I Love A Good Food Fight…Just Not This One

My green-eyed house cat eats his bowl of tuna.

“As a child, I was what is known as a ‘fussy eater.’ ‘Fussy eater’ is a euphemism for ‘big pain in the ass.'”  ~George Carlin

My kids are weird eaters. Some would say they are picky eaters, but they’re not. They’re just plain weird. Joe likes foods many kids eschew (that is, won’t chew), which is why he is weird. My oldest loves all kinds of fish, except for frozen fish sticks. He once ordered trout at a restaurant and ate the entire serving on his plate, including the fish skin. He will eat any vegetable. He loves milk but won’t touch fruit juice. As a rule, he’s a fairly healthy eater, although none of the foods on his plate can touch each other and he has to eat his meal one item at a time. Heaven forbid he get a piece of corn on the fork along with his chicken. Luke, on the other hand, is your typical kid. He love chicken nuggets, pizza, and peanut butter and jelly. To the best of my knowledge, he has never ingested and then actually digested any vegetable. Ever. He will only eat two fruits…bananas and applesauce. He will eat organic strawberry yogurt but you couldn’t pay him to touch an actual strawberry, and Luke will do nearly anything for money. They both love french bread, bacon, and brownies. Neither will eat lettuce, cheese, or ketchup. Today for lunch Joe ate a can of tuna. No. Really. A can of tuna. If I start turning the can opener, he comes running like the family cat. (Recently, though, he learned about mercury in fish so now he limits himself to one can of tuna per week.) Weird.

For a while when they were younger, I tried to force the food issue with Luke to get him to branch out. Due to his gag reflex and aversion to certain textures, though, all that usually got me was a handful of Luke puke. The more I pushed him to try new foods, the more resistant he became. So, I stopped. Our pediatrician, the sweetest older gentleman in the world, told me to let it be. He had overseen the health of over 15,000 children and he assured me the boys were growing along on a steady curve. They both had excellent muscle tone and healthy skin. They need calories and as long as they’re getting them and growing, there is no reason to be concerned.

I grew up in a house where if you didn’t like dinner, you went hungry. We ate what was served or else. That was how it worked. There are starving children in Africa, you know? This is why I took up the food fight initially with my kids. It was a power thing. My parents had carried out this battle with me and, out of familiarity, I fought with my own kids about food. Eventually I understood that the food fight I was waging with my kids was more about control than it was about food or health. When I let it go, I began to see a change. Since we decided to stop pestering them about their food choices, both boys have become more willing to try new things. Go figure.

My kids are not the first humans in the history of the world to be weird, fussy eaters. The Beaver wouldn’t eat Brussels sprouts. The brothers in the commercial never thought they’d get picky Mikey to eat a bowl Life cereal. In the holiday family classic, A Christmas Story, the mother told her son to show her how to “eat like the little piggies do” to coax him into eating his dinner. My father-in-law, who has traveled the world and eaten the cuisine, went through a phase as a boy when all he would eat was bread with cream and brown sugar. My awesome friend Tracy will not eat “vegetablows” (her term, not mine). And, let’s not forget the dude in the Dr. Seuss book who flat out refused to eat green eggs and ham. Yes. My kids can seem a bit high maintenance with their food aversions, but wherever we go we can usually find something they are willing to eat. While I know it bothers some people (like my entire family) that they’ve got their particular tastes, it no longer vexes me. Weird eating habits notwithstanding, my boys are great kids. I’m sure they’ll turn out just fine. They might not, however, eat your special green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.


  1. Your boys sound great! Wow, a whole can of tuna. That’s incredible. My bottom line is that they won’t starve themselves and will really eat if they’re hungry. Pretty soon they’ll be eating us out of house and home, right? Great post!

  2. My kids are fussy as well. I hate when people act surpised that the children are fussy? Every kid is – to some degree. Some people forget how their kids were and act as thought all was perfect.

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