Food Rules to Cure Picky Eating

Food Rules to Cure Picky Eating

I get a lot of questions about how to get kids to eat a healthy diet

While this was initially a battle for us as well, I figured out some “food rules” along the way that helped with their adjustment. We now have (mostly) non-picky eaters, which I attribute to the attitude we present about food.

It’s all About the Attitude…

In general, I’ve found that many parents assume that kids won’t eat or won’t like certain foods, even if the children themselves have never complained (or even tried a certain food before!). There is a perception that foods like chicken nuggets, sandwiches, and pre-packaged kid-sized snacks are the foods of choice for kids, and we (as parents) are hesitant to introduce foods that we fear they won’t like.

I’ve also found that the attitude we teach about food is as important as the food choices we offer. In the times I’ve visited other countries, there is a difference in how children ask for, eat, and behave in food related situations.

While I certainly think that the type of foods we market to and prepare for our children needs to change, I think it is also important to change the way our kids think about food as well.

To this end, I pulled some ideas from my mom’s French background (after noticing that her family was naturally thin, not picky and ate a wide variety of foods). We’ve incorporated these ideas with our own children, and the difference has been astounding.

I call these “Food Rules” though the name is slightly mis-leading. I think that while we certainly must have guidelines about how children act in food related situations, these “rules” should be taught by example and practice rather than iron fist (or wooden spoon).

1. No Complaining About Food

In our house, children (and adults) are not allowed to complain about food. This doesn’t mean that they are forced to eat at every meal, just that negative talk about food is not permitted.

Food is first for nourishment, and this is an important thing to teach children. Additionally, complaining about food is both rude to the cook and shows a closed-minded attitude.

How we handle it: No one is ever forced to eat if truly not hungry (see below) but everyone must sit and participate in meal times with a positive attitude. Those who insist on a negative attitude are dismissed for bedtime. Especially with multiple kids, a negative mentality about a certain food spreads quickly and is hard to un-do, so it is better to head this off completely!

2. Food is not a Reward

Food is first provided for nourishment, not entertainment or emotional reward. For this reason, we try (not always perfectly) not to bribe with food or offer food as rewards for good behavior. I even try not to make certain foods a big deal on birthdays or other occasions, as we try to focus on experiences instead. (i.e. instead of a birthday cake and sugary snacks, we might take a family trip to the zoo or other fun place for a birthday).

In the same way, I don’t ever present foods as a punishment or associate them with punishment (i.e. “You have to eat your asparagus or you are getting spanked.”) While children can’t complain about food (see above), it is the negative attitude that is disciplined, not the action relating to food.

I’ve seen in many children (and even to some degree in myself at times) an emotional connection to a certain food, or a desire to eat certain foods in emotional situations. While the types of foods we provide is certainly important, it is also important to avoid creating an association between foods (especially unhealthy ones) and happy times or fond memories. I’d personally much rather those fond memories be connected to family time and experiences anyway!

How we handle it: While we do, of course sometimes have treats, they are only given when I make them. We don’t use them as a bribe, kids don’t earn them through good behavior or good grades, and we don’t withhold them if children misbehave.

3. Eating is a Family Activity

I think that the trend of eating on-the-go and in isolation (while watching TV, etc) has contributed to the negative attitudes children have about food. For this reason, we make a sincere effort to eat meals (especially breakfast and dinner) as a family when at all possible and to make this an enjoyable time.

The advantages are that meal times (hopefully) provide an enjoyable time for conversation and bonding with the children, which also facilitates slower and more mindful eating.

In our house, the whole family also eats the same thing at each meal. Children don’t get special “kid-friendly” foods and as soon as little ones can eat solids, they get tiny pieces of what the rest of us are eating. The family atmosphere helps encourage children to eat what is served, and helps avoid food battles.

