Scared of New Foods
06/13/2007 at 16:08 PM

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!!!!

Hey tiadawn,


I was always really serious about this, I saw so many of my daughter's friends that just would not try anything.  I told my daughter that she had to try new things.  I started by making her try bites of my meals when I had things that she hadn't eaten before. 


I think your daughter knows that if she goes into hysterics that you will not force the point.  If she acted like that at a restaurant, I would just take her out of the restaurant and I would tell her that she wasn't going back to a restaurant until she could not act like that.  If she acted like that at the table at home, she would be excused and not allowed back until she was under control and able to try the new thing.  I would try and talk to her about this when she is not in one of these fits.  I would talk about trying new things and how important it is to not prejudge things without giving them a chance.  Has she ever given you any idea why she is so picky or why she acts the way she does when she is asked to try new things?  At seven she is old enough to know better than that, we are not talking about a baby or toddler here, and I would tell her that she is a big girl and that I expected her to act like a big girl.


Anyone else have any ideas?





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


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!!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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 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 long as the baked bread is "smooth", and I tell him i used food coloring in the dough, he eats it. good luck!


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!!!



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.

My 9 year old stepdaughter has been doing this for years... Her father has an idea of why, but the important thing right now is to try and make sure she gets enough nutrition to keep her going. 

Her menu includes:

zoodles, plain spaghetti noodles, grilled cheese, pancakes, cheese pizza/cheese pizza pockets, chips, juice, corn(but only on the cob), and a very few other things.

I understand how the texture of some foods can be a bit unpleasant... but this is the most impossible situation sometimes! I am 100% against making two different meals for supper, but no matter how much we encourage her to eat sometime new, she will sit there and "shut down". And if she is served something she likes, but doesn't want at the moment, it's a fight to get her to eat. I've tried cooking with her, buying groceries with her, choosing meals with her, taking away priviledges, making her sit at the table until she eats, sending her to bed without a bedtime snack (unless it's the food she didn't eat for supper), and so far NOTHING seems to be helping. Her father says that the doctor has told him that she is getting enough nutrition, but I am still concerned.  It's really nice to hear that we aren't the only ones with this family "issue".


I have had good luck with the strategies offered by the I bought the book from Amazon and it cost less than lunch at McD's. The idea is to puree vegetables and hid them in foods that your children will eat. The author has good rationales for this and good recipes! Good luck to all you caring moms!


Boy, I read your response about why would we raise and allow our children to be rude...and it was like a lightbulb went on. I have been battling and catering to my 8 year old son for his entire life...and to a lessor extent my 7 year old son. He is a scrawny little boy that we always worry about if he is eating anything...let alone what he is eating. I fear that we have now created a 'monster' that will never learn to eat with the rest of society! He is not one to throw tantrums or fight back...he will just not eat. Which then we worry about how thin he tired he looks...and we fix him something that he will eat. That being, cereal, grilled cheese, pb&j, yogurt...I think I will discuss this with my husband and we will start to teach him to appreciate the food prepared for him and that it is rude of him to reject it...especially verbally. Did anyone else see the wisdom in her answer/response? It seems so logical to me now...and believe me I am not sure how/if I am going to overcome this picky eater that I have enabled. It is going to be a hard uphill battle and I hope that I can do my son a favor and teach him how to eat & try new foods. Anyone else willing to try this approach with me?


I'm 16 and I have exactly the same problem as your 7 year old daughter. I'm not sure why I do it, it's almost as if I'm scared to try new food, although my parents think it's laziness to chew food - which I extremely doubt as I have no problems with chewing my food! I've been trying to try new foods but everytime I get close to it I can't seem to eat the food. This drives me insane as anytime someone suggests going out for a meal I usually have to stay at home because I wont like whats on the menu :(


Re: hownaive's post: I don't disagree with you about rudeness,  but I think you're mixing up two concepts here. Pickiness and rudeness are not one and the same.

It is important to realize that for some children, "pickiness" is a sensory issue. It is a PHYSICAL reaction. To some kids new foods are the equivalent of hearing fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. Getting these kids to try new foods is not a matter of instituting the clean plate club, making a New Year's resolution or telling them to shape up or go hungry. Sorry. As the mother of a picky eater 10-year-old who's been picky since, well, birth, I've been there and I wish it were that easy -- but it's not.

If you *don't* have a child who is literally having anxiety attacks or nausea over new foods, hurray! I wouldn't wish it on a soul. (And not all picky eaters are such tough cases.)

If you do have a kid like that, realize that first off, the child DOESN'T enjoy being the only person at the table who doesn't think the meal is delicious. They don't WANT to be the picky pain in the neck. It stinks to be the one who's wrecking everyone else's good time. (This perception isn't mine, by the way -- it comes from my husband, a former picky eater himself.)

