Fia’s Food Dilemma

Yesterday's Lunch Consisted of Cream Cheese Licked Off the Bagel

Fia’s food thing is driving me CRAZY. I watch her little friends shove fistfuls of food in their mouths. I sigh. I am exasperated.

It’s not that she’s particularly picky. It’s that often times she’s just not hungry until it’s too late. By that, I mean, she won’t eat, then will melt down later on, and nothing will console her. She’s always been a small eater, but at lunch, she rarely wants anything other than junk food. I have tried all sorts of foods, but she refuses to eat, or if she does, she only wants crap.

By dinner, she is quite hungry and usually eats decently. But guess what happens between lunch and dinner? She completely melts down. And my sanity goes south.

I know, all the books, experts, blah blah say you can’t control their food. You need to put whatever you’re serving in front of them and let them eat on their own terms. If I hear, “Your baby won’t starve. She’ll eat when she’s hungry,” one more time, I will scream. BECAUSE THAT’S NOT MY DILEMMA. I know she won’t starve. But my brain might explode.

I mean, yeah, on a scientific level I get it. She doesn’t need that many calories to sustain her little self. But when you’re at the playground at 4:30 pm and she throws herself on the ground crying, I absolutely know it’s because she’s hungry and hasn’t eaten. That’s a problem.

I know that toddlers are apparently controlling when it comes to their food. But what I don’t believe is that she has the depth to think, “Hmm, I’m cranky because I didn’t eat.” Isn’t that what we have to teach them? But how? I can’t force food in her mouth. Believe me, I’ve tried. She spits it right back out. Usually all over the floor, where hungry Wayne Sanchez anxiously awaits a bonus bite.

For lunch today, all she wanted was crackers and cookies. Nothing else. Do I relent and let her eat junk food just so she gets something in her stomach?  I will if that is the temporary solution. (I could at least get organic junk food and not feel as badly about it.) Or do I hold firm and deal with the consequences of a screaming, unhappy baby?

Fellow Blogger Heather Morgan Shott recently wrote about her dilemma with Mason suddenly becoming a picky eater at home. So I know the food thing is a familiar topic with many of us moms. But what I can’t find is a solution to the mood swings/consequences that occur when she won’t eat. Or at least when she doesn’t want anything even remotely healthy. Anyone want to offer up any advice? I’m all ears.

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  1. by Cheryl

    On October 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    My biggest help right now has been carnation instant breakfast. Valerie will go many days without breakfast and I put that in her morning milk. It helps her not freak out if we go to a morning playgroup or something.
    However, we have started buying different snacks, such as chips made entirely from beans. She’ll eat a few of those and I know it has fiber and protein. She does like fruit at least so if I can get her to have that and some cheese or a little chicken, it helps.
    Good luck!

  2. by Heather

    On October 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    If only they would do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it, life would be so much easier…:)

  3. by Charity

    On October 12, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Jill -

    I’m new to your blog so forgive me for asking questions that might have already come up. First, I totally understand the tantrums and I also agree that they might be blood sugar related (sometimes they’re sleep related here too — I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old). For an afternoon snack, maybe you could tie it to another activity? Put on some music and give her apple and cheese slices? Or take a walk in the stroller while she snacks on a banana? Or, this takes effort, but might help set a routine for an afternoon snack, have a tea party with her. My mother in law started doing this with Phoebe after our second baby was born and it worked wonders. She had lots of little crackers, fruit, cheese bits and even tea (fruit tea but milk would work too.) If Fia is allowed to watch TV or videos you could also do a couple of things: give her some yogurt while she’s watching her show or use the show as a reward for eating the yogurt (or whatever snack item you like). I try to do stick-to-em foods for snacks with a little protein, like cheese, beans they can eat with fingers, or at least a glass of milk. GOOD LUCK! Would love to know if any of this works… Charity

