A picky kid might be talked into digging into this toothsome bowl of Spaghetti and Clams. That is, as long as you tweezer out all of those flecks of parsley, leave the clams safely back in their shells back at the fish market, and skip the garlic, chili flakes, and freshly ground black pepper altogether. What remains is the suppertime staple for picky palates from sea to shining sea: buttered noodles.

Parents of finicky eaters know what I’m talking about. Picky is tricky. I’ve touched on the subject in a few posts — Raising Adventurous Eaters; When They don’t Like Dinner; and Sneaky Chocolate Bundt Cake — but not plunged in head first. So when I was given a copy of the recently published No Cry Picker Eater Solution by Elizabeth Pantley a few weeks ago, I figured it was time to dig in.

For a lot of folks, dealing with fussy feeders is among the most frustrating aspects of parenting. And it’s pervasive. Ask any group of moms, particularly those with little ones, how often meals are marked by a battle over the plate and you’ll see nods across the room.

There is a laundry list of reasons kids are picky, and no quick fix. But reading through Elizabeth’s book may give parents hope that their kids will indeed graduate from a diet of chicken nuggets and cheese quesadillas. The book strikes a welcome, judgement-free tone, a shift from the tisk tisking of so many parenting gurus (most of us moms do just fine with the self criticism all on your own, thank you very much). She focuses not just on getting kids to eat, but on helping them transition to more wholesome choices over time, say moving from a sweetened, hydrogenated peanut butter to an all-natural one (my own kids are lobbying hard to make the opposite move).

I thought I’d leave you with some of my take-aways from the No-Cry Solution. If you’re hankering for more, you can track down details of the book here.

And when your child has progressed beyond buttered noodles and is up for those parsley flecks and garlicky mollusks, here’s that recipe for Spaghetti and Clams.


1. Start Small

When introducing a new food, offer just a tiny amount — a few chick peas or a single green bean — along with more familiar foods. Then, leave your child be without pressure, emotion, or comment.

2. Don’t Fret over a Single Meal

The balance of your child’s diet rests not on one dish or even one day, but what they take in over many days. Relax a little, truly, they won’t wither from malnutrition.

3. Serve Family Style

Rather than plating your child’s meal, serve food family style so they get to do the choosing. If you’re cooking wholesome foods, they can’t go wrong. Include largely familiar foods, with one or two new or not-yet-adopted options at the table.

4. Give Vegetables More of a Starring Role

Rather than having vegetables be an afterthought, consider putting as much care into them as you do the main course. Also, think about offering two vegetables at meals to up the likelihood that kids will try at least one of them. And let your kids see you thoroughly enjoying your veggies without pressuring them to do the same.

5. Watch the Juice

Most kids love juice and would happily sip away all day long. Unfortunately, it can fill up their tummies, leaving little room for nourishing foods and calcium-rich milk.

6. Don’t Give Up

A finicky eater may need to be introduced to a food 10 to 15 times before even tasting it. After offering them a new food a couple of times, ask them to take a bite or two. Patience pays off here.

Got a picky or formerly picky eater under your roof? I’d love to hear your success stories, so please share in the comments section.

6 Tips for Picky Kids