Keep getting more anxious about my kids' foods (Vent)


Jessica M.

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The more I read, the more anxious I get about my kids' foods (I have a ten year old boy and an eight year old girl). I am just dipping my own toes in the Whole30 pool here (day 6), and everything I read just freaks me out more.

Especially regarding my son. He has been a picky eater since birth! BF him despite tons of difficulty, but eventually supplemented my pumped milk with some formula. FF ten years, he is one of the smallest in his class, thin (though an acceptable weight). HE would just eat chicken nuggets and goldfish crackers or sweets all the time, but I do get him to eat grilled/sauteed/broiled chicken, occasional piece of fish, sometimes a hamburger or some meatloaf. Small serving of veggies (he'll only accept carrots and green beans; peas and broccoli go down with a gag; that's it). Wait till he's starving doesn't work, never has, he would rather go hungry. Fish is a battle. A bit of pasta or rice is a battle (though now that doesn't seem so bad). Fruit, he'll eat apples and bananas willingly, cantaloupe or pears grudgingly, won't eat any other fruit, not even apple SAUCE.

The list of what he won't eat could go on forever.

Among the things he will eat endlessly: peanut butter (now bad), and stuff made with soy (Boca Burgers, Boca Chick'n, soy chocolate milk)... I had already been wondering if I should lay off the soy, and after reading all the ISWF and Whole9 stuff the past 2 weeks, I feel like I am poisoning him with estrogens. But these are a few of the FEW foods he eats! I can't just give him chicken every meal! Geez!

Going to try to shift him over to Sunbutter. Don't know what I will replace his boca burgers with. That's his go-to dinner when the rest of us are having something "gross" he won't eat. He has always had tons of texture issues too... won't have anything saucy, or combined foods. Mostly likes things that are crisp or crunchy. Though not salad. OMG this kid. Later this year he is turning 11 and I worry about him entering puberty land without enough proper nutrition.

My daughter on the other hand, will eat almost anything. SHE loves her pasta. I don't cook pasta much but she will have it at school, grandma and grandpa's (though grandma cooks them Salmon almost every time they eat over), at a restaurant. I encourage her to get something else. She loves salads, sushi, you name it.

Also... corn! Never have I read so much bad stuff about corn. Oh for goodness sakes. I don't know if I need to take it down a notch or throw away all the food in my house.

Would love some ideas. Seriously,"they'll eat when they're hungry" will not work with my son. He will wait three meals till you throw your hands up and give him some peanut butter waffles and a Z-Bar with a big glass of milk just to get something in him. He seriously doesn't care to eat unless it's A) junk or B) forced upon him. I wish I could be like that, darn it!

~Jessica

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I'm sorry about all the trouble you have with your son... I'm not much help (don't have any kids, and no food issues), but maybe the books Eat Like a Dinosaur or Paleo Pals could help you...? I feel they are targeted to a younger audience than your son, but they have recipes that could be a winner.

This website: http://paleoparents.com/ has a lot of advice for transitioning kids to a paleo diet.

http://paleomg.com/ and http://www.elanaspantry.com/ are both great paleo recipes blogs that have amazing desserts recipes. I'm thinking if you can find a recipe for a paleo verison of a dessert he enjoys, it could be a good way to transition him.

Since he likes carrots and green bean, find different ways to preprare these veggies so he doesn't get bored (or, if that's not an issue, find his favorite way to have the veggies, so that he can eat more).

Also, could bacon (good quality) be a good start? It's got a crispy texture, a lot of fat and some protein. You could also use transition foods ("bad" food made with paleo ingredients), such as coconut icecream, alomd/coconut chocolate milks. Sure, these are treats, and not compliant with Whole30, but they are better options than soy products.

Also, if your son doesn't have colour issues, you could try kale chips (kale pieces + olive oil + seasonings. baked at 350 for ±10 minutes or until they start to brown). These are super high in vitamins, cripsy and really delicious.

Keep us posted on what works and what doesn't!

Good luck!

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Thanks, Renee. He's never been willing to eat bacon, eggs, anything. The idea of him eating kale chips made me giggle, but who knows. My daughter would eat them for sure. Last night I made beef stew and just blotted his meat off so it wouldn't be wet, and that flew (normally if I was making a combo food like that I would make him a boca burger)... so... little by little. I wish I had been more strict on pushing variety when he was, say, TWO, because now at ten, he is way too willful. Can't even bribe him with dessert. Maybe money, LOL. The past couple of years I have been switching out flour for wheat flour and throwing in a bit of flax seed meal when it won't affect the color, so I am sure I could sneak some extra baked goods into him (maybe coconut flour or something. Hubby is allergic to almonds so I don't know about almond flour. There are other things like that to try). I think I'm more concerned about proteins and veggies. This kid! Geez, at 2, my Mother in law and I were making lamb stew and blending it down for him b/c he wouldn't eat finger foods. Should have kept with bigger solids. Before I knew it all he wanted was fish sticks or chicken nuggets. I wish I could rewind time. Sigh. Got the solids introductions all wrong with this kid. Somehow he managed to be healthy and bright (he's in the fourth grade gifted class at his school and asks way too many deep questions). :)

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Yeah that window of making him eat whatever when he was little has passed. You did say he will wait until YOU throw your hands up and give him peanut butter waffles and milk. He is more than old enough to manipulate you into doing what he knows you always will, which is cave and give him stuff you know isn't great for him like waffles. I personally wouldn't offer a separate meal for him like you've been doing, you are a family and while you do not go out of your way to force disgusting food on kids, he can't expect adults to make different meals because of his pickiness.

