Rob's picture

How can I get my son to eat a wider variety of foods...

Hi all,

My son is 6 years old and has a very limited diet.

He will only eat ceriels such as Weetabix, Redibrek or rice crispies.

His only food that he will eat during the day is one brand of alphabet spaghetti.

He will quite happily tuck into anything sweet that you give him, chocolate, biscuits, sweets and the like.

How can I get him to eat a wider variety of foods. I have offered him various things to eat, some make him wretch just looking at them, some he will put in his mouth but will cause him to start to wretch when he tries to chew.

We had a major problem a few months back when the store we buy his spaghetti from changed the packaging and he refused to eat it because he thought it wasn't the same spaghetti, he has now started to eat it once again.

I am from the UK and this was one of the first sites I came across that had posts about eating problems.

Thanks in advance.

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

I used to nanny for 2 boys, 1 of which was about your son's age, who were extremely picky eaters as well. First of all, I can't stress enough how important it is to not force children to eat. Unless there's a true physical problem, they WILL eat when they're hungry.
Second, if your son is not eating well, or is insistant on only eating certain foods, there are many things you can try. The obvious is to cut out snacks, candy, etc, especially close to mealtime. Also, if a meal is not eaten, absolutely no snack shld take it's place. Cut back on fluids as well, as liquids will also fill kids' little bellies. Give 3 meals a day, and try to stick to a particular time for each meal. Allow your son about a 1/2 hr to eat his food. If he doesn't finish it by then, take it away. Use a timer if you have to. This has worked wonders for us. Your son will whine and complain, but don't give in!! Give you son choices of healthy foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Letting him select from a menu will make him feel he has some control over the situation. You don't want to make eating a battle. Two choices of different foods for each meal shld be enough, but don't let your son choose the same thing more than once. For expl, if your son has the choice of turkey and cheese or tuna salad for lunch one day, he can have P B & J or pizza the next day. This way he's getting a variety, and he's not eating the same things all the time. It's ok to offer your son things he likes now such as alphabet spaghetti, just don't offer them all the time.
Another thing that has helped w/ my own children is allowing them to prepare the meal. They make things like mac and cheese, P B & J, oatmeal, lasagna, salad, etc. Then I make a huge fuss telling them, "Mmmm, this is the best mac and cheese I've ever tasted! What's your secret?" They love the compliment, and this encourages them to want to eat. Be creative when preparing the food too. Use fresh fruit and yogurt to make funny face pancakes. Take fresh vegies and let you son build a vegie tower in a scoop of cream cheese, etc.
Make sure you offer all different textured foods as well. If your son refuses to eat something, don't push him. Say ok, but no snacks unless you eat your next meal. It's not worth the stress of fighting. Just stick to your guns. Your son will eat when he's hungry. He's not going to starve.
Try all these suggestions first. If you find that things don't get any better, talk to your son's dr. Some kids have sensory problems where they won't eat certain textured foods and they'll gag. If, however, you haven't experienced anything like this before w/ your son, it's probably just be a stage he's going through. I hope my suggestions are helpful. Good luck!

tamz's picture

Concerned, your suggestions ARE very helpful and I am going to try some of them myself... thank you... My boy is seriously the most picky eater alive!! Drives me nuts!! Thanks for taking the time...

acitez's picture

Follow the first paragraph's advice--three meals, less liquid, severely restricted access to the foods he will eat, and you could land in the hospital with a child in ketosis who is dehydrated.

Go for 3 meals and a healthy snack, fluids of water, diluted juice, and 4 glasses of milk, and at least one meal a day of the foods he will eat. The rest of the advice is very good.

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

Acitez has a good pt. Obviously if your child sticks to his guns and absolutely refuses to eat/drink for days, seek a drs professional opinion. All I'm saying is it wld take some time to get to the pt of ketosis. It's human nature for us to eat when we're hungry, and if the food of our choice is not put in front of us, if we're hungry enough, we'll eat what we can get. I see that happening before I see the child getting to the pt of severe illness, but use your judgement. If you feel more comfortable, consult your son's dr or even a nutritionist for advice on the matter before trying my suggestions. I'm giving you my opinion based on what has worked for my children and the children I nannied for. If you want your son to eat more variety in his diet, you have to offer different food choices. By offering snacks in between or in place of a new food, you're allowing your child to 1. fill up on something he's used to and you know he already likes, and 2. avoid the foods you want him to eat b/c he has filled up on snacks he likes.
I used to tell the boys I nannied for, "Chicken nuggets again? You're going to turn into a chicken nugget. Lets try something new." I don't believe in forcing a child to eat something he absolutely hates, but I'd at least want him to give me the benefit of the doubt and try something new. I remember, too, that the boys used to want to eat 2 different things. They were both very active, and they had very busy schedules. Honestly, I didn't have time to prepare 2 different meals for them. Sometimes I wld take what they liked, like mac and cheese, and I wld put broccoli or ham into it. Yes, one didn't eat vegies and the other refused meat. Can you imagine? They also didn't like milk, so I gave them chocolate milk instead which they did eventually drink. We called it "bubble juice" b/c they learned to blow into the straw and make bubbles w/ the milk. I didn't intentionally encourage them to play w/ their food, but if it got them eating/drinking, hey, why not? A little fun won't hurt anyone, and a little creativity can go a long way!

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

Forgot to mention, one healthy snack and fluids are important between meals. However, during the process of trying to get a picky eater to try new foods and eat more quantity, I suggest cutting back on these things. Once the child does start eating better, use the snacks/treats as a reward for good eating habits. Don't avoid all liquids, just cut back on them. Use common sense, obviously.

beyrent's picture

I'm very interested in this topic. My five-year-old has had difficulties eating his entire life. He's a highly sensitive child, and has issues with textures, smells, and tastes. Many foods will literally make him throw up.

His diet is pretty much limited to fruit, carrots, corn, pasta, cheese, pb&j, and hot dogs.

This year, he finally grew enough to get on the scale. It's been frustrating!

ncb1's picture

My daughter is the same way!