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What Melissa Clark Feeds a Picky Eater

May  8, 2015

If you like reading what Amanda feeds her kids, you'll love taking a look into what other people—both in the food world and the world at large—prepare for their own children (and occasionally their signifcant others and maybe even their pets). Prepare to be either resentful or appreciative of your own parents.

Today, Melissa Clark, food columnist at The New York Times, explains why it's not always so bad to have a six-year-old who's a bit particular about what she eats. 

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The good thing about my six-year-old being a fussy eater is that neither she nor I have any desire to mix things up too much when it comes to lunch. We settle on one thing and she eats it for months until she gets bored. Then we find something else.

For a while it was mascarpone and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Before that, whole wheat penne with homemade pesto. Eons ago, she'd eat mini carrot and beet muffins and cubes of kosher salami.  

Pictured here is the current evolution of her lunch. I always pack one container of fruit and one container of vegetables. Here, it's celery and strawberries. Then there's plain whole milk Greek yogurt topped with a little maple syrup. Spread inside the whole grain cracker is a slick of butter and sliver of cheese. 

The benefit of this lunchtime sameness is that it saves me time and trauma in the morning, for which I'm grateful. Yes, I wish she'd consider something more interesting—say, egg salad or a sardine. But she's only six and there are plenty of lunches in her future.

Photo by Melissa Clark

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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laurenlocally May 8, 2015
What a great perspective to keep in mind while my 3.5 year old is currently refusing anything "green". Last summer, he was eating all varieties of crustaceans! Grr!
Tracy M. May 8, 2015
AntoniaJames May 8, 2015
Tracy, your 7 year old's lunch sounds delicious! I was a picky eater as a child (and continue to be a "selective" eater as an adult); saltines or Triscuits comprised their own food group, representing a significant portion of my daily intake for many years along with carrot sticks, apples or pears (strawberries on the rare occasion, mid-summer, when we had them), and homemade treats! ;o)
AntoniaJames May 8, 2015
I love your attitude! My sons also wanted the same meal every day for lunch and I happily obliged. When my younger son went from wanting PB&J (homemade jam, homemade bread, good natural PB) to wanting sliced salami every day for months, I'd occasionally ask if he wanted PB&J or something else instead and he'd steadfastly refuse. I said, "Fine," and went on to other things. I later learned that routine - including the absence of variety in things like breakfast and lunch choices -- is actually helpful to many children, as it reduces the amount of decision making in a day, which in turn reduces stress. As long as they were happy and healthy, which they were, their routine for lunches was just fine by me. They are both adventurous eaters and accomplished cooks as they head out into the world, the oldest having graduated from college two years ago. As you say, they had plenty of lunches ahead of them.

I cannot imagine ever being traumatized by lunch making in the morning (I was a trial lawyer, so I had learned early on how to put life's smaller challenges into perspective), but I did appreciate the simplicity and ease in our before-school routine.

When they were about 7 and 8, respectively, I had the boys start making their own lunches, which was a terrific confidence builder for them. (Kids who are responsible for making meaningful contributions to their family's welfare at an early age generally have great attitudes and are otherwise delightful to be around.) ;o)
amysarah May 8, 2015
I agree. To add to your thoughts - my son ate everything from day one. Any leftovers, from meatloaf to pasta con sarde, were enthusiastically demanded in his lunch. My daughter was far pickier. Both raised in the same environment, same exposure to good food, same family of eaters and cookers. Nope, not having it. So if she wanted only bagel/cream cheese, cheddar on whole wheat or yogurt/muffins (usually homemade) in her lunch box everyday, and I mean everyday, I was fine with it. I figured she was challenged enough food-wise at dinner, weekends, on trips, etc. She was an excellent student and challenged so many other ways at school - if having a predictable lunch gave her a comforting moment in the middle of her day, I was glad to provide it! I predicted that when she was ready, prosciutto and stinky cheeses would still exist (if her brother hadn't devoured them.) Also, especially with a girl, I chose not to make what she ate an issue. She's now 23, an adventurous/appreciative eater with a healthy body image and happy relationship with food. Not saying that's all about not sweating school lunches, but I think taking that pressure off the table, so to speak (for her and ME!) helped.