Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Picky Eater

I have been "blessed" with a picky eater. So picky, in fact, she only recently decided that cheese pizza is edible. As she grows older, her list of edible foods is growing. But this is a struggle for me. I ate whatever Mom put in front of me. There was never a question about whether it would be eaten. Now, I do remember the few times Mom served liver and onions (Gag! Gag! Gag!), after a few bites--of which I had to force down because I would chew and chew and chew until any flavor it may have had disappeared what seemed eons past, I suddenly had to go to the bathroom where I would hide for at least 45 minutes in hopes the food would disappear. It usually did. (And I think the only reason it did was because she didn't like liver any more than I did. Smart woman! Grin)

Even if I didn't like the food, I'd never say anything. However, everything, except for liver, I liked. Okay, maybe not the fish, but I ate it and said not a word.

Lily, on the other hand, is very vocal. Anytime I want her to try a few bites of something new (that is not cake, cookie, candy, or any sugar laden food), it's as if I have told her she has a choice between death or public humiliation. Take Sunday dinner, for instance. I spent two hours making marinara from scratch. She's tried it before and liked it. (Two years or so ago. Obviously, it's been too long.) That night, she was having none of it. Oh, my God! You would have thought I had asked her to swim with an anaconda. Actually, she'd probably do that more willingly than try something with vegetables in it. But I digress.

I have never met a person who can chew for as long as Lily can. Seriously. That child can chew one bite of food that maybe is one piece of strawberry for literally 5 minutes. She will chew it until it's a tasteless pulp. At which point, she struggles to swallow it. And she likes strawberries.

Well, gee, I wonder why.

All right, back to the story and Sunday night. Every bite of one bowtie pasta with the marinara sauce on it was chewed a good ten minutes. And if it had a piece of say bell pepper in it, add another 5-10 minutes.

You think I'm kidding.

I'm not.

And with each bite she took, she practically grabbed her throat and fell to the floor as if it was killing her. (My daughter the drama queen!)

By this time, Charlie and I are long past being done with our food. I got up and left the table. Charlie stayed, although he eventually got up, too. That left her alone at the table. Something she hates. She quickly decided that she was full after having maybe eaten ten bowtie pasta pieces and a small slice of garlic bread, which she, of course, devoured in five seconds. (sigh)

I suppose it could be worse. One of Charlie's friends had a child who ate nothing but macaroni and cheese or scrambled eggs for about four years, maybe more. Mine at least likes berries, bananas, apples, sugar snap peas, eggs, toast, anything with sugar (surprise), pasta with butter, carrots, and a few other things. It's not much, but it's better than that child.

Honestly, though, I don't remember that many picky eaters when I was a child. When did that change? Why did it change? Who are these beings inhabiting our children making life more difficult than necessary? Why can you just eat what I put in front of you? Argh!

I've heard that hunger is the best cure for this. There are days when I'm so frustrated that seems like a very viable option. (grin)

Any advice for this frustrated mom of a picky eater? Any one else in my position?

22 comments:

Cherie Reich said...

I must admit I'm a pretty picky eater--part of it is because I'm a vegetarian--although I do like more things as I am older. So I have little advice in that area, but what I don't understand is why she takes so long eating something she doesn't like. If I don't like something all that well but have to eat it, I gobble it up so I don't taste it. Sitting there with disgusting food in your mouth for five minutes sounds like torture.

Abbi Glines said...

My oldest child is a picky eater with a capitol "P"! He is twelve years old now and I gave up trying to get him to branch out years ago. Austin would actually throw up food at the table when we forced him to try things. He is a healthy football playing preteen who only eats cheese pizza, chicken fingers, scrambled eggs and bacon. Chewable vitamins are a wonderful thing :)

Anthology Authors said...

She can't convince herself to swallow it, Cherie, but more importantly, she's rebelling against eating it because she doesn't want to try it and knows she won't like it. It's a "see, I told you so" kind of thing. Before she even puts it in her mouth, she has a look of disgust on her face. (So like Daddy! sigh)

I was a vegetarian for a number of years, so I understand picky. I imagine, though, that you have a lot of veggies that you like. I would be ecstatic if she would eat more vegetables.

Anthology Authors said...

Abbi, I will probably keep trying, although I don't do it all that often because her obstinacy drives me batty. She takes a lot of supplements, due to her health, but nothing replaces food.

Cassandra Carr said...

My DD is only two and a half, and isn't too bad with her diet, comparatively speaking. However, these are the nuggets of wisdom I hear mothers give when we're talking about picky eaters.
1- Forget about the concept of "breakfast foods", and so on. If it's not horrible for her and she'll eat it, does it really matter if she's having scrambled eggs for dinner?
2- Sneak in foods where/when you can. If she eats certain foods, add things to them. One common thing is adding tofu to lasagna to get more protein into your kid's diet. You can also make her fruit smoothies with all sorts of things added - protein powder, certain veggies, etc.
3- Here's the hardest one: accept that she's a picky eater and do the best you can. Try not to make every meal a battle, because that only makes things worse for both of you.