If a food is unusual or a new food for us, we don’t make a big deal about it (by not saying anything about it) and just present it to the kids with a positive attitude and assume that they will eat it. I’ve seen my husband choke down liver with a poker face (poor guy!) and the kids eat it readily because they have no idea that they shouldn’t like it.

How we handle it: Meal time is family time and outside activities are rarely allowed to interfere. Everyone eats the same thing and eats it with a positive attitude (though if a person is truly not hungry, he or she may just sit there after tasting the food and enjoy the conversation). In the rare cases that children don’t have a good attitude at meal times, they are excused to their rooms. In the same way, we don’t often snack so that everyone is ready to eat at meal times (though children do occasionally get healthy snacks if there will be longer than normal times between meals).

4. Try, Try Again

To help facilitate a non-picky palate in kids, they get  one small bite of each food being served at a given meal (one green bean, one bite of sweet potatoes and a piece of chicken). When they finish one bite of each, they can request more of any food. When children don’t like a food or request it when asking for more, we just explain that it is ok as long as they always are willing to try it and explain that one day (when they are grown up) they will like the food.

Dislike of foods is not set in stone so we don’t force feed huge amounts of foods that they don’t necessarily like, but we set the expectation that they keep trying those foods until they do.

How we handle it: Just as negative comments about food are not allowed, we try to promote a positive attitude about new foods by presenting them in manageable (one bite) amounts and giving the expectation that they will learn to enjoy all foods one day.

5. Hunger is OK

I’ve worked with clients who have completely lost a natural sense of hunger due to constant access to foods and eating on the go. It is perfectly normal (and expected) to be hungry before meal times and hunger is never an excuse for negative attitudes about food or eating junk food.

Normal hunger at meal times encourages kids to eat whatever is served and to eat enough to avoid being hungry too much in advance of the next meal. At the same time, a child who complains and is excused from the dinner table for bedtime quickly learns to have a more positive attitude (it has never taken one of our kids more than two nights total of missing family dinner to find an improved attitude).

How we handle it: We don’t let hunger be an excuse for unhealthy eating or bad attitude. We don’t often offer snacks as children who are at least slightly hungry tend to be happier and more adventurous eaters at meal times.

6. Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods

Now for a few details on the actual types of foods we eat and why. I noticed that my mom (and the French in general) spend more time eating a smaller amount of higher quality food. They enjoy it more and obsess about it less (in general). To help make all of the above “rules” easier to implement, I focus on cooking nutrient dense, rich foods, from scratch each day. We incorporate bone broth, homemade pate, raw cheeses, homemade sauces (that contain butter or cream), eggs and egg based foods like hollandaise sauce on a daily basis.

Not only are kids less hungry  after an omelet filled with meat and veggies and topped with hollandaise, but they are more nourished and have received a boost of beneficial fats (as opposed to what they get from a bowl of cereal). When possible, we let the kids help shop for or prepare the meals and I always make an effort to explain why certain types of food are more nutrient dense and how they benefit the body.

How we handle it: I cook from scratch every day, which is more time consuming that throwing a sandwich together, but it is worth it to me to help my kids learn a healthy attitude toward food. You can check out my recipe index for some of the recipes we use.

I’ve also heard positive things about the book “French Kids Eat Everything” and while I haven’t read it myself, many friends have told me that she promotes a similar attitude about food and eating.

How do you handle food with your children? Is it a battle or are your kids adventurous eaters? Share your tips below!

You May Also Enjoy These Posts...

Reader Interactions

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Be Healthy…

Become a Wellness Mama VIP member for free and get access to my handbooks & quick start guides to help you detox your home, become a master of home remedies, make beauty products from scratch, and conquer mealtime madness!

Yes! Let me in!

Wellness Mama widget banner

Reader Comments

  1. These are great! We have started something similar with our 4.5 and 1.5 yr old. They are trying new things and eating a much much wider variety! It’s amazing to me that our culture chooses (for the most part) to label processed food as healthy and a good choice for children.

