Picky Eater

I have some concerns about my pre-teen daughter’s eating habits. To say she is picky just doesn’t describe it any more. From baby food on, my daughter has never eaten meat… I am aware of her iron/protein intake as she approaches puberty. Usually she will have yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, carrots, peanut butter, or eggs for most meals. In recent years we have added rice, Kraft Dinner, naked spaghetti (no sauce, only cheese), cheese pizza and lettuce to her repertoire. …Her lunch is either a peanut butter sandwich, bagel with peanut butter on it or cheese & crackers. She will eat bananas, apples, oranges, grapes – basic fruits, etc. I have discussed this with my GP over the years and his comment was that she is getting a balanced diet so don’t force her… she will not starve. We haven’t forced her, and we’re getting a more resistive attitude these days – worse than before.

You are describing a healthy diet, even though it may be quite restricted. So he’s right that it’s not worth fighting about.

We are now dealing with an almost 11 year old who will grab the cottage cheese container and finish it off before dinner and state she is full.

A lot of children get hungry earlier than the time adults have dinner. When they’re growing fast, they need more frequent smaller meals. Our idea of the one big evening meal is actually a rather unhealthy way of eating.

What is now happening is that my husband is starting to threaten a timer and when the timer goes he will ‘help’ her finish. This is not going to help anything as far as I’m concerned only make Dad the bad guy and meal time ugly.

You’re absolutely right here! It will only create a power struggle, and make your daughter more invested in eating her own way.

I make a salad for dinner and she will only eat certain darker green pieces of salad and not the white part (closer to the center of the head) because the “white has too much water in it”. I have tried discussing this issue with her, I make things she likes most nights but on the nights I don’t I expect her to try a bit of everything. By “a bit” I mean that I give her 1 tbsp of potato, a one inch cube of meat and about the same in vegetables. This can take 45 min to get through with grimaces throughout the torture.

This is torture for everyone. Why do you need to do this? It isn’t going to make her like the foods you make her try. I think you need to stop expecting her to eat the food you prepare. You can still do lots of other parenting things for her.

Every time I read in parent books about not forcing a child to eat I look for some suggestions how to introduce new, or even keep with the old favourites which sometimes falls under the -“I don’t like today”

My biggest concern is that I believe this is becoming a control issue more than a food issue and we are entering a dangerous age to be dealing with this.

Absolutely. It is becoming a major power struggle. You need to opt out of it entirely and let your daughter’s diet be her own concern, I think. Take her shopping with you, or have her give you a shopping list, so that she can select foods which she will eat. Let her prepare her own meals at the time at which she wants to eat (making sure she isn’t in your way when you’re preparing the meal for the rest of the family). She can clean up her own dishes not necessarily wash them all (unless that is her job) but put them in the dishwasher or by the sink.

If she wants you to cook for her, she can negotiate with you to choose a meal which you think the rest of the family will eat too. Maybe this could happen once a week. The rest of the time, don’t bother expecting her to eat with you. Find other times and activities for being together with her, so you take the heat off the dinner hour.

There is no moral rule which says that dinner time is to be “family time.” It’s often a very difficult time for families. Eating disorders do indeed begin with power struggles with parents in the area of food consumption. It would help if you and your husband could let go of this area entirely, and just have a relaxed supportive relationship with your daughter where you let her be in charge of her own food intake.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail