Problem feeders

When a kid only eats a few foods, meal time sucks. We talk about various different foods as if they are so easy to eat. For some kids, it’s very hard. I’m not talking about picky eaters because most toddlers (and kids) go through a phases where they refuse to eat numerous foods they previously enjoyed. I’m talking about kids with serious feeding problems.

One reader emailed me and told me I needed to ease up about how bad chicken nuggets were because her family member’s child only eats chicken nuggets and fries. That’s all the child eats every day. Look, don’t misread my intentions. I’m happy that kid is able to eat anything at all. It sounds serious. And that is not just picky eating – that’s a problem feeder. Here are some interesting articles that contain way more information that I’m able to convey:

Identify a picky eater

Problem feeders differ from picky eaters

Problem feeders

Feeding disorders

So if your child only eats 20 foods or less, you have a problem feeder on your hands. Often this is kind of behavior is part of a larger diagnosis including prematurity, sensory concerns, developmental delay or autism. There are resources available to help and there is such a thing as “feeding therapy.” It sounds like a “first world problem,” but it’s a legitimate and serious issue.

I’m a mom so I know meal time can be h*ll. I have a kid that eats great (who knows for how long) but we still waste a lot of food. Since I’m working hard to make sure he gets the best, it’s often frustrating for me to watch him throw food on the floor or mouth and spit out perfectly good food that I would love to have eaten myself. I’m not proud to say that when I lose my temper it’s most likely to occur over meal times, especially when he starts smearing yogurt in his hair and blowing bubbles with his milk and spitting it everywhere (himself, his clothes, the floor, etc). He’ll do those behaviors while making eye contact with me and with a devilish grin on his face….he knows how to push my buttons.

I can’t imagine the level of frustration, fear and sadness a parent experiences when their child only eats a few foods. One of my dear friends has this problem with her son. Due to privacy issues I really can’t say anymore. I can only sympathize and wonder how she manages lunchtime.

When I “attack” chicken nuggets (a food product), it’s not an indictment of your parenting. Hey, us parents have got to stick together! It’s brutal out there.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

42 Responses to Problem feeders

  1. Amy (Super Healthy Kids) August 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Kids can be downright stubborn! It's been my experience the will move through so many phases of food preferences and dislikes that in the end it just comes down to being consistent in offering healthy food. then when you catch them on a 'good' day, they'll go for what you have! You don't want to miss those small windows of opportunity when they will try something new.

  2. OneTiredEma August 31, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Agreed–my daughter is reluctant to try new things (to the point of crying if we request it), but every once in a while will (sometimes even finds a new thing she likes).

    My pediatrician listened to my complaint that she ate the same 4-5 vegetables over and over and basically told me that while it was boring for me, it was nutritionally sound for her (2 green, 1 orange, 1 yellow veg).

    So my "boring" eater is only a problem in my head. I have a new plan to try to deal with it…I give it a 20% chance of working, at best.

  3. DramaMama August 31, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    We are in 'feeding therapy' w/our foster daughter right now – good news! She eats a wide variety of stuff these days – I/we have been standing firm in my menus and not catering to her much. We have learned a lot about problem feeders as you call them. My kids and other foster kids were always picky but not too bad. Now I know a bunch of techniques to deal w/them, but the biggest one is to not let the child control what you are eating. I/We have had a lot of support from a lot of people so our 'battle' if you will has been successful. I wanted to comment to parents whose children are picky and such that you are not alone. =) Like Mrs Q said, it's good to stick together! For those that feel attacked, please don't stop reading. Knowledge is power. As time goes on, your picky eater might change and then you'll be all ready to use what you have learned!

  4. KC Quilter August 31, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    And there are so many ways to make chicken nuggets that are healthy! Just a quick googling away….

  5. heather t August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    I have a picky eater with Oral Allergy Syndrome, but he will eat homemade chicken nuggets, so I make them as healthy as I can afford. Just a tip for parents of other nugget eaters.

  6. Anonymous August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    As a mother of two autistic children, I know how hard it is to have children with feeding issues. My 8 year old daughter now eats everything under the sun or at the very least will try anything once. My 3-1/2 year old son, however, only eats about 10 things and I dream of the day I can order him chicken nuggets. He still eats stage 3 baby foods and only three flavors. He loves fries and some crunchy snacks. I hate getting stares from other mothers who judge. Yes I know you're judging, your eyes give you away each time. My son has sensory issues and we are getting therapy, but it's a slow and tedious process, but I dream of the day we can order a regular meal in a restauraunt.

