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pleiades's avatar

What tips do you have for a picky 2 year old?

Asked by pleiades (6571points) May 29th, 2014

Put simply, my son only likes the typical 1950s American style foods minus the steak or anything too chewy.

Do you have experience with this type of child? Thanks!

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23 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

Thin sliced bologna sandwich on toast and mustard.

Seek's avatar

When my son was two, he would only eat food that was orange. Until the berry kick, and the pancake kick. And now he’s decided he hates eggs and cheese.

Feeding kids is a pain in the ass.

But, if he likes hamburgers, I’m famous for pureeing spinach and mixing it in with hamburger meat in order to sneak in a serving or two of vegetables from time to time.

Coloma's avatar

Yogurts with fruit, lots of fresh fruits like watermelon, grapes, apples, apricots, peaches, strawberries, mangos, oranges, mandarin oranges, bananas, make him smoothies and he gets lots of yummy fruit that tastes like a milkshake! My daughter loved yogurt pops at his age too.
Spaghetti is good too with a really good, tomato sauce, not Ragu, home made. lol
YOU have to introduce new foods and cheer him on for trying new things.

You do not want a kid that refuses to eat anything other than pizza, burgers and fries.
Get some of the Kerns juices, they are rich and fruity, the Apricot is divine!
Applesauce with cinnamon, pears, bagels with cream cheeses, Mozerella cheese string cheese that he can get into peeling.
If you at least get him to like fruits, even if he is picky about his veggies he will still be getting some good vitamins, minerals and nutrients from fruits.

Pandora's avatar

Put the food on his plate and then steal his food off his plate. Kids hate it when they feel they are being cheated. Also if he loves chicken. Call all his meat products chicken. For years my son said he didn’t like the brown chicken (steak or ground beef) as much as the white chicken. But he ate it because it was chicken. LOL

Coloma's avatar

@Pandora haha….you sly mother fox you. My old friend and neighbors son was so picky, the ONLY fruit, veggie type thing he would eat was Kerns Apricot juice. The whole neighborhood kept extra Kerns on hand for Sams moments when his mom ran out. She grated carrots in his Apricot juice, and went to great lengths to get that kid to eat something healthy. He made it, and is now 20. haha

Pandora's avatar

@Coloma Oh, almost forgot. Another time my kids both went on a food strike. They didn’t want anything but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Well I let them have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a few days as I sat and ate eggs, pancakes, tuna sandwiches, ham sandwiches, spaghetti, steak, rice, beans, salads with all the fixings. I made sure whatever I made had an aroma to it that would make anyone’s stomach growl. On top of that I worked on presentation.

Sometimes they asked what I was eating and then I would give them their sad sandwich. My daughter begged for regular food after 2 days. My son hung in there for maybe 4. They didn’t want to see a peanut butter, jelly sandwich for a long time after that and I never had a problem getting them to eat what I made after that. It was mostly about dinners that they objected too. Breakfast and lunch was usually no problem, but my daughter wasn’t a fan of veggies and my son wasn’t a fan of meat. So they both thought together they could break my will and order whatever they wanted for dinner like I was the kitchen help.

Coloma's avatar

I remember reading somewhere once that as long as kids are given good food choices that they will balance themselves out in the long run and eat what they need. This was a study with toddlers if I remember correctly and it showed that while they might go on jags, as you mention @Pandora, ultimately they will eat what they need in the long run.
The worst thing a parent can do is create power struggles over food.
Just be nonchalant, put out an array of stuff and they will work it out as long as you are providing a lot of good choices.

Buttonstc's avatar

Get a copy of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.

As someone above mentioned, you can sneak purees of healthy veggies into foods in lots of different ways. Her book is filled with lots of great recipes (she even puts spinach into brownies and they’re fantastic).

The other thing to keep in mind is that it takes an average of 5–6 exposures to a food before kids develop a liking for it so just because he rejects something doesn’t necessarily mean that he will never grow to like it.

Foe the next year or so, just focus on sneaking as much nutrition into him in whatever way you can accomplish it.

Once he is a bit older and you can reason with him, then you might want to consider establishing a policy of ONLY ONE bite is required of whatever is being served.

