Motherhood

How to Get Picky Kids to Eat (But, for Real)

How to Get Picky Kids to Eat (But, For Real)

Toby has always been a big eater, but now that he has turned five, he has become a little discerning in his old age. No pasta, no cold cheese, definitely no zucchini. In order to help him along, I turned to modern-day sage Jenny Rosenstrach from Dinner: A Love Story. Here, she shares seven tips for getting picky eaters to chow down…


Says Jenny:

1. Invest Them Up-Front in the shopping part of the process. I’m all for having them cook with you, too, but convincing them to pick things out with you at the ground level — the supermarket, the farmer’s market — is a much lower maintenance (and a much less messy) proposition than having them stir the spaghetti sauce all over the stovetop.

2. Make Sure There’s Always Something Familiar on the Plate. I call this “psychological latch” food, like tater tots or one of those par-baked Trader Joe’s dinner rolls. Or if you are going to make pizza with clams or poached eggs, make sure at least one half of the pie is a classic marinara and mozzarella. It’s just not fair to spring something like Pork Scallopini on them without an anchor.

3. But Pork Milanese is another story. Anything Milanese is likely to knock their socks off.

4. Point and Cook. If you are cooking from cookbooks or blogs, have the kids flip through the pages or scroll through the slideshows, and tell them to point to what looks good. Of course you run the risk of it not looking exactly like the picture, but at least their heads are in the right place when they sit down.

5. Never Answer a Kid When He or She Asks “What’s For Dinner?” Especially if it’s something new. Just repeat these words: “I Don’t Know Yet.” Giving a kid some time to think about a dish that they potentially hate or that is just downright mysterious gives them a window to formulate an argument against the food — and also gives them time to convince you to make them something else. Repeat: I Don’t Know Yet.

6. Re-Package, Re-Spin, Re-Brand. Name dishes after people. Replicate favorite restaurant dishes. When it’s time for sandwiches, use your waffle iron. We’ve turned grilled cheeses and regular old bologna sandwiches into edible masterpieces that way.

7. Apply Broccoli Logic. If all else fails and the only thing you can get your kid to eat is a hot dog, employ my husband Andy’s Broccoli Theory. No matter what broccoli (or kale or quinoa) is sitting next to, it will magically transform the dinner into something you can feel good about feeding your children. You might have a hard time finding this concept in most indexes.

Do you have a picky eater in your family? Do you agree with these? Any tips to add? Thank you so much, Jenny!

P.S. How to get kids to eat vegetables, and two-ingredient pancakes. Plus, Jenny’s ode to rituals and how to get kids to talk at dinner.

  1. erin says...

    my daughter, who is almost the exact same age as Anton, will very willfully refuse to eat things that i know she has had before and enjoys. i have found that if i try to steal one bite of her meal, she will suddenly take ownership of her plate, get angry at me, and then begin to eat. this has worked every time i have tried it.

  2. Marie says...

    We sometimes eat dinosaur meat we just hunted… But the most beloved veggies are those from our garden, freshly hand-picked by the kids themselves!

  3. Noreen says...

    This is embarrassing to admit, but there is an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (on PBS kids) where they are trying the food they have grown in the class garden. They sing a jingle (as Daniel Tiger is apt to do)that says “You have to try new food because it might taste good!” And our son responded to it really well:

    My 2 1/2 year old now eats radishes, yellow pepper, and curry. (high fives)

    • Shannon says...

      Oh, you have no idea how many times a day we sing a little jingle from Daniel Tiger! You’re not alone! But seriously, my two year old boy now happily cleans up his toys, tries new foods and brushes his teeth! All without complaint. It’s a daily miracle.

  4. Alice says...

    My father used to try to get my sister and me to eat tandoori chicken by calling it “Disneyland chicken” and emphasizing its enticing hot-pink color. Nice try! (I guess he was up against unusual odds since we both became lifelong vegetarians before we were ten…)

  5. Colleen says...

    I have. 19m old who is not at all picky…for now…but I picked up an LST mama tip that has worked for fussy times.
    If your kid loves cheese, well, call everything cheese! Broccoli cheese, chicken cheese, zucchini cheese and tada! Down the hatch.
    There was a moment when I called everything “snacks” and he would come racing for the dinner table!

  6. I have loved these tips (and all of the other ones) from DALS even though I don’t (yet?) have kids! I find these tips work for my husband and me, too. For example, things that look like milkshakes help us to drink our greens, things that look like potatoes (cauliflower puree), etc. Brilliant!

  7. plch says...

    I have a super picky eater at home, my oldest (he’s just one month younger than Toby) eat just the same five things since he was about 10 months old: soup (with everything possible inside, but reduced to a puree), plain white yogurt (without sugar), pasta with tomato sauce, bread and a few tipe of plain cookies. Recently he ate a bit of chocolate icecream, we were estatic. We were never able to make him eat anything else, still he likes to buy food, prepare it he even asks me to watch Nigella on tv!

  8. Lin says...

    Here’s how to get your kids to eat anything for lunch/dinner: Stop giving them so many snacks! Seriously! I live overseas, and when I visit North America, I always notice how many snacks toddlers and kids eat throughout the day. Those little baggys that parents carry around, filled with teddy grahams and pretzels and “healthy” organic snacks. These have got to go if you want your kid to eat properly! The juice too. Children in many parts of the world do not eat snacks, especially between breakfast and lunch.

    • erin says...

      i’m so glad someone said this! totally agree! enough with the all day snack offering!

  9. Had to click on the post when I saw that pout! hehe!

  10. Agnes says...

    Hi Joanna,
    I have started when my son was young whatever food I make is what he is eating. I dont make special meals just for him. When he was a baby I just pureed our food and thats what he would eat . Now he eats all the meals that I serve.

  11. Julia says...

    Who is the adorable baby in that photo?

  12. I’ve noticed that my kid loves to dip. I can get her to eat almost anything if she has something to dip it in. It’s really easy to make healthier dips by flavoring Greek yogurt, but sometimes it’s just ketchup or salad dressing or something.

  13. Marianne says...

    I have a couple of tips to add. Feed kids from the earliest years the same things you eat, don’t cook special kids meals for them. Introduce foods at least 10-15 times before they are used to the flavor/texture and will likely accept them.
    We had some hard times with sandwiches, but I make use of cookie cutters to make cute star sandwiches and such. They will get eaten! (and I eat the crusts… don’t like to waste haha :p)

  14. Back when my picky four yr old was a picky, construction-obsessed three year old, I explained to him that he has lots of little tiny workers in his body, whose job is to keep it working properly. I told him that these workers need different ingredients and foods to get all of their jobs done–protein to make his muscles strong, fruits and vegetables to keep his “plumbing” working, etc. He really responded to my (somewhat inaccurate) analogy and it’s made mealtime negotiation much easier; now, he isn’t just eating for himself, he’s “doing it for the workers.”