    • I am not sure if I am able to ask a question here or not, but here it goes.
      My 13 yo. daughter is obsessed with hot chips. I have tried to remove them from her diet. But after a few days that is all hear about. Her wanting hot chips. I eventually give in which I know isn’t the right thing to do. My question is this, How do I remove them from her diet and it not be a fight? (She also gets them when she is at friends’ houses.)
      I’ve tried to explain that they aren’t good for her.

      • I bake sweet potato chips a couple of times a week and they are a hit! I just slice them up, drizzle them with oil (I use coconut oil), and season with different things. They are a great alternative to potato chips and you could spice them up with cayenne pepper.

        • What tool(s) do you use to slice the sweet potatoes? Is it a knife, a mandoline, or something else?

          • I use a Cutco knife to slice the sweet potatoes. The brand is expensive, but it has been worth every penny! A friend uses a slicer, but they don’t slice well. I think a sharp knife would be the easiest option!

  2. You are so right on (as always!). I’ve found that it doesn’t take very long to get kids on board with eating healthy even if they are used to complete crap. We are foster parents and our most recent two (a 3yo and 6yo) came to us from another foster home with bags of “their food” which included fruity pebbles, poptarts, donut sticks, etc. I.E. all they ate was pure sugar. The other foster parent told me they don’t eat vegetables and their favorite food is pizza. I kindly said, thank you for the info. The kids both screamed and fussed the first night when i gave them chicken, greens and okra. I gave them about a week to wean off their sugar addiction by allowing them one of those crappy treats if they finished their dinner. After that, it all went in the trash. We explained to the kids why we eat the way we do and how important proper nutrition is. The 6yo really bought into it. (The fact that the 3yo’s front teeth are black/gray from decay helps our case!) After about 3 weeks, we have had almost no food issues with the 6yo. We’ve had a little more trouble with the 3yo. If he doesn’t eat dinner, he goes straight to bed. But generally he eats his dinner. They now both say they love broccoli! (And they take their fermented cod liver oil with no problem!) We were at the store the other day and some man in front of us in line tried to tell the 6yo he needed a candy stick. With a very straight face, the 6yo told the man, “We don’t eat pure sugar.” That was a moment of glory for me! But your rules are so right. Don’t make a big deal. Kids can choose to sit at the table and eat or they can choose to go to bed. And BTW, French Kids Eat Everything is a great read! Also Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman is also a good read. It’s about the French parenting style, but includes info about their attitude toward food as well. P.S. When will you start selling Wellness Mama merch?!?! i am ready for a tshirt or tote that says “Wellness Mama rocks my world!” (or perhaps something far more witty!)

    • GOOD FOR YOU!! A) for being a foster parent, and B) for weaning those kids off of the crap!! I want to hug you! Especially, as you said, the decay in the 3 year old’s teeth! I work in dentistry & that is so sad & tragic! I don’t yet have kids of my own, but want to thank you, Chantel, for making this world a better place! Love to you & your family!! <3


  3. Great tips! I used to be a nanny and the quickest way to end food struggles was this: say I was serving a salad for lunch. If the children decided they didn’t want to eat it (they liked and usually ate salad with no complaint) that was fine. They would take a bite or two and I would put it in the refridgerator for lunch the following day. The kids quickly figured out that a fresh green salad tasted better than a next-day-wilty mess.

  4. My question is about foods that seem to be truly disliked. I guess this would fall under the negative attitude part, but I have a nearly 4-year-old who used to eat anything (she’s always been paleo), but now seems to have developed a sincere dislike for fish. To the point where on Thursdays, when I buy and serve fish for supper, she starts telling me first thing in the morning that she doesn’t want fish for supper. We always make her take one bite, but the struggle is starting to wear me down. And then I always wonder if after her bite of fish, which I know will not satisfy her, do I get her something else to eat so she doesn’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night? I know there are a few foods (mushrooms..ugh) that I cannot stand, and I would expect that any person will have a few foods like this. Any advice is appreciated!

