4 year old with taste and texture issues


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My 4year old has refused all veggies in any form since he started finger foods and will only eat crunchy fruit. The only way to get variety is to offer freeze dried versions. I can't even hide veggies in meals, he tastes it. We have always offered choice and started the one bite rule. He litteraly throws up upon eating veggies. And he WILL starve himself. I have tried only offering healthy food, he will refuse all of it, he has gone a full 24 hours before looking pale and I finally give in. We have switched over to sprouted wheat bread, rice crackers with no sugars, natural nut butters, apple butter or whole fruit jam. He eats larabars and fruit leathers, non homogenized whole organic milk. He will accept smoothies and homemade Popsicles. I want to wean off carbs, but without significant veggie intake, I worry. We don't do processed foods like nuggets, granola bars, etc. but he still eats a lot of grain.

Sorry this is long, I just don't know what to do.

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It sounds like you are doing the best you can--and it's not all that bad! Really. It's a difficult situation. What an amazing self-protective spirit he has. That's amazing.

I wanted to mention the author Ellyn Satter to you. She is wonderful is helping parents cope with food issues with their kids. I've read some of her work and it totally diffused the tension we had at the dinner table--which, in my opinion, has a far worse effect on health than what we eat!

My heart goes out to you. Wish I could be more help.

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Does he have any specific issues (like Sensory Processing Disorder, etc.) that you know of, or is this just a control and preference issue? Will he eat raw veggies, or just fruit? Will he eat soft (canned) fruits?

Sorry for the 20 questions - those answers will help discern if it's a texture issue or a preference.

My instinct is that it's a preference and control issue between the two of you (I have a 4 YO and a 3 YO - we fight these battles every day, too). I posted this answer in a similar topic a while ago, but I've tweaked it a bit to your situation. If I were you, this is how I'd handle it:

My kids have gone through "no-(insert food here)-at-all-ever" phases, too, but it's never been as intense as what it sounds like you're working with. What are the chances that this is a control battle? . It sounds like his issue may be with you asking him to (or in his mind, making him) eat something he doesn't particularly want to. Kids at that age are continually exploring their autonomy, discovering that they are in control of their own minds and bodies and learning that we, as parents, cannot read their minds or move their bodies. These seemingly random exercises of will come and go and take some really interesting forms.

I suggest a little experiment: Give him a week of no nagging, no forcing, no one-bite rules. If he eats fruits and veggies well, let him load up. Fill him full of whatever fats he'll eat. Make sure that there are options at every meal that he can eat and don't offer the foods you don'e want him to have (crackers, milk, whatever). Take the pressure off and don't even address the issue. But, don't give into his pleas or demands either. He eats what you've cooked - veggies or no. Just see how he reacts. There's a chance that, once he sees that you respect his autonomy, he'll choose to partake with you. If he doesn't, then you can start working through some other plans. At the very least, though, you'll get some fight-free meals under your belt and it will help return the sanity we so very much need as parents.

The guiding principle I use with my girls is this: As a parent, I can control what they eat in my home. But life is so much more than being told what to do. I want my girls to learn how to eat - what, when, why - and (IMHO) deciding what goes into their mouths is a part of that.

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not diagnosed with any SPDs. He has always been VERY sensitive to loud noices, crowds, new tastes and texture. He has some aversion to "scratchy" clothes. Discussed with Pediatritian and she's not concerned, just his little quirks.

He eats apples and very crisp watermelon, must be cajolled into trying anything else and at that it's a bite, followed by gagging. No canned fruits or veg.

I know it's a control issue as well, but he started it so early, like right after puree's. Which is frustrating, because I made all his baby food, let him try our food, offered a variety of textures, etc. As soon as finger foods started he wouldn't touch a green thing with a 10 foot pole, and he's been that way since. I have never forced food. We only started the one-bite rule at age 3 1/2 after a YEAR with 0 veggies passing his lips! Prior to that we practiced always putting a balanced meal on the table/plate and he ate what he wanted. We never "rewarded" for eating a certain food, never forced, never put any emphasis on one item over another, etc.

Followed the same style with his sister and she eats everything. So that makes me think there is something more than just control, but I don't know. He would live off crackers, apples and PB&J's if I let him.

We've been experimenting with Gluten Free lately because of excema and digestive issues.

As you can tell, this has been a long time issue and I feel confused as to how to proceed and what the best food is for him. I want to feed him the healthiest food I can, but I'm feeling like I may have to comprimise on things like yogurt (whole milk, plain) and rice crackers.

I am going to try the 1 week no nagging, no One-Bite, etc just set meals and see how it goes. Thanks for the advice, sorry for the vent. I don't get a lot of support from family on this issue :(

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Feel free to come here and vent any time :0) We're always here.

I had many of those same issues as a kid (and still do, some of them - loud noises, scratchy clothes, soft textures of food). The good news is that those are considered to be markers of high intelligence. The bad news is, they're legitimate aversions and they can be tricky to work around. I'll add this to my previous advice:

Maybe he would enjoy getting creative with fruit and veggie prep - you might let him choose how to cook the fruit or veggie (baked for soft texture, fried for a little crispness, raw for crunch). It's a bit cliche, but it's true, that kids are more willing to try foods they've chosen and/or helped prepare. Try doing some science together! Let him smell and taste spices and turn them into crazy concoctions. You can also puree some of the sweeter veg like carrots and hide them in jello, sweet potatoes in muffins, etc. just to get them in.

Keep us posted - we're here to help!!!

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Two thoughts that might help: 1. I still puree a lot of dark leafy greens for my kids. They can handle the taste but refuse the texture, so I puree and mix it into tomato sauce, chili, spinach & meat muffins, etc. 2. When a child has a tummy bug, they can go for days without eating food. As long as they are hydrated, my ped refuses to see them until they haven't eaten for 10 days. You read that right, and we did have a bug once that lasted that long. Point being, don't panic if your child misses a day of eating, or eats less than usual for several days in a row. You are retraining him and it will take time for him to adjust.

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