    • This changes everything for me. What a great idea!

  15. Stacy says...

    We have a two bite policy on new foods because my kids don’t always take the time to really taste things when they are focused on not liking something. We call them the “yes, please” and “no, thank you” bites. I can’t tell you how many good foods my kids have discovered on the “no, thank you” bites!

    • Noreen says...

      This is GREAT. We offer food over and offer and have found that with exposure comes more acceptance. But I love the “yes, please, no thank you” tact.

  16. Oh so THAT’s WHY my mom never knew what was for dinner! I wasn’t a picky eater, but my sisters were.

  17. Laura says...

    These are great tips for older kids, but what about toddlers? My 19 month old is very picky and he is too little for some of these tips. Would love a list for younger ones. :)

  18. I actually got my 3 year old to eat veggies (willingly and knowingly) for the first time last night (in who knows how long) but letting her skewer them on toothpicks. WHY did I not think of this before?! She thought it was a game and ate an entire plate of broccoli, carrots, green beans and corn. DUH!

  19. I looove Jenny & Andy and Dinner: A Love Story. We live one town over from them (in “Hipsturbia!”) and I have this fantasy of becoming friends with them and hanging out and eating meals with our kids… you can come too, Joanna, with your family. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes please!! :)

  20. Dodging the What’s For Dinner?” question is straight up brilliant. Also love the tip about giving the food some flair through names and simple things like a waffle iron on sandwiches.

    Danielle | D is for Dreamer

    • My kids totally hated the idea of eating food with “flair”… I enthusiastically served them “superman pasta” or “zombie fingers and mash” etc but they were really turned down when they saw it was just regular food… :-D With kids other than my kind it might be a hit.

  21. Prudence Yeo says...

    Like the idea of the “broccoli theory”! Adding some broccoli to a meal does seem to make it appear healthier, at least for me! Thanks for sharing!

    Prudence
    http://www.prudencepetitestyle.com

  22. Great post with great ideas! I’m so glad I found your blog! If you’re looking for more activities and information on picky eating and feeding therapy, I’m a speech therapist and my blog (learntolovefood.com) is centered around the idea of food play and exploration for kids. I’d love to know what you think, if you get a chance to check it out!

  23. I have read through more comments and feel like I should add that the “you just have to try a bite thing” did not work AT ALL for me. That would just turn it even more into a mental game. I would end up sitting at a table long into the night with no positive results ; ). Getting the child involved with the shopping, growing, cooking, and just making it available, I believe is the best thing for a truly picky eater.

  24. I am turning 27 this week and am still a picky eater. For me, it’s a lot about texture, so what I’ve figured out is that I can slowly build towards new foods if I start with textures similar to other foods that I like. One of the really key things for me, that I think would help with a child, too, is that the new food should be given to me, but I don’t want to be pressured into eating it. I am most successful when my husband cooks something that he is eating and I’m able to, without any pressure, take a bite and not have anyone watching me and waiting for a reaction. Make food available for your kid, but don’t insist that they eat it or make that big of a deal out of it when they do.

  25. Kate says...

    I had a very fussy eater – a learnt habit from an early age to do with him having to have lots of rounds of antibiotics and going off food and learning to say no. He then had a daycare that fed him fast food like nuggets and hot dogs (he didn’t stay there long). The best things I found were:
    – to get protein into him I used to mix tofu into yoghurt
    – tell him it takes 10 times tasting something before you like it
    – to get it near his mouth, rather than a flat refusal, we used to kiss it first (both these tricks came from the book “more peas please”)
    This got him to carrots, peas, corn and broccoli. He also did what other fussy kids do and follow the ‘white diet’, so carbs and dairy were fine and he liked apples, melon and grapes. Meat was harder, we slowly moved from nuggets to chicken schnitzel to uncrumbed real chicken.
    The comments about trying food that looks like other foods works. From the nuggets we stretched him to fish fingers and salt and pepper squid at thai restaurants (its in a batter). He had lots of boiled egg to bump up the protein, but again we had to move from just the white portion to eating the yolk as well.
    He also has an older brother who eats anything and I went to a nutritionist and all of her recommendations didn’t work. Try all tricks, persevere and be patient.

  26. Lisa says...

    Hey Joanna, just a thought about Tobys sudden change in liking pasta.. Could pasta make his tummy hurt? My mom has told me that I suddenly REFUSED to eat yoghurt, cheese, drink milk etc. as I was around 6 years old, I said I didnt like it. As I had eaten it with no problems all my life she thought it was strange, but about a year on I had realised it made my tummy hurt! I am still today not able to handle lactose that well, so I don’t like the taste of milk as I associate it with feeling bad. I have the same with wheat, it gave me stomach cramps so I have never been a fan of pasta. I like the taste, but I just feel a bit bad afterwords! Why don’t you try giving Toby zucchini pasta? Or just change it to rice or potatoes. Just a tip :)

  27. I totally agree. I have never had picky eaters or had to stand over them yelling “you eat it or you don’t leave the table”….it’s just never been an issue.

    A good friend has an anxious child who will hardly eat anything….it all comes from her mother, no doubt about it. The more you fuss, even if you think you’re not fussing, children pick up on it.

    We grew up eating whatever was put in front of us – and that was a good thing.

  28. Funny story about re-branding: When I was a kid, I decided that I hated beef. My dad, clever guy that he is, decided to call it “monkey meat” instead and then suddenly I loved it. Not sure why I’d prefer eating monkeys over cows, but that’s kid logic for you!

  29. Oh, here’s another great trick: When Toby says that he doesn’t like something, say, “You don’t like it YET. You’ll grow into it.” This totally psyched my kids into believing that they would like that food when they were older. It made them want to like it!

    • Lisa says...