    • I have no advice, but this may fall under the ‘pick your battles’ category? My daughter is a great eater so when she turns her nose up at something (she can be iffy when it comes to mixed-up, casserole type foods) I just remind myself that she would choose raw fruit and veggies over most things.

    • That is a tough question and one I ask myself with my 2 year old son. At the moment his main issue is veggies so I just keep putting small bite sized pieces on his plate. But with fish it could be a bit trickier. When I read your comment, a couple of things came to mind.

      Ask your daughter what she doesn’t like about the fish – flavour, smell, texture? Does it make her tummy feel funny after she eats it? I ate fish (fish fingers! Ugh!) when I was a little kid but I developed sensitivity to all seafood and now it does not agree with me at all.
      Now for family meals I cook fish and chicken or other meat. We all eat same veggies. My husband chooses fish, I choose chicken and my 2 year old son has both! Would a similar thing work for your family? And perhaps do a “serve yourself” style meal on those nights so your daughter can choose her own meat source. This gives her no pressure to eat the fish, you don’t appear to be giving her special treatment, she gets her protein source without you giving in and cooking a separate meal.

      Good luck!

      • Judy, your advice is spot-on. It is vital to ask the right questions. ‘Why don’t you like this food?’ is a great one. Your solution to offer two types of proteins is brilliant! As a mom of seven children, I salute you! 🙂

  5. These rules are brilliant! My son was born a picky eater–opposite of his older sister. It was easy to deal with when he was little, I would just not give him snacks and would then give him the green beans, asparagus, or blackberries FIRST, and then give him what he liked (the meat) after. Now he is older and wants to wheel and deal about the food on his plate or, most recently, the milk in his glass. Luckily he does like broccoli, which is high in calcium, because that is an old stand by in my house.

    • As a kid I balked at milk, and was force fed whole milk dairy because it’s ‘healthy’. It turns out that I have a dairy sensitivity, so this resulted in years of chronic and serious ENT pain and issues (including several surgeries). I agree that we need to foster positive relationships to whole food in our kids. But supporting them to develop a healthy sense of intuition and the ability to attend to what their bodies are telling them, is also very important.

      I also have to say, more generally, that the ‘no food rewards ever’ and ‘good food/bad food’ stuff I am reading here flirts with eating disordered thinking. Most of these rules are really helpful and thought out, but as someone recovering from eating/body issues who grew up with a lot of these sorts of prohibitions, I have to say that I don’t agree with some of this. Food for thought, anyway.

  6. Love the one bite “rule”. One bite is very manageable and not overwhelming.

  7. I whole-heartedly agree with these food rules, but I do have some comments. I have 2 sons aged 15 and 7. My oldest was diagnosed with Asperger’s at a young age and has always been an extremely fussy eater. My youngest will eat anything and everything. My oldest is an extreme vegetable hater. So, we have found ways to incorporate pureed veggies into meals and then he has no idea that he was eating veggies. Recently, I started to be honest with him. For instance when I make mac and cheese with pureed squash and cauliflower (thereby cutting back on the cheese content and just using a sharper blend of cheeses, like old cheddar and parmesean). He would ask me which secret ingredients I snuck into it and he would comment “wow, but it was still really good”. (But I would not tell him till after he ate it). I have found this to be a really good approach. Also, I agree that food is not a reward or a punishment and the one-bite rule is most certainly in effect at our house. However, I have never had the heart to send a child to bed hungry, ever. I think that is mean. I know I do
    not sleep well when I am hungry, why would they? But, I am also not a short order chef; so what I do is this: One bite of everything is mandatory and no complaining allowed. If you choose not to eat it it’s ok. But, you must remain at the table to be polite, while the rest of us finish our meals. After about an hour of everyone being excused from the table, the picky non-eater would be able to make himself some toast and peanut butter or cheese or a bowl of cereal with milk. Because food is not supposed to be a punishment either; so by not eating the food, should not translate into going to bed hungry, either. This approach has helped my oldest son to become less of a fussy eater over the years, despite his autism. He will now eat veggies he
    never ate before and I no longer have to lie about my squash and cauliflower
    spiked mac and cheese, as he eats it willfully, even knowing I have snuck some of
    his much hated veggies into it!

