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9 Things Not To Say to a Mom of a Picky Eater

By marinka |

My 10 year old is a  picky eater, which means that often when we have a meal with Other People, they feel compelled to make some sort of comment about that my kid is a picky eater.

It’s a little odd that they feel so free to say something about it, since I’ve managed to restrain myself and not say “well, it certainly seems that you’ve overcome whatever hesitation you may have had about eating everything in sight!”

Generally, I think it’s rude to comment on people’s eating habits, and the fact that we’re talking about a child doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

Here is a list of what not to say to a mom of a picky eater, based almost entirely on comments that I’ve received in the past.

Bon appétit!

1. Has he always been picky? No, just since this afternoon. It’s uncanny!

2. I read that you should introduce one new food a week.  Yes, I’ve read all the books, thanks.

3. Aren’t you worried that he’ll be malnourished if he doesn’t eat a cucumber/tofu/melon/fish? No. According to his pediatrician, he is getting enough nutrients.

4. Isn’t it boring not to try new foods? Probably.  But he’s on a baseball team, has a Wii and friends. So I’m guessing he gets his entertainment in other ways.

5.  Didn’t you breastfeed? I did.

6. You probably didn’t nurse him long enough and that stunted his palate. Oh, shut up.

7. If you left him with me, he’d eat everything after a week.  Yes, let’s do that on June Neverteenth.

8.  Bribe him to eat new food. Sure, that sounds normal.

9. Give him his dinner and if he doesn’t eat it, give him the same plate for breakfast and for lunch. That’s a great idea! Not at all psychotic!

Do you have a picky eater?  What are some of the things that you are tired of hearing?


10 clever mind games to trick your picky eaters into cleaning their plates

10 tips for feeding even the pickiest eaters


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About marinka



Marinka is a wife and mother of two living in Manhattan's West Village. On her personal site Motherhood in NYC, she blogs about her life in New York City, her kids and family, current events, and the art and science of blogging.

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30 thoughts on “9 Things Not To Say to a Mom of a Picky Eater

  1. Jennie says:

    My 9 yr old boy is picky. My 5 yr old girl is not. I am completely sympathetic to him and let him eat what feels right within reason. Why? I was also a horrible eater as a child. The taste and smell of many things made me gag and sometimes throw up. I had a step mother who used to try to force me to eat new things and it made me miserable. But, in my 20s my palate started opening up and I now love most fruits and veggies. I still prefer to not eat meat, but do on occasion. I am confident my son won’t spend his whole life eating from the mac and cheese aisle.

  2. Stacy says:

    OMG I”m so happy to see this blog!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need to carry your answers around w/me. My 8 yr old will eat me out of house; my 4yr old however has to be gluten free; dairy free ANNNNDDD is as picky as anything… yep super fun! BUT i’ve been doing it for almost 3 yrs & WE are used to it. I make VERY high efforts to get him all his vitamins; supplements & a protein at each meal… but i get sick of hearing the “oh if you just keep giving it to him he’ll eat” really? he’d still be sitting there next saturday starring at me! :) & a constant fight w/my child over food is NOT something i’m willing to do no thanks…. he eats what he eats & i’ve been told is pretty darn healthy so please let ME take care of my kid….. thanks i feel better now :) ))))

  3. marinka says:

    Jennie, I also have a daughter who is not picky and a son who is. Like you, I was a picky eater and just grew out of it. So I totally relate. And it’s so frustrating to keep hearing the same “picky eater myths and cures” thrown at me time and again.

    Being a picky eater isn’t a personality flaw.

  4. marinka says:

    Stacy, I’m glad that the post helped– I’ve been hearing all these things for most of my son’s life.

    I know that people think that their “advice” is helping, but it’s not. It’s really not.

  5. Yuliya says:

    Wait what’s wrong with number 7? It’s not like you to refuse a vacation…

  6. MommaO says:

    How bout these?

    “You should just make him eat what you put in front of him, and if he doesn’t don’t give him anything else!”
    Isn’t that malnourishment?

    “Don’t you think he is just doing it for attention?”
    No I don’t, but if he is, YOUR harping on it all the time is exactly what I DON’T need!