  7. meagan August 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    My goodness, Mrs. Q, you have inspired me in so many way. We are passionate about food policy in our family, and have a kid starting full day school this week so it's the first time I've had to consider whether he would eat lunch or not. But just as importantly, I've been worried about my triplets and their eating habits (or not-eating habits) for so long, and to finally have a name for it… I'm going to check out all the links you posted and maybe call our pediatrician today! Thank you 🙂

  8. Tina August 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    How about when it continues as an adult? My ex-husband was what I would probably label a borderline "problem feeder". Would only eat meat with no bones in it, no sauces at all, nothing touching, no conbinations of anything (meaning no pizza, no sandwiches, no burgers unless he took it off the bun, nothing that had two or more items involved), no eggs, no pasta, no rice, no cereal products of any kind, only white bread and plain potatoes or french fries, plain lettuce salad, raw broccoli or raw baby carrots. That was about the extent of what he ate along with a big constant helping of candy, junk food and soda (two to three 2 liters of soda a day). He would actually start retching and making himself physically ill if he got too close to something he wouldn't eat.

    From what I understood from his mom he ate more when he was younger, but not much, and once he got out on his own he basically shut down any and all attempts to eat anything new at all! It was by far one of the most frustrating and embarrassing (when going out with my family or our friends) things to deal with day to day…I can't imagine having kids like that, an adult child was bad enough 😉

  9. Myrnie August 31, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    This made me think. My oldest went through a phase when she would go through a Costco-sized bag of nuggets in a month (I think she was 2 or 3.) Now that my second child is the same age, and we've stopped purchasing prepared foods like nuggets, it is a huge struggle to get her to eat. She cries in the middle of the night because she's refused food all day- yesterday she ate some plain noodles for lunch, and some corn chips for a snack in the afternoon. Most of her calories came from the soy milk we made in the morning. She refused breakfast (eggs) and dinner (a rice stir fry.) She has never, to my knowledge, eaten meat except for a hamburger last summer. Good thing she LOVES beans and rice! She's lactose-intolerant too. I swore I'd never have picky kids, and I'd never make special meals. It's true, I don't make special meals. And a lot of times they simply choose to delay eating until I make something worthwhile (to them.) I'm glad we don't have battles though. My oldest is now five, and shocked us last week by announcing that she LOVES red sauce on noodles- she's flatly refused to even try red sauce up until now. So there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and my hope is to never tell her she's picky (and give her a label) and to never, EVER, make a battle out of eating. Both girls are healthy and thriving, and they're learning to not make a fuss when there's something they don't like on the table.

  10. Mommy Lisa August 31, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    I always feel bad for these moms – my cousin's child would only drink apple juice and eat McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries or PORK RINDS. Ewww. But I feel for them. Something is wrong and they need help and they need to not feel bad about asking for help – and there SHOULD be help available for this.

    Hugs to everyone!

    Peace,
    ML

  11. Scattered Mom August 31, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    I once worked with a child who was autistic, and who would only eat take out pizza for lunch. She'd eat other things at other meal times, but she associated school with take out pizza, and that was it.

    The parent bought pizzas and froze them, and sent one piece with her ever day all year. I admit at first I thought it was a little strange but as I got to know her, I realized that it wasn't something that important. One meal every day, one piece of pizza-there were SO many other issues to deal with that the pizza just wasn't something that made the cut.

    And you know, that's ok. Parenting special needs children is rough.

  12. Scattered Mom August 31, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Tina,

    When I first met my husband I thought that he was just being a problem. Here's a list of what he would eat:
    -toast with honey
    -ham sandwiches (bread, mustard, butter, lettuce ham)
    -milk
    -coffee
    -peanut butter sandwich
    -roast chicken breast (no seasonings)
    -steamed peas/broccoli
    -roasted potatoes
    -BLT sandwiches

    That's it. He doesn't like the food all on his plate at once, either. He's 59.

    What I didn't realize is, I believe he has sensory integration issues like our son. While our son went in the opposite direction and LOVES anything with strong tastes/textures, Hubs likes things that are bland.