    • I would love your mac and cheese recipe!!!!!!! 🙂

  8. I don’t have any kids, but i have worked as a Program Aide in day camps, and I remember there was one little girl who wouldn’t want to eat her lunch, and let’s just say some ventriloquism did the trick.

  9. How young would you recommend putting a child to bed hungry? I have an 18 month old. If he doesn’t want to eat I figure he isnt hungry but when I take away the food or excuse him he just cries at the fridge until I cave (yesterday was 2 hours) and get him something he wants. I’m nervous putting him to bed hungry b/c he already eats so much in the morning and he is kinda small for his age.

    • I would also like to know how you deal with sending a child to bed hungry.
      I can’t bring myself to do this as long as my daughter tries everything, she will usually eat all the veggies but only one bit of meat.
      She often wants something more to eat, so allow her a healthy snack to subsidize or more veggies but I don’t always have more of what I cooked to give more of what she liked.

  10. I’d love to see this on a printable 🙂

  11. I think your information is exactly what we all need.

    Thank you,

  12. This is brilliant! Thank you for all of your wonderful content.

  13. Katie – just curious what you do about candy and food related to holidays? For example, Halloween, Easter, Valentines day? I pretty well regulate what kind of sweets my kids get during these holidays, but I find that they get all kinds of junk I wouldn’t otherwise give them- from well meaning family members – aunts uncles and grandparents. I’ve asked kindly to limit the amount of sweets given. I’ve even picked through and discarded some things when my kids are sleeping. But I wondered how you (or anyone else reading this comment) encounter that obstacle?

    • We don’t really do Halloween, I hide empty easter eggs or put non-food treats in them, etc. They sometimes choose to eat junk when we are out but usually feel bad later so they don’t choose those options often.

    • I let my kids go to town on Halloween and collect as much candy as they want, when we get home we pull out all the non-candy items and leave all the candy for the Pumpkin Fairy, she magically changes all their candy into money and then they get to go to the toy store and buy a toy with their money. For Easter we fill plastic eggs with date rolls, dried fruit, nuts, little erasers, cars and other small toys.

  14. Does anyone have suggestions about providing adequate nutrition for a child and husband that won’t eat ANY vegetables? My husband is 37 and step-son is 11. Neither will eat veggies and gag when attempting. My mother-in-law believes it started with my husband because of his asthma medication. As a toddler he loved veggies but just like his son developed serious asthma. I am at a loss because they both refuse to eat any veggies but I want for them to have optimal health. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    • As someone who has MANY allergies, I’d bet your husband is allergic to a few vegetables, and has associated all vegetables with that allergy. For example, I am allergic to mold, therefore I am also allergic to mushrooms and raw onions and raw garlic. I’d take both of your boys to an ENT Dr for allergy testing.

  15. I know this is a discussion about picky eaters, but I like to share this whenever I see a discussion because sometimes a child is a problem feeder and some of these tactics would make their difficulties worse. I’ve found that lots of people don’t know about the difference and I would like to provide this information as a “just in case.”

  16. Any suggestions for children who regularly vomit as a way to avoid eating a food they dislike? My son and my daughters know that they have to try things when told, and will do so calmly, then they’ll vomit all over the table (and yes, it’s happened at restaurants and relatives houses) if they don’t like it.

    At home, we don’t make a big deal out of it and just send them to bed. But at a restaurant, or especially at my in-laws, there’s a huge commotion and concern. It undoes everything we’ve done at home, and the child maintains (correctly) that this is a good way to get out of eating food they dislike.

    We’re talking multiple times a week. I’m on the last nerve with it.

