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Help! Need food ideas for a picky eater


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My Dad is visiting for two weeks and has a rather lengthy list of foods he won't eat. Here you are:

All meat, including fish and any sort of broth (Basically, if a chicken walked past it, he's not going to eat it.)

Eggs - not whites either

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, onions, shallots, leeks, turnips, garlic, peanuts, beets, ginger, carrots, mushrooms, chocolate

He'll only eat limited amounts of cheese, butter and/or cream.

He will eat green onion tops and chives in small amounts.

I've had a few ideas for dinner like pizza (without garlic), bean soups, pasta with tomato sauce - but I'm struggling here. What about breakfast? Lunch? Dessert? I should also mention my Dad is too skinny and I'm interested in fattening him up a bit. I'm grateful he'll even eat dessert, but after fruit crisps, fruit pies and shortbread, I'm stuck.

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Have him make as much of his own food as possible, it will be much more relaxing for you both, and more successful. I'm speaking as both a picky/restricted eater, and someone who's fed even pickier/more restricted eaters than myself.

Most of the picky eaters I know aren't easily bored, by the way, and will eat the the same things again and again without any problem.

Just ask him to name a bunch of things he does eat, and have the ingredients available for those dishes.

What does he normally eat for breakfast? Isn't toast with whatever he puts on it an option? I don't handle wheat particularly well, so if I even eat breakfast, I'll grab a couple of slices of Wasa (the 100% rye ones).

Does he eat chocolate?

Unless he's ill, I wouldn't worry about fattening him up.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I agree with Michaela: ask him what he DOES eat and then have lots of that around. You can try some variations while he's there, just to see if he'll go for it.

The problem with most picky eaters that I've known is that they have a very high "ewwwwwwww" factor going on and they get disgusted very easily. One of my son's friends stayed with us and he only ate things like pizza (plain!) and hot dogs with mustard. Well one day some mustard dripped out of his hot dog onto a corner of his slice of pizza...he was so grossed out that he couldn't finish the hot dog or the pizza and ate nothing for the rest of the day.

You can't fight that kind of sensitivity, you just have to respect it and give it lots of space.

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Well, maybe I should explain more. My Dad isn't picky so much as concerned about his health. The meat and the eggs thing is new. He thinks it'd be healthier to not eat these things (temporarily, he says). He actually LIKES all of those foods (except for cucumbers, which he says make him burp), but won't eat them because he thinks they aren't good for him. I can't argue with him - he's my DAD and I love him. I rarely get to see him (I live overseas) and I really want to fuss over him. He's losing weight because all the foods he's eating seem to be low calorie. He's always been slim, but now he's - well, skinny. I find it troubling. He isn't intending to lose weight, it's just a side effect of the diet change.

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Hm... well, regardless of his reasons, if what he's willing to eat is restricted, that's what you have to work with. You may need to find a different area in which to fuss over him, since at the moment, at least, food doesn't sound like it's on the 'fun/pleasure platform' for him, and he'll probably just feel a bit bad if you're trying really hard, and he can't truly appreciate your efforts. This is essentially the strategy that my sister-in-law takes, because my brother is the most restricted, picky eater I know.

For ideas (even just starting points), you might look into cuisines that run to a lot of meatless options (e.g. Indian; you can always adjust the spices, if he doesn't go for that sort of thing), since even recipes that feature meat are often easily turned into vegetarian options.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Some suggested items, if he think they sound ok:

Breakfast

Oatmeal with fresh fruit (I like apples and walnuts with honey.) I make old-fashioned oats because I prefer the texture.

Fresh bread, make the dough the night before.

Lunch & Dinner

Bean dishes (look to Mexico as well as India)

Rice dishes -there's a huge variety of these, from risotto to fried rice to vegetable sushi

Noodle dishes -once again check out the whole world: vegetarian pho[/url, chinese curry noodles, primavera, pasta salad

In terms of calories, nut butters and avocados are full of fat and nutrition. So, make a Mexican meal featuring guacamole, or make an asian meal featuring 'peanut noodles' made with toasted almond butter, etc.

There are some vegetarian threads on this site, BTW.