    I love to cook-so what I do is cook something spicy/ethnic etc for us, and something Hubs likes for him. I know, sounds crazy but to throw a chicken breast in the oven is really no work at all. Over time Hubs got much better and now he'll eat almost anything I cook, but still stays far away from a lot of foods. I might make taco filling and spice it up for me and the teenager, but set some aside that's plain for him.

    Once I looked at it as a sensory issue though, it didn't seem nearly as bad and I ceased to be frustrated with him at all. And he has started eating a lot of things he wouldn't touch before. When we go out to eat, I can almost predict what Hubs will order just by looking at the menu-and now that he has diabetes type 2, he can chalk it up to needing a special diet anyway.

  13. gigabiting August 31, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    It doesn't just go away when you grow up. Read about adult picky eaters:

    http://gigabiting.com/?p=4565/

  14. Brooke August 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    My five (almost six) year old daughter is what I consider picky. She WILL NOT eat hamburger in any form…not a patty, not ground up, or seasoned (such as taco meat)…she just won't touch it. In fact the only meat I can get into her is usually in the form of chicken (nuggets…usually the Tyson frozen type) and occasionally something that we've grilled. But I can get lots of other things into her…yogurt, cheese, some fruits, breads, cereals, pasta…so even though I get concerned about her eating habits, I hesitate to classify her as anything other than picky and hold out hope that eventually she will want to try more foods as she gets older.

  15. Annehueser August 31, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    This does not count as problem feeding or even picky eating but I have a similar problem to Scattered Mom in that my mother, who lives with my husband and I, doesn't do spicy or hot food. We like to cook spicy food. I have figured out how to cook everything not spicy/hot and add it at the end after separating some for my mother, and anyone else at the table who doesn't like spicy/hot. If I can't figure out how to do it, I put Sriracha sauce or wasabi paste or hot mustard out on the table. We have a full complement of condiments to accommodate everyone's tastes. It's easier than cooking multiple meals.

  16. Anonymous August 31, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    we have had problems with my 7 yeaer old and after a year of therapy and a new better therapist she was diagnosed with pdd-nos and her "picky eating" is part of it. I am happy that along with the chicken nuggets, hotdogs, and pizza the only other thing she is willing to eat almost any type of fruit. My 8 year old will eat anything under the sun and when we go out to dinner try anything my husband or I order. I hate the looks I get but at this point i dont really care anymore what others think. I am just glad that she is healthy and now finally getting the real help she needs.

  17. HS Adventure Land August 31, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    My stepdaughter used to only eat a very select few foods when she was in preschool and elementary school.

    Cheese, bread, macaroni and cheese, cereal, waffles, nuggets, top ramen.

    There was no getting her to eat anything else. But now she is in high school and will eat almost anything set in front of her.

    Also when I was a child there were a lot of vegetables that literally made me gag. But I did outgrow it and enjoy most vegetables today.

    So I want to reassure people who are worried about their picky eaters – it may just be something they outgrow.

    Keep offering them healthy foods, keep showing them that you eat and like those foods.

  18. Anonymous August 31, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    I was one of these kids growing up. My 2 main foods were french fries and Rice-A-Roni. The doctor told my mom as long I drank milk, ate peanut butter for protein and fruits, I would be okay. I never touched any type of meat until I was in college. About that time, I started eating chicken and fish (and pepperoni pizza), and later salads and some vegetables. People in my family/community tried to change me, but it didn't help. I finally discovered the good foods for myself. Now I'm raising 2 boys, and both are good eaters. But when I see a parent with a picky eater, I sympathize–I was one myself and turned out okay!

  19. Anonymous August 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    I ask this not to stir up a fight, but only because I truly do not know:

    If you let picky or problem eaters go hungry because they refuse to eat what you've cooked for them, will they eventually starve to death, or do they eventually cave in?

    Mrs Q mentioned that this seems to be a first world problem, which makes me wonder if maybe letting them go hungry for a few days will make them ravenously hungry for whatever is set before them…

    Again though, I say this only because I honestly have no idea, and would welcome all of your help enlightening me on this issue.

  20. Candy Morrison August 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    My kids will both eat about anything, and if they won't I can always find a replacement. My son wouldn't eat lettuce, but then I found that he loves baby spinach which is even better. However, one of my friends has a son (16) who has issues and won't eat anything that isn't brown. And he doesn't care what it is. If it is brown/tan he will eat it, if it's not ~ forget it. He is mildly autistic. That isn't something I think he will grow out of.

