Monday, June 7, 2010

I'd rather eat stuffing than...

One of our boys is a picky eater. Not to any extremes, such as rejecting all fruits/vegetables or another food group, or being really demanding about having his whims catered to. This child will just simply say he is not hungry when something he doesn't like is served. Other times, when he likes what we are having (say, hot dogs), he will eat like he has been on some sort of extended fast. He likes at least one meal I make every day, so it's not like he isn't getting enough food.

Still, being a picky eater is one of my pet peeves. For one, it shows a lack of gratitude, both for what God has provided for us to eat, and for what Mom spent a lot of time and effort cooking from scratch with wholesome, organic ingredients that few others enjoy. Secondly, I find picky eating habits in adults very immature and annoying, particularly in men. Being a picky eater as a man strikes me as somehow effeminate. It just seems girly to worry that much about how a certain food tastes. I therefore see it as my personal responsibility not to raise any picky eaters.

I am not saying that my goal is that all our kids like all foods. Obviously, we all have preferences, and some things will never be appealing to us. But I do think that by and large, we should be able and willing to eat a large variety of food cheerfully and with a thankful attitude. As children, I expect them to thank God and us for the meal, and eat it without complaining or picking through it for an hour. They don't have to love it, they just have to eat a small portion of it without complaining. It's not like I am serving Broccoli Rabe or stir-fried tofu - we eat pretty standard fare.

Today's lunch, for example, was roast chicken with mashed potatoes, stuffing, pan gravy, steamed vegetables, and a mixed salad. Certain of our kids don't like gravy, another doesn't particularly care for salad, but they all ate their plates nicely without raising any objections (I give them very conservative portions, so that they usually have to go back for seconds. I neither like to throw food away, nor do I want to encourage overeating for the sake of clearing one's plate).

All, except for said picky boy, who kept picking over his stuffing and chicken again and again without taking a single bite. He never likes stuffing, and he did not like the fact that he had some dark meat chicken on his plate rather than just all white meat. We're talking less than 2 tablespoons of stuffing here.

After he finally finished, I thought of a creative way of how to make him realize that stuffing is a much better food than many people the world over enjoyed today. I handed him a sheet of notebook paper and a pencil and told him to fill a page on why having stuffing to eat wasn't so bad after all. I gave him the option of either coming up with a story, or just list reasons as to why stuffing was not the worst thing that could ever happen to him.

The reason I chose this "assignment" is because this particular child does NOT like to sit and try to think of anything creative to write. I used a similar strategy on him after he developed a habit of picking on a certain younger sibling repeatedly, and I made him write out 10 things that were great about that particular sibling. It solved the problem instantly, plus it made the offended sibling feel happy and appreciated. It also gave me a very funny and cute memento to hang onto and pull out to embarrass the kids with in years to come.

Then I left to run errands (my husband was at home doing office work). When I got home, I found the following list, which I thought was too funny.

"I'd rather eat stuffing than eat some soap.

I'd rather eat stuffing than eat slop.

I'd rather eat stuffing than a dog.

I'd rather eat stuffing than eat wood.

I'd rather eat stuffing than mud.

I'd rather eat stuffing than leater." (meaning leather - he had read that poor knights in the middle ages sometimes had to resort to that)

Just for the record, neither he or any of our kids have ever eaten any of the above items! It's not like he was drawing any comparisons based on real-life experiences.

I like this idea. I think it might finally be the breakthrough to his picky eating habits.


  1. I am with you on the fussy eating thing! My almost three year old declares that all food is 'yucky' even if he hasn't seen it yet. Drives me to distraction. Anyway, something that works in the house is the 'no, thank-you' bite. You don't have to eat everything on your plate but you DO have to at least have a decent sized mouthful. If you don't like it after that, that's okay you don't have to eat it. I also work on the theory that neither the word 'Cafe' nor the word 'Restaurant' is displayed outside my house. Therefore, I will not be treated like one LOL My niece is the fussiest eater imaginable and I can't believe the hoops her mother goes through to get her to eat. It's insane!

  2. I know what you mean! I have one picky eater (who is getting much better) and it has been very frustrating at times! It is my goal NOT to raise picky eaters in my kids--I'll have to remember your essay trick! :) Hope you are feeling well!

