Stop Me If You've Heard This One

Today in Further Tales From Obviousville

So here's a confession, of sorts: For YEARS, I blamed myself for Noah's picky eating habits. It was all my fault, you see, because I'd done some very specific things "wrong" when he was a baby and toddler. I started solids too early, I relied almost exclusively on jarred/packaged/processed baby foods, I never incorporated child-led weaning practices, I let his pickiness rattle me and I made it all a big deal, I short-order cooked for him and eventually mealtimes just devolved into dry Cheerios, peanut-butter crackers and a cup of milk because I just couldn't deal with it. 

And here's part two of my confession: For YEARS, I have likewise taken full credit for Ezra's non-picky eating habits. Because with him, you see, I did everything RIGHT. I delayed solids and let him take the lead, I made all his baby food from scratch, I grew our own fruits and vegetables so everything was as fresh as possible, I exposed him to a ton of variety, I gave him what the rest of the family ate whenever possible, I included him in food shopping/prep/cooking and yet above all remained cool and unflappable in the face of food whims and rejections.  

And then there's Ike.


(Those four words are rapidly becoming my parenting motto, to one day be etched on my tombstone, or maybe just a nice tacky wineglass from one of those monogrammed gift stores at the mall.)

I repeated the Ezra Experiment down to the letter with Ike, I really did. We breastfed, we baby-led, we made everything delicious and fresh and non-dumbed-down-ified. He ate roast mushrooms and sauteed asparagus as finger foods, learned to use a fork while eating vegetable fritatta and gamely tried any and all foods you put in front of him, and Praise Be To Satter, I never let on that I gave even the vaguest of craps about any of it. 

And then Ike turned two, and has spent the last couple months morphing into a hellish mealtime helldemon of unspeakable, capricious pickiness. Slowly but surely, his list of go-to acceptable foods started to get very small, very beige and very carb-heavy. Meals became more like half-hearted grazings. Proteins got kicked to the curb, along with vegetables. He'll still eat fruit except for all the times when he won't. And while I still refuse to short-order cook or bargain or battle with him about food, it's not unusual for him to go three or four meals before deciding he's hungry enough to deem something — ANYTHING —acceptable enough to eat. (Or at least put in his mouth before spitting it out in disgust.) 

Everything Ike Has Eaten Over The Past Seven Days:

1) Cheerios

2) Goldfish crackers

3) Seven french fries

4) Nine grapes

5) 1/2 stick of string cheese

6) Four spaghetti noodles

7) The inside frosting part of one Newman-O sandwich cookie

8) The outside skin part of a pancake, which I did not even realize was a thing you could peel from a pancake


10) Air

(He will drink milk, at least, but he will also drink ALL OF THE MILK if you let him, which I most certainly do not. I've tried withholding milk completely in hopes that he'd be hungrier without it — we sort of overshot "hungrier" and landed on "even angrier helldemon who is STILL NOT EATING THOSE FUCKING MEATBALLS." So we just keep his milk intake on moderate and sigh at him a lot.)

If I were to write myself an Advice Smackdown letter and then answer myself, I'd probably say 1) dude, I think writing to yourself for parenting advice is probably a sign of a mental problem, and 2) it's a phase and it will pass and he will not starve. In fact, Ike is sturdy as all hell and only weighs seven pounds less than Ezra, the boy who eats everything and then asks for seconds, the boy I now realize I've been taking inappropriate credit for. 

On the plus side, I can finally stop blaming myself so much for Noah's picky eater phase. And if I were to write a parenting book on feeding your kids, I now have the perfect title. I will call it SCREW THIS NOISE: Kids Are All Different And Nothing You Do Matters So Why Don't You Just Go Back To Bed And Let The iPad Do The Parenting For Awhile?




You need to make Tshirts out of that book title. I'd buy one.


I stick to the mantra when he gets hungry, he will eat.


I'd read the shit out of that book.


I'm so glad to read this because, as a first-time mama of a picky eater, I was certain that I had done something wrong to "make" my son this way. Good to know that we have no control either way when it comes to picky/not picky eaters! It's quite liberating, actually.

die Frau

Oh, J is a bit younger than Ike (June 23), and I could easily make a similar list. I try not to be a short-order cook while worrying that he'll waste away and I'm being cruel by not feeding him...he's also sturdy as hell and eats breakfast food like mad, so he's FINE. This morning he had a waffle, an entire banana, about 3/4 cup of applesauce, some yogurt mixed in, an egg, and a snack cup of Cheerios. He's FINE [I tell myself]. So if he doesn't eat any vegetable unless it comes in one of those vacuum-sealed pouches for a while, so be it.

So thank you. It's not just me.