    Thanks for this post. I am glad to see I am not alone!!!

  7. Jennifer says:

    THIS WAS AWESOME!!!!! I have had a picky eater from birth. Baby food may as well have been poison. She finally came around about a month & a half after being first introduced to it when then learned of a milk & egg food allergy. So my husband and I never got to “teach” her to try new things from our plate since she was allergic to most things. She is now nearly 5 years old and has outgrown both food allergies, thank God! But she is still EXTREMELY picky. My husband & I happily make 2 dinners nightly. And will think nothing of packing a PB sandwich wherever we go because it’s her fave. When we go on vacations along with packing clothes, etc., we pack food & snacks. When she gets it in her head that she wants to try something we buy it and let her try it. Even if after the purchase she decides against it I happily waste the money to let her experiment. At a Walmart a few weeks back she spontaneously asked for baby carrots so we bought them, she proceeded to eat a ton of them while waiting on the check out line & now eats them several times a week at school for snack. Her pediatrician is not worried. She take a multi-vitamin nightly. And I am lucky that lots of what she does eat is fairly healthy. Good luck!!!

  8. Peajaye says:

    How’s this for a response to #2?: “Yes, and I’ve read that it’s better to keep bad advice to yourself.”

    (and speaking of reading, I actually have read that picky eaters have more sensitive taste palettes, so they often go on to become really good cooks.)

  9. LiLMamaOfFive says:

    I also have good eaters and a picky eater..he is 8 now and at one point he refused to eat anything but Peanut butter sandwiches and it got concerning so i asked his dr if this was okay and what i should do and he said.. Brown bread. Put it on Brown bread and he is getting enough so i did and eventually he just got into eating other things..he is still a little fussy mostly still with veggies and fruits and things that are very soft in texture but other then that he is getting alot just takes them time..where i have a 5 and 3 yr old that would eat everything in sight if they were allowed lol Chin up to all the parents out there who are dealing with this bull from everyone..if your dr says dont push then just dont push.. sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to just let nature take its course :)

  10. casey says:

    WTH does breastfeeding have to do with it anyways. My daughter isn’t super picky like me but she’s picky nonetheless. I breastfed her for two years! I think it’s hereditary. My dad is picky too.

  11. Jaimie says:

    My 12 month old currently will only eat fresh fruits.

  12. Adrienne says:

    OH I LOVE THIS!!! I’m a mom to a very picky eater and this is awesome! Thank you!

  13. Camy says:

    Thanks for this….I have three picky eater. My oldest cannot have any form of sucrose so add that to it. We did not find out until he was 5 so as a toddler he found that eating chicken nuggets and grilled cheese did not hurt his tummy so now those are his favorite foods. My youngest use to eat everything but when he got to be around 3 it changed. I two meals one for dh and one for them. Right now mac n cheese and hot dogs is the meal of choice.

  14. Di Ranere says:

    OMG, it’s like you were in my head when you wrote this! I have an 8 year old who hasn’t eaten a vegetable in his entire life! I have heard all of these and more. My number one “peeve” is the vitamin question, or rather, urging…”Make sure he is getting vitamins” “Is he getting enough vitamins?” Blah, blah, blah, I just what to scream “Shut Up! He’s alive, and growing and healthy. Weeeee, sorry, had a little meltdown there for a minute ;) Thanks for writing this!

  15. Heidi says:

    Sorry but as a preschool teacher I am tired of all these picky eaters! I can’t plan a menu without ticking some kids or their parents off. While I know kids can be pickey, we feed into it too. Make dinner, and your child won’t starve! They will eat or wait till their next meal. Tough love here. It is easier to avoid in the first place, and really hard to fix. But please be patient with your childcare providers, your pickey child is probably not their only pickey child. And if they can’t cater to your child, SORRY!

  16. Jeanette says:

    I AM that picky eater. I hope my mom wasn’t ever asked any of those… Especially the breastfeeding part. I was allergic to my mother’s breastmilk, so my mom couldn’t breastfeed me even if she wanted to.