    On a side note, I have embarrassed my friends before out in public because I won't eat food that is touching. I recently sent back my food at a restaurant because it came with green bean juice on the plate that ran into the potatoes. I know most people think that is crazy, but for me it is crazy to want to eat something that is messed up. So I wouldn't push too hard with these kids with eating issues. What seems dumb to some might mean a lot to others.

  21. Mrs. Q August 31, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Thanks for all the great comments! This is an important issue and is one where you have to let professionals guide you as to how to manage this kind of thing. If these kids eat chicken nuggets when they wouldn't before, it's a win. Food is viewed totally differently.

    In regards to anonymous, letting the kid not eat anything is not a solution. That might be a solution with a picky eater. But problem feeders with possible underlying medical concerns/diagnoses will "win" those types of battles. THEY WILL NOT EAT FOR DAYS.

    A normal toddler who refuses to eat dinner can go to bed hungry (make sure your pediatrician is in agreement with that before you try it). Once with my kid he refused to eat dinner completely and wouldn't eat more than one mouthful. He then refused a bedtime snack we tried to sneak in. I think teething has a lot to do with that and maybe he was coming down with something. Well, the next day he was more compliant and I still keep the policy of you eat what I make or you miss that meal. Thankfully that's a very rare thing. He's a grazer: he eats a little of everything I make, but not a ton of one thing. He is sick a lot and when he is sick, he doesn't eat very much. It's hard to watch, but that's life. We are lucky — he gains weight and is perfect (at least to me).

    Dealing with a problem feeder is done under medical advisement. Talking to your doctor is always a good thing.

  22. Anonymous August 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    It seems to me that many of the foods these picky eaters WILL eat are overly processed stuff; chicken nuggets, fries, mac and cheese.

    What if you never gave them that junk to start with? What if you started out from the beginning giving them real unprocessed foods?

  23. Maggie August 31, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Even if your child will only eat certain things (like chicken nuggets) you can still make them healthier. Don't buy the frozen ones! We crush up cheerios, add some pepper, coat the little pieces of chicken in them then cook them in a little olive oil. The boys (2 and 4) love them!

    My 4 year old was never picky – he'll try anything once and likes most things. My two year old, though, is a grazer. Trying to get him to eat is so hard some days that I just want to scream! I've realized that even if he eats something one day doesn't mean he'll eat it the next. There's nothing he eats on a regular basis, not even macaroni and cheese, so I never know if he'll eat or not.

  24. the_sybil September 1, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    @Anonymous:
    I think the reason these children (my daughter is a "problem feeder") WILL eat junk foods is that junk food manufacturers spend an awful lot of time and money creating foods that are very uniform, extremely appealing, and minus many of the "ick" factors that will put a child off (offputting textures etc).
    In answer to your question: I think it is possible that a "problem feeder" child who is never given junk will develop a taste for a limited range of healthy foods. The trouble is, you give them their first french fry and you see them eat it, and you cry "hallelujah!" because they've actually eaten something, and you carry on giving it to them. It really goes against every instinct to let your child not eat.
    We managed to avoid most junk foods, so though our daughter has a limited diet, at least some of it is healthy. French fries are not a problem because we have them so rarely, and I swear I cried tears of joy when she started to eat pizza, because it's a widely available restaurant food and I can make a healthy version at home (so long as it *looks* store bought!). But I *cannot* wean her off fish sticks!
    On another tack, those responders who have managed to find help for problem feeders: how did you do it? For years I did not realize this was a problem for which one *could* get help, and even now we finally have a sympathetic and helpful pediatrician, we are having no luck in getting any kind of therapy from our insurance company. Had we managed to get a diagnosis when she was small (she is now six) it might have been a different story. It is looking like our only option will be to pay ourselves, and therapy fees are astronomical.
    Mrs Q: thank you for starting this thread. I have been reading this blog for some time, and it is really lovely to have my family's specific dietary challenges addressed. It is very hard to be a mom who is both committed to healthy food and has a problem feeder child.

  25. the_sybil September 1, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    @Maggie: those strategies will only work to a limited degree with a problem feeder. I can make a home-made healthier pizza for my daughter and she'll eat it: but she won't touch a home made fish stick!