      I kind of love this and I kind of don’t – when I went to school we were more or less forced to drink milk with the school lunch as it would give us “strong bones and teeth”. It made my stomach hurt and made me feel bad, but I was so young I couldn’t really translate why I didnt like milk. It felt HORRIBLE to have a bunch of grown ups basically telling me I was wrong for not liking milk. I drank milk every day for another year until it hurt so much I went home crying to my mom and asking her to tell the grown ups at school that I didnt want to drink milk anymore! What I do with kids that say they don’t like something is I ask “What is it that you don’t like? Is it the taste? The texture?” It makes them think how things makes them feel too. I usually also add that some things are “grown up tastes” and maybe if they try it again later they will like it. Maybe they won’t. Thats ok.

  30. Lisa says...

    > No 5: i’m from germany and my mother used to give me the answer “eingelegte Kellertreppen” which translates to “pickled basement stairs” – it didn’t make any sense and kept me thinking & wondering and stopped all the questions until dinner was on the table ;-)

  31. I’ve always been a picky eater. My mum definitely could’ve used this when I was little!

    Erin | Being Erin

  32. At every restaurant, without fail, my 3 year old daughter will request chicken fingers whether or not they have a kids menu. I have managed to convince her that tandoori chicken strips are Indian chicken fingers and that chicken satay is Thai chicken fingers. I’ve found that if I look hard enough, I can find some kind of chicken strip at every restaurant.

    • Christina Trifonov says...

      I love it, this made me laugh :)

  33. I just posted an amazing recipe for Baby Zucchini Pizzas. These would be perfect for a picky eater! I am not a fan of zucchini (to me they are cucumber imposters), but these are so yummy! I think that any picky child would agree.

    https://sprinkledwithliv.wordpress.com/

  34. yael steren says...

    So I’m not a kid, but I am a picky eater and one thing that always works is to put on some tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese – so for example, i love slicing grilled eggplant and then putting on tomato sauce and a little mozzarella cheese, and voila – i love it! xoxo yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  35. My nieces and nephews are SO picky! Interesting read. Thanks, Jo. :)

  36. I have a picky eater and these tips are great to start having fun with him… Thank you for this!!!

  37. Caro says...

    Oh gosh, I’m 24 now but from the ages of 5 to 16 I ate an all white diet, seriously. The only fruits or vegetables I ate were apples and sweet peas and cooked carrots in soup. I am not exaggerating. It was really aggravating too because my parents wanted me to eat the good stuff SO badly but I wouldn’t do it. I eat just about everything these days minus mushrooms and I’m still averse to fruits- finding the perfect piece of melon or berry is sometimes too much work. I LOVE vegetables. And let me tell you, my parents tried ALL of these tricks and they could NOT fool me. I’m so sorry!!

    • Caro says...

      **I would a bit do the wash the vegetables down with milk trick, that was a bit backwards. I’d recommend smoothies with a small amount of whipped cream. Kids go ape for that stuff.

  38. abigail says...

    #5! Whenever my sister or I asked “what’s for dinner?” my Dad would sing the great, green globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts song! We would collapse into giggles and forget we even asked!

    Also as a product of the “taste everything on the plate” philosophy, I have to say it works! I was an extraordinarily picky eater (no, really, my mother lost ALL HOPE), and now eat almost everything simply because I will taste anything once (even pig’s brains) and our tastes really do change. Give it time though;I ate primarily buttered noodles till I was 20.

  39. Haha those are great (and funny!) recommendations :) Dinner, A Love Story is one of my favorite blogs to read.

  40. Kate says...

    The “You don’t have to like it, you just have to taste it” comments are making me chuckle! My family had a different twist:

    You don’t have to like it, you just have to EAT it.

    We were not given a choice and although I hated it at the time, I’ve turned out alright (I think) – there was a big sense in my family that if someone worked hard to prepare a meal for you, it was disrespectful to the chef and wasteful not to eat it (even worse to throw a fit). This has always stuck with me and caused me to value the hard work involved in every meal. The flip side was that if we finished everything, there was a celebratory Clean Plate Club dance!

    • Simone says...

      That’s what we say. You don’t have to like it but you have to try it… 8 times out of 10 they liked it.
      Putting tomoto sauce on food was also a sign of disrespect unless it’s warranted, meat pies, hot dogs etc… I still shudder when someone asks, ” have you got tomato sauce.”

  41. D says...

    my step-son is a terribly picky eater- i’ve only ever seen him eat pizza that my husband makes for him. he refuses to try anything different, although i’ve tried a few tips i’ve read here and there (eating a peach and saying ‘mm this is so good. so yummy’. he becomes intrigued and asks about it, but before i can do anything my husband is generally like ‘do you want some?!’ and kiddo shouts no). he will spit food out or hold it in his mouth and cry. i’m worried he’s not developing like other boys his age (4.5). i believe his mom forces him to eat things he doesn’t like, which then gets him upset (she fed him McDonalds and soda as a 2 year old!!!). my husband feels guilty and just wants him to eat something, anything, so home made pizza it is. :(

    • Winnie says...

      We have a similar issue. My stepson is also 4.5 yo and his mom mostly feeds him fast food. So anything remotely healthy is a no-go with him and even though we try to enforce the “there’s no food tonight if you don’t eat dinner”, my husband often cracks cause he’s worried he doesn’t get enough nutrition, so he’ll get a PB&J hours after dinner. He used to hold food in his mouth for hours too (why?! it’s so gross), but he did eventually outgrow that. Meals are such a struggle in our house – especially since he spends most of his time with his mom. At the end of the day, I just try my best to sneak it into foods (try blending spinach or other veggies into the pizza sauce, make whole wheat crusts, etc. I even sneak healthy stuff into pancake batter), keep offering the healthy stuff without making a big deal out of it and hope one day he’ll try it. I don’t know if that’s the best tactic, but I don’t know what else to do! You’re not alone in this!

  42. Love the idea of reinventing a meal, especially naming it after someone. That’s pretty cute.

    Kristi | Be Loverly

  43. Auste says...

    I have a good eater (she was a GREAT eater and hopefully will come back around)… But lately this reverse-psychology game has worked for me. When I’m making dinner I’ll chop up some veggies (carrot sticks, cucumber slices, whatever I have) and put them in a bowl and ask my daughter (she’s almost 3) to watch them for me. But under no circumstances can she eat them. So I turn my back and she takes one and I turn around and yell “NO! NO! Those are mine – you can’t have them!” And then I turn my back again and she takes another and starts giggling because she thinks she’s being defiant… And next thing I know she’s eaten a whole bowl of veggies:)

    • Jennifer says...

      We do this too at the table…we spear a veggie on our forks and say, “Don’t eat THIS one, it’s for me!” And of course he eats it again and again. I don’t know what we’ll do long term but that helped a lot.

