This Week’s Menu: Cooking For a Fussy Eater

Slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwiches – both Brett and YaYu add coleslaw to their sandwich.

There is no way to get around it: YaYu is a fussy eater. She’s a good eater, but she has become very outspoken in her preferences lately and it’s frankly beginning to drive me a little nuts. It seems that unless I am fixing spicy Asian food, there’s always something wrong with whatever I fix.

YaYu is lactose intolerant, and I work hard to make sure there’s no dairy in any of the food she is served. We also know that because she didn’t join our family until age five, her taste preferences were already set, unlike the other girls, including her love of very spicy food. She has also chosen food preferences as a means of expressing her Asian identity, which both Brett and I support. Still, this is something new for me because both Meiling and WenYu have always eaten anything you put in front of them, as does Brett. Our son was a somewhat picky eater when he was young, but not to this extent.

I’ve told her that I will try to accommodate some of her food preferences, but that there are other times I am going to cook things her dad and I like, like the slow cooker chicken adobo that’s coming up later this week. I know I’ll also catch some grief over the turkey Waldorf salad and the grilled chicken skewers . I’ve told her I’m not a short-order cook and will not be preparing anything special or different for her – if she doesn’t like what’s for dinner, she is welcome to not have any. So far she hasn’t taken advantage of that offer.

This is a whole new thing for me though, dealing with a fussy, critical eater. It may be just a teenage thing, and will pass once she heads off to college. I’d love any suggestions you have for how to deal with this!

Here’s what for dinner this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Stir-fried broccoli and tofu in spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice (skipping the rice)
  • Wednesday: Turkey Waldorf salad; country bread (no bread for me)
  • Thursday: Grilled chicken and vegetable skewers; pilaf (no pilaf for me)
  • Friday: Leftovers for Brett and me (spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Slow cooker barbecued pulled pork sandwiches; cole slow (just pork for me, no bread)
  • Sunday: Omelets; bacon; blueberry muffins; fruit (no muffin for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice (skipping the rice)

We didn’t go to the farmers’ market last week, but this week we’ll be getting bok choy, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, a papaya and anything else that looks good and fits into the budget.

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24 thoughts on “This Week’s Menu: Cooking For a Fussy Eater

  1. tpol1 says:

    She can add spicy sauces to most “Western” food to make them taste Asian. Grilled chicken skewers can easily taste Asian if she adds some soy sauce, ginger and garlic on top of them. She may try to experiment with sauces and condiments.

    The pressure of the College and scholarship applications may be getting on to her nerves as well.

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    • Laura says:

      She adds hot sauce to everything! Even if I make something spicy, she adds more!

      She is under a LOT of pressure right now. That stupid counselor still hasn’t submitted her recommendation and other forms. We’re contacting the principal today, and will take it to the superintendent if we have to. The application has to be submitted today.

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  2. Isabella says:

    Learning to experiment with new food tastes is good for young adults too. But I agree that I ,too, have never been a short order cook for my family. That is just way too complicated! I think that my own three granddaughters make too many demands on their parents food-wise. I guess I was always more old school–Two choices, take it or leave it. I know that children don’t like everything that is served to them, but maybe it’s a favorite of another family member! They do then grow up tasting many foods, even if they are not all favorites.

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    • Laura says:

      We’ve always been old-school about eating: I try to accommodate everyone’s preferences but can’t please everyone, so if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it but neither will I fix something different for you! So far YaYu has eaten what I’ve prepared, but I’m tired of the sighs, eye-rolling, etc. when I tell her what’s for dinner. I can’t make Asian-y food/spicy food every night!

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  3. Barbara Bomberger says:

    it’s a teenage thing I expect. I was one of those parentw who gave her kid real food instead of baby food and gave our kids the exact same thing we ate from then on-with nary a special meal except when we have liver, onions and spinach (which all but one child loves now). My daughter, especially became a very fussy eater in her teens and was known to give the dog tomatoes, tomatoes mind, under the table to avoid them. I would probably have some healthy snackie type food on hand for those days, or like someone else said, simply allow her to spice it up. I did have a friend whose child suddenly decided in middle school that she would never eat meat products again!

