Food Fights Helps Parents Overcome Picky Eaters

06/12/2012 at 02:00 PM ET
Courtesy Food Fights

Being both pediatricians and mothers, Drs. Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu entered into penning their book on picky eaters with some hard-won insights.

“We’re very much parenting realists,” Dr. Jana tells PEOPLE. “How do you make [eating healthy] work when you’ve got a kid throwing a fit in the grocery store or whining over food? We thought we could make a big impact on the problem by giving concrete and tactical information about raising kids healthier.”

In their guide, Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup, the duo draws from their medical backgrounds and real-life experiences to help counsel parents through common picky eating challenges.

“Parents can get frustrated easily and start getting into bad habits, like cooking kids special meals or insisting that they clean their plates. Things like that are actually backfiring,” says Dr. Shu.

Instead, parents should aim to make small changes over time to their children’s diets, which will prove more effective in the long-run than an enormous overhaul.

“A healthy diet doesn’t happen overnight,” says Dr. Shu. “Don’t put pressure on yourself to get every single meal perfect every day of the week. Be patient; it is going to take time.”

Noting that “there are simple one-step things that people can do that will really make a big difference,” Dr. Jana suggests removing the unhealthy treats from one’s home.

Ultimately, “it’s a parent’s job to put good food in front of the child, and it’s a child’s job to decide how much to eat,” says Dr. Shu. “Keep it simple like that, where the parent really is in charge.”

– Kiran Hefa

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Showing 9 comments

Kristen on

True; a healthy diet doesn’t happen overnight but you can easily feed your kid a healthy diet from the beginning. Don’t buy garbage and remember that you are the adult when your kid is throwing a fit in the cereal/candy aisle. Kids won’t starve themselves so if Johnny refuses to eat what you made for dinner than fine- he’ll be hungry by morning. As soon as you begin the “fine then what DO you want for dinner” just understand that Johnny owns you and you have no one to blame but yourself.

kimmie on

You do not need to fight with your child. The child eats what you eat. If you feed yourself chips and junk food all day long you cannot expect your child will eat brocolli. Also the more you complain and make faces about this or that food, the less likely your child will eat that.

Kait on

Kristen – kids WILL starve themselves. I did. If I didn’t like it, and wasn’t given something else, I wouldn’t eat. My parents tried to just let me wait until I was hungrey enough, but I would go days without eating. Sometimes as a parent, you just have to give in and make a hotdog. I’m a healthy, happy 25 year old now, and while I’m still picky, I eat healthy and have a well balanced diet.

Tia on

My parents knew that when we were little, we grazed, so healthy snacks we always available. When junk isn’t in the house, you don’t know what you are missing.

Feekoningin on

Picky eaters aren’t born; they’re made. They are made by every parent who allows a child to eat something different than what the parents eat. They are made by parents who run restaurants in their kitchens where they make separate meals for themselves and their kid. Ridiculous! My kids eat what I eat. End of discussion. Even when they started eating solids, I made my baby food by putting what I ate in a Cuisinart, adding a little milk and grinding it together. Worked just fine.

Felice on

I so agree that picky eaters are made. It is definately the parents who entertain such nonsense, and allow it to go on. My six year old has eaten what my husband and I eat ever since she was 1 year old. She is six now, and nothing has changed. In resturants we order nothing special for her and I fix one thing at meal time in our home. If she does not exactly love it, she may not finish it all, but she eats it, because she knows that there will be NOTHING else.

Erika on

thank you for your viewpoint, Kait. i have a child with a pediatric feeding disorder – and it’s REALLY not so simple. i also have two other kids who i have raised the same way i raised her and they are all great eaters. it is very tough to change the habits of a child with a pediatric feeding disorder- trust me- thousands of dollars spent on occupational therapy, i’ve read dozens of books, i have tried it all…so please, people do not judge until you have walked a mile in these shoes.

Holiday on

My daughter is 25 months and has been in eating therapy for 6 months. She cannot and will not eat most foods and is only 23 pounds and tiny. I have to cater to what she can and will eat (she also has major problems chewing and severe sensory problems) and she would starve if I didnt give her the few foods she eats.

Mel on

Before I had my third child I would have agreed 100% with this article. My older two love fruits and veggies, will try everything and are generally great eaters. Then my youngest came along and he refuses to eat. At 16 months he will only eat applesauce and goat cheese. He refuses to even try anything and I have tried everything short of prying his mouth open.

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