  44. Nicola says...

    I have STRUGGLED with a “discerning” little boy ever since he started eating!! He is now almost five, and in the last six to twelve months he has gradually, gradually become more willing to try (and like) new foods. His issue has always been texture, not taste, due to a tongue tie that our lovely UK NHS refused to treat until he was 20 months (feel my anger…!). I have been through so much angst / anger / inability to understand (our family loves food! why does he not like what we’ve prepared?!) and have slowly reached a mostly comfortable understanding of his needs around food. I try to give him familiar foods around 60-70% of the time and try new things the rest of the time; and our family eats together as often as we can (which means my husband and I eating ridiculously early on the weekends, but at least we have room for cheese later on – ha!), which has (I think / hope) helped my son to see food as an experience rather than a trial. There’s a great book that I found helpful: The River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, which has some quite grown-up dishes that are quick to make – it’s vety fiwn-to-earth, and my little boy has found some favourite dishes through it. I also find that serving foods in different ways has helped (you don’t like mashed sweet potato? ok, what about sweet potato fries? HIT!). Above all, I think it helps to understand that none of us would enjoy being told what to eat every day without being consulted, so I agree that involving a child in what he eats, as far as is practical, helps immeasurably. And also, it’s worth remembering that a choosy little one can grow into an adult (like my husband – who admits to being horribly fussy with food as a child) who will literally eat anything if it stays still long enough.

  45. If they give me a sour face when I tell them what it is I say, “You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it.”

    I also create a conversation around sometimes finding they like a new food well enough to become a regular on our menu. (Because who wouldn’t like to make that kind of discovery!) Falafel was our latest triumphant example.

  46. There are some great ideas in here! I particularly like #5– along with the reasons listed here, another reason to say this is that for the extremely picky eater, their anxiety about eating the food you are serving has time to grow. Anxiety equals no appetite. Something to consider is placing all the food on the table (family-style serving) rather than their plate so that they don’t have to get upset up front. We talk about these issues in our new book Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating. It gives you a step-by-step guide to developing your child’s healthy relationship with food and creating a peaceful mealtime. http://www.extremepickyeatinghelp.com

  47. My kids aren’t terribly picky eaters, eating veggies has become a chore. I now offer them the choice of raw or cooked and usually they can pick what veggie we have for dinner. They’ll eat anything if they can pick it out of the garden. We’ll see about Brussel sprouts.
    If they don’t like what we’re having, tough! If the kids don’t like something I won’t make them eat it (like Brussel sprouts, they get carrots and dip)
    We also always have a good snack before a junk snack. Junk is always a good motivator.

    • Lisa says...

      I grew up with this “French method” so to me its not all that French (I am from Sweden). It definitely works. My family ate together, same food but at times there was a slight adapted version for us kids in case it was some VERY grown up things being served. I have been eating raw fish (herring/salmon) since a kid and always devoured vegetables like no ones business. Why? Who knows, maybe I was just a good eater or maybe it was because I saw my parents eat the food. We also had a not so strict no snacking policy – if there was a long time between meals or if we were doing something very active we got a snack, but otherwise it was a “no, we will have dinner soon so you can wait”. A little bit of hunger doesn’t hurt, its not like we were being starved for hours. We also spend a lot of time just talking at the dinner table, kids eating away and if we didnt finish up they asked us “have you finished?” and if we said yes they took away the plate with no questions. – no matter if the plate was empty or still half full. We knew there was no snacking, so we couldn’t NOT eat!

  48. I don’t have a picky eater quite yet but these are great tips to keep in mind! :) When my brother was little, he was super picky and wouldn’t even TOUCH broccoli. Finally, my mom started to call it “little trees” and suddenly, it was his favorite! Haha I guess it worked for him! :)
    http://www.sweetlytattered.com

  49. Tristen says...

    My mom always put two bites of everything on our plates, and the rule was that once we had finished EVERYTHING (we’re talking 6-8 bites total) with NO COMPLAINTS, we could have as much as we wanted of anything else.

    She’s a nutrition science major and later confessed that kids’ nutrition resets every month or so. So, no need to worry if every meal isn’t perfectly balanced, as long as it all works out in the long run (which it usually does!).

  50. Ivy says...

    I think I instinctively do the anchor food thing for my 2 year old. This often means that his little plate will have a bigger range of options than mommy and daddy’s plate, but I’m frequently surprised by what on he selects from it, even when his favorite things are there, too. Much of the time, he will eat at least a little of everything.

  51. Love these ideas! One of my go-to strategies is hiding butternut squash or cauliflower and shredded deli chicken in Annie’s organic mac ‘n cheese. If well blended and if you add in a small amount of butter and (even goat!) cheese my 2.5-year old doesn’t even notice the complete meal.

    And my one rule is you must try everything once–I’ve gotten a lot of shocked looks of pure joy after I’ve made my lady-toddler try something she thought she hated. PLUS, it eliminates the stress of fighting to eat everything. One and done. It’s okay–they’ll survive.

    Kensley at Hot Mess Mamas

  52. Ellen Faris says...

    For broccoli: let’s pretend we are giants and the broccoli pieces are trees. And the giants get to dip the broccoli in cheese sauce or melted lemon butter.
    If kids don’t seem to be hungry for dinner perhaps they are having a snack too close to dinner time or they need some more physical exercise. Then no more meals or snacks until breakfast. And small portions but more that they can serve themselves.
    Maybe, if there have been a lot of pasta dinners lately, Toby is just tired of pasta?
    I also have always lived in a “at least try it” home and that is helpful. Growing up, once we were 11 or 12, we were told by my dad that if we complained about dinner then we were going to cook the next one. (Apparently that was the rule on the ranch during round up.)
    Actually, if it’s fun for you, you could have a cowboy dinner, an astronaut dinner, etc. etc. I am sure cowboys and astronauts always eat things like baked chicken and vegetables. Hats are probably mandatory.

    • Lisa says...

      Although it sounds fun, I would not recommend making dinners “fun” and exciting. Any normal, boring, tuesday dinner then? What will happen? I believe in not making a big fuss of food, just serve the food and let them eat or not eat and if they don’t then fine. Some kids eat more than others, years ago I used to nanny a boy (5) and a girl (7) where the girl would eat twice as much as me, and the boy barely touched the food. We let her eat (she ran it off as she was very energetic) and we allowed him making some decisions to make dinner feel more at ease (like do you want 4 or 5 pieces, or do you want peas or carrots). It worked. If he didnt want to eat we said “There is no snacking later, but it is up to you if you eat dinner or not”. He was still healthy and strong.