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    • Laura says:

      I’m thinking it’s a teenage thing as well, but it’s still new to me (and frustrating at times). I’ve always served ‘real food’ even when my children were babies, and keep healthy snacks around the house. It’s the attitude that’s getting to me – I would love some peace at the dinner table when we’re having something other than Asian.

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  4. LIVINGRICHONTHECHEAP says:

    It might just be a teen angst thing. My stepkids were 5,7,9 and 12 when I me them 15 years ago. As we were a family of six (they were with us every other weekend and holidays) whatever went on the plate was what they ate. We told them it was ok to have preferences but not to be picky. My stepson quietly picked out all the green peppers of everything I cooked. I was ok with that because he wasn’t vocal about disliking my food. You may consider asking her to be less vocal and just make herself something if she is not liking it. She may not realize she is hurting you by being so vocal about it. It is hard not to take it personally when someone does that.

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    • Laura says:

      I agree – it’s OK to have preferences, and we will respect those preferences, but I’m cooking for others beside you! We have encouraged her to cook more for herself, but I’m wondering if she prefers complaining for the time being!

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  5. UnwrittenLifeBlog says:

    My son owns several different hot sauces, and even has one in his car for emergencies! The other two smother everything with ketchup. The other option, though I don’t know if it’s fiscally worth it, is to let her plan and prepare her own meals?

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    • Laura says:

      YaYu has a variety of hot sauces because different foods require a different sauce! She also only likes Asian hot sauces vs. Latin or other ones, and adds hot sauce to EVERYTHING. She likes to cook, but for now doesn’t have the time to prepare her own meals (unless it’s a bowl of ramen – she always has time for that LOL.)

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  6. Kay says:

    Aah funny! My daughter was so picky as a toddler and lower elementary student that now (15) I am soooo glad she is ready to eat just about anything. She does have a severe food allergy that limits us but it is so much easier to shop and prepare now. I find that we don’t mind repeating meals over and over because everyone is happy. I suspect Yayu will be ok. Not that you need to do it but do you know what her dream weekly menu would be?

    I personally love spicy so I can relate but don’t feel too bad about her turning her nose up at your meal prep. She’ll be out on her own soon enough and probably longing for something she remembered you preparing!

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    • Laura says:

      LOL – her dream Menu would be an authentic Chinese noodle dish ever night, preferably Hunanese or Sichuan, and a bowl of rice at other meals and lots of different Chinese hot sauces to choose from. She was in heaven this past summer when she spent two weeks in China.

      Meiling is already sending me lists of things she wants me to fix when she’s home over Christmas. WenYu says “I’ll eat anything!”

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  7. quesoit1 says:

    Maybe it’s a teenage rebellion thing for YaYu, where she is using her food preferences to assert her identity. Two of my friends/relatives had children who became vegetarians. Talk about drama and extra work for the parents! In both cases the parents were divorced or separated and the child was taking on the dietary preferences of the non-custodial parent. And the kids also seemed to use their vegetarianism as a way of laying some kind of moral judgment on the meat-eating parent.

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    • Laura says:

      I agree it’s a teenage thing, but it’s compounded by her specific taste preferences. And, because she’s the only child still at home – it gives her a degree of power that she didn’t have before. Brett and I like Asian food, we like spicy food, but we don’t want to eat it every night!

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  8. Laurel says:

    Like others, I’m betting she’s stressed and the attitude is for you because you’re a safe place to vent it. I hated the eye rolling and sighs, too. And I will also say senior year is a scary time for kids, because they can see they’ll have to fend for themselves soon and you’re the one they have to break away from. So pushing back was part of the sr. year dance with all three of mine. But NO fun for the parent.

    Both of my daughters went through a vegetarian phase in college and then gave it up, mostly to eat some family favorite and then just never went back. And FWIW, they now love the foods they were raised with (healthier fare) except for spaghetti and red sauce. That was my comfort food and easy dinner when I was tired at the end of a long work day and needed to whip up dinner. They thought it was a budget thing, but I just loved it. Ha! Now neither of them will touch it. My son will eat anything.

