Diary of a Picky Kid

Follow the antics, trials and tribulations of a very, very picky eater. Meet Charlie: he doesn’t eat any fruit, will throw up if his mom makes him and doesn’t like anything to do with healthy food.  He would live on Halloween candy if he could.  Read along as Charlies mom, Cindy, blogs about her frustrations and interactions with Charlie as she tries to get him to eat healthy food.  You will be sure to laugh out loud, learn a lot and be able to turn around your picky eater if you have one.


  1. Dear Dr. Deb,

    I just read through your Build Healthy Kids website and think you may be the perfect person to help me in my quest to turn my son into a healthy eater. Of all the books and informational sites I’ve read, yours seems to be the most simple and simple is exactly what I need as I have four children with very different schedules and activities. My three daughters are all pretty much healthy eaters and make healthy choices on their own. My son, however, is an entirely different story. Charlie, a.k.a. Batboy, is quite a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making healthy food choices. His current diet consists of mostly carbohydrates and very little vegetables and protein. He eats absolutely no fruit. He actually finds fruit offensive and will ask me to remove it from the table because it bothers him to just have it in his presence.

    If the saying, “you are what you eat” is true, then Charlie is mostly sugar, processed ingredients and white flour. This really concerns me because he is my youngest child (seven years old) and I fear his growth and development are being effected. Charlie is a boy who honestly believes that adding a glass of milk to anything makes it healthy! He’ll try to negotiate a bag of Cheetos for a snack or Burger King for dinner by generously offering to have a glass of milk instead of juice or a soft drink.

    I do give Charlie a multi-vitamin every day. However, it would probably be more accurate to say that I attempt to give Charlie a daily vitamin. Sometimes, it disappears after I offer it to him and I find them in the strangest places; dropped into a vase of flowers, nestled in the bottom of the comode, and even in the dog’s dish. I guess Charlie thinks our twelve year old Westie needs his daily dose of good health!

    Mealtimes have become dreaded events with Charlie. I try to stick to my rule of making one thing for dinner for my family every night, but if I really did that, Charlie would starve. He prefers pasta with butter or breaded chicken for every meal. I try to introduce new foods, but he won’t budge so I end up making the pasta or chicken or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my children’s other choice if they don’t like or want the dinner I’ve prepared).

    Please let me know if you are as dedicated and passionate as you appear to be and if you are willing to help me achieve my goal of helping Charlie become a healthy eater. I would appreciate any help or advice you could give me. I hope to hear from you soon. Take care and be well.

    Cindy Joe Lauro
    (a.k.a. Mother of a Picky Eater)

  2. Hi Cindy,
    You have come to the right place. Charlie is a very typical eater that many moms and dads struggle with. At BHK all I will ask Charlie to focus on is making one change a month. That way neither you or he will feel pressured or overwhelmed to change too many things at once. Slow and steady wins this race.
    Health & Giggles,
    Dr Deb

  3. Dr Deb,
    Thank you for coming over today! Charlie was vey excited to tell his Dad about making the switch to whole grains this month and why the minute he got home from work. I think he may be excited about the concept, but not the actual change. Time will tell. Charlie has been known to be a bit “all talk, no action” when it comes to actually doing something we’ve talked about and that I’ve tried to prepare him for.

  4. Cindy,
    I am so glad that Charlie was excited about making the change to whole grains. He was a pleasure to work with and is a very bright child. He understands the concepts immediately. I understand your reservations about the ‘all talk and no action’ but I want to encourage you to have faith in him. The change starts with your belief in him. Many parents try to make healthy changes in their child’s diet with the belief that there is no way their child will ever change. Kids pick up on this and will play you until they wear you down. Trust me on this. I noticed that he ate his carrots immediately upon being asked when I was over giving him his lesson but you said he would never do that for you. This issue is the most critical piece in making these changes. He will know if you believe in him 100%, he will know if he can manipulate you to not eat the healthy stuff. He knows your buttons intimately. As you have told me, he is an actor and will got o the extreme of throwing up to push buttons. I know this because the carrot went down easily for him when I was there.
    Start this program by choosing to believe in him 100%. Let me know how it goes with switching to whole grains at the supermarket.
    Dr Deb

    • Dr. Deb,

      Charlie was very enthusuastic about making the change to whole grains this morning. I think he feels very empowered because our entire family is making the change and it’s starting because of him. He went through our pantry and bread bin and threw out all of the non-whole grain products by himself before I even got out of bed! Our bread bin was totally empty and much of our snacks and pasta from the pantry were in the trash, even his beloved Ritz crackers. He assured his three sisters that all would be replaced with healthier whole grains when they returned home from school. Molly commented that she thought throwing out a lot of our food was wasteful, but Charlie told her, “Too bad…the change starts today.” He is loving that he finally has some say over anything his big sisters are doing! I am hoping that I can use this to my advantage in achieving my goal of making Charlie a healthy eater.
      We went to the grocery store with the handout you gave us and Charlie found whole wheat bread, english muffins, and sandwich buns. His favorite whole wheat bread of all is the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish sandwich bread shaped like the actual goldfish. Ritz did have a cracker that said whole grain on the front of the box, but Charlie checked the ingredients, shook his head, and said, “They’re lying!” We are having a whole wheat cracker taste test this evening to try the different kinds we bought. My only concern was the breakfast cereal Charlie found. Did you know the first ingredient of Cookie Crisp cereal is whole grain corn? Charlie was very proud of himself for finding that one. He showed me your list so I gave it a thumbs up. Now he wants cereal for dinner, but I’m going to try the whole grain pasta.

