tiadawn's picture

Scared of New Foods

I am just curious as to whether or not anyone else has had a similar problem, and what I can do about it, because I'm at my wits-end.  My seven year old daughter is an extremely picky eater, and will only dine from a select menu, every time I try to get her to eat a new entree she goes into a panic attack that ends up with her in hysterics, to the point that if she does eventually try it she gags on it because she is so worked up.  I'm a single mother and I am having trouble tackling this by myself, PLEASE HELP!!!!

jenntx's picture


I agree with Marti. I am a teacher, and I do see kids go into hysterics about nothing--usually, because they are taught that they get what they want when they act like that. If you are firm about your expectations, and remove her from the table/restaurant during a "fit", she will quickly learn that the embarassment just isn't worth throwing the fit.  

As for the food issue, just offer her whatever you fix, and if she chooses not to eat it, make it clear that she may not have anything else that evening. Trying to fix different meals just for her, or spend the evening fighting over dinner will just exhaust you--and will only teach her that she gets what she wants by a show of drama.

You may also talk with her (during a calm time) about why she's so afraid of trying new things. You could try letting her help design a menu-- make a deal with her where she can choose a new dish from a few choices that you give her. She can also choose the night she tries it (say, Tuesday). Then, if she's interested, show her ways she can help you fix it. If you help her feel more in control by choosing the dish, the night, and how to help fix it, she may decide not to fight new menu items quite so much.

HTH! ~~Jenn

anonymom's picture

My 10 year old likes what he likes when it comes to food.  He
does not eat things new and different.  I really can't complain
because he does like some healthy choices I just always feel like he
needs some variety not just the same old thing.  I guess this is
my hang up not his.  The following article suggests that you don't
want to get in a power struggle over food.  It can lead to
struggles down the road that could be more serious. I think it is worth
reading.  Good Luck!!


ell's picture

I have 8 and 10 year old girls. When we were having trouble with picky eater syndrome it was around New Years.  We were talking about resolutions and we all made one try new foods. Whenever one of our daughters turned up there nose at something at the table we reminded them of their resolution and they would try it. I find that those problems come and go. Right now my older one is more picky than the younger one. Hope that helps.

ell's picture

Also if you have her help choose the menu and cook kids are usually more invested in trying new foods. Introduce one per meal.. my younger daughter likes garbonzo beans and will eat them out of the can if I let her.

mspila's picture

I too was at my wit's end with my son's eating habits. Nutrition is paramount as far as I am concerned, and I felt he ate too many sweets and starches too few nutritional foods. Now he is nine but this has been an issue almost his whole life. He rejected the texture of cereal as an infant and gagged on many foods as a small child. If I withheld other food til he ate his veggies, he would fast for a whole day.

You cannot win a food battle; I finally accepted this. He is a good compliant boy and wants to please me; however he cannot eat something unpalatable to him just as I would never drink gasoline no matter how thirsty I become. Now I accept that he will eat limited amounts of nutritious foods, and I try to stick to whole foods served at home and sent out with him as snacks. I limit sweets in the house and try to control the amount of junk food he is offered out side the house.

You might try different approaches to see if you can find textures and flavors your daughter can eat. I discovered that my son happens to like spicy foods and will eat chicken and potates as long as they are not mixed with anything else. He also will eat sweet fruits like strawberries and cantaloup. His menu is limited but not horrible. We tried to take the negative emotions away from the dinner table but it was hard. I had to learn to let go. This is a loving decison we made for our family. Best wishes to you and your little girl.

dakotie's picture

A lot of kids will not try new foods b/c they find the texture of the food objectionable. Some times this is a sensory issue sometimes just a personal preference.  My advice is - don't engage in her hysterics. It's a no win situation. I have a child who needs a high fiber, iron rich diet. I read labels and use cast iron cookware. I encourage her to try a taste of a new food but I try not push it (easier said than done!). You are the parent you decide what foods come into the home. If there is little or no junk food around  then there are fewer food choices for her to make and she may decide to try something new. Good luck!