This way he gets multiple exposures to new foods and one bite is a bearable requirement. Just one bite won’t kill anybody.

That’s a policy which has worked for a lot of people because it prevents these constant battles over an entire meal. And once that one bite is sampled its over with and he can eat what he wants for the rest of the meal.

Eventually his palate will expand over time.

Another thing to do when he’s a little older is to involve him in helping you with preparing meals (and growing a veggie garden if possible) since being involved really increases a childs eagerness to eat what’s been prepared.

This is what Lydia Bastianich did with all of her kids growing up and now does with her grandkids as well but one doesn’t have to be a chef to employ the same psychology of making foods of a great variety enjoyable and something to look forward to.

If eating is perceived as a constant battleground and control issue, kids use that to try to exert control. But if it’s just an everyday time of family togetherness, then kids don’t tend to have exaggerated issues with food.

But in avoiding a battleground, you can’t just totally give in and let them eat whatever junk and crap they want to. It’s striking a balance with some minimal requirements that hopefully ends up with a child who can appreciate a variety of foods and enjoy them.

Just think of the picky toddler years as a temporary phase which they’ll eventually outgrow as long as they’re not allowed to remain stuck there. You need to give them those 5–6 exposures to each food in order for them to know what they truly like or dislike rather than leaving them stuck in whatever phase they’re in. The trick is to do it without making the dinner table a constant battleground.

Coloma's avatar

@Buttonstc great shaing, and yes, kids taste is not all the way formed and it can take some maturity to develop.
I HATED Avocados and Cantelope and Spinach as a kid, and by the time I was an older teen, loved them all.
I even hated Chocolate….go figure, now I am a chocolate addict. haha

Buttonstc's avatar

I’ve always liked Avocados but to this day I have never eaten a raw oyster or clam. The thought that it was alive just a few seconds ago (and still might be, for all we know) just gave me instant nausea as a kid and still does. And I guess it’s one instance where becoming involved with the food doesn’t always work 100% ha ha. We used to go clamming regularly when I was a kid and I loved finding them and all that. But I just drew the line at popping one into my mouth a second after shelling it. Ugh.

But I was a weird kid. I absolutely loved liver, go figure. We usually had it for dinner once a week and I would hang out in the kitchen when my Mom was fixing it and
snack on the pieces she trimmed off raw. Definitely a bit weird :)

snowberry's avatar

I had 5 children. I know what it is to hate a food and be required to eat it anyway, but with 5 kids, I couldn’t allow their various “hates” to run my kitchen. So I told them that they were allowed ONE food they hated and I wouldn’t make them eat it. Everything else they had to eat, even if they didn’t like it. The one exception to “hated” foods was if they could prove to me that they were actually allergic to it (meaning of course that they had to break out in hives if they ate it). I would never require anyone to eat a food they were allergic to.

Anyway, everyone grew up healthy, and I kept my sanity in the kitchen. Yaaay!

gailcalled's avatar

One of my young great-nephews (he is now 7 and still pretty fussy) was eating only chicken, edamame beans, gluten-free cookies and popcorn for a long time. Because he falls on the autism scale, his parents didn’t fuss. He ate what he ate and is now somewhat more adventurous. For years he hated cold things and just this past week-end had his first lick of ice cream. Guess what?

dxs's avatar


Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled Now he will eat nothing but ice cream? haha
Oooh, Baskin Robbins Pistachio nut, my heart be still.

rojo's avatar

My mom had a plaque in the kitchen which read: “Todays menu is “Take it or Leave it”. I grew up with this. It was how I was raised and how we raised our kids. I will not force you to eat what is prepared for you but this is all you get. No snacking, no special orders (unless it is your birthday) and no substitutions.

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downtide's avatar

Children generally don’t actually dislike other foods, they’re just frightened to try them. How many times do they say “I don’t like that” to something they’ve never even tasted?

I cured my daughter of pickiness as a toddler by exposing her to as many different things as possible. Not forcing her to try them; she would have her plate of fish fingers and baked beans whilst watching the rest of the family enjoy grilled salmon, Moroccan chicken, and other things.

