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Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

1. Eliminate snacking and juice drinking 2 hours before mealtime.
2. Set boundaries.  No separate meals.
3. Include one dish at each meal that you know your child will enjoy.
4. Encourage your child to help with meal planning.  (Not What do you want? but Would you rather have this or that?.)
5. Have your child help shop for and prepare meals.
6. Try new ways of presenting the food.  (Sauces and dips can be attractive.)
7.  Relax.  Don't nag them about invisible micronutrients. See it as a challenge not a health crisis.

For a whole bunch of great ideas on helping your picky eater visit Laptop Lunches
.  And Dr. Susan Rubin has some additional  tips in her e-book "Winning the Picky Eater War".

Tomato Basil Soup

Recipe reprinted with permission from Feeding the Whole Family (third edition) by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

When I was a child tomato soup was one of my main comfort foods.  It is simple to make.  The nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, are thought by some to affect calcium stores negatively.  Perhaps that is why they are traditionally paired with calcium-rich dairy. The food company
Muir Glen makes a fire-roasted canned tomato that is yummy to use in this recipe.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon honey
cup sour cream

cup finely chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and salt and saut until onions are soft and translucent.  Add stock, tomatoes and honey and simmer for about 10-15 minutes to marry flavors.

Let soup cool slightly and put of it into blender with sour cream.  Blend until smooth.  Transfer to another pot.  Blend the other half of the soup and add.  Warm blended soup.  Add basil and pepper before serving.

Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Makes 4 servings


claire allen
You fogot something: Plant a vegetable garden with your kids. My son planted spinach seeds 5 years ago and still insists on eating a huge bowl of raw spinach most days with dinner. It's about ownership!
March 18, 2009, 3:14 pm

Donna Dorsey
Hi Cynthia, I was the one who left the comment on the blog asking your advice on this topic. Thanks so much for making this video! The tips you gave are excellent and I can't wait to try them out. It was especially reassuring to hear that I don't have to be a short order cook. That is exactly what I have been, feeling like if I didn't then my son wouldn't eat anything. But your other tips (for example limiting snacking and juice drinking) will set the stage for his eating better at mealtimes. We got into some bad habits, thanks for pointing us in the direction of some good ones! As always, love your videos. Thank you so much for sharing them!
March 22, 2009, 1:55 pm

cheryl cuevas
Hi Cynthia. Thanks for your wonderful videos. Here's a different take on picky eaters. If your child consistently turns down a specific food, it's worth considering the slim possibility that they may have a sensitivity to that food. I always hated milk as a child and recently came to find out I'm lactose intolerant. It all makes sense now. Cheers!
May 8, 2009, 2:54 pm

Cynthia Lair
Right Cheryl, Same for me. I don't have a lactose intolerance but find straight milk pretty indigestible and didn't like it as a child. I prefer the fermented dairy products - live cultures help the belly!
May 8, 2009, 9:09 pm

Cynthia Childs
OK, so I think we have broken all the picky eater rules. We have a 12-year-old who is the pickiest eater I have ever known - he eats NO fruits or vegetables (salsa being the one exception) and he refuses to try fruits or vegetables. He gags if we make him (I know, we probably shouldn't make him). Is it too late to institute your rules? And what do we do on the nights when we, the parents, are having something 'fancy' that we know they won't eat but we want it?
July 2, 2009, 10:59 am

Cynthia Lair
Hi Cynthia, I'd start by making sure that every meal (fancy or not) has something included that you know your child will like. Even if it is simply bread and butter. You are right, do not make him eat food. Your next step is to relax and ignore the fact that he doesn't eat fruits or vegetables and enjoy them yourselves. No bribes, no lies. Enjoy is the key word.
July 2, 2009, 1:00 pm

Sarah Kingston
Hi Cynthia, I'm looking through the lunch box section again (please may I never have to make another ham sandwich!) and I'm wondering about the thermos. Do you warm up the soup in the morning and send him to school with it? What kind of thermos do you have? I know there are many that are stainless steel in the inside, and I'll just assume you're not using one that's all plastic, but really, what are the options? And please continue with the wonderful lunch ideas!
September 22, 2009, 7:15 am

Cynthia Lair
Hi Sarah, I have always used a small stainless steel thermos such as the link below shows. Laptop lunches sells some lunch jars for packing hot items that are stainless steel.
September 22, 2009, 11:34 am

Charles Andrews
Hi Cynthia, My wife wanted tomato soup soup this week, but I don't have a good recipe for it. I came to your website and found this recipe. It is super good. Thanks for sharing it. I also made some applesauce--we made some in Whole Foods Production--so that I could add something to our lunches!
January 28, 2010, 2:09 pm

Jennifer Johnson
Wow, my kids loved this soup and we didn't have any leftovers : ) I used 1 1/2 tsp dried basil and nonfat greek yogurt instead of sour cream as substitutes. Delish
March 13, 2010, 7:39 pm

Lori Flanagan
I have to disagree a bit w/ not talking to your kids about different nutrients. My oldest is a carbavore and he's been much sicker this year than his younger brother and been eating less and less veggies. Yesterday due to parties he had fast food pizza and sweets for lunch and dinner. Last night he was miserable w/ gas and couldn't sleep from the pain. We talked about what he ate during the day. This am he was begging for your massaged kale salad with all his meals. Went to sleep with no gas/pain even though he had plenty of sweets (3 parties today - tis the season.)
June 5, 2010, 6:39 pm

Sarah Kingston
I've made this soup a couple of times in the fast weeks, and the first time, there was just not enough! We use the Muir Glen tomatoes, and it makes the soup spicy! I made the soup a couple of days ago and doubled the recipe (family of 5, you see), sent the kids thermoses for lunch, with quesadillas made with beautiful pastured milk cheddar and those sprouted grain tortillas, which the kids like even when they're cold. Then, today, I simmered the almost 2 cups of leftover soup (for an hour) with some cumin, paprika, tabasco, thyme, and a touch of white wine, for a great Patatas Bravas sauce to put over rosemary roasted potatoes! We have a local producer of organic sausages and stuff, so I made a hash of chorizo, carrots, onions, and zucchini to go with. Another great success, even with the kids.
September 16, 2010, 5:05 pm

Ivette Ivette
I really want to find a fresh tomatoe soup with no dairy. Please help. And I prefer it with garlic and basil
November 2, 2010, 9:53 am

Cynthia Lair
Hi Ivette, Try making this soup with coconut milk instead of sour cream.
November 2, 2010, 2:18 pm

Harmony Hasbrook
After reading Feeding the Whole Family it occurred to me that my 3 year old just didn't like cooked veggies. She loves raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, red peppers, even raw green beans. What kid doesn't like crunchy and sweet? So I started including a fresh veggie plate, with dressing (Annie's goddess) in the middle to dip, for the family to share every dinner. Now everyone eats more veggies, and all the little one is required to do is try the main dish (often just one bite), and mommy is happy.
January 3, 2012, 10:35 pm

Pattie R.
Hi Cynthia - I have an overabundance of fresh tomatoes from my garden, can I use those instead of the canned? Would I need to cook this longer? Thank you!
September 20, 2015, 6:39 pm

Cynthia Lair
Absolutely Pattie. You may want to blanch them and slip the skins off first. The cooking time will take longer. Wait for the tomatoes to start falling apart.
September 21, 2015, 7:41 am

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