  3. Good idea! I will have to try that with my son and the one sister he likes to aggravate. I agree with you about picky eaters. I don't allow it either. It drives me crazy when some moms I know make something like chicken nuggets for one kid and dinner for the rest of the family because that child is a "picky" eater. I say NO! that child is not picky but is in control! My kids know better. Although they may express to me things they do not like they know that what I cook is what is for dinner-you don't eat it, you wait till the next meal. If someone else cooks for them they better eat and be grateful. They stayed at a friend's house one night while my husband and I were out and she later told me how they all ate so good(she was having problems with one of her kids being picky). When she told me what she made I knew it was not something they like much at all but she never knew that from them. I got to share with her and now she knows her own child was playing the "I'm in control" game more than not liking something. She has since been able to solve her picky eater problem for the most part.

  4. Hi there
    I have raised 3 sons and yes I have had a few picky eaters. But honestly I think you're making too big a deal out of the whole thing. The more attention you bring to the problem the worse it is likely to get. With my boys if they didnt like what we were eating they got the choice of what we were having or a PB&J sandwich. The problem will work itself.

  5. Well, kids have different taste buds than adults, mostly so they wouldn't eat poison in the wild (you know how kids stick everything in their mouth). IMHO, this is making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  6. That's a clever idea, actually. My great-grandmother used to make me sit at the table until I ate whatever it was that I refused to eat... usually it ended in a standoff when I fell asleep or she just got sick of me sitting there staring at the wall. I might actually have been less obstinate if I had gotten the opportunity to do that. Although I wasn't a particularly picky eater... as long as it didn't have mayonnaise, ketchup, or cauliflower in it I'd probably eat it.

    Although, I don't quite get how you see being a picky eater as effeminate. If something tastes bad no one wants to eat it. My coworker is absolutely disgusted by ketchup- he'll leave the room if someone even opens a bottle of ketchup (I can't say I blame him, though, I find ketchup absolutely vile). But I don't think he's effeminate, he just doesn't want to eat food that tastes bad to him. That just doesn't make sense- if something's disgusting it's disgusting, it doesn't matter if you're female or male.

  7. Your lucky your picky eater doesn't throw up like mine does. His pickiness is due to textures moreso than taste. I make sure there is one thing he will/can eat at all meals. No big deal. Better then cleaning up after him when he doesn't make it to the bathroom.

    It's not rude to dislike something. It's rude to force someone to eat something they don't like.

  8. Hello :-)

    I'm a new reader to your blog and thought I'd just throw in a comment on this one.

    In our house, you have to eat what's on the table - but you don't have to eat EVERYTHING that's on the table. Say I serve fish, rice, tomatoes and corn -it's fine with me if someone chooses not to have tomatoes or even to only eat rice at that meal. The rule is that I don't cook any special meals and you don't "talk down" at the food - my children know that I consider food to be precious and that I think we're blessed to have in such variety and abundance that we do. We always sing grace before we eat, and I'm confident that they will develop a proper gratitude and understanding of their privilege over time this way :-)

    I personally don't like the "you have to taste"-approach very much, because I enjoy the freedom and respect shown to me when I, as an adult, choose to pass on something (say oysters - which to this day I havn't been able to make myself even taste!) and I believe that children will naturally grow out what we sometimes call "pickyness" - provided of course that we as parents don't teach them that the food world evolves around them (as in cooking up special meals when no allergy issues are involved) or in allowing them to talk bad about normal food or even just take it for granted.

    I try to ensure that there is always SOMETHING that I know every person likes at the table, and if dh and I would like to eat sushi or something else a bit "strange" I make sure there's another option for the children available at that meal.

    Thanks for sharing how you dealt with this particular situation, I think we all have different limits when it comes to what we consider "picky" or not, but I agree wholeheartedly that it is important to raise children who know the value of having food on the table (AND the value of receiving it gracefully:-))

    I have a friend who, once I came to her house and had brought a cake - took out some Smarties for her "poor" boy (8yo at the time) who turned up his nose at my cake because he threw a fit of "it's not fair" that he didn't get to have any cake because he didn't like the one I had brought!!! I couldn't believe my eyes that day :-)


  9. We deal with picky eating, but due to medical issues, not typical child being picky situations. It's very hard. I pretty much know what everyone will eat now, so it's not quite as hard as it used to be, but it makes meal prep harder. If you have no medical issues and can nip it in the bud, I 100% see why you would. It's not something that's fun at all.