We have had the most success with what I call the sniff-lick-taste method. With a new food we first ask our child to smell it. If she can stand the smell, she can lick it. If that doesn't gag her, she must try a small bite. In this way we've gradually expanded her menu choices from a rock-bottom low of eating only Cheerios and graham crackers (I mean it, only those two foods) to steak, grilled corn, pasta, potatoes and pizza with lots of cheese. Not all at once, LOL.

When we are guests at other people's houses, she knows to mind her manners. Perhaps she does not eat everything that is offered. She  does NOT wrinkle up her nose or say how yucky it is. She knows that the proper response is a polite "No, thank you."
And you know what? A polite host or hostess should accept that answer from an adult or from a child. Really, it's rude to continue to press foods on a guest -- provided they've politely declined them. (I've been at grownup dinners where I felt hounded by the hostess to try "just one more bite" and it bothered me -- and hey, if anything I like food TOO much!)

Just IMHO, but I really feel there are people out there who don't understand that pickiness is not always a case of parents caving in or kids being rude. We're moving heaven and earth here to change our situation, and frankly, given the stories I've heard from my husband's relatives, I think it runs in the family. I can't change it by snapping my fingers or *telling* her to change. It takes a lot of work.

Good luck to the original poster. If you really have a prolonged, tough time getting new foods introduced you might consider a consultation with an occupational therapist who knows something about sensory disorders.



One of mine is going through this as well.

Don't try too many new foods at one time.  This will overwhelm her.  Maybe a new food every other night.  Explain that this is what she gets and nothing else.  No snacks no alternatives or trade in's. 

My step daughter is famous for this.  She plays my husband because she is smart enough to know that he will give in.  When I give her something that she has yet to try, she cries, complains of a stomach ache and says she is tired. 

For example, I had to threaten to spank her to get her to try ravoli.  Guess what her favorite food is now...ravoli.  I explain that if she did not try it, she would not know it is her favorite.  (and I didn't have to spank her)

Kids are not always thrilled about getting out of their box.  This usually includes foods. 

She also plays games with eating, (she gets away with it with her mother), refusing to eat foods that I know she loves.  At some point, you have to set your foot down and lay down the rules.  This has made me the wicked witch of the west, but this soon passes because the foods that I prepare are well liked by kids anyway.  It may be more of a power struggle than a dislike of certain foods.


I am finding it difficult to connect with anyone, who has this exact issue.Please help us .

My son is 13 and only eats potato chips,hash browns, occasionally a grilled cheese(if we are lucky).
He has ADD, and suffers from what was diagnosed as a Food Phobia, at the age of 7.

We have been to countless Dr's, but noone, nor suggestion has worked. I do know that this stems from him being very ill with horrible recurrent Tonsillitis,and because of Dr's my son had to go almost 3 yrs being SEVERLY ill, until he was 5. That was the magic age for them to remove his tonsils.We have struggled all of these years, but have yet to make any strides towards recovery. He is to the point now, that he can't even tell us why he is afraid, just that he is.

I am afraid that my son will suffer such physical reprocussions,that he will forever be unable to recover.

If anyone can help us, or direct us to some help, we would be very grateful.

God Bless us all who are blessed with these children.

Thank You.



I have been in this polite power struggle with my children for years (I have a 6 yr son, 4 yr daughter, 2 yr son).
Tonight, I had enough. I make good basic meals for my family, nothing weird or fancy but my children refuse to try ANYTHING. Tonight was ravioli, with plain sauce. It is driving me nuts and it is rude to me. I have always put everything on their plate but never forced the issue as they would choose what they wanted to eat. I am done being polite. In the past I would later let them eat a box of raisens and continue the evening as if there was no problem. Tonight, the hunger and fun strike begins. They will receive no alternate food and no special fun, like TV. Right now they are all reading books and have not eaten dinner. I hope I can hold my ground. Keep me in your thoughts.


Good for you! I do this w/ my kids too. If they don't eat, they get no other choices, snacks or anything else. I figure if they don't eat one meal, they'll make up for it the next meal. They're not going to starve. The alternative is to let them fill up on junk and not eat a wholesome meal, or to let them eat the same things over and over which is not much better. Out of the question as far as I'm concerned! Stick to your guns! Good luck!


concerned . .
Thanks for the kind words. So far I have stuck to the rules all week except tonight was easy as it was pizza night. They know the rules but so far it is not changing the outcome. Should I be very strict in enforcement? For example, if they put a small amount of food in their mouth but they only do it knowing I will let them slide if they spit it out, is that ok? Right now, I said no, you have to swallow. Am I being too harsh?



No, you're not being too harsh at all. The rules are the rules. If you give in, even an inch, kids will continue to manipulate you, and before you know it, you'll be back at square one again. It's called tough love. You're not being mean. You're looking out for the best interest of your children. They will thank you in the long run!