  26. Midnite Skys September 1, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    my daughter is still picky eater (grown) but she is also vegetarian now, as a toddler she didn't like the texture of meat, so she eat little of it. But her prickliness is she has her "brands" and yes she can tell the difference. She has a favorite brand of peanut butter, ketchup (which we use very little any more), tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce and more… She has ways to work around it, if we are at someone's house and they made the "wrong" sauce she skips it and ads butter to her pasta… Well it beats the tears she would have as a toddler…

    PS this picky eater is a nanny and has watched a little guy that she had my rules for food with, you have to try it to know if you like rule… but she worried about him only wanting chicky nuggets, so she googled and made him some breaded fresh chicken. He told his mom they are better than McDees….

    The only problem I can't make homemade mac and cheese… she still wants the orange stuff.. YUK

  27. Bettina at The Lunch Tray September 1, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Mrs. Q – We've had a lot of lively exchanges about picky eating over at The Lunch Tray, including discussions about Ellyn Satter, a leading kid-and-food expert with whom your readers may not be familiar. Her premise is all about avoiding ALL types of pressure on children to eat anything — it's pretty provocative. If your readers are interested, here's the first link in our discussion about it, but there were several follow up posts, including a response by Ellyn Satter herself. http://www.thelunchtray.com/kids-picky-eater-vegetables/ Readers can just search "Ellyn Satter" to see all of them.

  28. Christina @ Spoonfed September 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    While this is an extremely important discussion, and there absolutely are children with serious problem-feeding issues, I also think it's important to acknowledge that the term "picky eater" has become a crutch in this society.

    The truth is, most kids labeled picky eaters are, in fact, still finding their way to the food they like (a la Ellyn Satter). Or — in many cases — they've been given such limited (and often processed) choices to begin with that they've grown accustomed to so-called "kid food," and parents then feel stuck when the kids' heels dig in.

    In either case, I cringe at the term "picky eater," as I think it does a huge disservice to children. Better to identify the issue (sensory issues, food allergies, whatever), and use that language, rather than use a negative phrase that casts a cloud across all kinds of eaters.

    I've also blogged about this subject at Spoonfed (which is about raising kids to think about the food they eat). One post in particular, in which I called for a ban on the phrase "picky eater," generated a lot of comments with a very passionate and thoughtful discussion of the subject: http://spoonfedblog.net/2010/04/13/lets-ban-the-phrase-picky-eater/

  29. Megan September 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    We're definitely stuck in the picky eater phase (almost 3 y.o.), which is so frustrating because he used to be much more adventurous. He still eats anything they offer at school, but at home he flips out at new things. We offer him what we're having for dinner, and if he doesn't want it he gets cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. Thankfully he will almost always eat the vege portion of our meal.

    Also, we don't buy fish sticks or chicken nuggets. It's a lot easier to avoid it becoming a problem if the food isn't in the house.

  30. Anonymous September 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    I hope someone can help here! my kids are super picky eaters, but they love noodles! (including spaghetti squash. I think they just like slurping in the long strands) it got me thinking about the post a few months ago about a tool that turns veggies into "noodles" I've searched through the posts and can't find it anywhere. Does anyone remember this post/tool and can you please help me find it? THANKS!

  31. redroundorgreen September 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    It's true — "picky" is a classification that gets thrown around a lot, and I'm guilty of slipping up with it a few times — but it's something I really try not to use as a label for the child, but rather a mood or behavior, if at all. I'd rather say that my kid is in a selective phase about what he chooses to eat than to say that he, in and of himself, is "picky" — I think that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. And frankly, it takes all kinds. My blog is named after some lovely adult people who still don't eat anything red, round, or green; and my two kids each have strong preferences, as well as some possible sensory stuff, but whether I'd ever say they're truly picky…not except for in my moments of greatest frustration. And that's with a toddler who has almost never in his life eaten more than one or two bites of dinner. I think realistically dealing with kids and food is a very hot-button issue that makes us more apt to try to categorize and classify and analyze than we are to just use our brains. http://redroundorgreen.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/the-battle-for-fruit/

  32. Kim September 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    My heart goes out to all parents who have to cope with these issues. Some good friends of mine have a son diagnosed with Asperger's and some OCD problems. He's a junior in college now. He has made the dean's list every semester so far and has managed to develop a good social network, but his food issues from childhood have followed him into adulthood.