  17. deborah says:

    My daughter is only 10 months and I am scare that one day she or my future children will be picky eaters. I grow up believing that wasting food was taboo, we even got in trouble for it. So, if my children are picky eaters, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

  18. marinka says:

    Heidi, I’m not sure I understand. You’re tired of the picky eaters and therefore you think they shouldn’t be picky? Being a picky eater isn’t a character flaw, it isn’t stubbornness, it is just how some children are because of food aversions, palate sensitivity, whatever the reason.

    I appreciate that you have to deal with different children and palates but this whole “they eat what’s given to them or wait till their next meal” POV is a bit outdated.

  19. marinka says:

    Deborah, I grew up in a house where it was a huge taboo to waste food, too, so I totally understand. However, I think it’s important to understand that being a picky eater is often not a choice, nor is it a character flaw. It’s just how some kids are. Forcing them to eat using many of the techniques that many of us grew up with only creates an unhealthy relationship with food and problems down the line. So, to answer your question, if your daughter does turn out to be a picky eater? You will love her and do what is best for her. Because that’s what mothers do.

  20. Lisa says:

    Thanks for this! I was and still am a picky eater, though my daughter will eat anything in sight. The question I repeatedly get asked and HATE is why I don’t like something (the asker usually has a furled brow as if my hatred of capers and processed meat is a sign of something more sinister). I see people doing this to kids, too; they just don’t like whatever it is and even if they explained why, what difference will it make?

  21. CMDJsMommy says:

    My 15mo old is super picky. He’d rather drink than eat, and then only eats things that aren’t slimy, squishy or have any kind of skin/outer layer on them. He basically lives on formula, cheerios and gerber melts. We’ve tried to introduce everything under the sun, multiple times. Our pedi said not to worry about it 6mos ago, but it is getting old. I definitely hope he’ll grow out of it, but we’ll make the best out of whatever comes.

  22. Katie says:

    I love this! I’m not a mom (yet) but I was, and still am, a very picky eater. I can’t stand the comments I get, including ones about my mom’s parenting skills being to blame for my eating habits. But I just don’t like the texture of many foods, it makes me physically ill. I wish people would keep their comments to themselves!

  23. Alison says:

    I have 1 picky eater out of 5. He’ll eat things like beans and oatmeal, but not meat. I don’t force him to “have what we’re having”, but I do ask that he tries at least one bite of each item served at that meal. Even if we’ve had it before. I agree with a few things on your list, but there’s something that I feel needs to be said for the other side.
    More rude than any of those questions/comments mentioned, is when someone comes over to my house (full of children) and when their child refuses to eat what everyone else is eating, they request something else. Of course, if I were to pull out something else for junior, all my kids are going to think this place is now a delicatessen.
    I’ve also seen the kid who will only eat pizza. His mom buys him a pizza every day. I’m not kidding. This kid’s mom is not the person in charge in their home, and he knows it! Be a grown up and be smart. Don’t starve your kid, but don’t let him rule the roost. There’s a reason we’re called parents.
    If your kid is picky, fine. I won’t mess with whatever you choose to do with him. But don’t make the rest of us sacrifice what we’re doing with our kids either.

  24. Cheryl Banks says:

    I have heard them all too, I tell them you raise your kids as you see fit I will raise mine as I see fit and thank you for keeping your comments or opinions to your self. If I need advice on how to feed my child a well balanced menu your the first person I’ll be sure to ask. Kids don’t eat everything and I am glad they don’t food aversions are more common than you think,especially with kids that have other disorders like Asperger’s. I have five children of seven living with my hubby and I 3 months to 15 years. The two oldest are married and on their own I have dealt with the picky eating problem and I believe that it is part in the genes. Kids also tend to outgrow it as they get older. Kids sometimes won’t eat because it is the wrong color ,my older sister would only eat meat if it was white. It is mostly psychological ie. in their head but as long as my kids are eating well I don’t make a big deal out of it because when you do they only become more resistant and on the defensive.