I just found this board...I guess 6 months late, but I have a 6 1/2 year old boy who will only eat certain crackers ,tortilla chips, chips ahoy cookies, veg/fruit juice and milk.That is it! I am so frustrated, I refuse to forse feed him,he will gag and throw up anyway. Has anyone on the board had any changes or has tried any sensory therapy? I would love to discuss with other parents who are just has frustrated!


The most important thing is to never force any child to eat. That will just make the problem worse.

See if your pediatrician will give you a referral to a children's hospital. On the east coast AI DuPont is a place that has a department for eating disorders in young children. They will assess the child and set up an individualized plan for your child's particular issue.

It can be a long process depending on the child but is worth the time and effort.


My son has been like this since hes been around six too. He wont try new foods still he is now almost 11. Its to the point im worried about his health! Have you found out why she did that or still does? Tina


My grandaughter was 7 mo. old when she refused babyfood. We sent her to a childrens hospital to see if she had a swallowing problem. She was fine she just wanted toddler foods. When she was a little older we had her tested for food allergies. To our surprise she was allergic to several different foods. She is 6 now and she tells us when a certain food causes her problems ex. her throat will itch after eating cheese sticks. She can't wear rubber flip flops. Her feet will blister. She breaks out in eczema if a certain food bothers her. She sees a allergist every 6 months. My point is this, if your child refuses to eat certain foods like our grandaughter did and still does; ask the doctors advice about an allergy test to rule out any food allergies. When they are very young maybe a food causes them to itch in their throat. It pays to be informed.


My kid is exactly like that, he won't eat cheese, salad or anything. I hope it's just a phase


For the paast several weeks, we have had eating problems with our 4 year old.
"parenting time" every friday, and everyother weekend.
At first, sometimes refused to eat if it wasn't fastfood chicken nuggets and french fries.
The past few visits, the child has refused to eat anything, including pancakes, toast, sausage, bread.....the same stuff the child ate during previous visits.
We prepare the food, plate it up and the child is required to sit at the table during meal time. Which of late is exactly what happens, just sits there and looks at us. Will suck down the liquids, but won't touch anything else.
This is a bit frustrating during the times that the visits are three days in length.
Any ideas on why this would be happening or how to deal with it?
We have discussed going to liquid nutrition just to keep the kid from falling over.

Crosby, Mn


Does the child eat solids at home?

You can make some lovely pureed soups. That could get some fiber and variety into his/her diet.

If the child is not eating solids anywhere, there could be a physical problem, from sore throat to a growth inside the throat to - - - neurological problems. I'd get the Dr. involved.


Bio mom reports that he eats just fine at home. We had her pack a lunch for his one day visit to see if that would make a difference. He sat , and didn't eat that either. The *lunch* consisted of 2 frozen tv dinners, and a stack of crackers.
When asked about his lunch, she stated that is what he eats at home.
He eats solids when we eat out while doing errands or day trips, (mexican, chinese, etc.) Just will not eat in our home.
The other day in the car I offered him a banana as snack, he snarfed it down, but wouldn't touch a banana the next day while sitting at the diningroom table.
We have discussed the issue with mom, and her solution is to stop visits because he is starving here. *heavy sigh*
This is the same child that is on stratera and Trazadone ( 4 years old).


I know this is frustrating, but if he eats while you're out, take him out. If he'll eat in the car set up situations for that to happen. Then try going to his favorite restaurant and let him pick out special carry out to eat at home because the restaurant is too full or another reason. I have worked with children who will only eat particular foods or in certain places and have to be slowly transitioned until the child feels comfortable.

Also, the mother may be saying things to make him not want to eat while in your home. Her goal may be stopping visitation or making visitation difficult. Unfortunately, the child is the one who ends up getting hurt.


Very true about remarks made in his other home.
This has been an ongoing issue.

The child asked for a sucker while here the last time, and then carried it around. When the our granddaughter asked him if he was going to eat it, he stated "no, it is poisoned".
I often wonder what is going on in his is mind. And could the bio mom be THAT hateful as to say stuff really.

We have purchased liquid supplement for during his visits if he needs it.
Thanks for the input folks!

Crosby, MN


It may be genuine mental illness. My brother, who is an adult, will only eat the left-overs off of my children's plates when he comes to eat, as he is confident I will not poison my children, but he thinks I may poison him.


Of late, little man has been sitting at the *kids* table in the livingroom at mealtime with the grandchildren watching tv during meals. This gets him to eat, and he seems to prefer to be away from the diningroom.
Further discussion with mom, and the doctor has resulting in changes at bio mom's home. Schedule meal times, and a lock on the fridge!
I think there is hope!



I completely agree with everyone here. Just don't give up on her when she goes into hysterics. You need to be very firm with her and eventually she will get the point.