How to Tame a Picky Eater:
8 Tips for Happier Meals

by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure.

I am a picky eater, and it has long been the bane of my mother’s existence. Of course, I married someone even pickier than I am! While occasionally vexing (like when I find myself cooking potatoes again), I can’t express how wonderful it is to have someone share my persnickety eating habits and understand why I need to eat before parties and ask the waiter a dozen questions.

We, the picky eaters, conferred and would like y’all to know these 8 things:

DO NOT make it a battle. We are not afraid to starve for our convictions. If you nag me to try something, I will not—cannot—on principle like it, and if I do I will die a thousand deaths before admitting you were right. On that note, we will starve before we eat something we don’t like. When I was 4, my babysitter made tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and we weren’t allowed to leave the table until it was done. I was still there when my mother picked me up that evening—and the sandwich was, too. We all lose when a meal becomes a showdown. Resist the urge.

It’s not logical—so don’t try reason. Growing up, I would not eat cheese, period. Now I will only eat melted cheese, and only really bland white kinds. There is no logic here, so don’t try to reason me out of it. And trying to argue it only makes me defend my position more. Why can’t you just respect my food preferences? No, really, why not?

No, I can’t just wipe it off or eat around it. Put stuff on the side. Please. My friend and I were out to dinner and mayo arrived on our shared appetizer because I forgot to order it on the side. “We’ll just scrape it off!” she said, smearing it even deeper into the bread while I shuddered in revulsion. Many a perfectly good dish is ruined by a weird sauce or condiment. Just put it on the side and call it a day.

Don’t make a big deal out of a picky eater’s barren dinner plate. It’s just awkward for everyone.

Tips for feeding a picky eater:

Make sure you’re a good cook Oh, it’s our fault we don’t want the dry, skinless chicken breast and giant, wilted leaves of plain steamed kale? Snort. Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen wasn’t always so delicious. As her cooking improved, I ate more. Coincidence?

Invest in a meat thermometer, a cookbook, and above all ADD FAT. Repeat after me: Butter makes everything better. My husband now eats all sorts of kale, cabbage and other green vegetables if they’ve been cooked in butter or bacon. Also, cut stuff into small pieces (think “kale confetti”), and try not to overcook things.

Offer an assortment of food and shut up. Nagging, persistent “encouragement” and orders = immediate dislike for life. But if you offer something yummy and new with something tried and true, your picky eater may just give it a go. If this miracle happens, resist the urge to crow in triumph. Also, it takes something like 8 to 10 exposures to a food before someone will have the gumption to try it. If you can calmly serve something 8 to 10 times without making a big deal about it, you may have a winner. Fight the war, not the battle.

Invite the picky eater into the kitchen. Helping to cook takes some of the mystery out of the meal, and that’s a good thing. Or at the very least, your picky eaters can learn some kitchen fundamentals and cook for themselves, and have it just the way they like it.

Got a question for a picky eater? Any other tips for peaceful mealtimes?


Maya Rodale is the author of numerous historical romance novels. She lives in New York City with a rogue of her own and their dog, Penelope. Find her on Facebook [], on Twitter [], or at


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7 Responses to How to Tame a Picky Eater:
8 Tips for Happier Meals

  1. Bonnie December 16, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    I was a picky eater, but in the large group of grandchildren there was another one worse than me. So, I could sneak under the “radar” and just eat chocolate cake at the big family reunions. Actually, I grew up just fine and went on to learn to eat raw fish from a Japanese friend and snails from a French friend. Life is surprising!

  2. Amy Valentini December 16, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Hi Maya,
    You’re too funny! Even though I wasn’t a picky eater as a kid, we weren’t allowed to be in my house, I’ve become a bit of one since I’m older. As a kid (one of 5), we ate or went hungry. My mom taught us that when we ate at someone’s home, we made an effort to eat what was presented to us and let me tell you, I’ve eaten some God awful meals in my time. LOL!!
    I’ve learned what foods I like, love and hate plus I have food allergies which prevent me from eating a lot of things I do love which I hate, then add being diabetic to the mix and my menu narrows significantly. But you’re right about involving the art of cooking to ease the tension … I learned to cook and bake at a very young age so the mystery of a lot of foods including escargot, Bonnie, was eliminated. At 15, I was preparing escargot and loving it!
    Maya, I’ve always prided myself in believing that I can cook just about anything, except peas, lima beans and such, and make it taste good enough that even I will eat it. Have you tried escargot? Happy Christmas Goodies Eating! : )

  3. Dana B December 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Ha! I love this! I was a little picky growing up though much better now. My brother was TERRIBLE as a kid. Reading this while remembering him at the dining room table with chicken nuggets AGAIN made me giggle.

  4. maria (farm country kitchen) December 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    I have never EVER made steamed wilted kale. However, I will confess to dry chicken…bound to happen!

  5. Tricia December 19, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Thank you so much for this. My nineteen year old son was/is a picky eater. He would go on “eating jags”, like only peanut butter and jelly, or only cold cereal and milk (for lunch for much of 4th grade). I gave him a multivitamin, offered as much choice as I felt was reasonable, and tried hard to let it go. Much of the drama came from my husband and other family members, engaging in all those unhelpful behaviors. Nagging, bargaining, threats- ridiculous. Also, I have felt a little chagrined that there are foods that I was unaware that he enjoyed because I did not like them, and so I did not prepare them.

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