The Problem of a Picky eater

If you’re like me, you’ve spent more than one evening at the dining table, coaxing, cajoling, threatening and bribing your kid to eat their dinner. Maybe you’ve even pulled the tried, but true “starving kids in Africa” routine. Here we’ll unpack, the true cost, problem and a few possible solutions to the dilemma of a picky eater.

Perhaps like me you have tired of forcing your kids to eat vegetables that you don’t particularly like, or maybe very much unlike me, you fix your kids different meals based on their preferences or allow them to ‘graze’ at will to the point ‘meals’ are a fluid subject.

But the truth of the matter is placating a picky eater:

  1. Costs more money
  2. Teaches our kids the wrong thing about our appetites
  3. Takes us off Mission and towards people pleasing

Picky eaters Cost More Money

The USDA estimates that “consumer level losses (are) 21 percent of the available food supply.”

In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. Retail-level losses represented 10 percent (43 billion pounds) and consumer-level losses 21 percent (90 billion pounds) of the available food supply. (Losses on the farm and between the farm and retailer were not estimated due to data limitations for some of the food groups.)

USDA -The Estimated Amount, Value, and
Calories of Postharvest Food Losses
at the Retail and Consumer Levels
in the United States

21 Percent!

Bring this back home. Take what you spent on groceries last month and multiply It by .21. That’s how much money you might be wasting in food each month.

For me, in a household of seven that percentage represents several hundred dollars a month. Waste doesn’t all get thrown out on the plate of course, some things spoil etc. But when our kids dictate their own diet you can bet the Pop-tarts will stay fresh and the spinach will go bad.

In addition, families with picky eaters eat out more. Not only is cooking a meal at home seen as work, it also guarantees a fight with your children. Nobody argues with their kid about eating a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. It’s far too easy to slip into an expensive and unhealthy eating-out routine when your children are picky.

Letting Picky-Eaters be Picky Teaches our Kids Wrong

What’s the purpose of food in your home?

Food is to keep us alive and healthy so that we can be productive members of our households, our communities, the church and the world.

When I was in the Army, we were careful to ensure we had ‘rations’ that could take us through unexpected delays and supply problems. Nobody wants to be ‘on mission’ on an empty stomach.

When we let picky eaters get their way, what we are communicating to our children is that food is not for sustenance, but that it is for pleasure. We communicate to our children that the desires of their flesh (the fact that they DON’T want spinach, or oatmeal, or whatever mom/dad cooked) should be obeyed.


The inability to say “no” to our bodies is an obvious problem in our culture. From drug use, gratuitous sex, rampant consumerism, and excessive screen time.

We are called as people on Mission, to train our kids in the discipline of the Holy Spirit. To teach them about self-control. We are actually to teach our kids that the desires of their flesh are subservient to the leading of the Spirit. Our Children are not subservient to those desires.

The Bible tells us that if we

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

James 5:17

Although undisciplined eating does not make Jame’s list of passions of the flesh. Too often Western-minded Christians pretend like their relationship with food has nothing to do with their walk with Jesus. And I whole-heartedly disagree.

Is it possible that our inability to eat vegetables and our unwillingness to budget are linked?

Could we combat addiction by training our kids to eat healthy regardless of what they ‘feel’ like?

Is rampant spending and rampant overeating linked?

What would our consumerist, addiction driven, fast-paced society look like, if all the Mission Minded Christ Followers raised self-controlled, mission minded children, that could say ‘No’ to the passions of their flesh (even the less ‘nefarious’ ones)?

Could this start with a small step at your dinner table?

Are we on Mission? Or Nannies?

Shout out to the moms and dads who change diapers, cook meals, stay up all night, and drive kids to soccer practice!

Being a parent can be hard.

Being a Christian parent can be doubly hard.


We are trying to not only keep our children alive (that’s a win in and of itself), but also teach them to follow Christ, on our knees every night praying that they will follow Jesus when they leave our home.

But we confuse what it means to be a parent and follow Christ.

My mission as a father isn’t to raise my kids to be moderately ‘well-adjusted kids’. My kids aren’t my mission, My kids are my mission’s TEAM.

When the Lucas family loads up into the minivan and gets on the road, we are a demon-stomping, heart-healing, Jesus-proclaiming mission team. (Sometimes I hear demons shudder). When we live our life as if our mission is to serve them. We miss out on years of productive service to Christ, while our eyes our focused on child rearing. Our kids, meanwhile, lose the experience of watching mission-minded parents in action.

We set the pace for our parenting mission with our children around the dinner table.

What to do About a Picky eater

If you have a picky eater, try a few of these ideas and see if they help.

Model it- “You can’t serve what you ain’t cooking,” as the saying goes. Purposefully avoiding dishes that YOU don’t prefer, models that pickiness is OK for the leader of your family (you)  but not for them. One thing that turns people off rules the fastest is hypocrisy. Be honest when you are eating a meal or dish that is not your favorite and then let your kids watch you eat it without complaining.

Set Meal-times- I fight my kids less over food than I used to. Now we are more likely to say. “that’s what’s for dinner, the next time you can eat is breakfast.” The truth is your kid is not going to starve to death if they miss a meal, but when they learn there is no other option (and you actually mean it), they’ll have to decide whether or not they are willing to go without a meal in order to avoid the food. I knew of a mom once, who kept the same bowl of oatmeal at her sons seat for 3 meals and wouldn’t dish him any more food until that had been eaten.

Mom, props to you! I just don’t have that kind of resolve.

help in kitchen

Fasting- The Spiritual Discipline of fasting is a lost art in our society. But it does much in order to curb appetites and train self control. For Lent, this year our kids have given up sweets, and they have corrected ME multiple times, when I have offered them some.

It’s not crazy to train your kids in spiritual disciplines while they are young. It sets them up for a self-controlled, mission minded life going forward. Fast with your child, let them help select age appropriate things they can go without for a period of time and join them.

Ask for their help- If your kids have a sense of ownership in the meal, they are more likely to eat it (and even take offense when others don’t). Let your kids help in the kitchen. Find age appropriate tasks for them to participate  in. My three year old can ‘beat the eggs’ and my eight year old can make pancakes start to finish (no, no one argues about eating pancakes). Show your kids the work that goes into preparing a meal


Much of our ‘money problems’ are less about knowledge and more about heart conditions. Picky eaters don’t only have an impact on our grocery budget, but they distract from your mission, and set wrong priorities for your child going forward.

What about you? Do you have a picky eater? What’s the impact on your budget? How do you handle it?

Leave a comment below.