44 Things We’ve Said to Our Kids to Get them to Eat

  1. Please?
  2. Try holding your nose.
  3. See how the fish is pink? Princesses love pink. Salmon is what princesses eat! It’s princess food! Yay princesses!!!
  4. If you don’t eat this, I will take the dog for a walk and never come home.
  5. You know how sometimes a needle is so sharp you don’t even feel it? That’s what this chili is like. It’s so spicy that you won’t even taste anything.
  6. Try the swordfish. It’s like white salmon.
  7. Try the cauliflower. It’s like white broccoli.
  8. Try the tofu. It’s like white-ish chicken.
  9. Try eating. It’s how you survive.
  10. I went through full labor and then had a C-section in order to bring you into this world. I almost died for you. You owe me.
  11. If you don’t eat it, then I will. And then I’ll hate myself.
  12. Don’t you love Daddy?
  13. Let me ask you one question: Why must you torment me so?
  14. It’s lemon sole!!! Isn’t that a fun name? Sole is a fish. You like fish, don’t you? Don’t you love salmon? Well, salmon is also a fish! Sole is like salmon’s cousin, in that they both swim in the ocean. They swim around and are cute. It’s really good. It’s even better than salmon! You like fish. You’ll love this. I promise. Just think of it as salmon. Or, okay, chicken. It tastes a little like chicken, too. Oh come on, you love chicken. This is breaded and fried, just like the chicken we make. It’s like that, but even better. Think of it as chicken and salmon mixed together, and you love both of those things, right? Don’t you? You don’t?
  15. Pretty please?
  16. If you don’t try this, Santa won’t come.
  17. The doctor said you need to eat this.
  18. There’s no more ketchup. Heinz stopped making ketchup last week. It was in all the newspapers. A newspaper is something you read.
  19. Don’t eat?  No treat.
  20. Let’s think about this logically for a minute, okay?
  21. One bite one bite one bite one bite one bite one bite one bite one bite.
  22. Remember the Mac and Cheese you loved at that restaurant in Charleston? This is the exact same recipe, from that restaurant’s cookbook, written by the exact same chef who made it for you then. And now I’m taking his exact instructions and recreating the exact same meal for you right here at your table in New York. How cool is that??
  23. How do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tried it? And yeah, I just said that.
  24. If you try this, we’ll talk about getting you that Polly Pocket Cruise Ship Set that will sit on our living room floor like a hideous speed bump for the next five years until I throw it away one day when you’re not looking.
  25. Let’s play a game: Pretend your life depended on finishing this.
  26. Quick! Look over there!
  27. Do you enjoy this? Is that why you do this?
  28. You like watching your mother cry? Is that it?
  29. Your sister finished hers.
  30. You think Tony Stark leaves any kale on his plate?
  31. You liked it yesterday!?
  32. You liked it when Aunt Lynn made it for you.
  33. Your little chicken is lonely and sad and will only be happy when he’s reunited with his potato friends in your stomach.
  34. Man cannot survive on pasta alone.
  35. What do you think tomato sauce is made out of?
  36. Don’t you want to live for a long time?
  37. Don’t you want to outlive your parents?
  38. Do you want the dog to get fat? Because she should not be eating this much hamburger meat every night.
  39. I’m counting to three.
  40. I mean five.
  41. I mean ten.
  42. I loved this meal when I was a kid.
  43. I hated this meal when I was a kid.
  44. Don’t look at it, just eat it.
Photos of Phoebe (!) by Ronnie Andren, circa 2002.


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45. do you know what MY mother made ME eat as a kid? not nearly as tasty as THIS!!

46. do you know how hard i slaved over the stove to put risotto on your plate? who doesn’t like risotto??

47. tastes change! if you didn’t like it last time, you might love it this time!


Close your eyes and open your mouth. Sadly, said to a ten year old.
I will have to borrow the Tony Stark one.


Jerry Seinfeld was interviewed and he said the number one line he still uses in real life from his sitcom ‘Seinfeld’ is what he uses on his kids when he’s trying to get them to eat something new. “If you’re one of us, you’ll eat it.”


Also, “Don’t you DARE eat that.” (Sometimes reverse psychology works with my youngest, though she’s kind of on to me now.)


“There’s no more ketchup. Heinz stopped making ketchup last week. It was in all the newspapers. A newspaper is something you read.” -basically a microcosm of raising children, in 4 sentences.


Then close your eyes when you eat it so you won’t see the mushroom.

It all gets mixed together in your stomach anyway.

Have you tried them recently? I used to hate peas, but now I like them. Maybe you like them now too.


“But your brother is eating it!”

When you have one picky eater and one who eats EVERYTHING. Half lucky I guess.

Sarah Karp

I use the one about princess salmon all the time; I got the idea from your cookbook! And it works! I love your honesty Jenny. I feel like so many parents I know are always bragging about how their kids eat everything. I was seriously freaking out about my toddler being picky about food until I read the part in your book about how one of your girls hardly ate for a whole year. You have been a life-saver when it comes to family dinners in my house.


Oh, man, this could not have come at a better time, when the younger is getting over being sick and therefore not eating, and the older is mad that the younger got so much attention while sick and is lashing out by complaining about every single dinner and mom can no.longer.deal. It’s always nice to be reminded that I’m not alone!

A Life From Scratch

This was perfection. My go to threats are for SURE the DR and ‘your brother is eating this and he is a toddler.’ I totally play off the competition between the two of them. Not sure why, as it never works. Sigh.


