Dealing with a Discerning Diner

by Sarah Henry on February 27, 2012 · 14 comments

in great schools site,kids & food

In my story today for the site Great Schools I visit that evergreen “problem” for many parents — the so-called picky eater.

Since I am/was one and am raising a son who is/was one this is a subject close to home.

Find out what nutritionist Ellyn Satter and authors Michael Pollan, Debbie Koenig, and Matthew Amster-Burton have to say on the subject of raising a choosy chowhound and the food jags they fall into — it may surprise you — in this story for Great Schools.

You might also like:

Reassurance for Parents of Picky Eaters
Hungry Monkey
The Gastrokid Cookbook
School Lunch Without the Stress

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Living Large March 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

Interesting a foodie has a picky eater. I did a story once on picky eaters and nutritionists made it sound so easy for parents by saying introducing a variety of foods at a young age and not saying, “yuck” to foods or turning your nose up in front of them. Somehow, I thought it was more complicated than that. When I was a kid, we couldn’t be picky. If we didn’t like what was for dinner, we went hungry.


Sarah Henry March 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Good point — that last one — LL. I’m not a foodie though (loathe that term), but I’m as interested in food as the next eater. I just subscribe to the notion that some people have more sensitive palates than others.


ruth pennebaker March 1, 2012 at 10:22 am

I once sat at my grandparents’ dining table for an hour, staring at a helping of okra I refused to try. Finally, I was sent to bed and the uneaten okra thrown out. Years later, I tried it under less threatening circumstances — but you know, it’s still not that tasty to me.
ruth pennebaker´s last [type] ..Woman Makes a Plan, Hoists the White Flag


Sarah Henry March 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

And no wonder, Ruth, with that emotional baggage attached. Look, we all like what we like, and food preferences are completely normal. But I will say that certain foods — okra and Brussels Sprouts come immediately to mind — can really taste terrible if not cooked well. I’ve never been able to master okra in the kitchen myself but have had a version I enjoy made by others. Just food for thought.


Alisa Bowman March 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm

That’s the best photo ever. I’ve found with picky eaters, it helps to just not give them a choice but also to not be too forceful. The middle way is always the best.
Alisa Bowman´s last [type] ..How to Have All the Money In the World


Sarah Henry March 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Yeah, that picture is a classic. Talk about having an emotional response to food.


merr March 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Your post made me wonder about the whole foodie vs picky vs discerning vs whatever comes next! Are all foodies game to try everything? Are all discerning diners (and diner-ettes) picky? Is there a subset of each? It’s fun to ponder. Great post!
merr´s last [type] ..stuck/unstuck: writing after baby arrives


Sarah Henry March 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm

There are folks who write about food who are, indeed, game to try anything in that Anthony Bourdain kind of way. Then there are people who have dietary needs or preferences — vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant — and they cover food too. And then there’s plain old personal preference. A fellow food writer just doesn’t care for tomatoes in pretty much any fashion — such a loss for her in my mind — she probably feels the same way about my no beef or bacon stance.

Eaters come in all types, I guess. But let’s bury the term “foodie” from our lexicon. It makes my skin crawl these days. We’re all just eaters, of food.


Alexandra March 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I have never been able to understand picky eaters. My kids always ate everything, but then they grew up in France.
Alexandra´s last [type] ..Got Barnacles?


Sarah Henry March 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

Meaning, what, exactly, Sandy? Just curious.


MyKidsEatSquid March 3, 2012 at 7:13 am

Foodie does seem like it’s in need of an update. As far as picky eaters go my thought is there’s just not one method. My tween will eat mochi balls by the handful and spicy tuna rolls but she won’t go anywhere near peanut butter (which happens to be one of my favorites). But I don’t force it. Around my house, we do encourage our kids to try ‘at least one bite’ but they know they don’t have to like it and they won’t have to eat more.


Sarah Henry March 26, 2012 at 8:35 am

Agreed on the not-just-one method theory, MKES. I used to go the ‘polite bite’ route myself — which some nutritionists frown on — but these days my teen is game for trying so many different dishes I just stay out of it.


Jeanine Barone March 6, 2012 at 5:00 am

I love that photo, too. It says it all. Picky eating always interested me. I have friends with young kids who eat just about any ethnic food put in front of them and others who only seem to crave french fries and spaghetti.


Sarah Henry March 26, 2012 at 8:35 am

I know what you mean, Jeanine. The range in dietary preferences among the young is fascinating.


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