Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Picky Eater

I always told myself I wouldn't be one of those moms who let their kids exist solely on chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese.  I wasn't going to be one of those moms who made a special separate meal for the kids.  I wanted to raise adventurous eaters; eaters who even if they had a list of foods they didn't like that was a mile long would still be willing to try something new.


I did everything right.  As my child was able to eat more solids without issue, I started to introduce him to the foods that my husband and I ate.  He didn't get special kid meals of pasta and veggies while we dined on other things.  He ate what we ate, and more importantly, he liked it.  This kid would clean his plate at almost every meal.  He was such a good eater we couldn't believe that he was only in the 8th percentile for weight.  By the time he was 15 or 16 months I had fed him sushi (just California rolls though), curry, tamales, various pasta dishes... just lots of stuff you don't normally hear about toddlers eating.  

I was so proud of my "good" eater!

Then he hit 18 months and something happened.  I'm not sure why, but he started to turn up his nose at stuff that he had previously enjoyed.  One by one, fruits and veggies were eliminated from the list of foods he deemed acceptable.  Forget anything with any kind of sauce on it - if he ate pasta it had to be plain.  Meats were not welcomed on his plate either, each being eliminated like other foods had been until not even his beloved shrimp remained.  The pizza that he once devoured with glee was now left behind in favor of a few bites of dry crust.

His preferred foods became carbs - plain pasta, plain breads (ooh how the boy loves croissants!), crackers, chips, plain rice.  You can't raise a healthy human on that!  Thankfully last year a friend of a friend told us about those Plum pouch baby foods.  By telling him that they were "juice" we were able to get a little bit of fruits and vegetables back into his diet.  Even so, after a year of getting him to eat most of the varieties they make he is now refusing all but the pear and mango flavors.  All the other ones that were good to him before are suddenly gross.

He likes yogurt, but only the baby kind that doesn't have any chunks of fruit in it.  It has to be completely smooth or he won't eat it.  He will eat cereal, but only the "fun" ones and it has to be dry.  The whole wheat waffles that used to be a sure thing at meal time now go uneaten - unless they're paired with syrup, of course.  The only meats he will eat are chicken nuggets (surprise!) and cheeseburgers - but only the ones from McDonald's, and only if they're plain.  Oh, and fried shrimp from the Hawaiian barbecue place.  Random.

We still offer him other foods in hope that he'll simply decide one day to start eating them again.  He just started eating apples again a couple of months ago which really surprised me and made us so happy.  He also ate a few grapes the other night after an almost six month long hiatus from them.  I don't want to force him to eat anything, because I know I wouldn't like it if someone did that to me.  If he takes a bite of something and obviously doesn't like it, I won't make him eat it.  He gags and retches, and I really have no desire to clean vomit.

The problem I'm having is when he will eat three or four bites of something, and then decide it's gross.  How was it not gross before?  How was it acceptable for half a meal and all of a sudden it makes you gag?  Or if it is something that he's been eating all along, like the afore mentioned waffles?  Those were his absolute favorite thing to eat, and then one day they were gross and he almost puked when I gave him one.  What is that all about?

So, he's refusing to eat what we eat at meal times.  He's refusing what I offer him for snacks.  This means a whole day can go by and he will literally only eat four bites of food all day.  This freaks me out!  I know that with a toddler that this can be normal and you're supposed to look at what they eat over a week's time, but over a week's time it still isn't very much.  So, when he does happen to tell one of us that he's hungry and wants something, we jump on that with a quickness, lest he change his mind.

This means he gets crackers.  He gets chicken nuggets.  He gets mac and cheese.  He basically gets the diet that I did NOT want him to have!  Even worse, lately he'll ask for food, take two or three bites, then refuse to finish it.  So much food has been wasted because of this around here lately.  It's making me crazy.  I don't know what to do.  I went online to try to find ideas for things I could feed him.  Here is a sample menu from one site

Sounds reasonable, right?  Let's break it down:

The comments in red are things he just plain refuses.  The stuff in green is what I know he will eat.  The stuff in blue is the hit or miss stuff - sometimes he'll eat it, other times he won't, or he'll eat it but only a couple of bites, or I've never fed it to him before so I just plain don't know if he'll eat it.  Honestly, the only things on this list that fall into that category are the dutch baby and the rice cakes.  I really have tried to get a large variety of foods into this kid!

So what can I get him to eat off this list?  Milk.  Juice.  Apples.  A little bit of oatmeal.  A little bit of pancake if I pair it with syrup, which honestly I'd rather not do.  Yogurt.  A few bites of toast.

A healthy child this diet will  not make!

I don't know what to do, and I'm totally frustrated about this and at my wit's end.  I'm tired of wasting food in attempts to get him to eat.  I don't want to force him to eat anything he obviously doesn't like, but I don't want him to grow up thinking it's okay to refuse things without at least trying them first.  I want him to get proper nutrition and a diet of carbs with a fruit puree or yogurt tossed in here and there isn't going to do it.

I've talked to our pediatrician about this and she said since he's growing, and actually has gone UP on the growth curve he was on (HOW???) she's not worried.  She did have us stop giving him the Pediasure shakes we were doing because they were a crutch so he wouldn't have to eat.  So, at least there's that.

How does a kid not like watermelon?  Smoothies?  Strawberries?  Spaghetti?  Pizza?  I swear this isn't normal.  I'm open to suggestions here because I've simply run out of ideas at this point.