As soon as she was old enough to sit in a grown-up chair, we took her with us to child-friendly restaurants, getting her used to dining out and choosing from a menu. She quickly learned that her options were choose something off the menu or go without. So she chose, and that way she would find new things that she liked and would be prepared to eat at home.

Watching her parents eat interesting-looking things was the key I think. She got curious and wanted to try them for herself and by the time she was 5 she was willing to try pretty much anything. It still took us 20 years to get her to eat any veg besides cucumber, carrot and sweetcorn. but it doesn’t really matter that much in the long run. At least she tried them, and decided whether she liked them after trying and not before.

Children never voluntarily starve themselves. As long as they like at least one protein item (Fish fingers? Lunch meat? Peanuts? Cheese?) and one or two item that are a fruit or vegetable (Potatoes? Corn? Bananas?) and one carbohydrate (Potatoes again, or bread, or rice?) their diet will be sufficiently balanced that they can survive healthily enough.

The other key is make sure they get plenty of outdoor play and exercise. This will counterbalance an unhealthy diet and make them hungrier. And a hungry child is more likely to try something new.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

What’s wrong with food from the 50s? They didn’t eat processed foods like people do today. If he likes a piece of meat and two veggies with a scoop of ice cream for desert, that’s great! Of course it means you have to cool every meal.

JLeslie's avatar

My experience (which is limited, I don’t have children, but I was one) is young children often go on food jags where they want the same few foods over and over again, and they tend to like “white” foods like chicken, bread, pasta, cereal, and ice cream. I don’t think it is that big of a deal to entertain food jags to some extent, because you don’t want to make food an issue of control. When we were on a jag my mom would make us take a Flintsone’s vitamin. My sister and I both don’t have weight problems (although admittedly in the last ten years I wish I was ten pounds thinner) and we eat a large variety of foods. Obviously, you should still try to introduce new foods and use whatever tricks you can though, you can’y let him eat noodles with butter every day for 6 months, or whatever he is keen on at the present moment. I like some ofthe tricks suggested above.

I’m not exactly sure what 1950’s food means? What’s wrong with 1950’s food? I think of that as when people thought in terms of the four foods groups. I don’t think that was a terrible system for kids, in fact I suggested on other Q’s I think we should go back to something similar to guide people, including adults, in the US.

Don’t forget to try fruits and veggies that maybe you don’t regularly eat. His tastes might be different than yours. Also, remember most children have many more taste buds functioning than adults, so kids taste food more, and it accounts for why they tend to like bland food. Also legumes like beans are very healthy. You could tried refried beans if he likes mushier food, or whole beans on rice. You might research foods given to children in other countries to spark some ideas.

Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld is a cookbook with recipes to sneak into the diet healthy foods. She uses various purees and substitutions in classic appealing kids dishes to Get them the nutrition they need.

GloPro's avatar

Deceptively Delicious is a great cookbook. I second that. I made ice cubes out of the puréed foods and dropped cubes into everything. They didn’t even realize they were eating squash… <evil laugh>

Pandora's avatar

@Coloma They had variety but when you are tight on cash, the last thing you can afford is a child being a picky eater and throwing good food away because it wasn’t what they wanted to eat at the time. I didn’t want to create a food power struggle and so that is why I fed them their favorite food. I simply wasn’t making that food as desirable and making sure that they still were eating something. Actually, both of them (grown now) will eat almost any cuisine. They eat, german food, asian foods, spanish foods (what I mostly cook), italian and african cuisines (father side), and of course american foods and even Indian cuisines.

The only thing I think both of them are not fans of is fishes that have little bones. And my daughter doesn’t like yellow bananas. They both say that I am the picky eater now. But there is a lot I can not eat now because of stomach issues. curry being a big no for me, and greasy fried food, or food with a lot of fat in it. But one day their stomachs will turn on them and they will once again become picky too. Like most of us do. :(

Seek's avatar

I agree with @Pandora as well – everything is chicken until they’re smart enough to figure out otherwise on their own. Tofu is chicken. Fish is chicken. Lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and kale are all “salad”.

And do not underestimate the power of the loaded mashed potato when you’re really anxious to add in some calories. Also, a head of cauliflower, quartered, boiled, strained, and mashed, is also “mashed potatoes” – and usually a big hit.

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