables and carbohydrates such as
potatoes or wholemeal bread.

They should also have plenty of fat until they are about 10
because of the energy required to grow. They need whole milk not
skimmed, she said.

Around one million people in the UK are estimated to have an
eating disorder. Anorexia is the loss of apetite causing low body
weight, while bulimia manifests itself in people who binge eat and
then vomit it up.

The average age at which eating disorders develop is 14. Eighty
per cent of new cases are between eight and 20.

What are you thoughts? Should we make children eat everything on their plate? Share your wisdom at

Fun Ideas for Picky Eaters

Toddler’s can be the most finicky little people when it comes to just about anything; especially when it comes to eating! Parent’s are always trying to find fun, innovative ways of introducing new foods to the family menu. In this article I will be providing a few fun tips for letting your kids be the kitchen “Sous Chef” so to speak.

I’ve found that introducing new vegetables, colors and just about anything that doesn’t resemble a piece of chicken or slice of pizza is the most difficult task when trying to get my toddler to eat new things. A new game we’ve started together is—

The Calendar/Alphabet Game
Make a large calendar for the month and for each day have your children write a different letter of the alphabet on the calendar. For example, Monday “B”, Tuesday “M” etc … On Monday you and your children choose a new fruit, vegetable, dairy or grain that starts with the letter “B” to incorporate in the meals and snacks for that day. There is no limit to the many ways that the new foods can be added either. If you choose Broccoli for the new vegetable, liven it up a bit … have it as a snack, cold with their favorite dip or chopped up in a homemade cheese omelette for breakfast. Our favorite so far is “Y”, we made the best mixed fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait with granola for dessert which followed our Yellow Squash Lasagna. It is very important to have your children involved in the prep work for each of the meals/snacks. It gives them a chance to connect with the food and learn to be creative. They’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when they finally sit down to enjoy the food that they never thought that would!

I’m a stay at home mom so my kids are almost always at home with me. to break the ongoing cabin fever that plagues young kids I try to implement atmosphere changes as frequently as possible, which leads me to my next tip—

The Color Wheel Picnic
This can be done as often as your schedule allows and it really is a lot of fun! On the same calendar that you use for the calendar game, put a star on a few days a month that you’d like to have a picnic, whether it is at the neighborhood park, your backyard, or in your family room on a rainy day.

Now have your child pick their three to five favorite colors for that day. Write down the colors and together go into your refrigerator and/or pantry. Find fruits, snacks, fresh vegetables, cheese/dairy and whole grains that match those colors and pack them into your picnic basket, have fun with your kids sampling all of the fun and colorful foods. Remember to bring a camera to document all of the colors that you’ve created with the food and take pictures to pin to your calendar so that you can remember just how yummy it all was!Along with creating fun and healthy meals with your kids, getting in enough physical activity is essential to their growth and what better way to connect eating healthy with staying fit. My next tip shows you how to help your toddler burn off some energy while getting your daily exercise in as well. I recommend spending at least thirty to forty-five minutes per day of physical activity—The Final Countdown
Who doesn’t know the saying “no pain no gain”? Well, who says you can’t have fun too? Countdown consists of combining a little math with a little exercise. Before starting remember, stretching is always important so do a few minutes of leg and body stretches with your children. Now, choose a number from one to five, for instance your child chooses the number “four”.. start off with doing four sets of four sit ups together. Remember to have them count along with you that would have been a total of 16 sit ups. When finished have them choose another number, “five” now do five sets of five jumping jacks, twenty-five in all. Once you’ve finished all numbers one to five reward yourselves with a nice cold smoothie or your favorite treat!These are just a few, fun, nutritious, and healthy tips to share with your children. Keep an eye out for more fun topics to come very soon!