You think he is. But he isn't. He's just not that hungry.
That is, unless your child has all sorts of other problems...problems BIGGER than picky eating, comorbidities if you will. You already know it if that's the case. So in absence of serious disease, disorder or deficiency...your kid has simply been spoiled. Damned shame, that.
See, you don't appreciate the fact that kids don't need to eat giant portions. So when your kid only eats half a sandwich and leaves the crust, you think it isn't enough food. So you try to push more food on him, which makes him anxious and causes him to avoid food. And now you're SURE there's an eating problem, so you encourage him to eat absolutely anything, whether it's healthy or not. Funny thing about junk food (fries, dogs, mac & cheese, ckn nuggets, cookies, chocolate milk)...all that stuff satisfies something OTHER THAN hunger. So your kid will eat those things even if he's not hungry, thus causing him to be SERIOUSLY not hungry later and, quite frankly, disgusted when you try to impose actual food upon his palate.
At this point, you have a genuine problem on your hands. You find yourself letting your kid eat anything, anytime, anywhere because you're just so happy when he eats. Of course, kids who graze on junk all day never eat more than tiny amounts at a time, thus reinforcing your misperception of an eating problem. You've begun supplimenting with Pediasure or some other food-substitute (which actually does a marvelous job of making kids want actual food EVEN LESS than they did before.) When you go to other people's houses, you bring your own plain pasta and cook it on their stovetops, completely convinced that your child NEEDS this.
There's only one way to fix it. Stop feeding him crap.
But he'll STARVE, you say!!!
Nope. No he won't.
Don't believe me? Read this:
EDIT: With over a hundred replies, I'm no longer individually addressing the folks who say their kid won't eat this or that, so obviously I'm wrong. Way to miss the point folks.
EVERYBODY has certain foods or categories of foods they don't like. It would be ABNORMAL to like everything. Having certain foods you won't eat does not make you a picky eater.
Picky Eaters Put to the Test
Wyatt, KJ, Lily, Sam, and Jo (courtesy KJ Dell Antonia)
My husband, my mother Jo, and I took our three kids (then 7, 5 and 3) to China to adopt our fourth child (a 3-year-old daughter). Before we reached her province, the rest of us were caught up in China's stringent H1N1 quarantine. My husband spent a week locked in a tiny hospital cell with a mild case, served three meals a day through an air-lock window like the one they use at Harold's Chicken on Chicago's far South Side. The rest of us rode it out in quarantine, five confused Westerners amidst several hundred similarly exposed Chinese. We were served three meals a day, at first in our room, then buffet style. Three Chinese meals. Small amounts of meat or fish, with vegetables, in sauces. Noodles. Dumplings. Shrimp, complete with heads and tails.
It wasn't that we didn't expect to eat Chinese food in China (and lots of it). It was that suddenly, I didn't control when or what the kids were eating, and neither-once they'd chosen among the day's offerings-did they. We pointed, said thank you, took the food, and gathered around a table, all of us -- three kids, me and my mother -- on equal footing. What is that? We don't really know. What does it taste like? Well, somebody try it. Seven-year-old Sam discovered a love of curry; 4-year-old Lily, steamed buns; Wyatt, 3, ate snails. The rest of us had one bite each and agreed that although snail tasted ok, it was rubbery.
We did not have, all week, one single argument about the food on our plates. This is what led to my horrible realization: my kids will eat anything. They're human beings, and if you put edible food in front of hungry humans, they'll take what they need to get by.
Therefore, if they've been picky at home -- turned up their noses at a perfectly good meal or thrown a tantrum because we have the wrong kind of Pop Tarts -- it's because I've let them.
Which really, really blew. I never pandered to special requests at home, cooking a different dinner for each kid or providing a plate upon which nothing touches anything else. But every time I opened the pantry, or offered a snack an hour after the breakfast dishes were cleared, I was essentially saying, "heck, no, don't eat it if you don't like it. Don't even try it if it doesn't look good. You'll get something you like better before you even have time to get hungry." And so they waited. Once China said eat it or don't eat it, but there isn't gonna be anything else -- they ate.
This hasn't been an easy lesson to bring home. For one thing, there's no buffet here -- if I want them to try new things and eat whole foods, I have to cook them. For another, they're not fools. They know we have snacks in the pantry, and even if we don't, there's food at school and at the store and at the gas station and everywhere we look. The truth is that eventually, into every American child's life, some Goldfish will fall -- but, at our house, not nearly as often as they once did. If there is chili, there will no longer also be cereal; if there are apples, there need not also be chips. Because I have seen these kids eat snail, and now I know their secret: if I let them get a little hungry, they'll eat.
Can't get quarantined? Then try this at home:
1) Don't offer an alternative to dinner, and give no seconds on any food until everything has been at least tasted.
2) Skip snacks. When kids come in starving for dinner, get them out of the pantry and into setting the table or chopping vegetables. (In a pinch, put salad out first.)
3) Go for a nice, long hike with a healthy picnic.
4) Just don't buy it. If there are no cookies in the pantry, there are no cookies in the pantry.
5) Offer "weird" foods again and again and again (and again). Experts say it can take as many as seven "exposures" before a kid takes to a new food.
6) Don't give up, and don't give in. No kid ever starved to death because the only food on offer wasn't white.