    The good news is that this young man now understands intellectually why he needs to eat a balanced diet and he does so by his own choice thanks to his mom and dad hammering the concept into his head. My hope is that all kids with food issues can overcome them and that their parents have the energy and tenacity to help them through their issues.

    Sometimes I don't know how you parents manage to do all you do. I have a hard enough time keeping myself, 2 cats, and a herd of dust bunnies alive 😉 Successfully getting a child (or several children) to adulthood seems like some kind of Olympian feat to me.

  33. K. September 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Quoting Christina @ Spoonfed:
    "In either case, I cringe at the term "picky eater," as I think it does a huge disservice to children. Better to identify the issue (sensory issues, food allergies, whatever), and use that language, rather than use a negative phrase that casts a cloud across all kinds of eaters."

    For some children, this is a case of sensory issues. I know that my stepson doesn't enjoy very cold items or very hot items. That is a sensory aversion.

    However, when he requests the same meal for weeks on end and gags himself as when we prepare something else with a very similar texture, it's not an oral aversion, it's not a food allergy. It's being picky. He's 9 and still goes on food "jags." Weeks of macaroni and cheese — and not the homemade kind, the kind in the blue box — are followed by weeks of grilled cheese sandwiches, which are followed by weeks of chicken nuggets — which can only be one brand. Anything else, and he won't eat. It doesn't matter that I can cook elbow noodles to the same consistency as blue box mac and cheese and then add my own cheeses. It doesn't work.

    It was a huge fight getting him to drink regular milk. For a long time, it had to be strawberry or chocolate. We started with neon pink milk, then gradually reduced the shocking shade of pink to a pastel, and now are finally at regular white milk. This poor eating pattern was reinforced by the other adults in his life, so at our house, we simply have to gently nudge him in the right direction without pushing too hard.

  34. Tacomamama September 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    The thing about picky (and even problem) eating is that I think it served a valid purpose at one time. If you think about it, for most of human history children tagged along with their mamas grazing on whatever that day's foraging brought in. If you are an immature foraging animal, it makes good sense to try one thing at a time and eat that thing if it turns out to be OK. You wouldn't want to take a big handful of your favorite food and discover bits of something else in it, or an unfamiliar texture, etc.

    As you get older, you discover a wider range of things that are ok to eat and learn from the adults around you what is acceptable and what isn't. But if you just go around grabbing whatever's green and shoving it in your mouth, you are probably not long for this world.

    So, as annoying as picky eating is consider that it might have at one time placed your child at an evolutionary advantage. If she truly is just a picky eater (and not a problem eater) at some point she'll probably be willing to eat food that touches other food or has more than one color or texture.

  35. Hunter September 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    My mom and sister were both problem eaters. My mom routinely went to bed without having eating all day as a child because her mother refused to cook different meals for her, and I think my sister lived for the first ten years of her life on white rice and (still frozen) peas. My mom eats almost anything now, and my sister is doing a bit better- she's 19, still underweight, and still eats ridiculously small portions, but she can find something to eat almost everywhere we go out. She goes to college in the same town as me, and once in a while my mom will call me up and ask me to have her over for kraft mac and cheese, just to make sure she's eating something.

    As to this being a "first world" issue- I had a professor in college who worked with children in Mexico in the 70's who were actually starving- and many of them still refused the USAID food because of the taste or texture. I imagine in cases like that it might become even more of an issue because of the sensory deprivation of not having eating very many kinds of food, or very much food at all, period.

  36. Jill H. September 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    To answer the question "If you let picky or problem eaters go hungry because they refuse to eat what you've cooked for them, will they eventually starve to death, or do they eventually cave in? "

    No, they do not cave. They will end up in the hospital.

    My Daughter has Sensory Intergration Disorder, and as an 18 month old, still would only breastfeed/ drink liquids. She was failure to thrive, and very ill. On the advice of a nutritionist, I withheld water, in favor of a high-calorie liquid nutrition, after the nutritionist determined DD wasn't taking in enough calories. (She was trying to "force" her to take in more calories) The result was a 1 week stay in Children's hospital…for dehydration, and inconsolable crying at 18 months. We went through a huge battery of testing, and it was hell. They want what they want…DD would drink the supplement, but when she wanted water or juice, anything else was not an option.

    My DD goes through picky phases, she currently will not eat beans…although she has in the past. There's normal todler/preschooler pickiness….but what Mrs Q is talking about is something else entirely.