  53. Kirstin says...

    #5: My mom finally just started saying “Whatever’s on the table” like a broken record.

  54. Here’s a rule I remember using. I’d say to the kids, “you’re allowed to have dislikes but no fair telling me today you hate something you liked yesterday.” That way we kept a reasonable set of foodstuffs in rotation. Another rule was “no liking only beige food.” I will admit, we did not sit down to family dinner until my youngest was around 5 or 6, and as adults they are perfectly reasonable and healthy eaters. At a certain point folding them into grownup food was really easy. Maybe it’s OK not to have a 2 year old who eats rabbit and kohlrabi;).

  55. I like what Tonia said. My parents did the same (no options) and neither my brother nor me are picky at all. In fact, we eat almost anything!
    I would add the “one bite rule”! If they won’t have it, say… tomatoes like my youngest, tell him he has to at least try it once, every time you serve tomatoes. If he doesn’t like it he is allowed to not have it. But he has to try. The idea behind this is to train their palate and get them used to new flavors.

    Alina
    http://www.eclecticalu.blogspot.com

    P.S. Oh! and also try my spinach tart, you can put anything (veggies or meats) inside a tart and it’s more likely for them to like it. It works with my boys! Thanks!

  56. Meg says...

    My son is 21-months old and we’re having a heck of a time getting him to eat a variety of foods. He’s a fruit-monster and loves anything with strawberries or blueberries, but breads, most veggies, and most meats are no-go’s. We offer him everything and he was a better eater when he was younger… these are awesome tips for older kiddos. Any tips for how to help my sweet toddler enjoy a broader palate?

    • Lauri says...

      We’re having the same issue with out 2 year old. One thing that works is dipping sauce. He loves to dip! Ketchup, hummus, plain yogurt, even pesto. He ate an eighth of a sliver of a bell pepper for lunch after dipping it in hummus. A win in my book!

  57. CATHERINE says...

    Well, I can’t comment because at my old age (much older than Toby’s old age btw!) I’m still a picky eater, I “eat with my eyes” and so many things gross me out, still. But Toby, no PASTA? Really? Now that’s unusual. I love how original Toby is, even in his dislikes!!

  58. Mollie B says...

    My 8 year old decided a few years ago he doesn’t like soup. All because he remembers eating asparagus soup when he was 4 and didn’t like it.

    Oh, he’ll eat soup. I just can’t call it soup.
    Chili is iffy.
    Stew is ok.
    He likes to cook, and he’ll eat his own soup, but I’m not qualified to prepare soup in my house.

    He’ll even eat my chicken noodle soup, but it has to be called chicken and noodles. The broth is not to be acknowledged.
    I once gave my mom the stink eye for saying the s-word as we sat down to dinner. Luckily he didn’t hear her.
    I can live with this arrangement.

    • Mollie, your comment made me crack up! Isn’t it crazy what we have to do with our kids to get them to eat? I’m ‘rebranding’ my son’s food all the time. Broccoli are little trees. Cauliflower-white, snowy trees, green beans are snakes, asparagus are dragon’s tails, and sliced mushrooms are elephants (if you slice a mushroom, the stem looks like a trunk and the sides of the mushroom look like elephant ears).

      I have to say that my son will eat any soup that is blended as long as he gets a hunk of baguette for dipping. So he eats asparagus and leek soup in the summer, broccoli and potato in the winter and butternut squash in the fall.

  59. Sasha says...

    I don’t ever remember my parents bending over backward to accommodate my or my sister’s food preferences. According to my Mom, we were always pretty good eaters. But I do remember being finicky at times. Whenever I would wrinkle my nose at a particular ingredient, she would say “You don’t have to LIKE it, but you have to TRY it.” This would always get at least a few bites out of me. Looking back, I think this was a great phrase to use – I had to at least try the damn food, but I didn’t feel forced to like it or eat all of it.

  60. My parents are excellent cooks and they always made delicious food every night that took hours to prepare and was often crafted from produce from their garden. Usually, after noticing how much effort went into the meal, we didn’t dare not eat it and appreciate it, but sometimes they would use ingredients we didn’t like as kids (mushrooms, brussel sprouts…) If my brother and I didn’t want to eat something, our folks would say something to the effect of “This is what we’re having. You don’t have to eat it but you can’t have anything else. Your choice.” The fear of being up all night hungry usually over-powered our distaste for mushrooms. And I grew up to like mushrooms.

    • amen.

  61. Isabella says...

    Reminiscing about my own childhood, I was a good eater and ascribe this to a few things. First, my parents loved to cook and involved me completely in the process, from mushroom hunting to farmers-marketing to helping out in the kitchen, and they gave me ample opportunities all along the way to get enthused about the ingredients — to handle and smell them and taste them raw — so that by the time dinner was on the table I was genuinely excited about it. Also, it was very obvious that food and food-related creativity and dinnertime were things that were genuinely important to my parents and thus to our family, and I always just sort of understood that, and that it would be unkind towards my parents for me to be rude about, say, not liking eggplant. And the food my parents made was really, REALLY good, which made it easy!

  62. Hi Joanna, in psychology, there is a preoperational stage in Piaget’s development stages where a child hasn’t fully developed conservation theories- so if you pour a short, fat glass of juice into a tall, skinny glass, they’ll say the taller glass has more juice because its “bigger”, even if you do it right in front of their eyes :)

    It’s a sneaky way to push vegetables closer together to make them appear “smaller” to children, so they feel they are eating less (and maybe spread out the hot dog pieces so there is SO MUCH MORE :)

  63. Erin says...

    My son is generally a good eater, but he does dislike some foods – and that list is somewhat arbitrary and often in flux. I use the one bite rule – you must eat one bite of everything on the plate – and I refuse to let his whimsical tastes alter our meals. Meaning, if he’s in a tomato-hating phase, I keep putting tomatoes on that plate until one day he magically decides he likes them again. It’s the long-game approach. :)

    • Rob says...

      Makes sense. I’ve heard it can take up to 30 tries for a person to “like” a new food that they don’t immediately like. It took me about 5 months to like pickles when I was in university. Totally worth it.