I am so happy to read this. My daughter, who is ALMOST 6, STILL is the pickiest eater alive. And, like Ike, she started out doing all the "right" things, and would try things as a young toddler. But, your list of Ike's intake is strikingly simlilar to her list. Still. I did bend and do short-ordered cooking because she would also morph from hungry to demon and even then, would NOT eat. She's strong willed and stubborn and determined.


This fits with one of my major child-rearing philosophies, which is that anyone who thinks they know the "right" way to do something that will absolutely work, probably only has one kid. Except for swaddling. That totally works. Everything else--depends on the kid.


I would also read that book. And buy the T-shirt.


Not to be a downer, but those of you in the "waiting for them to grow out of it" camp might have a long wait in store. I went to college only willingly eating potatoes, steak, pizza (only if there wasn't too much sauce), and cereal with milk. OCCASIONALLY (but rarely) pasta or a sandwich, under a billion absurd circumstances. Also candy. I'm 30 now and still pretty finicky. (My doctor thinks there's likely some sort of Somatosensory amplification in the works.)

An Easyworld

Okay, I read your blog and columns all the time and have NEVER commented before (because I'm an ass like that), but I've got to tell you that you have been such an inspiration in feeding my toddler. I bought Satter on your advice, never looked back and we are gifted with an Ezra style eater. But here's the thing. This approach can't guarantee a non picky eater, but what you've taught me is to sure as hell make sure it doesn't get any worse. I'm sure it's at this exact stage that so many parents panic and give in to short order cooking, but it's good to know that when their growth slows they can seriously survive on f all and it turns out they'll be fine. Parents everywhere should be reassured by this. Let us know when Ike's regular eating resumes. Because it will.

LD's Mom

Catchy title for the book!

Julie Beth

I will also buy that book. Because it's this kind of beautiful insight that has saved my sanity since my preggers days when I started reading your stuff. Thank the Interwebz Gods for you and please, somebody, make me put down all those damn parenting books I'm still reading.


Things my child has eaten in the past four days:
three bites of salmon
2 applesauce pouches
some cut up grapes
a green bean
some mashed potatoes
six spoonfuls of yogurt
1/3 of an ice cream sandwich because I was trying to get some calories in him
2 cheese sticks
and two bites of special homemade pancakes that he usually loves.

and just like Ike, all the milk he can get his little hands on.

So thank you for making me feel like less of a food failure :)


Sounds like my toddler to a T.

She was a GREAT eater when she was a baby, willingly eating everything in sight, including French Onion Soup.

Now (and since she turned a year old), it's a beige-only diet. Uggh. We don't short order cook, but some nights she only eats bread. And milk. Always milk.

But lo and behold, our picky 4 year old is starting to actually eat things again. She ate sauteed green beans the other day (multiple green beans!)! So there is hope. And there's always breakfast the next morning.

Carrie (in MN)

Twins: one picky eater, one gourmand who will eat stuff I won't.

This is only one of the ways in which I have come to the conclusion that NONE OF IT IS MY FAULT.

(And, they're 13 now and it is No Better.)


My parents always tell me stories about how I used to eat everything in sight. I loved pretty much any food that was put in front of me, and then I turned 3 and decided I hated ALL THE THINGS. From 3 until pretty much 23 or 24, my entire diet was limited to things like chicken tenders, french fries, grilled cheese and pastas without any sauce on them. I learned to make my own "dinner" when I was 7 because my parents refused to make special meal accommodations for me. They tried the "starve it out" method, but I was more stubborn than anticipated.

Now I'm slowly starting to experiment with new things, but it took being able to cook and have total control of EXACTLY what was going into my dishes for me to start taking risks when it came to food. But I still won't touch anything that has ever even thought about fraternizing with a tomato. I have to have some standards.

I'm totally going to be cursed to have children exactly like me.


You wonder what keeps them alive sometimes, but somehow they all survive!


It's normal for two year olds to slow down on eating. If they continued to eat at the rate they did up until then, they'd be in triple digit weight by kindergarten. Pickiness? I wish I knew the answer. I used to make them eat three bites of everything, but that didn't work. My son is 42 and lives with me (because I am disabled and need his help) and he's still picky.

He will not touch shepherd's pie because he hates "mixed food", although he has no problems with beef stew with all the onions, carrots, potatoes and, yes, beef. He also loves Chinese food. And he eats jalapeno stuffed olives, which you could not pay me to touch.

And then there's me. Don't even offer me cauliflower. Or cooked carrots (I love them raw, though).

I guess we all have our little quirks.


Going through the exact. same. thing. with my 2 year old. Except he gave up milk too.

My pediatrician told me that as long as he is getting a multi-vitamin not to worry about it...or so I tell myself.