You are right to deal with this now. If not, not only will be set up for poor nutrition throughout his entire life, he will also be handicapped in dealing with social eating, etc. Think of all the dinner parties, etc. that we go to as adults. Think of his wife and what she will go through with a husband who eats very little, and her trying to raise health conscious kids in that environment. You can do it! I would sit everyone down and say something like "okay guys. We are starting some new family food rules. As parents we haven't done the best to eat the healthiest foods but we have been learning how GREAT a body can feel with better foods and we are going to start eating great and feeling great all the time. So we have some new rules. We will do our best to make delicious heathy food, and sometimes things will be new and different, but there will only be one meal made. So no one gets something different. And everyone will be required to have two bites of each thing of dinner because there is no way to learn to like new foods without trying them right? We know you won't like it all but you won't be disrespectful either about it. You can tell us it is not your favorite but there will be no "eeeeew" or "yuck!!!" Because mom worked super hard to make something yummy and that is hurtful. Love you guys! I have a new paleo cookbook. Help me find a new recipe to try! How about this chocolate chili with pumpkin coconut custard for dessert?" smile smile, fun.

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Ten is a good age to start helping in the kitchen. Maybe pick up one of the kid-focused cookbooks Renee mentioned above or dig around the internet and see if you can find two recipes that he "might" like. If you can get him interested in helping you cook, then ask him to pick one of the two recipes and help you cook it. Kids are much more likely to eat something they make themselves.

I don't know if this will work in your situation. I have a pasta-loving teenage daughter and this sometimes works on her.

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I've also heard Sarah Fragoso's book Everyday Paleo has a big section on kids and paleo. Then again, I haven't read her book, but is definitely is on my paleo cookbooks wishlist!

Like Amy said, most kids like to be part of the meal planning/cooking. How about going to a Farmer's market with your son and choose with him meats and produce? If that's still too much, maybe you could visit a farm that lets you pick fruits and veggies? Most kids will be more inclined to eat fruits and veggies if they harvested them themselves. Hopefully, by making food an activity that can be fun will help your son be a little less picky!

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Hi,

I have a five year old very similar to your 10 year old. We pretty much never get a pass. We used to make dinner for the rest of us and then a separate meal for the 5 year old (much like your boca burger back up). I eventually just gave up on making the back up. The first few weeks were horrible. HORRIBLE. I would make him breakfast, he would refuse to eat it. I laid down the law that unless he ate the meal he would not be allowed snacks and would only be allowed water until his next meal. We went a day and a half before he ate. I made sure to throw in at least one thing he would like and he still refused to eat just out of spite.

We now do "snack lunches" this is the meal he prepares for himself out of food I have pre-selected. So I will have cut up chicken or beef, carrots, celery, broccoli, an apple, a banana and some almond butter out of which he chooses 3 or 4 things. He feels like he made his own lunch and is more willing to try things. I try to always include things I know he likes as well as things that he might not prefer. The catch is "if you take it, you eat it" even if it is just a bite. There was a gag inducing episode with spaghetti squash that I am sure will be hilarious once the trauma has worn off.

I also found letting him help made a big difference....he helps make scrambled eggs. He lines the bacon up on the cookie sheet before we bake it. He gets to smash raw almonds to paste with a mortar and pestle. We also make paleo versions of stuff I know he would eat before....Golden Nuggets (chicken) from Eat Like a Dinosaur has saved my bacon more than once.

The idea of bringing him along to help shop is good as well. We allow ours to each pick a fruit and a veggie they would like to try. Sometimes its a hit sometimes it isn't but they know because they chose it they have to at least try what we made "especially" for them.

It is a long, gruelling process to convert a picky eater. But, slowly it is worth it. Mine now eats shrimp, fish, scallops (he thinks they are chicken but whatever) and has a decent repertoire of veggies that I can pull from.

Oh, and we planted a garden. Huge improvements were had with vegetables when he got to grow some. Even if it is potted tomatoes they will get a kick out of it.

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I saw your response to my son, 8, who has some similar issues to your son. My son actually was not a picky eater until about 3.5 years old. Then texture became an issue. Look in the Whole30 Kids thread for when I asked about texture issues, I got some good advice there. You kind of have to learn what bothers your son and get creative. If I chop up veggies small enough my son will eat them when mixed with other foods, but he is ok with combined foods. My son hates eggs so we have to mix them with something else at a certain ratio to get him to eat them. And texture issues are a medical condition, not something you can or should try and force your kid out of. The texture literally makes them sick and they will not eat it, even if starving hungry from the whole "wait till their hungry" idea. Some kids actually won't eat for days if the foods revolt them in that way. It's a rough road. Slowly we are finding recipes our son likes but you make a lot of stuff just to find one good recipe.