Good luck! And no, kids didn't used to be this picky. Our parents would've let us starve (not really, but you get my point).

Anthology Authors said...

You know, I try doing that, but some days, Cassandra, I just can't contain the irritation. Charlie is the one who pushes her to try new foods. If I do, I tend to get frustrated and pissed. Only recently has she decided that smoothies are okay. (And I mean within the last few weeks or so.)

I'll keep trying, though.

Elizabeth said...

My son has sensory integration disorder which makes him ultra sensitive to certain sounds, smells, etc. Being a picky eater comes with the territory. He likes bland food with NO flare.
"Mommy, I want white cheese! Not orange cheese!"
Noodles - no sauce
rice must be white with no frills.
I have learned to smuggle and stretch the truth a bit.
V8 fusion is "fruit punch"
His multivitamin is "candy"... you get the idea. ; )

Molly Daniels said...

I say, relax and let her eat cereal if she won't eat what you're having. Don't quit offering food or trying to get her to TRY a bite...eventually her taste buds will 'catch up'. I didn't eat spaghetti sauce until age 10, or even pizza until I was in my teens, and only cheese. I've since learned to like sausage pizza.

And if you're concerned for her health, then Flintstone's chewables. She'll grow out of it, or learn to adapt.

I used to hate going to one of my grandmother's house, b/c I wouldn't eat grapefruit in the mornings, or canned veggies. Grandma soon gave it up, but I still remember her disapproving looks.

But my other grandma? I think she was a picky eater also, b/c I have nothing but happy memories about eating at her house.

Christine Rains said...

I'm a picky eater, too. I joke that I have the palette of a five-year-old. I was a vegetarian for 15 years before I had my son. Right now, I'm dealing with getting my toddler to try different things. He already eats more things than I do, but some days he likes one thing and the next he doesn't. He's very stubborn, too. My husband is old school in that he believes a child sits at the table until they eat what they're given. I've known way too many stubborn kids and I was one of them. You'd starve the kid if you did that, because they're just not going to eat. It one of those things where you have to pick your battles. The child has to eat. A peanut butter sandwich is healthy if it's natural peanut butter on whole grain bread. Of course, my son doesn't like peanut butter. What sort of alien child is he?!

Marie Rose Dufour said...

I have a nephew who lives on nothing but Gogurt! A friend of mine has children who are also picky. The doctor told her that if they don't want to eat the food give them a banana and a glass of milk and that would be sufficient. The worst thing to do would be to cook them something different.

Anonymous said...

I've always been a picky eater. Growing up, my mom' cooking was atrocious! She'd make me sit at the table until I finished my dinner or it was bedtime. When I moved away from home as a young adult, I refused to eat or drink anything I didn't like. McDonalds or twinkies became my food of choice. I gained weight and my health dwindled, same for my sister and brother. We all had very bad food issues. As an adult now, I eat "normal", but I only tried fish since my childhood 2 years ago. I'm getting better.

I only tell you about my food issues because when I was pregnant, I vowed I'd never make my kid eat anything he didn't like. The Fates must've had it in for me. At 2 months, I had to put my baby on vanilla ice cream because he would barely take from the breast or a bottle. Once on baby food, there was only pears and apples. As a toddler (1-3) skinned hotdogs and waffles with syrup. Around 4, he'd accepted Mac & cheese, cheese pizza and McD nugget happy meals only. Not even Chick-fil-a! (of course cookies, chips, etc.). At 8, he'd take a teeny bite of something if I promised he'd like it. Even if he did like it, he would refuse more. He's almost 9, and now he eats chicken, steak, pork, several fruits, still no veggies unless you count French fries. He's healthy as a clam and other than a random cold, has never been sick. Totally knockin' wood right now! Lol! All those years I really worried about his health, but he would not be forced. He'd vomit and once he refused to eat what I offered for almost two days. I guess I'm trying to say, that they will grow in their eating as they grow. They will eat what their bodies need. I couldn't fight that fight day in and day out. It was too exhausting!!!

The Flight of the Sorceress said...

I never met a kid who starved to death because he/she was a picky eater. However, the tactic does seem to do wonders for the purveyors of drugs and alcohol to adults, so connect the dots people. Our kids are pushers and very effective at it.

Tess MacKall said...

My oldest was a picky eater. The pediatrician told me not to let her have anything at all for two hours before every meal. No milk, juice, water, snacks, etc. He also said to make sure meals were served pretty much at the same time every day.

If she has some kind of dip or sauce she likes, let her dip her veggies in it. Even if it's a red sauce and she wants to dip a carrot in it. It supposedly lets them adjust to the taste they don't quite like yet.

The other thing the doc suggested was to let her help with the grocery shopping and preparations. That gets them involved in the whole process.

My youngest kid is a human garbage disposal. He'll eat anything. The bottom line? Don't push it. She'll let you know when she's hungry.

Jennifer Wilck said...

I know this might sound harsh, but as long as she is healthy, I would serve her food and put a reasonable time limit on it. Once the time is up, take the food away. If she made a reasonable indent into the food or cleared her plate then give her dessert. Do not argue with her or turn it into an issue. Each time require a little more food to be eaten. Obviously if she is sick then all bets are off. And once the food is removed do not offer anything else until the next meal.