  64. Winnie says...

    UGH! Not to be dramatic, but sometimes I just want to bang my head against the dining table! Last night, my 4 year old begged all afternoon to go to a restaurant and get a cheeseburger for dinner and the second the food came, he looks at us and says “I’m not hungry” (we knew he was starving after a light lunch and a big hike) and refused to eat the thing. Why, kid, why?!? It’s a cheeseburger for crying out loud!

  65. Julie says...

    heh, these are great. I’m always dodging the “what’s for dinner?” question. Of course, it’s hard to say “I don’t know yet” when I’m standing in the kitchen cooking…. I usually say “wait and see” or something like that. My kids (10 and 6) have gotten pickier with age, but do ok most of the time. I wish they would eat more vegetables and less carb-y things, but then remember I went about 10-15 years when I was growing up without touching a green vegetable, and I seem to be fine! Now I love all foods and eat everything. Also agree with having something familiar on the plate…. if we’re having something I know they don’t like I will serve it with a side of applesauce or greek yogurt, etc. so there is at least something on the plate they can sit and eat while the rest of us are eating. (And as someone else above mentioned, I do require they at least try one bite of the main dish.)

  66. Jessica says...

    My husband recently taught our 3 1/2 year old son the “clean plate club” secret handshake. Our son is finishing his dinner now just so he can do the special handshake with his dad!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so, so cute.

  67. ugh…it can be so frustrating. I think my sons are considered good eaters; at least that’s what other people perceive them to be. But my older, who just turned four, has started to become picky about certain things. I think part of it is just the power to form an opinion. Just this morning we were grocery shopping, and he asked what “that” was called. I said “eggplant. funny name, huh? i’m making something that sounds even funnier tonight: ratatouille!” He thought it sounded funny but immediately went on to point out all the things he doesn’t like in the shopping cart. Mainly anything green. Here is what we do in our house: one meal for all. No extras, no separate meal. Nothing. If they don’t eat, they don’t eat. I encourage them to try always, and they usually do. And it is true: if you serve something regularly, they will grow to like it. I made a bean veggie soup the other night, and the first night the only thing the boys picked out to eat were the meatballs. Two nights later we had leftovers and “ooooh! this is delicious! i looooove beans!” Kids are ridiculous. Everything changes all the time. I would recommend not to stress too much or put too much focus on food. As long as healthy options are presented and they see you eat well, they will too. It might just take time. My second son is a great eater, but he is only 2, so i know anything can happen. :) But sometimes he will encourage his brother to try something when the older kid sees that it is indeed edible/yummy. Also, i sometimes hand out a bowl of “ice peas” or carrots before dinner and call it an appetizer. Or i use the trick someone already mentioned where you serve the “healthy” food first while you prepare the rest. Works for us for lunch. And options. I just put a bunch of different things on the plate. Looks pretty and gives them the power to choose. Usually they eat it all. Last but not least: smoothies. We make different colors, the brighter the better. Beets are great. Or lots of kale and spinach. Some frozen banana and mango and lots of ice. They get a kick out of the consistency when I put ice in.

  68. Genius hack: make every meal into a “lunchable”. Kids love bite sized food because it’s fun and easier to eat. You might be able to buy some small bento boxes online, and have Toby fill up each of the boxes with bite-sized food he likes, making sure one or two boxes are healthy. Homemade lunchables, and it gives him some ownership and responsibility. It’s an extra step, but you could even take a quick picture of it before he eats it, and print them to put on the fridge at his eye level. Visual reminders of how yummy and awesome those dinners were!

    Last thing, let him eat with a toothpick. I swear to you that this one will work. Everyone, but especially kids, likes to eat with a toothpick. I promise his plate will be clean!

  69. Cynthia says...

    My girls did not like pinto, navy, or great northern beans when they were growing up. As adults, they do eat them occasionally. They grew up eating all sorts of food-venison, frog legs, escargot, duck, goose, all sorts of fish, fruits, vegetables-you name it. Now, as adults, if they go out to a fancy place for dinner, they are likely to order one of the more unusual dishes on the menu. When my youngest daughter went with her fiance to a French restaurant for Valentine’s Day, she ordered the special of the day which was a rabbit and duck dish. Her fiance ordered steak and potatoes. My husband and I love all sorts of food and ethnic foods, and we passed that down to our girls.

  70. Nat says...

    I love how you say “help him (Toby) along”, such a positive approach :) something I’m working on myself, daily…

  71. Mia says...

    My 3.5 year old son is getting a bit more picky in his old age, mainly with vegetables. Thankfully he’s still into broccoli (preferably roasted) and salad! While I keep serving him whatever we are eating (I read somewhere – maybe even here – that kids need to try something a bunch of times before they like it), I try have either broccoli or salad on standby. The thought of him not eating greens stresses me out! We’ll also reward him with a treat after dinner if he eats well. There’s probably a lot of people who would warn against doing that but it’s amazing what he’ll do for the smallest treat. 8 bites of asparagus for a dum-dum lollipop? I think he’s getting the short end of the stick but doesn’t know it yet. :)

  72. These are great! I love the one about shopping together as well as perusing blogs and cookbooks together as kids get older.

    One thing I consistently read about different parenting approaches worldwide is the concept of teaching kids how to eat- so through modeling and overall approach to trying new things (similar to what many above mentioned) and which flavors they may enjoy, etc., but keeping in mind that it’s a skill to be learned.
    Something interesting to ponder!

  73. cg says...

    Fortunately my daughter is a “good eater” but there are foods she doesn’t like: tomatoes, potatoes (except french fries of course!), corn on the cob (how is this even possible!?), and plenty of green, especially the dark version (but broccoli and asparagus, minus the tips, and any light green part of lettuce are fine). All that to say, we have a “try at least one bite” rule too, but it’s not even really a bite, but rather, she can decide how big that bite is, so if it’s a tomato, it’s usually a minuscule little bit piece. Sometimes it’s not the taste but rather the texture that offends her (dreaded tomato, makes her gag), so we want to make sure she feels in control of that. Anyway, all that to say she used to take her bite and then proclaim “I don’t like that.” or “That tastes yucky.” We quickly put the kabosh on that because we didn’t want her to say that at someone’s house having a meal. Instead we taught her to say “I’m not fond of it.”. Much, much less offensive, and it usually tickles the other adults to hear it.

    • Amanda says...

      I like “I’m not fond of it.” My friends taught their 3.5 year old to say “that’s not my favorite” and it’s very polite and adorable when she says it.

