Eat Up

By Annie Stopyro

Eat Up

There’s nothing more annoying than kids that won’t eat, mostly because the little ingrates have the metabolism to devour whatever they want and burn it off, but choose to waste this enviable opportunity.

If you raise picky eaters, you run the risk of doubling your work load to get two dinners on the table every night: the regular meal with flavors and nutrients and another that’s taste-free and probably in the yellow family, something like chicken nuggets. And after all that, the mini food snobs only rearrange it on their plates. Entire dinner conversations can revolve around what constitutes a bite.

If you want to avoid the food fuss pitfall, you’re going to need a plan. These downright deceptive and manipulative tactics could trick your child into eating all sorts of healthy things, even the “grossest” grown-up fare.

First of all, never say, “Eat your vegetables,” a dead giveaway to a child that they’re being served something inedible. Instead treat the trouble foods as delectable and scarce. When you gather at the table, dish up the green beans sparingly and to adults only. You might say under your breath, “You won’t like these. They’re for grownups.” As you slip the first one in your mouth, exchange eye contact with the other adults, while emitting the same low “mmmm” you might if you were enjoying flourless chocolate torte. When your kid clamors for some, give them reluctantly, as if it pains you to share.

Wipe your vocabulary clean of any key trigger words that kids learn about in their secret underworld: healthy, vitamin, vegetable and salad. Be inventive or create new words to make any dish sound desirable. Instead of saying vegetables, call them sides, in the same way that French fries are sides. Squash should be upgraded to the more appetizing butternut candy. Anything crunchy can be called crisps. Serve the most formidable of foods known to children all across America, Brussels sprouts, under the tantalizing moniker, giant peaberry.

At least once, your child should wander into the kitchen and “catch” you red handed, secretly noshing on broccoli or quinoa.

Some children decline food as a way to get control, since no well-meaning parent can stand to see their little dumpling starve to death. Don’t let this happen to you. The minute little dumpling pushes his plate away, move in and devour everything that’s left. Act thrilled to have scored a PB & J sans crust. Soon your child will be eating with a protective arm around the plate, which will be licked clean.

Other adults may refuse to play along, but this too can go in your favor. At a holiday dinner, my daughter decorated each of her ten fingers with a pitted black olive, ready to savor them. A relative protested, “Kids don’t eat olives! What’s wrong with you?” But this only encouraged my daughter, who felt she’d gained entry into the world of prohibited adult food.

I have to warn you about one grave parenting error: taking a child out for sushi. If you’ve ever had sushi, you know that the delicious little morsels disappear in an instant, and when the bill comes, the topic of refinancing the home might come up. If there’s any chance he or she will like it, do not feed sushi to your kid. It can be habit forming. Next thing you know, Chuck E. Cheese is out for birthdays, and sushi is in. Sometimes chicken nuggets are just the way to go.

About this writer

  • Annie Stopyro was a Top 10 Finalist in the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writing Contest. Her work has appeared in several newspapers and is forthcoming in Defenestration. She blogs at and has a life story writing business, Real Live Story. She is a proud survivor of Minnesota’s 2013-14 Polar Vortex.

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2 Responses to “Eat Up”

  1. Annie, you have found the keys to unlock toddler food protests. Another useful tip: serve healthy foods in ice cream cones and put sprinkles on top. Trickery works. Fun read.

  2. Mary Ann Crimi says:

    Great tips! Very enjoyable essay and so helpful. I once made a veggie smiley face for my grandson and he was through the sweet red pepper lips before he caught on!

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