THANK YOU. I've been reading since you were pregnant with Noah. And I think honestly, this might be my favorite parenting post from you ever - I would buy that book in a heartbeat as well as any merchandising you might do. Maybe its just timely for me :) At the very least, I will be referring all my "new parent" friends to this post. I only have two so my expertise and perspective are suspect. YOU however, have expertise and perspective in SPADES. And hearts and diamonds and clubs, and whatever other suits might exist in random games (swiss jass anyone?)


The thing is, picky eaters don't often stay picky eaters. I remember the editor of Bon Appetit talking about how his son mostly eats white foods (as in, white bread and bananas and stuff), but he's not worried because he was that way as a child and eventually came out of it. I grew up eating horrible processed foods and was labeled picky (and my parents did short-order cook me a grilled cheese sandwich like every night), but in my teens I developed a bigger interest in cooking and non-processed foods, and I'm now one of the most adventurous eaters in my family. I think in general, most picky kids don't go on to be picky adults, and as for the ones that do, there's very little you could have done differently. Personally, the list of things he's eaten doesn't sound that bad to me. I know it's not exactly a balanced diet, but it's not laden with HFCS and trans fats or anything.


THANK YOU for this post. My 2.5 year old had a nice variety in his diet until about two years old, but now would eat bread and cheese crackers for every meal if I let him. Occasionally he will eat a fruit and yogurt smoothie, so I can toss in a handful of spinach. He also will sometimes eat Mac and cheese, so I'll stir in some canned puréed pumpkin just to introduce some color into his diet. He won't drink regular milk, but loves chocolate milk, so I'll blend milk plus cocoa and a little homey to try and keep sugar under control. So glad to hear that the pickiness isn't that unusual at this age, and that hopefully it will pass!

Jennifer R.

I would TOTALLY buy that book. I was a mental case with my picky eater first baby. Managed to get over it with my 2nd, even with the doctors claiming "failure to thrive" again. (both of them have been bigger than my husband & I at the same age, yet under the 50th%). You just hit a point where you throw up your hands and say WHATEVER!

Becca Lynn

Okay, if you still are experiencing mom-guilt and doubt
A.) I, clearly, am not weird for experiencing it too
B.) Have no hope for ever figuring this mom-thing out.

That book is my life. I have one. A girl. And, srsly? SCREW THIS NOISE. I'm going back to bed. Please try not to kill urself kthx.


Also I have like three of that step stool. I like to play spot the IKEA product when I watch tv.


I have a friend whose wife brought raw carrot sticks along with the roasted carrots she made for our joint thanksgiving dinner because he won't eat cooked vegetables. He's 34.


When my oldest was just starting solids I was sooo smug about what an awesome eater he was. "He'll try anything! He eats anything I put in front of him!" And I breastfed and made all his babyfood and etc. And then he turned like 15 months and stopped eating pretty much anything at all. My second kid also ate anything and everything early on and then quickly realized he had a choice in the matter and eats what he wants thankyouverymuch. So now when I hear moms gushing over how their kid will eat anything! and everything! I just chuckle to myself because: dude. PHASE.
Oh: and re the commenters and picky adults: I also was a super picky eater pretty much until college. Like in high school I was proud of myself for branching out and ordering a chicken sandwich instead of a plain hamburger. HA HA HA But I think Kelly's (above) friend and the raw baby carrots is just ABSURD. I don't care how picky you are as an adult: you eat what you are served because otherwise you're just weird and rude.


I would totally buy that book. I feel like I already subscribe to it's core principle most days. Ike sounds just like my son at that age, down to the milk obsession. He'll be four in a couple of weeks and devoured a bowl of delicious and nutritious homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight. The only thing he picked out were the pieces of celery (or "other kind of cucumbers" as he called them). Point is, it's just a phase but you already know that.

I feel like I should also add that I took inappropriate credit for my son's fantastic verbal skills. I'm an SLP so when he was speaking in crystal clear 4-5 word sentences at age 2 I patted myself on the back for my fab speech therapist skillz. Then came my daughter, who has about 5 garbley gook words at 17 months. Damn kids.

Leigh Ann

Ugh YES, this is my youngest. She hated food from the day she started solids. She currently lives on Nutella, pretzel sticks, goldfish, fruit leather, and pasta.


Ha! I love this post so much. Oh I know the blame game so well. My firstborn is a tad on the neurotic side and very shy, while my second born is an easygoing charmer. This is of course all my fault as I was too anxious with my firstborn and hated going to baby/toddler groups so she wasn't socialized properly. Or could it just be that my firstborn was born a natural & quirky introvert (like her mother)? Nah, everything is probably my fault. Being a mom is fun!


OMG, you just described my toddler, she was an amazing eater and now nothing. She must be getting her calories from air. I totally thought it was my fault, due to being a first time mom who is completely lost.