My Aunt Theresa once told me that it was important to talk to other parents of young children when raising your own children. If for anything…so that you know your kids are in fact normal. This list is a perfect example of what she was talking about! Although, I think by normal she meant oppositional little turds. 😉


“It’s potatoes, corn and meat (or any other ingredients in the plate). You love everything in this plate. Eat it”

That’s one that happens a lot here, since I have a daughter that seems adverse to mixes. But mixes are sooo easy on a monday night…


What, not one ‘starving children in Africa’ reference? I’m so disappointed, how times have changed since I was a kid lol


Wonder how old were they when you had to say all this?

And greetings and thanks from Russia! Your blog is one of the few I’ve read from your very first post!


#45 eating your fish will give you energy so you can run fast at soccer game
#46 if you don’t eat shrimp/halibut/tomato you won’t grow and will stay small


I am not a parent but I am thrown…

For toddlers i get it as they cannot understand about effort, try and so on, but for kids…

I am over 30 and I never heard any of these phrases from my parents, I have a 9 year old half sister and never heard it said to her either…

I did hear that if I wasn’t eating i’d get the same thing for the next meal and the next and the next until I was done with my plate.
And it happened, very few times… Pickiness was not an option.
My brother hated tomatoes and onions, he only got white pasta and was told to stop whining about the onions.

I always taught i’d behave in the same way with my kids… In my family, at my grand parents’ generation there were bunches of up to 17 kids ! I guess the moms had no time to take into account the fact that one kid did’nt like something… and the attitude just stuck

The only meal that I got out of: the horrible chicken in bechamel that tastes like glue our babysitter made sometimes. So horrible it made us gag when we tried to swallow it. We got a peanut butter voucher for this meal.

But I wonder, am I being super unrealistic about parenting here ? Will I eat a huge brick wall when I have children ?


We used “this for that” often…keeping the sweet blueberries within sight but out of reach when our now 6yr old was just starting to get her own opinions (how dare she?!?) about meals. While we dont use the same term, the idea is still the same for her even now.


For when I serve something new (up to about the 10th time I serve it): You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it.

For when I serve something they have eaten in the past but have now decided they don’t like: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat it.

And occasionally: You have to eat a little of everything.

I am trying to stick to these, delivered in my kindest voice (no hair pulling, frothing at the mouth, weeping — I leave that to the kids).

My husband’s phrase: SHUT UP and eat it already.

Still working on him.


I have never laughed so much as I did reading this list. I have heard a better part of this list when I was growing up and with a heavy heart I use most of them on my daughter.

@ Babou: All is well when you dont have a picky eater at your hand. And each kid is different and each parent is different with each kid. Dont fret too much about being a parent, you have to learn and unlearn a lot once you are one.


“You have to learn and unlearn a lot” once you become a parent. Very well said, Keerthi.


So many of these same phrases have been used in our household. I am astounded at the level of craziness that children inspire in their parents. Yesterday I totally told my daughter that she needed to stop whining about no more soy sauce on the noodles, because if she ate the (relatively) plain noodle it would go join the soy sauce in her stomach and they would have a “big old party in there.”
Worked like a charm, she loved the idea of a party in her stomach!
We’ve also told her that she can make hummus in her mouth by chewing chickpeas, and guacamole by chewing avocado slices. This works well unless she wants to check her product by spitting it back onto the plate.

Liz @ ListenToTheFood

Try to maintain your Serious Mommy Face when your older son scarfs down his little sister’s ickyicky broccoli the second your back is turned. It cannot be done! Dessert for everyone.


this is fantastic! i have two year old twins and the negotiating has just recently begun at our house.

as an aside, i wrote a post on my blog today about your cook book and how therapeutic i found it! thanks so much for writing the way you do and sharing it with all of us 🙂


I’m not sure what it says about us that I have said an-uncomfortable-number of these things to my picky boyfriend! I’ve found the trick that works best is to disguise the things he doesn’t like in things he does, and wait until he gives a rave review to blow his mind. 😉

online games

You can’t grow up if you don’t eat!
You cannot be a superman if you don’t eat this, you can’t protect your sister!
If you don’t eat, I won’t let you eat the birthday cake!
If you don’t eat, I won’t take you to the supermarket anymore
If you don’t try, you never know how tasty it is

Sometimes I feel like I have too much experiences when I even don’t have a child 🙂


Boy, does this make me feel better. Better in a ‘misery loves company’ kinda way. Even if ours miseries are years apart. I am new to your blog and, seeing it as a newly discovered treasure trove of easy weeknight magic, I dove in head! first! I mean, it was a bender!! So many options! Her kids eat everything! (I know: your specifically warned against this exact behavior in your “New Here?” section, and I clearly paid that as much mind as the “Please drink responsibly” labels I must have seen (?) in my twenties.) Anyhow, I emerged, head pounding, hungover from a dreadful case of Internet-Comparison Syndrome. Her kids eat everything. I don’t even want to recount the simmering rage my son experienced that next morning when he rejected the mango smoothie (Of his own request! That we specifically sourced the mangoes for with a special trip to the store! A thoroughly pre-meditated smoothie that now sits in the fridge, rejected on account of the fact that ‘there are pieces in it’.) There was a hastily, loudly, pronounced new rule of the kitchen: You get what you get, or you get it yourself! (I know. It got ugly. All hangovers carry a tinge of shame.) As the hangover wore off, I recalibrated. This post helped a lot. I’ll never pull off that dictator-like pronouncement, but I just may wrest back control a bit of what gets cooked and presented and, hopefully, one day, tried. And, maybe if the stars align, even enjoyed.


I found this, and I feel seen. I have a three year old that only eats plain rice, bread (no crusts) and pasta (as long as I don’t put any red sauce on it, pesto is ok). Smoked salmon gets consumed in small amounts, but salmon in other forms do not. Please tell me it gets better!