Ask Miriam | Fussy Eater Creates Holiday Stress

Passover matzoh jewish holiday bread over wooden table background.
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Dear Miriam,

During this strangest of holiday experiences, what changes can I make to the Passover diet to accommodate my son? He’s 6, and he’s a picky eater under the best circumstances. So far this holiday, it’s been a struggle to get him to eat pretty much anything. It doesn’t feel healthy, compassionate or realistic to try to last through the week like this.


Desperate Times

Dear Desperate,

I am tempted to share recipes, offer food recommendations and suggest loosening your typical nutrition standards, which are all tactics I would use during a normal Passover with a picky eating 6-year-old. But, like with everything else during these strangest of times, only you know what is truly manageable for your family. I’ll still give you some ideas that I hope feel practical, but above and beyond all else, please do what will create the overall best physical and emotional outcomes for you and your family.

Start with what you have at home that fits into your family’s Passover eating practices. Smoothies and potato chips might get you through a lot of hangry moments. Don’t limit your son’s access to the things that he’s willing to eat, even if it seems not nutritionally sound or if, like me, you’re being asked to bring snacks to bedrooms far after the time when teeth are brushed and sleeping should be happening. If he’s willing to eat something, let him eat it. At this point, we’re only talking about a few more days, and just like pediatricians say to look at a toddler’s food intake over the course of a week rather than day-to-day, your 6-year-old will be fine if he subsists on suboptimal snack foods and then can reregulate by the end of the week.

If getting to the grocery store is a safe and realistic option right now, go with your son’s best interests in mind. (If you can get an online order, of course that is safer, but there’s no guarantee it would even arrive before the end of the holiday.) If there are one of two foods that you know he’ll eat (cheese sticks and raisins come to mind), load up on those and, again, don’t restrict his access.

If getting to the store isn’t the right move or if these options aren’t cutting it for any other reason, your family’s well-being does indeed need to be the priority. If your family historically avoids kitniyot (a strange category of mostly legumes that some Jews avoid on Passover), this may be the year to reconsider, even if it’s only for this year. Adding in rice (even if it’s in the form of pudding) or popcorn or peanut butter may be enough variety to get through the next few days.

And if, after all that, your son is really refusing to eat anything that could be considered food (rather than, say, half-moon-shaped fruit slices), then consider sending him into a locked cabinet to find some crackers or cereal, or even asking a non-Jewish neighbor if they can provide some socially distanced bread for him. If you celebrate eight days of Passover typically, you could consider celebrating seven days of the holiday like is the custom for Reform Jews, as well as Jews in Israel and anyone for whom the challenges of this year mean that eight days isn’t possible. 


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