  25. Erin Duggins says:

    I love articles like this. My son is an extremely picky eater and it only started after we introduced solid foods around 1 year. He is 9 years old now and other than his lung issues(recurrent atelectisis) he has been diagnosed with ADHD and Aspergers. He has a lot of obstacles to face every day and I am not in the habit of making what he eats one of them. The counselor says that his aversion to trying new foods stems from sensory issues where he smells, tastes and feels things differently than others. The food smells that most of us LOVE make him sick. My biggest problem is that when I explain to someone-like my family- why he doesn’t try new foods they say it’s bullcrap and if I make dinner and he doesn’t want to try it, he doesn’t eat. If I didn’t give my child food every time he didn’t want to try it I would have buried a child by now. My sons aversion is too strong to simply “get over”. I am tired of other parents making judgements on how or what my son eats. As far as the child care provider goes that was complaining about having to deal with these picky eaters, If you make food at school that my son won’t eat guess what, he eats when he gets home or I send his lunch with him. A little sensitivity here to the parents who have to do this on a daily basis. Wow, sorry about the little rant here but I am going on 4 hours sleep 34 wks pregnant with a high risk painful pregnancy and raising my wonderful 9 and 8 year olds while I handle it.

  26. Jess says:

    I agree with Alison. I dislike when I have to change my house rules for a child who is picky, although I do it because I think hospitality is an important value. The problem is then my kids think they can do the same thing.

    I don’t think picky eating is a character flaw, but in our house, you eat what is served or you wait until the next meal. We always have fruit or a plain veggie or bread and butter with the meal. It is not malnourishment. My children are active and in a healthy weight range. They don’t like or eat or even try everything but I am not here to be a short-order cook and waitress. I make exceptions when my DH and I want something spicy–I will make a milder version or something else for the children.

    I would not comment on another’s parent’s food rules but at the same time, I don’t really appreciate it when I am asked to change mine. We have one friend whose daughter is very picky and if they are at our house, her mom tells her she doesn’t have to eat anything but she won’t get a sandwich or whatever until they get home. That seems more reasonable to me than “Miss Jessica will make you a grilled cheese.”

  27. Donna kelly says:

    my daughter wasn’t breastfed… she was adopted… I get told she is manipulating me… she has never liked eggs… picky yes… but she likes vegis… dislikes fruit… if its a taco, spaghetti or pizza she will eat it…she loves banana bread… I rarely order her anything at a restarant … there is a book called deseptively delicious by Jerry sinfeilds wife… she adds puréed vegis in food and her kids can’t tell

  28. Donna kelly says:

    I want to add that at my daughters birthday, she is 8… I have her choose 3 new foods to her diet.. they don’t all stich, but she adds healthy things … she picked tuna sandwiches last year and chow mien the one before… smoothies she won’t drink, although she likes the idea of them.. my daughter is ADHD and I steer her away from high dye in foods… she won’t eat most candy… which is good… she hates soda which is good… she told a waiter that water is her favorite drink… ha… it bugs me that waitresses think I’m being cheap but she won’t eat what I order… I do a no thank you bite, but she hates potatoes, eggs, and most meat.. no juice, no fruit, and to top it off she is mega tiny for her age, so people think I should make her eat… yah you try forcing food down a child that throws up or gags

  29. Heidi says:

    What I was trying to say is enough is enough. Fine your kid is picky, but don’t make the rest of us pay for you letting them eat nothing but jelly sandwiches. I have one like that now. I have to follow the USDA guidlines for feeding and the parents want me to feed jelly sandwiches everyday. I CAN”T! Don’t expect me to, and no please don’t send a lunch unless you plan on feeding everyone. When I have allowed parents to send a lunch for picky eaters, no one else wants to eat, they only want your jelly, and chocolate pudding!

    I feed what I feed, they won’t starve, I PROMISE!! A child with no medical problems and good healthy food in front of them will not let themselves starve. My kids tried to not like anything I put in front of them. When I didn’t bend and they got hungry enough they ate. I did let them slide on some things, fine, we all have our own tastes, but I eat only pasta did not fly in my house. Medical issues have their place, I am not argueing that. But I see more and more picky kids than ever. Be the boss of the house, not a short order cook!

  30. Tiaras & Tantrums says:

    my blanket response is always this: His Ped told me he will not ever starve himself. If he wants to eat a pound of bacon a day, let him, if he wants to eat cookies all day long, let him Worry about all the other stuff later” Literally she told me that! AFTER 18 months with a food therapist – NOT FUN!

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