Ah, the joys of more than one child. My husband used to take all kinds of credit for our oldest when all the other toddlers were going insane and he was just chilling out with a truck or a book or something. Then our second came along. Same parents, same household, same rules – 100 times the insanity. Some things are just their personality. I can be super anxious about a lot of things, but I made up my mind a long time ago to not let food be one of them. I ate like crap as a kid because it’s what my parents could afford, and I love all kinds of fruits and veggies now. My husband’s mom is a fantastic cook who used fresh from the garden veggies, and he’d just as soon eat a Hot Pocket than anything else. There’s no accounting for taste right?


agree agree agree - trying so hard to stick with the "i don't really care what you eat, if I keep offering good things I've done my part...and you're 2" motto with my 2 year old. In other news - where is your kitchen stool from? we need one like that! ours is a death trap. love this blog! thank you!!


re: the outside of the pancake: my 3 year old son likes "bars." The only bars we have in the house are chocolate mint luna bars. He was vociferous that he wanted a bar, and fine, have one, but you don't like mint. One bite in, he declares that he wants the mint off, and proceeds to attempt eating only the top half of the bar, since it's only mint dipped on the bottom.


Many years ago, Jim of Sweet Juniper noted that all parenting books were bullshit because every kid is different. Every parenting book is written, he figured, by a parent who read other parenting books and thought "Bullshit! That's not how my kid is at all! I'm going to write my own parenting book, since these ones are obviously wrong."

I would buy your book, btw.


I forced FORCED my kid to order anything other than chicken fingers for about a year when he was 7. If we went out to eat, he had to order SOMETHING ELSE.

He started eating steak 'rare please' and tried my sushi and commandeered it and lordy, he doubled my restaurant bills. He's 22 now. I keep begging him to order chicken fingers for chrissakes, mah wallet hurts.

My 2 cents about kids? food and potty training are two things you cannot control. The kid has ALL the power. Might as well have another glass of wine and watch TV. I love my kid to pieces but MAN I'm glad that part of my life is in my rear view mirror!!


Yep. And also? SPD for older than 2 year old pickiness. My oldest eats mostly meat and starch, despite our garden and CSA membership, etc. My youngest eats pretty much anything and everything. I used to blame myself for kid 1, but now I think it is a bit more of his sensory things and quirkiness rather than a parenting fail.


My 2.5 year old twins won’t eat anything for me. I didn't do anything different than for their older brother who is a good eater.

Right now the list of foods they eat.

Bread (Which is really a vessel for butter which they like to pick off – more butter)
One fella eats eggs & peanut butter &apples
Other fella eats cheese

No rice
No pasta
No meat
No fish
No veg
No juice

And if I try to give them a plate of something they don't want they would just fling the plate on the floor!

It is very frustrating.


Encouraging to hear that not only am I not the only one with a picky eater, but I'm not the only with other children in the household who eat fine...leaving me scratching my head and unable to figure out where in the equation of x+y=perfectly fine, everything went to shit.

VT Meg

I will totally buy the book and the t-shirt! And I will confess that I TOTALLY handed my 2-year-old the iPad in bed the other morning and rolled over (it was 5:37 and my husband was away, in my defense....).

Ah, kids and food. Thank you THANK YOU for recommending Satter, who has really helped me through so much potential garbage!

So, I tell myself that my 2-year-old can really really live on the air she apparently mostly lives on. Every so often she eats like a horse and that seems to get her through several 2-bite meals. We also try to keep snacking and grazing to a minimum, but some days, eh! Everyone is still thriving and growing..... and we are seeing signs that the 4 year old is pulling out of her picky phase.... One day we'll all be eating kale.


I wonder I it is third baby related. Not just third baby but third BOY baby. Like you , I have 3 boys. The first two ate EVERYTHING and have since tapered off on their food adventurousness (but at 15 and 10 they are sti good eaters and will humour me when I experiment). The 3-year old though - has gone down Ike's path. The boy lives him some carbs. He will go weeks with no meat (unless hidden in some pasta sauce) or shaped like a sausage. Bribery has recently started working which requires me to make chocolate chip cookies every other day. 5 bites of something that is not starch on his pIate = 1 cookie. Somedays it works. Somedays he is like "fuck you I'm not eating it". But you are right, they won't starve themselves and sometimes you give up a battle in the hoes of one day winning the war. :)


I hear you. My oldest is a selective eater (I don't like picky) She is going to camp at the end of the month and they asked me to send them her typical menu......
They got this.
Breakfast: Goldfish
Lunch: Goldfish
Dinner: Goldfish
Kid hasn't eaten a new food in years and has maybe a varity of 5 foods she will eat on the regular.

Also for baby number three we often say "and then there is Livie" its always followed by a sigh.

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