Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

More Battles with the Picky Eater

by heather

In the February 2013 edition of Parents Magazine, there was an article called “21 Foods to Tempt Your Picky Eater”. Even my husband’s interest was piqued and I’ve never seen him read any of my parenting magazines. Here are the foods they suggested:

  1. stir-fried broccoli
  2. tomato soup
  3. fried calamari
  4. pomegranate seeds
  5. chicken satay
  6. edamame
  7. fish with teriyaki sauce
  8. tempura green beans
  9. veggie dumplings
  10. bell peppers
  11. white pizza
  12. hummus
  13. yogurt parfait
  14. coconut waffles
  15. sweet potato fries
  16. cinnamon (although that’s hardly a food, its a spice)
  17. pineapple
  18. cucumbers
  19. frozen orange juice
  20. celery
  21. icy grapes

At some point or another I have offered Thing 2 everything on this list, except tempura green beans and fried calamari. (However if he doesn’t like french fries, I can hardly expect great results from fried squid or green beans.) He likes pomegranate seeds, and yogurt parfait if I pick out the fruit. Sometimes he will eat coconut waffles, and pineapple, sometimes not. You never know. I felt like the authors of this article have absolutely no concept of what it’s like to have a truly picky eater. (A few years ago I wrote about my experiences here. To sum it up, my son is insanely, insanely picky.) Perhaps these suggestions might work with some kids, but certainly not my middle child.

A couple of months ago I took him in for a well-child check. He’s not really gaining weight and hasn’t been since I stopped breast-feeding him. Putting him on Carnation Instant Breakfast helped, but in some ways it taught him that eating food is optional. Why learn to eat, if chocolate milk gives you everything that you need?

For years I have been trying to get him to eat healthy things, refusing privileges if he doesn’t eat, refusing  the ‘chocolate milk’ if he doesn’t at least try dinner and essentially making dinner time into a full-scale battle ground. And for years I’ve told my doctors, ‘He’s healthy, he just won’t eat.’ I’ve always been told, ‘Oh, sometimes you have to offer a kid a food up to 10 times before they will try it’. My son would rather go without food and all comforts of life than eat a vegetable, and I have been consistently offering them for years now. I’ve also read ‘Well, your children just need to observe healthy eating habits in their parents’. My husband and I are vegetarians. 75% of our diet is fruits and vegetables prepared in dozens of ways, and he sees us eating them all the time. This has made no impact whatsoever on my son and what he is willing to eat. He eats pasta, ramen noodles, some fruits, most dairy, cereal, some muffins, scrambled eggs, pancakes, waffles, pb&j and chicken nuggets. That is ALL. And that’s just not good enough. My husband always joked that he ran on the power of photosynthesis because he just doesn’t eat much.

So at this last Dr.’s visit I made sure that my pediatrician was really listening to what I was saying. My son does not eat well and hasn’t since I weaned him. He’s five now. We discussed his eating patterns over his life-time. We came to the conclusion that he had undiagnosed reflux as an infant (which after Cindy Lou-Who’s experience, I suspected anyway), and because eating was so unpleasant he developed some strong oral aversions. At a very young age he learned that eating hurts, and he has done his best to avoid it. The only things he eats are things that are soft and easy to swallow. My doctor’s solution was to start him on Cyproheptadine, which among other things is an appetite stimulant. I give it to him before bed and he wakes up in the morning hungry. (One of the side-effects is that it makes him sleepy, so he no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night because he’s hungry because he refused to eat his dinner. Bonus!)

The new medication makes him hungrier, meaning he’s packing away more than twice as much food, but getting him to eat a variety of nutritious food is still a battle. Increased calorie intake is still an improvement so I’ll take it. It also gives me a little more bargaining power. At snack time I’ll say, ‘You can have something else to eat, after you have a serving of fruit.’ And he’s hungry enough that he’ll do it. I also require him to eat one whole bite of whatever we’re having before he can have a) fruit b) pb&j and c) Carnation Instant Breakfast. Now he’ll work with me, before he would sooner go on a hunger strike. Little steps.

4 Responses to “More Battles with the Picky Eater”

  1. Janeen says:

    I just want to say, I hear you! We also have a very picky eater. At one point, there were only 5 things he would eat and when I told people that, most of them acted like I was being over-dramatic. I was always embarrassed to take him anywhere where I would have to feed him because a)I knew it would be a battle and b)I thought people would judge me for allowing him to subsist on goldfish crackers and milk (because, honestly, most people whose kids actually like to eat food just don’t understand — sometimes it was goldfish or starvation over here). Luckily, he has expanded his palette a bit so we can actually feed him in public without me having a mental breakdown (though I still feed him at home beforehand a lot of the time) and mealtime during the day isn’t the horror it used to be. Our pediatrician always tells me that Ben will grow out of the picky eating “phase”, but sometimes I am not so sure. I hope things get better for you on the eating front, and thanks for posting about the things you’ve tried. I’m always looking for suggestions from people who know what it’s like.

  2. heather says:

    Another things that I have tried is making sandwiches with pitas instead of traditional bread. He’s more likely to eat the whole thing (I use a 1/2 slice per sandwich) and it has slightly more protein and fiber than the alternative. I get a 10-pack at Costco for $3.
    I completely empathize with your experience. So many people have told me that I just need to lay down the law and make him eat. That doesn’t work if at 20 months he’s already stubborn enough to go 24 hours without eating if he doesn’t get fruit snacks. I can’t just let him starve. Don’t get discouraged. The best of luck to you.

  3. SG says:

    Have you ever had him checked for food allergies? Sometimes people have strong cravings for the foods that their bodies actually tolerate the least. Thank you, also, for your food storage vegan recipes.

    • heather says:

      No, I discussed it with his pediatrician, but it doesn’t seem likely that that is the problem. All of the things that people generally have problems with (eggs, wheat, dairy, peanuts, chocolate) he eats just fine. And it’s not like there’s any foods that he can’t eat (and we have tried a lot), it’s just a royal pain because he doesn’t want to. It’s gotten better since he’s been on the appetite stimulant. But that’s a good suggestion. I imagine that is a problem for some kids.
      I’m glad you appreciate the vegan food storage recipes. :)

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