Queer Mom Chronicles: Having a ‘Picky Eater’ Doesn’t Bother Me Too Much

I just realized that last month was one whole year of Queer Mom Chronicles! How utterly amazing that I’ve been able to be here and chat with you all and share my experiences as a mom. I am by no means an expert, and I don’t think I get it right most of the time. But it’s really awesome that despite that, you all keep coming back. Thank you so much for your comments and love for this little column.


Let’s talk about raising a picky eater. Generally, I am truly unbothered by the fact that my kid has a definitive list of things he’ll eat. It actually helps me. I know exactly what to buy at the grocery store and don’t have to think about what to make him for dinner. Most of the foods he eats have a solid nutritional value, so I can’t complain. But sometimes I wonder if I should be pushing him to be more adventurous with food, especially because it limits the amount of places we can eat out as a family.

My wife’s birthday was last week, and all she wanted to do for her birthday dinner was go to hibachi. But the place she wanted to go didn’t offer plain chicken, which is all my son will eat. Thankfully, he does do more than chicken fingers or nuggets, but he doesn’t like any strong seasonings or sauces. So she had to call the restaurant to see if they’d be willing to make him chicken without the sauces or seasonings. (Also, what kind of restaurant only has garlic sesame chicken on a kid’s menu??) Thankfully they were willing to make him something plain, but she went back and forth for a while to do something else because of the fact that there wasn’t anything that he would eat there.

I also had similar concerns regarding my own birthday dinner, but that was also because the Mexican restaurant I wanted to go to didn’t have a kid’s menu. He may be 10 and can eat a good amount, but an adult portion is still too much food for him. Plus, there wasn’t really anything he would like. He’s been skeptical of spicy foods ever since he had a particularly spicy piece of chicken at Chipotle when he was a preschooler. I happen to like a basic ass chain restaurant though, so I didn’t mind switching my birthday dinner to a place that serves chicken fingers.

I actually don’t even love the term “picky eater” that much. I think the term presents having a limited palate as a problem or a detriment, when that’s just how people are.

My son is not your typical picky eater. A lot of kids with a limited palate tend to be inclined towards “beige” foods like chicken nuggets, fries, pasta. Not my son. He doesn’t like typical “kid foods” like burgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc. He does love chicken nuggets/tenders and fries and occasionally pizza, but that’s it. The kid won’t eat pasta if you paid him — not even just plain noodles with butter and cheese. He doesn’t eat peanut butter and jelly either. If he does eat bread, he likes a plain sesame seed bagel. Sometimes he’ll toast it, but he won’t put any spread on it, not even butter.

His go-to foods are most fruits and veggies and an assortment of other things. If you made him choose between a bowl of mac and cheese and a bowl of broccoli, he would choose the broccoli. The fruit and vegetable drawers in my fridge are always full, and it’s almost always for him. He loves apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, sugar snap peas and carrots. When he was a toddler, he was always walking around with an apple tucked against his shoulder. He can eat a whole cucumber in one sitting, and you don’t even have to cut it for him. It’s easier to get him to try a new fruit or vegetable than it is to get him to try just about anything else.

People are often fascinated that he loves fruits and veggies so much and ask me how I got him to like them. I wish I could tell you how this happened. The only thing I did was offer these things to him. But I also introduced other things to him at the same age. He did eat pasta when he was a toddler, but then he just stopped eating it. The kid won’t touch cold cuts, but he will go to town on a fruit salad or veggie platter. I definitely don’t take it for granted!

Just because he’s really into fruits and veggies doesn’t mean he’s not into other things! I have never been the type of mom to forbid foods, and I think that’s worked in my favor. He will make himself a fruit salad and then chase it with a bag of Doritos. One thing he has to have every day is Oreos — he calls them his “12 o’clock cookies” because I don’t allow him to have cookies or candy before noon. (Fruit snacks are okay though!) After dinner, he has some sort of ice cream. These are habits and routines he’s created, because that’s how he likes to do things, and I feel comfortable with it.

By not acting from a deprivation mindset, I think I’ve created a solid foundation for him when it comes to food. He eats what he does because he likes it and it tastes good. That’s the most important thing to me. I do try and encourage him to try things, but I don’t force him to or punish him for it. I did continuously push for him to try turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, and it took him a few years to admit they’re not bad. My mom is also a picky eater, but that’s because she was forced to eat things she didn’t like as a kid. Once she was able to make her own decisions about food, she refused to eat them. The woman won’t touch a brussels sprout to this day because she had to eat them boiled as a kid. I don’t want my son to be like that.

Some people (namely his father) think I should push harder for him to eat things he doesn’t like. But why? So he can be like my mom and not eat things that are actually delicious? Does him not wanting to eat chicken soup or banana bread really matter if he’s growing and healthy? Aside from having to ask for sauceless chicken at a restaurant, is it really killing anyone? Sometimes him not liking things actually works to my advantage — he doesn’t eat beef, so we don’t take him to Brazilian BBQ. That means we have someplace to go for date night and he won’t be mad we’re going without him. Him thinking soda is gross means I don’t have to share mine. Do I wish he liked Indian food? Sure. But maybe he’ll get there on his own one day.

Do you have a “picky” eater? How do you navigate that?


Queer Mom Chronicles is a biweekly column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes. 

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 122 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. I HATE it when people get bent out of shape when kids don’t want to eat something. I always ask people if they would flip out on an adult guest to their house if they didn’t eat the carrots or spicy food or whatever. If i wouldn’t treat a house guest like that i’m not going to treat my kids like that.

  2. I’m not a parent but I thought about this a lot when I had a suuuuper selective student a few years ago. There’s a Instagram account I love – kids eat in color – that has lots and lots of great thoughts around this. It even helped me start thinking of foods more as something I was “learning to like.” Anecdotally, I have a few friends who hated certain foods and then as adults found out they had an allergy! Interesting to think about.

    • If he’s not going to find a meal he enjoys at a restaurant, why doesn’t he just eat before you go and then have a special drink or a dessert if he wants to feel included?

      A lot of social activities revolve around eating and it may be helpful for him to learn how to enjoy being at food places that might not have entrees he enjoys.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!