    • Not sure if this will help, but maybe get them to clean up the mess when it occurs at home. Of course they may be too young to do this. And then again, they may vomit again if they have to clean it up!

    • As someone who has MANY allergies, it’s possible your children are actually allergic to what you’re feeding them. I’d take them to an ENT Dr and have them tested for allergies. I was force fed a few foods as a child that made me throw up. It wasn’t something I did on purpose, rather my bodies reaction to that food. Something to consider.

  17. I like how you teach your family with these food rules. I especially like the one about being hungry. A lot of parents (and their kids) have completely lost the idea that it’s okay to be a little hungry knowing that a nutricious meal will be ready soon. It really will make the food taste better!

  18. Any suggestions on making school age kiddos lunches? His school has a Nut free environment so that makes it even more difficult. I have been making sandwiches, bagels, cream cheese and crackers, etc. but I am doing research on different ways of eating to see if this will help with his behavior. A little background, he is 6 1/2 and after a really difficult last year culminating with him being so depressed after being bullied that he said he wished he was dead I sought help and received a diagnosis of ADHD, depression, and the potential of learning disorders. The doctors are encouraging me to medicate him but I am seeking alternative treatments and starting with diet. I am also ADHD although undiagnosed and I am interested in a change of diet for the whole family.


    • I don’t yet have children, but I have ADHD and depression myself. My symptoms are greatly reduced due to diet. I basically (though not to a T) follow the diet outlined in the book Potatoes, Not Prozac. It’s an amazing book. The basic premise is changing/healing brain chemistry issues and sugar sensitivity by adding a specific amount of protein to your diet, replacing simple carbs with complex carbs, etc., and eventually eliminating sugar from your diet.

      I’ve been eating this way for a few years now and it’s changed my life. I knew that sounds a bit dramatic, but I am now not taking an antidepressant, and I’ve virtually eliminated ADHD meds. (I was taking a high dose the times per day, and now I take the lowest possible dose, and not even every day.)

      There’s also a version of the diet tailored to children. It’s called Little Sugar Addicts. 🙂

      I hope this helps, BriAnne!

    • I was diagnosed with ADHD at 6. My mom took me off all sugar, food dyes. She got me tested for allergies, then took me off milk, too, and cooked whole foods instead. It completely changed my behavior and I did better in school and did not have behavior problems in school after that.

  19. Hey Katie! This is so helpful, thanks for sharing! I am curious, though, about how your family handles going out to eat, being a large family with a specific diet. Also, I was wondering if you allow liquids at meal time. You’re awesome! 🙂

  20. Yes!! This is so great! We’ve been having picky eater issues and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was – but you hit the nail on the head. This is exactly the issue – the food attitude. I grew up in Switzeraland and many of the health habits you write about were just 2nd nature to us, but since moving to the USA when I was 11 years old and raising my own children and having to work hard to get nutrients in their bodies b/c the supermarket is 80% garbage…it has been a challenge. Thank you so much for your blog. I am working on getting back to the way I was raised, even though I have to “hunt” for the good food. Thankfully, your blog helps me find good resources. Thank yous so much and God bless you.

  21. Thank you , These tips are great. Growing up, my brother and I were always ready to try new food. As an adult I observe parents fixing special food for rude kids who think nothing of saying “Yuck!” and “Gross” or spitting out food someone prepared for them. When did that become OK? Why is it a struggle to get children to just TASTE food?

    I understand an autistic child having issues or one or two foods someone genuinely dislikes (Keep the live and goat cheese AWAY please!). But it seems more like a manipulation/power struggle with many kids.

    Every single rule you list was one we grew up with, except for the food is not a reward one. We did have cakes on our birthdays and easter baskets – though the easter bunny always left us a toy with a little candy but left our friends just a ton of candy.

    We had to taste everything every meal. If we didn’t like it we didn’t say anything. If we did, we asked for more. I still remember at one point my dad reaching for the sautéed mushrooms dish to find it empty then saying “Hey – who taught you two to like these things?!”