    I've come to accept many "commercial" foods, foods I swore I would never feed my children. I accept/encourage sugar…because in her case, we meet her base nutritional needs though a liquid supplement twice a day, and what she really needs is calories. a calorie is a calorie, regardless of source. I do provide healthy foods, but avoid making eating/food an issue. We have a 1 bite per year of age rule, for foods she can tolerate….for foods she is extremely avoidant on, it may be a victory to simply put the food on her plate, have her sniff or touch it, maybe lick it without vomiting. (And with a FTT child, you do not want them vomiting up whatever you can get down.)

    I get judged all the time, folks who think they have "the answer"..sometimes there are foods she will eat for her therapist, she won't eat for me, or vice-versa. This is not uncommon, or so I'm told…but it's not pickiness.

  37. Jill H. September 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    For those struggling with similar issues, and beleive it's more than pickiness, check to see if your local hospital (preferably a children's hospital) has a "feeding team" as part of their occupational therapy unit. Request/demand a referral. Be persisteant, and it is a slow, painful process.

    My 18 month old is now 4.5 she has been in intensive therapy for 3 years. She now eats a lot more foods, although purees, and "mushy" foods continue to be a problem. However, she does prefer processed foods….we are working to transition her from things like chicken nuggets, to whole chicken breast. She frequently requests foods, and then won't eat them, alot of food gets wasted around here…but I avoid a fight I cannot win, or rewarding her for eating. Eating is something you just do…when youre hungry you eat….when you'r not, you're not. That doesn't mean I don't encourage her to eat at mealtime. It means that I sit her down, and offer the foods, and if she won't eat it, I'll make it available when she is hungry.

    Insurance may or may not pay for the therapy, depending on how your child is diagnosed, You may also qualify for therapy through your local school district, or your state's early intervention program. If they won't cover the cost, you may qualify for "charity care" or a cash discounted rate. Insurance only covers some of the cost for my child…but they did pay for therapy – due to her "failure to thrive", they pay nothing for her other sensory issues, we pay out of pocket for that, and it is a huge financial strain.

    I would implore those who are judgemental….try hard to not be. That frazzled mom giving her kid "unhealthy" foods…may well not have a choice. If you are out, and your FTT child asks for chicken nuggets….you damned well get them. Her sister will get them too, how do you feed one child, and not the other? My daughter's older sister is a "good eater" and in fact is a bit overweight, (I belive the medical term was "at risk of obesity" in part because it's VERY difficult to encourage high-calorie foods for one child, and low calorie for the other. She's at the 95%, while the other is at about 2%

    I dare anyone to live in my shoes for a day, try reading labels to find high-fat and low-fat cheese, keep 2 gallons of milk in the house (one whole, one skim – prepare different meals for each child, all while working part-time to pay for the therapies insurance won't pay for, and for the co-pays/share of cost when they do. Do therapy with one child several times a day, while giving sufficient attention to the other, while trying to keep your own marriage stable. Try keeping a home while doing all the above, and not lose your mind……

    It's a crazy, stressful life…and we get precious little help, or support. And if you dare question me publically, be prepared for a half-crazed mother to tell you exactly how ignorant you are, and perhaps with less than polite language.

  38. Rebecca September 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    I recently learned a strategy from our preschool staff to encourage children to at least try new foods.
    They tell their students that it can take 8-10 times for your tongue to like a new food. They implore the "Today could be the day you find out you like it" statement which makes the kids excited and curious to see. Just a thought for all the parents out there. I know how hard you work to keep your kids healthy 🙂

  39. Ducks September 6, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    No big insight here … I'm an expectant mom and just reading this because I feel like I may need the information. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who provided their experience here — I am learning from each of you. Those of you dealing with Sensory Integration Disorder or other, deeper forms of difficulty with food, I admire your resourcefulness and resilience.

