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Parent Exchange: How to Keep Your Child from Starving


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Nicole, Queen's Square | March 6, 2017

I’ve been blessed with two wonderful, picky children. While both of my boys have displayed their own unique issues regarding food, they have one thing in common – when they decide not to eat something, there isn’t much that will change their minds. And believe me, we have tried MANY techniques. Some examples:

  1. “If you don’t eat ____, you won’t get dessert.”
  2.  “If you DO eat ______, you WILL get dessert!”
  3. “Let me help you fork it into your mouth”/ "Let’s pretend the fork is an airplane!”
  4. “Until you eat ______, you will not be getting any other options.”

Unfortunately, with a determined kid, you only can have them go so many hours without eating before you realize that starving them, in the name of correcting pickiness, may not be the right tactic. So, I’m now living with two picky eaters in my house, and dinner can be exhausting. Do we make them food they like, so we know they are eating something? Do we take a hard line, in hopes that hunger will encourage them to try new things? Feeding kids can be a challenging experience, right from the beginning, so read on for some resources about feedings kids of all ages!


Starting Solids – The Beginning of the End (just kidding!)

As a new mom, I was eager to start solids the ‘right’ way, and provide my six month old baby with a variety of foods, in order to help him broaden his palette right from the beginning. There are SO many different opinions about how to do this. Check out our collection for some great books on starting solids, baby-led weaning, and other ‘first foods’ topics.

Another great resource is the Region of Waterloo Public Health guidelines on starting solids with your baby.

A word of caution: My first baby was a fabulous eater! I would smile with pride at family gatherings, as people would watch him eat his mashed veggies, gnaw on pieces of chicken, and chew on broccoli (ok, he never actually did that). Then he turned 18 months old, and promptly refused everything he had ever eaten, except yogurt and bread. While this is developmentally very normal, it is still frustrating.  At 3.5, my son is just now starting to broaden his palette once again. The moral of my story? You can do everything ‘right,’ and your kids still may not follow your ideal menu. I’m sure my son’s eating habits will continue to ebb and flow many more times over the next 15 years, and I’m determining to not waste too much emotional energy on this.


Tips for Getting Kids to Eat

  1. Hide nutritious ingredients in kid-friendly foods, like veggie-filled smoothies, or quinoa cookies.

    Some people don’t like the idea of ‘hiding’ nutrition in food, because they believe it doesn’t teach kids how to choose healthy options themselves. Others feel that hiding veggies and other nutrient-rich ingredients in prepared foods is great, because at least it gets it into them. I take a middle-of-the-line approach. I work hard to offer my kids, every meal, both fruits and vegetables. However, I also ‘hide’ nutritious ingredients whenever I can. Here are some of my favourite recipes:

    Quinoa Cookies
    Veggie Mini Muffins for Baby
    What to Feed my Toddler

  2. Use divided plates.

    Often, kids have issues with food touching. Whether it is because they don’t want foods they dislike to touch foods they enjoy (which I can understand!) or because they need to exercise some type of control over their food, divided plates can make a huge difference. They’ve been very helpful with my kids, and are available in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.

  3. Always offer one thing they’ll eat.

    This is what we do, currently. I struggle with letting my kids go completely hungry, especially since they have proven to me that if nothing that looks appetizing to them, or if I attempt to force them to try something, they simply won’t eat. So, I make sure there is ONE thing on the table that I know they’ll eat.  Bread. Applesauce. Yogurt. Carrot sticks. And, if they choose to not touch the rest of their meal – that’s their choice. At least I’m continually offering multiple healthy options!


Check out more local and online resources:

This is one of those topics that I am slowly wading into, and I am learning lots as I talk to other families about mealtimes. What about you? Do you have any tips to deal with picky eaters? Share in the comments!


Submitted by Cinda (not verified) on

I help a lot of Moms overcome picky eaters! This will not be a popular response but so often it is us as parents that create this (and yes I have 2 kids with sensory issues so do get it!)
1. Model eating a variety of foods yourself and praise your child for trying new things. I don't believe in kid food so what goes on our plate goes on their plate.
2. Exposure is important so keep providing a variety of foods even if they don't eat them the 1st,5th or 7th try! My daughter tried salmon on the 8th try and now loves it.
3. Language is key. I had a Mom say in front of her kids 'my kids don't like vegetables' First that isn't an option, and second you are affirming that belief. I tell my kids it may not be their favourite today but our tastes change regularly. Our rule is choose 2 colours.
4. Have kids shop/cook with you. My daughter asked to try raw garlic and onion and while I almost blurted out 'no that's gross!' I calmly said sure! And guess what?! She loves both! So often we instill our beliefs on our children through our language
* Just a few ideas. Feel free to reach out if you need more :)