  5. Cindy,
    Go Charlie! Giving kids a sense of power and control is sometimes all it takes to turn around unhealthy habits. Let me know how the taste test goes. You are right in not letting him have cereal for dinner. It can be a dessert though once he eats his meal. In November we will talk about treats because even though the Cookie Crisp cereal is made from whole grains the second ingredient is sugar. That lesson will come next, for right now he is choosing whole grains and eating them which is fantastic.
    Dr Deb

  6. Hello Cindy,
    How did you weather the storm? I know you ate out at the hotel you stayed at because of the storm. How did Charlie do sticking to whole grains? We had a tough time ourselves. I saw how hard, or should I say next to impossible,it is to eat a healthy diet when you have to rely on others to serve you at restaurants and diners. I think after my experience eating out with my boys for three days I can confidently say that cooking at home is a necessity for good nutrition.

    I am sure you will have great stories of you and your 4 kids, plus one dog at a hotel in a blizzard in October!
    Dr Deb

    • Dr. Deb,

      I am sorry to say that our diet this past week has been horrible because of losing power and Halloween. Charlie was the first to fall of the wagon after the storm, but we all followed shortly thereafter. We checked into two hotel rooms with the kids and the dog the afternoon after we lost power. Our first meal was Dairy Queen because the hotel was at maximum capacity and the kitchen was not open. There is nothing at Dairy Queen that has any ingredient with the word whole or wheat in it! We considered ourselves lucky to find a restaurant with power so we all ate poorly. Our diet continued to spiral downwards from there as the next day was Halloween and I took the children trick-or-treating at the mall because our neighborhood was dark and dangerous with power lines down on the streets. Monday through Friday was a blur of hotel living, fast food and candy corn. Unfortunately, Charlie loved every minute of it.

      We just settled back in at home after getting power and went grocery shopping to replace all of the food we had to throw out. Charlie was not as excited about buying whole grains this time, but he and one of his sisters checked all of the ingredients on our purchases. I think he is going through detox after an overload of meals filled with fat and sugar. I feel like we are back at square one, but I’m not giving up. I do agree with you that cooking at home is a necessity foor eating well. I also noticed that it is much more expensive to eat healthier. Our grocery bill to re-stock our kitchen was over $600. However, I think it is money well spent. I look forward to having you visit Charlie again and hope you can help him regain his enthusiasm about good nutrition. Take care and be well,


      • Dr. Deb,

        Thank you for your visit and getting Charlie back on track yesterday. I still can’t believe that he threw out his Halloweeen candy to earn 22 points! He is very motivated by the chart you made with him. He hung it up immediately after you left and refused Edy’s Limited Edition Peppermint ice cream for dessert to earn more points. However, since Charlie does not eat any fruit, I didn”t know what to offer him for dessert. Any suggestions?

        Two of Charlie’s sisters, Molly and Emily, made charts and are on board to limit treats as well. Listening to Charlie explain to them what “4g’s” meant was comical. Emily had no idea what a gram meant and I don’t think Charlie did either, but he knows how to find the g’s on the food label and showed her. Now they are looking at the g’s of everything. The girls agonized over the peppermint ice cream (14 g’s) for about fifteen minutes after dinner and one could not take the temptation of it and ate some, but not a lot. She took great pride in having a small serving. The other had a bowl of ice cubes and water which my husband found amusing because he used to do the same thing as a child.

        Even though today will be our first full day of limiting treats, we are off to a great start. Breakfast was sugar free this morning with the exception of the natural sugar in fruit. I am assuming that does not count. Please let me know if it does.

        Thank you again for yesterday. Take care and be well,


        • Dr. Deb,

          Charlie is doing an amazing job with his treat chart! His piano teacher offered him a Starburst after a successful lesson and he asked her if she knew how many grams of sugar was in one Starburst. He turned it down because she didn’t know and he wanted to be on the safe side. The money incentives on his chart are defintiely working because he is raking in the cash! I know it may not seem reasonable to some parents, but for Charlie money talks loud and clear.

          Emily fell off the wagon and wanted to stop her chart, but Molly and Charlie are still going strong. However, going out to eat is definitely a challenge. I’m totally venting here, but I had issues with waitresses twice this week. I took the kids out for pizza (whole wheat crust) and the waitress offered gelato. Emily accepted, Molly denied, and Charlie inquired about the grams of sugar. The waitress said, “That’s ridiculous!” when Charlie told her about his treat chart. I was very irritated and told her that it would probably benefit her, too (she was an overweight college student). Our other experience was a bit more positive. We had hibachi for dinner and all was healthy with the exception of drinks. The kids all wanted their usual Japanese sodas, but (yet again) Charlie inquired about the grams of sugar and our waitress loved the idea of his treat chart so much that she chatted with him for quite a long time about it. Charlie was going back and forth about losing 10 points and the waitress finally came up with the solution to split the sodas among the children so they all only had four ounces of it. Her math was terrible and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the grams of sugar in the smaller portion was still over 15 grams, but I let it slide because Charlie seemed very satisfied with the solution and also with the pretty waitress from South Carolina. Charlie is quite a flirt at seven years old, not to mention that those ten points also brought him to the $25 dollar mark on his chart so he was very pleased with himself on both levels. Now Charlie has a new friend to offer her support during our weekly Wednesday night hibachi dinners!

          One last question: Should I be counting the sugar in beverages? I wasn’t, but Charlie is smarter than I thought and has been checking EVERYTHING that goes into his body. I never knew there were 22 grams of sugar in a glass of orange juice. Also, and I’m just sharing here, Charlie found vanilla cookies at Starbucks that come in a package of two with only 6 grams of sugar total so one cookie each is acceptable. However, the cookies are in the shapes of different animals and therein lies the problem. Today Emily and Charlie had a fight over an owl and a cat cookie!

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