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How he justifies sweet potatoes or carrots being unhealthy is a great trick. Sounds like he eats carbs, though, so high calorie carbs like brown rice, bulgur wheat, pasta etc., with vegetables he WILL eat sauteed in ample olive oil might be a good start. It's always hard to see someone lose more weight than is healthy. Maybe you could convince him to see a nutritionist to help come up with a palatable diet and some new ideas that he could cook himself when he's on his own; quirky eaters are the bread and butter of nutritionists and many nutritionists have some excellent ideas for high calorie foods that don't include butter or animal fats. Peanut butter and avocados come to mind. My too-skinny daughter was told to drink orange juice for a mid-meal snack, since that's high carb as well.

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My Dad is visiting for two weeks and has a rather lengthy list of foods he won't eat. Here you are:

All meat, including fish and any sort of broth (Basically, if a chicken walked past it, he's not going to eat it.)

Eggs - not whites either

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, onions, shallots, leeks, turnips, garlic, peanuts, beets, ginger, carrots, mushrooms, chocolate

He'll only eat limited amounts of cheese, butter and/or cream.

He will eat green onion tops and chives in small amounts.

I've had a few ideas for dinner like pizza (without garlic), bean soups, pasta with tomato sauce - but I'm struggling here. What about breakfast? Lunch? Dessert? I should also mention my Dad is too skinny and I'm interested in fattening him up a bit. I'm grateful he'll even eat dessert, but after fruit crisps, fruit pies and shortbread, I'm stuck.

I take it he will eat fresh herbs?

You might do okay with:

  • Pasta with a little butter/olive oil and large amounts of fresh mixed herbs
  • Parmesan and black pepper spaghetti with a plain green salad
  • Tomato salads dressed with basil and eaten with warm, crusty bread
  • Single-vegetable cream soups (pea, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato etc) finished with a touch of cream and spiked with lemon and a complementary herb or two, plus bread.s
  • Simple fried rice with an 'Asian' flavoured coleslaw, or served in lettuce cups
  • Lentils cooked with a bit of chile, tomatoes, celery and peppers/capsicum. Serve with rice and top with a bit of cheese or sour cream.
  • Roughly-mashed beans in a tortilla with a bit of feta - pan fry then pry it open and add some avocado mashed with salt and lime and a big pinch of shredded cabbage.
  • eggplant stir fried with red peppers and vegetarian oyster sauce, top with onion tops
  • Avocado, tomato and cheese on toast run under the broiler
  • Curried cabbage (squares of cabbage fried in curry powder-spiked butter) with rice - a staple of my student days. Very good with a bit of plain yoghurt, if he will eat that.

As far as desserts go, you also could try fruits poached in syrups. And I still like homemade applesauce topped with granola (which can be very high calorie).

For breakfast, avocado or tomatoes on toast is always good.

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Tofu - does he eat tofu? You can fry them and toss them with salt & pepper, you can steam them and top with green onion and soy sauce, it can go into a vegetarian stir fry (i.e. tofu and green beans).

You should be able to find some good vegetarian dishes that fit with his diet, especially looking into Asian cuisines.

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Lots of ideas coming up here!

You could also do some between meal snacking with your dad: pita, olive oil, dukkah, baba ganoush and/or hummus (no garlic!); poppadums and spinach raita; tortilla chips, simple guacamole and salsa; cheese, crackers and dried fruits; veg sticks and curry yoghurt dip (I am still making yoghurt assumptions here). Those are the kinds of food you can enjoy while catching up with each other and it puts less pressure on dinner to be traditional or substantial. What season is it where you are? I've happily eaten meals that consist only of one veg (asparagus and corn especially), and this wouldn't seem that odd if you had a substantial pre-dinner snack.

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You can pre cook some puff pastry spread with tomato puree and then slice raw tomatoes on the top and bake it again for about 15 minutes, very tasty and might be better than suggesting pizza if he is against cheese. Also you could do a sort of melanzane parmigiana with only a little added cheese, likewise an adapted ratatouille with some crusty bread or rice if he'll eat that is good too. Hope everything goes ok - at the end of it I'm sure he'll just be pleased to spend time with you.

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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