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How to get through picky eater phases?

My 17 month old won’t eat anything except plain Cheerios, bread, biscuits, croutons, crackers, and cookies - basically, bread products only. No additions, no toppings, nothing. And he only grazes or snacks, never a meal’s worth. I’m lucky if I can get him to drink 4 ounces of milk. This is a huge change from when he used to eat all his veggies and was open to full meals from all the food groups. He’s dropped 3 pounds in three weeks. I’ve reduced the temptations by removing them from the home so that they’re not even an option, but he still won’t eat. He’s not sick, he just won’t eat. Considering the big weight loss, is this a case where I as a parent must force him to eat? I’m worried it’s affecting his growth in the long term. The doctor doesn’t care unless the weight loss puts him in life threatening categories, but I don’t want to wait till it gets to that.

  • Donna
    Jan 26

    Will he eat banana bread? That kind of thing? How about muffins? There are tons of recipes out there to sneak healthy food into those types of treats.

  • Amanda
    Jan 26

    "Picky Eating" affects kids of all ages (and adults, too! haha) When I was a nanny of a 9-yr-old boy who wouldn't eat anything but pizza and nutella, I was able to successfully sneak avocado and spinach/kale into brownies and muffins (like Donna suggested above.) I also made a lot of smoothies in which I mixed fruit, veggies, and other items like chia seeds/flaxseed/hemp seeds (although I'd be cautious with nuts/seeds depending on the age of the child.) I've known a lot of toddlers who LOVE smoothies. Could that be something to try in addition to muffins?

  • Donna
    Jan 27

    A little young for these strategies now, but in another year or 2, here are a couple of strategies that have worked with amazing success on my picky 3 year old (who previously would only eat 6 things): 1. Family style dining. Put all food in the center of the table and let the child pick what theyre willing to eat. Tell them they have to pick 2 things. Make sure there’s always something they’re willing to eat in the mix. 2. Distraction. I started taking turns going around the table asking questions like a game. You can buy a set or just find the questions on Pinterest. Things like “if you could only take 3 things to a deserted island, what would you take?” The only rule- the child has to take a big. bite before you’ll read their question on their turn.

  • Anonymous
    Jan 27

    If you don't want this to escalate into a huge problem. Sounds like if he liked these things before then you have been exposing him to a variety of foods, so keep doing that. Try offering healthy options you know he has liked in the past, and maybe 1 of the things you said above. But change it to whole grain ( if it's not) to try and get more fiber. Also try and be firm and clear about eating times. Strap him in to a high chair and offer breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. Don't let him graze and snack and wander around with food. You could also experiment with different kinds of his favorites, like pumpkin pancakes, or banana bread, or try the smoothies, but just be careful about being sneaky, because trying to sneak food doesn't get them to genuinely like it. And forcing a human to eat isn't going to do anyone any good. Check out @kids.eat.in.color and @mamaknowsnutrition on Instagram- these are all tips I've learned from them, and with patience and time they work!

  • C
    Jan 28

    OP here. Thanks everyone, keep the ideas coming! I wish I could get my toddler to take fruits and veggies in his bread, but it’s like he is suddenly adverse to flavor. The food he chooses is of the plainest variety - no sugar added, yay, but nothing else added either. It’s original Cheerios, dry. The crackers are the saltine and water cracker type. Luckily he’ll take whole wheat, but flavorful bread like banana bread or muffins with blueberries is out. Same for drinks: he prefers plain water, almost to the complete exclusion of milk. I thought children his age still need milk? This child was a milk guzzler not long ago! And before, I could sometimes get away with adding veg purée to his milk and make it a weird veg smoothie. Now if he tastes anything in the milk he won’t try it. Ironically, I did the baby-led feeding because it supposedly led to a more adventurous eater and avoid the pickiness later on. Now I’m wondering if I did that wrong somehow.

  • Donna
    Jan 29

    Made these pink pancakes last night and all 3 of my kids (even the super picky one) went nuts for them. The secret ingredient is a whole small can of sliced beets, puréed the blender. Just don’t let them see you put them in :) Edited: I used the bisquick “the ultimate pancake” recipe on the back of the box and then just added the purées beets to that mixture.

  • Amanda
    Jan 29

    The pink cupcakes! I love them! Such a brilliant idea. I’m wondering which other foods can create such colorful appeal: Strawberries? Blueberries? Spinach?

  • Angela
    Jan 30

    Kids with autism can be so picky they will starve themselves. There are eating therapists: check your local hospital and service providers. My kid has autism. I think your doc is wrong. I feed my son what he’s willing to eat and give him gummy vitamins. I occasionally present other options I think he will like but he usually doesn’t touch them. I got lucky with freeze dried broccoli - he likes it! It crunches like a chip and he likes chips. I also sneak carrot pure into his yogurt.

  • Leesa
    Jan 30

    Angela, what brand of gummies do you get?