    We are adopting older children and “food issues” is a concern of mine. Everyone keeps saying “just give them what the want.” I am saving this list for reference.

    The one thing I would say that did not work on me as a child – we did not have junk food in the house. My mom would make fresh fruit pies for desert occasionally, but that was pretty much it. I had a raging sweet tooth regardless and as soon as I was old enough to access food on my own I went nuts with sweets and gained 22 lbs in one year. If I’d had casual access to sweets all along I might have just gorged on them, or it might have broken the spell they held over me. Hard to say.

  22. Hi Katie

    I signed up for your meal plans today and am very excited. I read your post of food rules and I would love to put these ideas into my family. I am just wondering how to you manage eating real grain free food out of the house. Ie what rules do you put on the kids for school functions, friends houses, camps etc. Do the same rules in the house apply outside the house? It seems so hard ( maybe rude) to me to be invited to ones house for a meal but not really be able to eat it as the meat is conventional factory farmed meat and the sauces are all made with bad oils and lots of chemical additives not to mention the grains. I am just wondering how you manage these things in your family.

    Cant wait to start meal planning

    • At home, we are completely real food, but unless there is an allergy, I do allow a little leeway when we are at a friend’s house. Thankfully, many of our friends eat the way we do, and I prefer to host when possible, but I feel that sometimes the benefits of time with good friends outweigh the possible negatives of the food they serve (and we take charcoal if it is stuff we usually avoid)

  23. Hi, I have a 9 year old who is a somewhat picky eater. He eats some fruits, some veggies, some meats, etc. but is very hesitant to try new things. I usually try to get him to try just a bite of something new. sometimes he gags when he tries the new food. He doesn’t gag on every new food but just those he is really hesitant to try. He especially hates to try new foods at other people’s houses even if it’s something that he will eat at home because one time he tried something and ended up throwing up.

    I was a picky eater as a child although not as picky as he is. My mom didn’t force me to try new foods and eventually I grew out of it and became more adventurous. My concern if I don’t force my son to try new foods he won’t ever do it. I worry as he begins going to friend’s houses that he won’t eat(this has happened). I’m not so concerned that he will go hungry in those situations but that he will appear to be rude(even though he is very polite when declining food) and won’t get invited back.

    I like your idea of having everyone try a bite of something before the meal and then asking for more of only what they like but would love advice on how to handle him gagging on certain foods.

  24. I have a 6yo who eats everything and anything and a 8yo who is autistic. He has been incredibly fussy with food and moving to France 6 months ago was tough for him food-wise. I’m pleased to say that the one bite rule has been working well and his very limited list of what he will eat is growing. I try to take him shopping with me and encourage him to be adventurous, which is developing his willingness to try. As a French woman, I grew up with a very wide variety of food and a healthy attitude to food but I’ve been to the US and was shocked. Portion size and the sheer amount of rubbish in supermarkets you guys have over there is unbelievable. It must be hard on that side of the pond to fight the food industry!

  25. I think this is awesome advice! As for children going to bed hungry-many miss the point/s..
    1. Trust me, it won’t happen often. Once is number of times each of my 5 children have chosen to go to bed rather than eat what’s provided.
    2. It’s kinder to be firm a few times in their life, than “cave in” every time!
    3. Skipping a meal-especially an evening meal simply means they’ll be hungry in the morning!!it doesn’t kill them!! With my 2 yr old, I place unfinished meals in the fridge, and serve it an hour or so later when he’s really hungry. He usually gobbles it all.
    4. Definitely ask WHY a child doesn’t like a food. There maybe a simple solution or satisfactory alternative, or valuable insight.
    We have been using food as a reward, but not any more after reading this!
    We don’t do snacks much either, this info reinforced why and I’m glad we’ve stuck to it.
    We aim to keep meal times calm fun and kind! Even if someone doesn’t eat much-they haven’t missed out on our “daily bonding session” and it’s not a drama.