  74. Emily says...

    In the spirit of re-branding, I’ve seen a kid eat something she previously hated – lasagne – once it was re-named for two things she loved: PizzaCake

  75. My son (2 1/2) is a super picky eater. But I recently discovered that he loves the blender! I unplug it and let him fill it up. Then we put the top on, I plug it back in (and hold the top down), and he pushes the button. Now I’ve got him slurping down kale smoothies several times a week :)

  76. bridget says...

    My 4 kids were mostly good eaters (the youngest is now 11)- although one still has issues with mushrooms and arugula! Anytime someone would ask what was for dinner, my standard answer was, “poop.” They all thought it was the funniest.

  77. Great tips! I learned a lot and reinforced many of my own approaches by reading Dinner: A Love Story. She’s a fave.

    The “what’s for dinner?” response is great. I use the one my dad always used on me: “bugs and onions”. That said, now that they are 6 and 8, I find that giving them a little advanced warning about what’s for dinner so they can get their heads right before coming to the table can be a good thing. I don’t want to see the unfortunate reactions when it’s not one of their favorites. There’s no negotiation, though, and I’ll only say after I’ve started cooking.

    Oh, and the asparagus tip totally works! My boys do really well with asparagus, because you have to eat a lot to make your pee really stinky!

    Reduce snacking, everyone eats together and eats the same thing… It can be hard with schedules and life but it’s so worth it in the long run. I always make them take a bite, but if they truly don’t like something, they don’t have to eat it. I will never battle over food.

  78. Emma says...

    Having such a hard time with this right now with my enthusiastic, boisterous, gorgeous girl who used to eat everything and now eats a very limited range of food. Desperate for help! Will try Milanese idea.
    She won’t even eat sausages of fish fingers , which as a Brit I’m stumped by.
    Thank you Joanna and Jenny for the solidarity and wisdom.

  79. Anna says...

    We also have a ‘you need to have at least one bite’ rule but if they really don’t like what we’ve made, or are just too tired to eat properly, our fallback is breakfast cereal. We only have the plain low/no sugar breakfast cereals in the house (oats, weetabix/cornflakes) so it’s not too unhealthy, but is filling, cheap and most importantly no extra work cooking something else, which I won’t do! They seem to always be up for eating that, and it’s not exciting enough to make proper dinners undesirable.

  80. That photo cracks me up.

  81. Allison says...

    We find it helps to let them serve themselves at the table. They may go for it more if they are free to choose how much of something to put on their plate. They don’t have to eat anything they don’t want, but we do appreciate it when they give it a taste. If they try it but don’t like something, we suggest they might like it when they are bigger. And we don’t overly cater to the pickiness… Every meal has part of it that I expect to be a success but there is no making something else and I offer disliked things again (on the theory that it sometimes takes 10 tries to like a new food). I also put out a veg plate early on the table so if they are feeling snacky while dinner comes together, that is what is being eaten first. We also have dessert (if we have it and usually that would just be fruit or yogourt) out with the rest of the meal so it isn’t a “reward” that they eat even if they aren’t really hungry anymore.

  82. Amy says...

    My daughter was a good eater until about 3.5 years, and then I noticed her appetite start to decrease (not in volume, but in scope). I’m hoping it’s a phase. Now I always laugh inside when parents of 1 and 2 year olds proudly announce how great of an eater their kid is when noticing her refuse some things – nothing is guaranteed forever! ;)
    I haven’t really given in to her; I still insist she try things, I still don’t make a replacement dish for her when she doesn’t like what’s served. I do include an ‘anchor’ like Jenny was mentioning – I think it’s only fair to include at least one thing on the table that everyone likes. I just make sure that there’s not enough of it for her to fill up on so that she’s more likely to try the other things, too.

    • Allison says...

      We entered a pickier phase at 4 and a number of friends said they saw it around age 3-4 too and it went away after a couple years (!). I hope it doesn’t last so long for us, but I also know we are lucky because the smaller scope we see still includes a lot of decidedly not “kid” foods like octopus, oysters, and blue cheese. I figure as long as we don’t limit what’s on offer, the scope will expand again eventually.

  83. I’m extremely picky. When I was a toddler the doctor told my mom “don’t worry, when she’s hungry she will eat”. I would rather starve than eating something I didn’t like. My mom would cook two different meals most of the times.

  84. ‘What’s for dinner’ ‘I don’t know yet’ also works on partners. My boyfriend is always suspicious of a meat-free meal, but ends up loving it anyway.

    • Gillyan says...

      Hahaha I’m certain my boyfriend uses this on me all the time! Sometimes if he tells me a weird combination, I convince myself that I can’t possibly like it and by the time it comes to the table I can’t even eat! But if he sneaks it in, I almost always end up loving it. Some picky eaters never grow up, I guess.

    • Lauren E. says...

      AMEN. I employ a lot of these “picky kid eater” tips to my 34-year-old boyfriend.

  85. estelle says...

    Great tips! Will def try some of these out.
    My 2 year old is currently a “big eater” but there are always foods that don’t go over quite as well, so I have 3 tricks I use at the moment:

    1. Make sure he’s truly hungry – Seems basic, I know. but I used to sit him down at 5pm on the dot every day for dinner. Now I wait to make sure he’s def hungry before sitting him down to eat.

    2. Feed him in courses – broccoli has a better chance being eaten if he’s really hungry, so I serve it first. Nothing else on the plate. Just broccoli. I’ll cook the other things while he eats it and wait for him to finish before serving the rest.

    3. Small bits at a time – I only put a little of that broccoli on his plate, so it looks easy to get through. Once he realizes it’s not so bad, he usually asks for more.

  86. My kids swear that finding out what’s for dinner is harder than unlocking secrets at NORAD. But I have found from experience that if I tell them then I am *indeed* in for a fight and/or advertising-PR session on what I could make instead. My standard answer (even to my hubby who occasionally rolls his eyes and sighs at the menu) is “What’s for dinner? Food.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha, I love your answer. Reminds me of a T-shirt that my mom used to wear. It said,”Because I’m the mom. That’s why.” Makes me laugh.

    • “Food” was always my mom’s answer as well! Fortunately she kept a weekly menu in the kitchen drawer, so I could just go look it up ;)

  87. Sarah says...

    I’d love ideas on how to get younger picky eaters to eat more too–my one-year-old is very into spitting food out, even if it’s something he loved the day before! Everyone laughs when they see the face he makes when he spits something out, but when you’re the one trying to feed him (and you know he’s hungry) it’s so frustrating.

