Mom, There’s Something Green on My Plate!

Friedman School alumna tells how to tackle the picky eaters in the house

Years ago, the parenting party line was that kids had to clean their plates before leaving the table, even if meatloaf made them gag. Then parents were advised to present healthy options to their kids, but let the kids decide whether and how much of each choice to eat.

The result, says Deborah Kennedy, N93, N03, is that we are raising a nation of picky eaters, and what they pick is usually not good for them.

Photo: veer.comPhoto:
“We cannot put our children in control at a time when they have access to junk food wherever they turn,” she writes in her book The Picky Eating Solution (Fair Winds Press, 2013).

Kennedy advocates for a parenting style somewhere between old-school strict and current-day lenient. Making kids try a bite of a new food and then requiring more bites at future meals? Good. Not letting them have dessert unless they eat their veggies? Sound advice. She advocates serving a fruit or veggie with every meal or snack and serving only one dinner (as opposed to being a short-order cook).

Despite the book’s title, she doesn’t pretend that there is one magical solution for getting junior to open his mouth. Picky eaters come in all styles, from the kid who fears anything unfamiliar to the kid who won’t sit still at the table long enough to cajole a carrot into him.

Parents need to use a food strategy crafted just for their little one’s needs, and Kennedy provides several. For the truly neophobic child, for example, you might have to let the child touch the food, smell it and lick it before you make him take that first bite.

As for sneaking pureed cauliflower into their potatoes, or apologetically drowning broccoli in cheese sauce, don’t bother. “You are teaching your child that it is all about their taste buds, and that is not what food is all about,” Kennedy says. “Food is about nourishing your body.” Best to face the spinach head on.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Tufts Nutrition magazine.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at

Back to Top