  26. May I suggest a book for you Wellness Mama, Conscious Parenting. 🙂

  27. I love love love your sight! You are such a blessing and absolutely awesome! Quick question – I have an almost 2 yr old who is such a picky eater. I have finally gotten my husband on board and have thrown most processed foods and snacks out of the house. While I have always enjoyed cooking it is an adjustment to learn to cook or bake everything, but I know it is worth it! However, despite my best efforts my child would rather not eat than eat some healthier options. I followed the conventional foods they recommend as first foods and I know he was probably introduced to sweets to early and has ruined his taste buds. Do I just stay home for a few days, deal with a cranky toddler who is half starved but not let him have anything but the healthy stuff? He will often try new things but just doesn’t like them! He even tried seaweed for me several times but he just couldn’t get used to the texture. That is the other thing, he is very sensitive to textures. Any advice would be welcome, otherwise, I guess eventually he will be hungry enough and just eat? Thanks!

    • I found the one-bite rule really helpful at first. Would your little one eat one bite of a non-favorite food if he could have some food he likes after? After some time, he should develop a taste for these foods.

  28. I am in a situation that no one has mentioned thus far. My husband plus a few other co-workers had lost their jobs just before I gave birth. I gave birth and a few months later we ended up having to move in with my parents. Since then, my husband has gotten another job but it pays half of what he made before. We can not afford our own place… Yet. Our daughter is now 14 months. Anyway, the problem is that my parents and last remaining grandparent are not respecting me when it comes to food choices. They grew up on junk and raised me on junk. My daughter and I are vegetarian (My husband is too when I cook dinner for us), while the rest of my family is not. The rest of my family eats junk food. We do not. We buy our own food, but when I’m not looking they try to feed her junk food or meat (I guess they think I’m depriving her, but most animals today are fed GMO grains, farm fish are too). They are fat and sick. The dogs are fat and sick. “I” used to be fat and sick too. I was raised to eat meat and junk food too. I never ate any veggies unless you call pickles on a double bacon cheeseburger with extra fries and a super large coke veggies. SOMETIMES I would eat peas, but that was rare. I HAD to change my life and I did. I went on a low-fat raw vegan diet and lost all of the excess weight I had and became healthy and even started to exercise. Now that I know how to be healthy, I want my daughter to be healthy too and not have to be sick like I have been. She has not been sick a day in her life so far. Well, my daughter and I did have a cold that only lasted 3 days (during that time my Mom had an upper respiratory infection that lasted 2 weeks and my step dad had bronchitis for at least 3 weeks), but that’s it. But, I’m still concerned about all of the candy (my parents have at least 4 candy dishes throughout the living room) and toaster strudels she samples. Now, we do eat eggs from our chickens that we raise free range and we do occasionally eat wild caught fish, but all veggies have protein to some extent so we get most of our protein from beans, nuts, and seeds (always have to keep my eye on her when it comes to the bird feeders my grandma has. My daughter loves sunflower seeds and pepitas.) She also loves broccoli and peas and even kale chips. Does anyone have any advice for telling my parents what to do in their own home when it concerns my daughter?

  29. Oh, I forgot to ask what everyone else does when their 14-month baby throws food off of their plate to the floor or tries to feed their food to the animals instead of eating it. I want there to be as little waste as possible.

  30. Love the post! Katie, I was wondering about more details on your kids’ eating schedule. Do they all (excluding the newborns) only eat 3 times a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Or do any of the ages have snacks? I’m curious how often kids actually *need* to eat each day. I’m always amazed when I see parents giving their children more food, even if they just had a meal. It just doesn’t seem like that’s necessary, but then I think, “what do I know, I don’t have kids yet”.

    • If they are really active or if we have a later dinner, I will give them a snack in mid-afternoon, but I stick to something like apples and almond butter or something with protein.