  10. I totally love the writing assignment! Perfectly creative idea and drives the point home.

    As for the picky eaters, I've only dealt with it to minor extent. We sometimes eat some wild stuff: tofu, yucca, sushi, and who knows what else. The biggest complaint my bunch has is salad. Granted, I do buy the "stronger" tasting spring mix salad. When we introduced it, my 3 year old daughter ate it up, my seven year old son would eat it if he's promised dessert and my five year old would just pick and pick at it. Our family rule is that you must at least taste two fork/spoonfulls of everything that has been prepared for dinner. After trying meal after meal, I was very glad tonight that all 3 of the kids (excluding the baby, who isn't old enough to have a proper number of teeth) gobbled up their salad without incentive. Sometimes maybe it's just "try, try again."

    Oh, and I am completely echoing your words on the picky eaters being just plain annoying. We work in the youth ministry and usually food is somewhere involved, either we have the teens over or we take them out. I have to watch my spirit that I don't grumble when I hear the whines: "I don't like ____________." C'mon, it's not like we're eating frog legs...which are quite good, for the record. :-)

  11. Mette, I understand your point but often this child will reject something and then have a taste and declare it 'yummy' eat all of whatever it is (mashed potato for example) and then want to eat more! So, it's more about having a try. I was forced to sit at the table and eat cornflakes as a child. To this day I cannot be in the same room as someone eating cornflakes. I do not want to have my children be traumatised about eating
    However, my 'no, thank-you' bite did come back and bite me once LOL Like you I had never, ever eaten an oyster and we were out once and my husband insisted that I have one small taste. I did otherwise I would be a hypocrite. I am now a convert to oysters. Perhaps you should give them a try too? ;)

  12. I whole heartedly agree with you. I too find it silly for men to be picky eaters. I think that it is great to parent your children and have them try everything, that is our role. At least they don't have to eat the same meal everyday. God's does say "whether therefor ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." -I Cor. 10:31 Does it glorify Him to not eat what is given to us, or His food He has provided?
    I also think that by allowing them to be picky, makes it harder for them as adults to maintain healthy eating habits. I so wish that my own mother would not have let me be so picky! I wish I could sit and munch on a bowl of carrots and not be craving a bag of chips:0)

  13. Great Idea! I love that ;)


  14. I know exactly what you mean by picky eating being effeminate. At church, we were having lunch, and the high school/college people decided to sit next to each other. I was eating a pickle plain (weird, I know, but I was in the mood, lol!) and this boy next to me just moved a few chairs down because he was "disgusted" by the pickle! I though it was just really strange and funny.

  15. Thanks for all the feedback. I wanted to add that I am not as uptight about this issue as it may seem to some of the commenters. Out of our five children, this particular one is the only one who has ever had an assignment like this, because his picky habits are just excessive. As I said, my goal is to teach the kids to eat whatever is put in front of them with a thankful attitude. Once they reach that point, I don't just intentionally feed them things they don' like.

    For example, one of our kids doesn't like gravy. This child will eat it without complaint if I put gravy on their plate, but I usually leave it off because they have learned to be content. Another child doesn't like pickles. If I put a pickle on that child's burger because I forgot about the preference for no pickles, I will not take the burger apart again and "fix" it, but at the same time, if I remember, I will leave the pickle off.

    Each of our other children only has a couple of foods like that which they don't like. The "picky" son I was writing about here, however, has dozens of foods like that, much more than I am willing to cater to.

    I don't think it's being picky not to like a couple of foods. If someone doesn't like ketchup, that doesn't make them a picky eater. But if they find something objectionable about at least one item in every meal, that is picky and ungrateful.

    As for men who are picky eaters being effeminate, again, I'm talking about those who can't seem to be happy with almost anything. It just seems very princess-like to have it just so. I find it extremely annoying when a man whines (another princess attribute) about food. For crying out loud, aren't they supposed to like eating bugs??