  88. Katie says...

    no pasta, Toby??? that was pretty much the only thing I ate until I was thirteen … see also: chicken fingers, hot dogs, peaches and ice cream.

  89. Sadie says...

    Yes, that’s the problem with picky eaters– they can show up at any time! You think you’ve got a kid who will eat anything, and then, one day… nope.

    I recently realized that my son (newly 2) is just a very slow eater, and he starts with whatever part of the meal is his favorite. He’ll eat ALL of that, leaving me to despair that he won’t eat the rest. But if he sits at the table long enough, he’ll go through the other foods.

    He has also not realized yet he can argue with “you must finish your greens before you get more sausage.” But I know that will one day become negotiated territory as well!

  90. These are such great suggestions! I especially love the one about answering with “I don’t know yet” when your child asks about what’s for dinner. I am SO using that! :-)
    “The Busy Brunette”
    http://thebusybrunette.blogspot.com

  91. One thing that might be a “Duh!” to getting my 2-year-old to try new things is reminding her of a time when it worked out well. Also, we do have the one-bite rule. So we say something like, “Remember the time you didn’t think you’d like cherries, but you did? Let’s try this sweet potato now, because you might like it. But if you don’t, you don’t have to eat any more.”

    And I think this started at her daycare, but she loves to make a big deal about sending food down the trap with a farewell. “Bye bye, strawberries! Into my belly! Bye bye, chicken! Bye bye, peas!”

    We are also not above bribes.

  92. My grandfather always had a rule that you had to take a “No Thank You Portion”. You don’t have to eat something you don’t like but you have to take just a little, a scoop or a few bites, onto your plate to try. Once you try it you can say, “No thank you!” but you have to at least try it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love this. Funny story: When I was very newly pregnant with Toby (like 8 weeks or so), I went to dinner with three close guy friends. I arrived late, so they had already ordered appetizers for the table. They had gotten raw fish something or other, and when it arrived, I panicked and was like, oh, I don’t like raw fish. And my friend Scott was like, “You have to take a no-thank you bite!” And we went jokingly back and forth for a sec, and finally I was like… I can’t, I’m pregnant! It was such a funny moment ;)

  93. Anitra Sweet says...

    When introducing new foods to my kids I always say, “You don’t have to eat it but you have to try it!” They often end up liking it! Also, I read an article that said it takes a person trying something 7 times before their taste buds are used to it. It worked with Broccoli! My kids truly love broccoli!

    • Here’s a fun little game you can play with your kids to encourage them to try some new flavors:

      http://thebroodinghen.blogspot.com/2010/08/open-sesame.html

      Also, I think a lot of the time five year olds have a strong need to see how much they can get you to react to their demands. If you think that this is happening around meals, maybe you can play it out with him before dinner. My son loved playing a game where he got to hold a remote control and I would pretend that I was his robot. He loved that game! Then, if he gets demanding at dinner you can say, “After you eat your dinner, I can be your toothbrushing robot.”

  94. maria says...

    if we put something familiar on the plate next to new food, my son will eat the familiar food and then say all done :-/

  95. mudrick says...

    If my daughter didn’t like something when she was a toddler I would just say, “well your tastebuds must not be grown up enough for that yet, let’s see what happens next time you try it.” Since she wanted to be more “grown up” she would willingly try the offending food again the next time it was offered. If she decided she liked it we would make a big deal about how grown up she was getting.

  96. Katy L says...

    Glad to hear my 5-year-old isn’t the only one hitting a food wall. She used to eat tons of stuff and now it’s “but that cheese is white! That bread has seeds!” Ugh. I’ve guiltily used the broccoli (or avocado) theory, as well. Good tips!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s the worst!!!! we eat so much pasta, now i’m scrambling to come up with other dinner plans!

  97. Deb says...

    I recently got my kids to eat asparagus by telling them it will make their pee smell funny. They thought that was HILARIOUS and wanted to see if I was right.

    • katie says...

      That is hilarious!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my goodness, Deb, that is SO hilarious. Going to try this week!!

  98. That photos is adorable and I will take any advice on picky eaters since I have one! She’s gotten slightly better the older she’s gotten (also because of the Daniel Tiger episode with the song “You’ve gotta try new foods cause they might taste goo-ood!” ), but there’s still a limited set of things she will even TRY. We’re in the land of making multiple things for dinner which is a PAIN.

  99. Natalie says...

    im a big fan of the French approach to eating via “French kids eat everything” and “bringing up baby”. No snacking, everyone sits down and eats the same thing together, you have to try everything. It’s worked for the most part with our two year old- these tips are good too! Thanks.

  100. Amy Lauree says...

    My eldest daughter is an awesome eater. No complaints there. My second daughter is 3. She has been picky since she was a baby being weaned onto solid foods no matter what I tried. She has remained picky. I used to think it was a parent’s fault and that they just didn’t work hard enough to give kids better food options but I can plainly see that sometimes it merely comes down to genetics- NOT to say that you shouldn’t continue to encourage good eating habits. But it’s been a struggle. I like Jenny’s rule about keeping something familiar on the plate to “anchor” the meal for the child. I have found that very helpful even if it’s just a pita. Picky eaters rarely like their food mixed up or touching as well- stews, soups, casseroles are tough for my little one. She would prefer things separated (pieces of chicken, rice, peas all on their own)- and that’s been huge for helping her eat as well. I try to keep most sauces separate so that I can give the girls a choice if they want it on their meal or not (for example, tomato sauce on their spaghetti).
    That way I’m not making different meals for everyone but trying to respect their preferences as best I can within reason ;)

    • Lulu says...

      I also have one very good eater and one not so good eater, but it’s the eldest who’s the fussy one, so I’m right with you on the genetics thing. I weaned them exactly the same way so it was a relief when the second one came along and I realised it wasn’t something I had done wrong.
      With her it seems to be a lot about texture, its the feel of foods in her mouth that seems to bother her, she’s great with some things (generally protein and carbs) but really not good with dairy or fruit, I suspect she may have slight issues with acid reflux which would explain the fruit aversion.
      She is now 11 and we’re still struggling, we try to introduce one new food a month which seems to work well, she just has to try a little bit – building to bigger portions and it does seem to be true that after a while the tastebuds do adjust. I find it a delicate balance at her age though between not putting too much pressure on her and letting her get away with not trying things, I’m constantly aware of the fact that food issues are prevalent in teenage years particularly for girls so my tendency is to back off – but it’s hard – you do want to bring up children who have a healthy relationship with food. Hopefully one day she’ll get there!