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    • Laura says:

      I agree with your first paragraph- YaYu is under a huge amount of stress now. She very much wants to go off to college, but we can see that she’s also scared. I am just tired right now of the sighs and eye-rolling – it’s not very motivating.

      I was the one who did vegan last year and NO ONE wanted to join me! The girls all swore they were never giving up meat. And then just a couple of days ago YaYu tells me she’s thinking of becoming a vegetarian! I gave her a look and haven’t heard boo about it since. She lives pork too much!!

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      • Laurel says:

        I remember dropping my middle one off at college hours from home. My mom was with us and my daughter was just AWFUL to me…like all her anxiety was my fault. I was fed up and ready to leave once we got her moved in. We got the car and I just started to cry and asked my mom why she as always so awful just to me. (She was sweet as pie to my parents who lived near her college.) My mom said, “Can’t you see she’s scared to death?” The letting go is tough. She’s a successful post doc now FWIW. 🙂

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      • Laura says:

        YaYu definitely knows how to bring the drama – she’s so different from our other three kids. She’s always had problems with her “attitude,” some of which we think came/comes from watching TV – she couldn’t always figure out that the smart talk, etc. that makes for an interesting show was NOT OK in real life. Lots of behavioral things that infants and toddlers learn through family interactions she had to learn when she was five. She’s a wonderful, smart, loving girl but has but has been a challenge at times. On the flip side, she’s the one that has had to deal with ‘old’ parents, which isn’t easy – lots of people think we’re her grandparents. I think it will be hardest for her to separate for college though.

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  9. JJ says:

    I guess YaYu will have to accept the fact that unless she goes to college in an area with a large Chinese population, she’s going to have to deal with not being able to eat spicy Chinese dishes every night, unless she is able to make them herself in the dorm. I live in a very diverse area and there are Sichuan restaurants all over, but I’ve also lived in places where there were no Chinese restaurants at all. She will have to start working on diversifying her palate! I’m joking, but I agree it probably is some sort of teenage rebellion thing.

    I hope that counselor got the recommendation to you today. My nephew had a similar issue with a recommendation last year when he was a senior. The teacher sent it to him just before the deadline. Sigh…

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    • Laura says:

      We’ve told her that her Asian options at school might be few and far between, depending on where she goes, but she says as long as she has her hot sauces and a place to fix ramen she’ll be fine.

      The recommendation arrived with hours to spare, and only after we contacted the principal and let him know what was going on.

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  10. Hawaii Planner says:

    Just catching up, but I also have a very picky eater. (He’s 10, and doesn’t have the same background of already having established taste, etc, of course). We have always made the exact same thing for the kids, encouraging them to try a variety of food. Sam will try anything. He may not love stuff (mushrooms ;-)), but he’ll pick around them, and sometimes politely ask me not to make something again. Nick. ..sigh. He has a serious texture issue. He won’t eat any food mixed together. Pasta must be separate from sauce, which must be separate from meatballs. He also is a very sensitive eater. If he doesn’t want something & we encourage a “politeness bite”, he will throw up at the table while trying it. Now, that’s a serious dinner buzzkill. 😉

    Our rule has remained. If you don’t want what’s being served, feel free to eat the side dishes, the salad (every night we have salad), & you can always heat something up from the fridge. I do try to make things for him, but he would eat pasta & meatballs every night, if it were up to him.

    Hugs. I’m sure the stress, the independence, etc is all exacerbating the issues.

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    • Laura says:

      One of our girls has sensory issues (not with food though, thankfully) and it’s a tough thing to deal with, even with therapy. You just do the best you can, and establish baseline rules that they can adhere to (like ‘eat the side dishes or salad,’ or in our case, ‘you can’t have xxx at the dinner table or in the kitchen’). I so get it though. Even though it’s not a sensory issue, right now YaYu would eat spicy noodles with pork every meal if it were up to her. It’s frustrating, but I think the stress she’s currently operating under is driving her fussiness and complaints.

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