    I have a cousin who is my age. Growing up, he would often spend weeks of his summer break at our house. He was very nice and well-mannered, but he was the pickiest eater I have ever known. He ate ZERO fruits or vegetables. As a young teen, he started crying because my mom forced him to take a bite out of an apple once. There were almost no foods that he would eat, it was ridiculous beyond description. I vowed to myself back then to (1) try foods myself before rejecting them and (2) not to raise such picky eaters.

  16. Maybe your picky eater has sensory issues. I'm a picky eater. My 2 daughters and my granddaughter are also picky eaters. There are some flavors and textures of food that I simply cannot tolerate. There are also sounds that I can't stand to hear, sounds that don't bother other people. There are things I can't stand to touch that other people have no problem with. I don't see my picky eating as a lack of gratitude for what God has provided for me to eat. I see it instead as the way God created me. My parents didn't understand this when I was growing up, and I was forced to eat many things that I did not like. It didn't help at all. When my children were growing up, I didn't force them to eat things. Instead, I made sure that at least one thing in the meal was something they liked. None of us starved to death, and we are all very healthy. When I am offered food I don't like, I politely say, "No, thank you." A person should not be made to feel guilty because he/she doesn't like certain foods.

  17. Zsuzsanna - "But if they find something objectionable about at least one item in every meal, that is picky and ungrateful."

    That's a good shot at a definition!
    I also totally cannot stand persons that are used to/allowed to whine and make fusses like that - whether about food or other.

    Alice - LOL, of course you had to taste since you have that rule - I totally agree, we must walk our talk :-) I'm glad you ended up liking oysters. I started eating certain seafoods and rabbit this way when I arrived in France. Where I come from, eating rabbit is culturally like eating a dog or something :-)


  18. I've noticed that Abe is becoming a much pickier eater lately. It's not anything to do with his teething, just him wanting to eat what he wants. He mainly wants only fruit. I was wondering what do you do with your younger picky eaters?

  19. Sarah, good question. Eating only fruit is not unhealthy. All of our kids seem to go through that phase as well. Personally, I don't usually concern myself about their eating habits until they are about 3 or 4, by which point only one of our kids was turning out to be picky (the one talked about here). Until then, I only encourage them to try all different foods, and all the other kids outgrew the typical toddler-age obsessive food preferences.

  20. Alice and Mette,
    Give oysters a chance! They are fabulous. I love them in chowder. I love them breaded and fried. I love them on raw on a cracker with horseradish. I love them on a half-shelf in their salty water.

    Adding a bit to my previous comment. I have noticed with mine also that as the children grow their appetites change. You can always tell when you're going to need to start going to the goodwill to find longer jeans because they will start gobbling up everything in sight. My 5 year old I mentioned in my previous comment is going through a picky stage right now, although he has never been a picky eater. But then, he is not eating much of anything. It's not a particular food he has an aversion to, it's pretty much every food unless it's a favorite.

    Oh, and my favorite on your son's list has to be "I'd rather eat stuffing than slop." Yes sweetheart, I would rather eat stuffing than slop as well. :-)

  21. I know Im a bit late in to this party, but I thought I would comment anyhow. I 100% agree with you about picky adults being annoying, and picky men seeming like little girls. I was in an online "buddy group" with about 20 other women when I was last pregnant. One of these women was 21 years old and wouldnt eat any vegetable. the only fruit she would eat was apples dipped in sugar, or grapes and that was under duress because she thought the baby should have extra vitamins. It didnt come as a huge surprise to me when she developed a heart problem late in pregnancy. I dunno, something about a grown woman not being able to suck it up and eat for the health of her baby makes me a little ill. I remember in college, refusing a young man who wanted to take me out for the sole reason that I knew he never ate vegetables.

  22. Which one is the picky eater? Solomon, Isaac, or John?

  23. Absolutely love the writing assignment you gave - I'm TOTALLY borrowing that idea!

  24. Does this assignment work on picky husbands? I wish it did! Mine does not eat anything I make unless it's prepackaged and forget whole wheat, part wheat anything. Veggies forget it. Luckily Sophia eat's everything. I hope when she get's older she doesn't start to pick up daddies bad habits saying, why do I have to eat this or that daddy doesn't. My blood will be boiling then!!!

  25. Zsusanna, do you have any foods that you don't like?
    How would you like it if someone labelled you as being "ungrateful" because of your personal tastes, and punished you for having them?


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