Blogger Lindsay Teague Moreno | 5ive Photo said...

Dude, my girls are doing this same thing and I'm like you...I'm not letting them eat crap, there needs to be a fruit/veg at every meal and I'm not making 2 meals. Some nights they hardly eat. Doesn't seem to bother them but I worry. Boston will only eat dry cereal like Sawyer. They have some days where they eat everything and M and I are left scratching our heads. Sometimes they won't even eat McNuggs. Who knows what's going on in that brain. I know that when I pack their lunch, I give them no choice as to what they have and they ALWAYS eat it all. So strange. Maybe it's me? Seriously, I think it's because they know there is other good stuff in the house to eat and they want it. At school, they get what they get and they know I'm not there to give a response as to what they are or are not eating.

I will say that the girls seem to be doing better. We found that they love chicken as long as it's marinated and grilled. So we do a lot of that, but they're doing okay on the growth charts so I'm just going to guess that kids will like what they like and will be picky eaters if that's what God made them to be.

Let's make a pact not to worry about it anymore because I could have written this same blog post.

My friend Kelly says that if her kids don't like what's for dinner she offers them Cheerios and that's the only alternative they have. Cereal or nothing. Maybe that will work?


5:05 PM  
Blogger Miss M! said...

He told me he was hungry and wanted pasta. I asked if he was sure. He said yes. I asked if he was going to eat it all. he said yes. I told him if he didn't eat it I was going to send him to time out. He said okay; pasta please! So I made the pasta and he ate three bites. I made him turn off the video he was watching, he still refused to eat. I made him sit at the table for a freaking HOUR AND A HALF and all he did was cry and say he wanted to put it in the fridge. Finally I sent him to bed and now he's crying that - you guessed it! - he wants to eat that pasta now. SO FRUSTRATING!!!

5:07 PM  
Blogger kingsqueen said...

It sounds very typical of a 3 year old. It could be food texture issues (hence the gagging) or a control thing. He's getting to an age where he may want to have some control over something, so it becomes what he eats. The rule with my kids was that they had to try one bite of everything on the plate before they could say they didn't like it. Then they were allowed to have something else. But it would be very simple, like a sandwich. I agree that you don't want to force him to eat things or to make a power struggle over it. If you make a dinner that you know will be refused, make sure there is at least one thing on his plate that you know will be eaten. Keep offering him the foods he liked and new foods. It may take a while, but he will probably come back around. And I really get you on the food wasting! It's really frustrating. Oh - and I know your little guy likes to help in the kitchen. Sometimes I've heard that they are more willing to try things that they have helped make. Just a suggestion. Good luck!

5:26 PM  
Blogger Felicia said...

There goes my theory that kids that were fed homemade baby food are good eaters. I swear that's why my boy is such a good eater. You just blew that out of the water. Sorry no suggestions. =(

5:39 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I have zero advice :( but I am so scared that we're going to hit the same wall here! I've heard so many parents going through this.

6:15 PM  
Blogger LaurKnotter said...

Could it be a sensory integration issue? Is he sensitive to loud noises or scratchy clothes? Maybe it's a phase and he will wake up one morning and want to eat anything and everything.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Ours is only 9 months old, so I can't tell you from experience yet what works. But I can tell you our plan. We plan on letting him eat what we eat, period, end of story. I might be a tad more cold hearted than most people, but I know that my kid isn't going to let himself starve. It might cause some tears at first, but maybe it's the only way to get him to eat what you make? Like the previous poster said- when they know they dont have any other option then they will eat. Anyways thats my two cents. Good luck!

7:19 AM  
Blogger how i met your father blog said...

the boy sounds a lot like me when i was little. my parents say that i at one point ate everything and all of a sudden became the pickiest eater in the world. carbs were my sustenance plain pasta, nothing with sauces, i refused even doritos. my mom thought it was a battle of wills type control issue (i wanted to be the boss of something in my life).

i also needed to eat the same things for lunch - peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) every day for nine years. seriously. the one day i got a bagel i actually used the pay phone to call my mom (i was in high school).

our pediatrician told my mom to make me eat a shot glass of something new three nights a week. so if the family was eating pasta with red sauce i would get pasta with nothing on it - and then a shot glass of pasta with red. i hate to eat it before leaving the table. this was also how i tried peas, mashed potatoes, etc. etc. etc.

best of luck. i don't know how my mom did it - i would have been exhausted.

i'm a better eater now, but not by much. texture of food really overwhelms me - and i can relate to his "take three bites and then realize it's gross" because sometimes a texture will be fine and then all of a sudden be too much inside my mouth. i also (swear) i hear the veggies and anything too crunchy in my ears when i chew - and really hate the sound. it's deafening and i hate it.

yes i'm odd. but i've made it to 26!

10:48 AM  
Blogger kimberly rae said...

Well you've just described me as a child! It actually is a genetic thing, people are tasters or non tasters. 90% of the population is nontasters which is how they can eat most things, but theother 10% are tasters which results in "picky eaters" it's really interesting to me bc I was soo picky as a child and teen that I couldn't go to dinner at my friends houses and even now as an adult (altho I can eat much more!) I still don't like going to dinner parties bc I know there will be few things I like! The best advice I can give is to have him try as many foods as possible and when he likes something that's healthy stick with that... I never get bored of eating the same things bc I'm just so happy when I finally find something I like!! Good luck!!

11:33 AM  

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