LipglossLady's picture

I have this problem also. It is a battle I choose not to fight. My daughter lives off of plain pasta, grilled cheese, chicken tenders and rice.  I refuse to battle over food.  Of course I would love it if she ate anything and everything but I cannot force her to eat something, nor do I want to.  The less I make an issue out of it, the more cooperative she has become when she DOES want to try something new.  Hang in there, it's not the end of the world!

susanc's picture

my 8 year old has always been a  picky eater.he only eats a few  foods.he is very sensitive to smells, appearance  and texture's. he will gag at the sight of new foods.as he has gotten older, we insist he tries different foods,or he does not leave the table,or do an activity that he wants to. sometimes this works,or he chooses not to try the food.I found a food and swallowing clinic at children's hospital that we are going to try.I had to avoid supplement shakes,because he would rather drink his calories then eat them.he does like some breads,and since I can make my own,I mix veggie baby food in the dough.as long as the baked bread is "smooth", and I tell him i used food coloring in the dough, he eats it. good luck!

mcslp97's picture

Hi, I hate to say this, but it is nice to know we arent the only ones going through this problem.  My son is 6 years old and since around 3 all he is willing to eat is french fries, pizza with everything scraped off, and noodles with butter.  He wont eat any veg. or fruits.  He also doesnt like really any candy or anything sweet, and he also wont try even any new candy. He will eat potato chips and things like that though.  The past week we have been making him taste new things, but even if he might like them he still wont eat it.  He doesnt seem to be giving us a power play, he actually seems like he is afraid of eating anything new.  Does anyone have any suggestions.  We have took the french fries away, so  now all he's been eating is noodles.  Should I just send something I think he might like in his lunch and hope he eats for the day at camp, and break the routine??  This is so stressfull!!!


hownaive's picture

I have to agree with jenntx. Maybe its because I'm also a teacher, or we are from the same culture. This is ultimately a matter of three things: nutrition, respect and responsibility. WE are the parents. Take responsibility. Teach your child to respect the efforts of others (including their cooking). Teach them that proper nutrition is paramount. Please, teach them not to be rude when a guest at someone else's house for a meal.

I want every parent to know that I find it extremely rude when a child is invited to eat a meal with us and then makes fun of what we eat and lets us know how yucky it is.  The other day my husband put a lot of effort into making spaghetti and meatballs from scratch with a salad for my son and his friend. The guest was so rude. He teased my son for having to eat salads, he doesn't have to eat vegetables if he doesn't want to. He kept asking what was in the meatballs and saying "yuck" probably like he does at home. (It was ground beef and onions, nothing too weird.) I was so livid I had to excuse myself from the table because I was ready to give that young man a lecture, but I was afraid it would embarass my 14-year-old son. Later I calmly let my son know that we will not ever be inviting that young man over again for a meal. He didn't even ask why. He clearly understood and he felt really bad for his dad who had obviously tried very hard to be a good host. This has happened so many times. I even said "yes" to a friend who asked us to watch their 2 boys for a weekend so they could go on a much needed adult vacation. Those two boys wouldn't eat anything in our house except a banana. When they returned I let them know that they all they ate was a banana. I guess they thought I would keep trying different meals until I hit on one they would like. The only guest who I bend to is one with a very real stomach condition. Thank goodness my son's best friend was brought up the same way we brought up our boys. He eats everything and says "Thank you for the meal. That was very good."

If you are teaching your child that they can express their negative opinion about what the cook has worked hard to make, even if it is you, then you are teaching your child to be rude. Anyone who says that it is a battle you won't win is telling you to renig on your responsibilities as a parent.  Parenting is power struggle. Why in the world would you make them think they have power over you???? I don't get it.

My first child would eat anything and everything. My second child thought everything was a power struggle, including meals, until the age of three. But, he wasn't offered an alternative and he had to eat at least half of his meal or just sit there for an hour sometimes. (Nutrition is OUR JOB! hello!!!) We never had to spank. He was so tenacious about getting his way that we liked to joke that he would be a CEO of a huge company one day. He would slam his fist on the table and yell "NO!!" and then just sit there. But, we still let him know we were boss.  We would then go downstairs to watch the family movie together, or whatever and he had to sit at the table until he ate at least half his meal. One day, like a light switch, that behavior disappeared for ever. In other words, we won the battle like a parent should. It took a couple years, but so what? Today he is very healthy and well balanced and I love it when parents tell me things like: "Your son is always welcome at our house. We love having him. He is such a gentleman." He knows never to tell someone who put a lot of effort into a meal, or taken him to a restaurant that he doesn't appreciate it and love it. He has seen his friends do it and I think it shocks him.

If you have taught your child that it is OK to be a picky eater than the least you can do is warn other parents that they may not want to invite him or her over for meals or invite them out to a restaurant. I certainly would appreciate that heads up. I will just say, "Thank you for the warning, how about he just comes over after lunch instead."  I'll tell you, it got to the point, after the spaghetti incident that I joked that next time, I was going to send the parent a bill for the food their child wasted.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I guess as a teacher I've had my fill of rude children and do not have to also put up with it in my house. Teach your kids manners, please!!! At least for the sake of preparing them to go on dates and "visiting the parents". Do you think they'll magically get it one day? I think you have to teach them.