Anthology Authors said...

First, thank you, everyone, for your advice. I'll probably try some of these tactics to see which ones stick. This evening, we had hotdogs. Oooo... nutrition, but she ate the entire dinner. She also devoured the strawberries, blackberries, and cheese and crackers I made for snack. She got pissed at her friend who knocked the strawberry off her fork while playing around. (Heck, I was pissed at her friend. The little twerp likes to bait Lily at times.) Perhaps the half eaten sandwich at lunch would explain her attitude as well as her appetite.

Molly,

She has to eat more than cereal because it's just not filling enough. I do let her eat cereal, but I usually add something like half of an English muffin, or she turns into the demon seed within 10 minutes of finishing it.

Anonymous,

My main issue is with health. She has had health issues, and I worry about her limited food list. I guess that's just a mother for you.

Tess,

Usually, I do try not to give her anything before dinner. The challenge is that if her blood sugar level drops, she's prone to tantrums. Not just regular tantrums, either. Major screaming fits that can last 45 minutes long and happen at the drop of a hat. We have to be vigilant to ensure it doesn't happen. No sauces, either. The girl doesn't even like ketchup, mustard or mayo. She doesn't like ranch, blue cheese, or any type of dressing we've tried so far. We'll keep trying.

The big challenge, at least during the school year, with the 2 hour limit comes from her not eating all of her lunch. (Not enough time. This child can take an hour to eat a PB&J sandwich.) She has to eat when she gets home at 3:20 or she's unbearable.

Jennifer,

I think the limitation on eating time will be a good thing. Earlier today, before we went shopping, she got up and left the food to play with her friend.

"Okay, that means you are done eating," I told her.

"I'm not done," she said.

"If you left the table to play, you must be done."

It was time to leave to go shopping. If she wants to eat, she needs to stay at the table and finish it. Luckily for her, we went to the farmers' market where she could sample the fruit.

Regardless, we have all summer to work this out.

Faith said...

I'm blessed, I guess. My kids eat anything that doesn't eat them first. Now my oddball kid is the youngest. He won't eat salad, nor does he like any sort of "salad" items ("Mommy, my burger has salad on it, can I take that stuff off?"), but he'll eat brussel sprouts, carrots, beans, etc. if it's baked, steamed or cooked like he's eating candy.

However, like I said, my kids eat anything. I made most of my baby food from off the dinner table, and then when they got into that stage where it didn't need processed, they'd sit down with a plate of whatever I cooked and feed themselves.

I eat just about anything too. The one thing I hate with a passion, tho, is okra.

Anthology Authors said...

You are lucky, Faith. As you know, Lily is not like that at all. She'd probably be eaten before she ate it. (g)

I think I could probably hide some veggies in a smoothie, but she'll only drink maybe a few swallows. I guess a few swallows would be better than nothing.

BTW, I thought you hated avocados. (g) Have you changed your mind?

Faith said...

Yes, Marci. I've changed my mind about avacodoes. Dunno when or how it happened either, LMAO!

The Flight of the Sorceress said...

If you're going with avocados, make guacamole. If he/she is a two-year old Indonesian, let them light up a smoke. Looking at recent pictures of the baby smokers, it appears they'll eat just about everything. And while you're at it, give the kid a beer. Let him/her loaf on the couch. Put on a ball game. This is cultural.

Anthology Authors said...

Maybe you finally got some good avocados. Bad ones can be really nasty. I love them mashed up with a little bit of lemon juice, garlic powder and salt. That's my idea of perfect guacamole. I don't like all of that other crap that people put in it. (I like tomatoes and onions, but not in my guacamole. I'm odd, what can I say.)

Fiona McGier said...

I had 4 kids in 5 years. The oldest was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 8 so I know all about blood sugar problem. The second son lived by these words: "If it's never been in my mouth before, it's never going in there!" He would willingly forego dinner 4-5 nights a week. I finally taught them all (at about age 6) to cook macaroni and cheese (the boxed crap with little nutrition), ramen soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches with Wonder bread. The deal was if they didn't like what I made for dinner, I'm not a short-order cook. Eat what I make or make your own.

Mr. Picky-eater was always thin and wiry as a child. Now at 21 he's taller than any of his siblings, at 6'4" (he can look his Dad in the eye)...and he works out, runs marathons, and eats anything he thinks his body can digest. "That carpet looks pretty edible Mom, mind if I try it?" Me: "Nah, help yourself. We can always get a new one."

This too, shall pass. Choose your battles, and what they eat is not one I needed to win.

As for the past, my brother could make a single pea last for hours, what with the gagging, the retching, the vomiting, the bulging eyes, etc. I once ran to the bathroom to throw up the fish...Mom never made fish again. Enough bacon and I'd eat one single bite of liver!

Faith said...

You might be right, Marci. I started getting mine at our local walmart or Kroger's which both have amazing produce departments. I do my big grocery days over there because it's a 40 min drive. If I get stuff like that at the li'l groceries in our Podunk downs...blech!