I am not a parenting "expert". I am however a parent of an 8 year old and a 3 year old. Both have been labeled "good eaters" by friends and family alike. Other parents marvel over how well my kids eat and the fact that they will try anything that is put in front of them. They will eat fish, vegetables, stew, just about anything I put in front of them. I have been asked countless times how I manage to get them to eat so well. I always tell parents in a conspiratorial tone that I discovered the cure for a picky eater. Are you ready for it? It's HUNGER! Yep, you read that right, Hunger. Both my kids tried to be picky eaters, they really did. We had tears an tantrums "I don't like thaaat, I want thiiiiis!"...it didn't work! After they turned their noses up at their dinner, I simply placed it in the fridge and brought it out when they complained "I'm starving" an hour later (if kids find a food unappealing at mealtime, it is even less so hours later, cold from being in the fridge). It really it didn't take very long for them to catch on.
Parents need to realize that kids are smart. Much smarter than we give them credit for. They will not starve themselves to death, they will howver hold out for something better. If they know they can have cookies rather than dinner, they will refuse their meal. If, however, they know (because they have been taught) that they must eat the meal that is presented to them, or nothing at all, they WILL eat their dinner, trust me!
Send a picky eater and at my home, they will eat whaterever I put on their plate. Why, because they learn very quickly that if they don't, there is nothing else. I will hang onto the food they didn't want, should they choose to eat it, but there will be nothing else offered. I add insult to injury by offering whoever did finish their meal dessert. I know it may sound mean or even extreme, but it works...
Update On Dec 07, 2010: We had our Nephews come up for a few weekends this summer. Both boys are notoriously picky eaters, turning their noses up at almost everything. My Mother-In-Law will often wind up cooking 2-3 different meals to please everyone. My in-laws were constantly amazed at what they were eating for us, things they would never dream of eating at home, they were happily eating here. No tears, No tantrums. No complaints. The boys have learned that while they are here, they eat what we cook. Period.
Try my magic "Hunger" cure. It works.