  4. by Christy Faucheux

    On October 12, 2011 at 8:09 am


    Omg do I know what you’re going through. My 20 month old son is doing the same exact thing and I just want to pull my hair out. Except he’s doing it with breakfast AND lunch. He’s so busy playing that he won’t eat he gets cranky, and mean. I’m due with my second son any day now so these crazy fits and not eating can’t last, or like you said, my brain will explode! I’m on the same page as you, do I give him snacks, like crackers or vanilla wafers which is all he wants. Or do I wait until dinner when he will usually eat a normal meal full of protein? We eat healthy in our house, and my husband is a chef, so of course I ended up with a picky eater, or non-eater sometimes. Right now my solution is cutting up a “chocolate candy bar” for him which is actually a dark chocolate zone bar. They are delicious and have the perfect balance of protein, salt, sodium, carbs etc. I eat them as a fast snack, or before after workout. Also, kashi makes a go lean cereal in a red box that is full of protein and it’s barely sweetened. I mix that and “chocolate candy pieces” in a snack cup and let him go at it. My son doesn’t like peanut butter, or sandwiches, but I put whole almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc in a food processor and pulse it until they are very small and he loves this. He always gets a large cup of local goat milk, but this is after the rejection of a real lunch accompanied with his snack. We don’t drink cows milk. He used to love fage Greek yogurt, but not recently. Even though I know he’s not going to eat, I still always try to see I’d he’ll eat it hoping he will change his mind. Hope this maybe gives you some ideas. If you receive any good suggestions please post them because I’m desperate too! And like you said, I don’t think toddlers can think, I’m very grouchy because I didn’t eat lunch. Not yet at least. But I’m trying to teach him. Don’t be discouraged, there are plenty of moms going through the same thing. Hope things get better for you and Fia!

  5. by Sherry

    On October 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I love all the photos of Fia looking like a very adorable and very mischievous imp! :)

  6. by Jill Cordes

    On October 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    (Note: trying to post this for the third time. Glitch in system so seeing if this one works).

    Hi ladies. Christy and Charity, thanks so much for the ideas and the similar woes. It is so frustrating. I think my latest technique is simply all about distraction. I put her in her high chair tonight and she said “all done” before she even ate anything. And her sitter told me all she had all day was a banana. I was like “oh no, you’re not done that easily”. Charity–I’ve written before about her obsession with Sesame Street, that has turned into the only way she will now eat. However, we are moving to LA and our movers took our tv yesterday, so with a living room that only has a highchair and some toys in it, I’m taking this as an opportunity to break the habit and find other things. All this to say, the markers and crayons were a decent distraction, though it is constant energy for me to give her new things, hope she’s distracted as I shovel the food in her mouth. I’ll keep at it though until I can get something down. What’s weird is this has all sort of coincided with her suddenly waking up between 5 and 5:45. She has always slept until 6:30-7. Today she was up at 5:07. I just about died. But I’m not going to do anything about that right now, as there is so much change going on. Once we get settled in LA, I’ll figure something out, but that’s a 3-hour time change, so maybe it will happen organically.

    The ideas about having a tea party, etc are all great. I think it basically boils down to distraction, while strapped in, so I’ll keep forging along. Thank you both for taking the time to write such insightful comments. Cheers and good luck to you both too!

  7. by Hulda

    On October 21, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Although my 18 month old son is not a picky eater, he definitely often thinks he has better things to do than to sit down(!) for a meal. I definitely think distraction is the way to go (and my mama…the veteran mom and grandmom agrees). What works for us (most of the time…) is to have a small basket full of little trinkets (small empty containers, small cars, old chess pieces etc.) and he gets to pick one or two things from the basket and play with…until he tires of those and gets to pick 1-2 new ones. No magical solution, but might do the trick sometimes.

    Good luck with the rascal (ohh, and what about’em smoothies in a bag from Ella’s kitchen etc., does that not work on the playground?)

  8. by Diana

    On October 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    With my daughter Elizabeth (she is 18 months old) we now read her a book while she’s eating so it distracts her and she actually eats what we give her. It’s annoying but otherwise she does the spit it out and throw it on the floor thing. i’m not sure why distracting her works but it does!