  40. momof3 September 6, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    HI, i am a 40 year old married mother of three and i have been my whole life termed a picky eater. My parents would and do eat large varieties of foods, and i have a younger brother who eats as well as they do. I eat very little amounts of food, and a meager variety of food. i do enjoy a little of most types of food, but honestly its not a healthy variety of food. this is hard for me, but i want to try and help people understand some of what these children go through. and believe me that these things do not go away as a person grows up. i spent a lot of my life being in trouble or being made fun of about my issues with food. honestly i still get teased about my eating habits. i eat five different vegetables, three of which i will only eat raw, one i only eat fresh in season and one i will only eat in a can. i do eat meat, most kinds, but it will have to be prepared in specific ways. as an adult its easier because i do prepare my own foods, as a child i only ate a few things, and most nights i ate very little or nothing at all because special meals were not allowed. textures, colors, and sometimes even food names will be enough to completely freak me out. as a parent i was scared that my children would have my issues with food, that i forced myself to make and offer all types of foods. they thankfully are all healthy good eaters. trying to eat a food that is outside my comfort zone can and many times does make me physically ill. to attempt to explain the hold those popular prepared foods hold, for me its the familar same taste and same exact texture that they hold. no matter what they are the same. i do have medical issues because of the way i eat. as an adult i know and understand the implications but its so hard to get past the zooming thoughts that run a million miles a minute when it comes to trying new foods. i honesty cant control them. until a few years ago i honestly just thought i was weird and did not know that other people have similar or even worse issues. i have added a few things to my diet as i have grown up but still feel like a freak when i am in a resturant or at a friends house. please if you see a child or even an adult who seems "picky" think before you react or judge, because even the minor of looks or words sometimes do have a impact and honestly could make the situation worse.

  41. bellemarie July 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Thank you everybody!

    My youngest DD (now 5) has had persistent feeding problems since birth on. I have taken her to a child nutritionist (who, when we told her she only ate 5 things told us that she was perfectly normal). She has had three different pediatricians and all of them tell me it is a phase…but does a phase last a child’s lifetime??

    I can say for a fact we have tried every “feeding” routine/option/tack out there and like other posters said…if we refuse to give in to her she will starve herself. She will throw up if i put a piece of baked chicken breast on her plate. One of my good friends has watched us through several meals and is impressed with both my DD’s lack of food options and my ability to hold my tongue and be patient with her. (That took time and practice too!) She does eat healthy considering how little she eats…bu that is just because we never offered anything else. Here is her diet:

    1) Steel Cut Oats with dried fruit
    2) yogurt with honey
    3) Kashi cereal
    4) “Annie’s Organic White Chedder Shell Pasta” (sometimes)
    5) banana’s
    6) smoothies (sometimes)
    7) Ice cream, cookies, cupcakes (of course…right?)
    8) baby carrots (sometimes)
    9) raw spinach leaves (sometimes)
    I hesitate to put this but:
    10) Chicken bites. But only the dinasaur bites, and only bc a grandma bought them for her. I have tried to do the healthier “rocky’s organic” chicken bites, have offered her my own version as well and she won’t eat them. I don’t buy the other kind so we are kind of at an impasse. I give her daily vitamins and put protein powder in her smoothies. I also add flax meal sometimes in an attempt to keep her regular.

    I think that she is a vegetarian to some degree and I’m not interested in pushing her into a meat eating lifestyle if that doesn’t suit her, and so long as she gets her protein.

    It seems as though my DD puts a lot of emotional/relational stuff around food. For instance, when my mother (her grandma) makes her Steel Cut Oats, she eats almost two cups of the stuff. But if I make it, she picks at it and moves on. Further, her older sister is fabulous eater (I mean spicy Indian food at a year and loving it) and my youngest now seems to pride herself in the differentiation of their eating habits.

    Our biggest issue is having the medical community take us seriously. She has a terribly low weight (5% to her age) but has maintained that for five years. Developmentally she is at least two years ahead of the curve. (she was talking at 5 months, walking well at 7 months…and it just keeps going.) So all our doctors are looking for the “trifecta” of problems. It seems to me that if she is “just” a problem feeder, but is meeting all the developmental milestones then they won’t consider treating her. I keep hearing, “well, she isn’t losing weight or falling of track so just let it be” but I am terrified of how lunch is going to look for her when she starts school in August. I don’t want this to turn into an eating disorder and it feels like it is headed that way. I’m at my wits end.

    But these posts encourage me to go back to my doctor and be persistent. So thanks everyone for lending me your perspective (both as problem feeders and as parents dealing with it)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fussy eater - BabyandBump - July 2, 2014

    […] http://www.mnparent.com/features/pic…roblem-feeders http://fedupwithlunch.com/2010/08/problem-feeders/ http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/201…roblem-feeder/ some of these also have some tips on getting […]

Site Meter