He has liked many of the Well Fed recipes which surprised me. Everyday Paleo is typically way too spicy for him. Eat Like a Dinosaur is a bit too much Paleofied food in it for us. We don't want a faux chicken nugget or pudding for him on a weekly basis.

You can also find an occupational therapist for the texture issues if it is really bad.

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Hi Jessica M!

If you scroll through this section a bit, you'll see my answer to a very, very similar question. I'll add this to that: Your son is definitely old enough to know that he's manipulating you. I'll buy that he has texture issues, and that can be difficult. But behavioral challenges that usually encompass those food-related issues also manifest strongly in other areas of daily life, so I'm going to assume that you're already dealing with some conflict and/or behavior modification already. This is one place where you're going to need to take a stand - not fight, not argue, not push - but draw a hard line. He WILL NOT starve in 24 hours, but you could be fighting control battles with a hormonal teenager before long if you aren't willing to draw lines.

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Hi Jessica M!

If you scroll through this section a bit, you'll see my answer to a very, very similar question. I'll add this to that: Your son is definitely old enough to know that he's manipulating you. I'll buy that he has texture issues, and that can be difficult. But behavioral challenges that usually encompass those food-related issues also manifest strongly in other areas of daily life, so I'm going to assume that you're already dealing with some conflict and/or behavior modification already. This is one place where you're going to need to take a stand - not fight, not argue, not push - but draw a hard line. He WILL NOT starve in 24 hours, but you could be fighting control battles with a hormonal teenager before long if you aren't willing to draw lines.

So true! I forgot to mention that mouth texture issues also are usually accompanied by issues with the other senses like touch, hearing, and smell. So yep, behavior modification helps a lot. My son never threw a temper tantrum over food or demanded something else though. He just didn't eat. We stayed away from making separate meals. We did discover that corn reduces him to fits of crying and depression for no reason and he couldn't control himself or talk about it. Like when we was just watching tv. As we confirmed this through elimination and reintroduction, he said "I am never eating corn again." So, as you change the foods, behavior issues may go away on their own.

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Thank you both. I never had him diagnosed as having texture issues, I think maybe I should have or maybe it's more my own doing. I definitely just have to buck up and give him more variety and expect him to eat it. I gave up somewhere along the way to avoid conflict (or let him bargain how many green beans till he could be finished). Have to belatedly be more strong. He does manipulate me and/or charm me. Really I'm lucky it's our worst issue and he is otherwise a good kid, but it's annoying and worrisome.

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He WILL NOT starve in 24 hours, but you could be fighting control battles with a hormonal teenager before long if you aren't willing to draw lines.

God help me when this boy is a teenager, though I joke with my hubby that maybe some peer pressure or a girlfriend will get him to eat other things. I will give him a bite of squash or whatever I know he won't eat, but goading him into eating it is exhausting. Even the things he does eat have rules that will make him not eat them. He will eat baby carrots or "crinkle cut carrots" but not cooked carrots that are diced or with other veggies or even cooked baby carrots... without a fight at least. He will eat green beans, but mostly just the frozen cut green beans. God forbid if they are normal full length green beans. When I make fresh, I automatically chop them to the frozen size so he will not give me a hassle. I'm such a slave. Ha. When he was a toddler he refused eggs on multiple occasions, so I just stopped giving them to him. I'd sneak an extra one into his baked goods and that was the best I did. I think a lot of it is me being easily frustrated by it and not being strong. :(

PS-- this extends to sweets and junk as well. Will have chocolate or an apple but not try a chocolate covered apple slice. Loves french fries but won't eat a tater tot. Loves goldfish crackers but won't have a square cheese cracker. If anything is remotely different he balks. It's exhausting.

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You mentioned he is gifted - often gifted kids have sensitivities to lots of things like clothes, light, textures and even food. It may be the standard picky eater syndome but my DS7 is gifted with some similar issues and I think it's worth looking at that angle to see if there are ways to help encourage him to try new things. Gifted kids are wired differently! Good luck.

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Thanks. I was up late last night reading about sensory food aversion and other sensitivities like you mention, and he seems to have at least half of the listed issues. Wow. I can't believe I never researched this before. I knew it was more than just being picky, but I figured it was my fault for however I introduced foods. And he gets cranky or cries over a million things, and I kept thinking it was just that I'm a sucker. Maybe he really truly can't stand the darn seam in his socks or the feel of broccoli. OHFORGOODNESSSAKES. I am kicking myself. Time to go see a nutritionist or a OT? Need to go see the pediatrician. All these years he's just been like,"listen to your mom and eat more!" Geez. :o

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Start with the pedi but if they are not clued in to the needs of gifted kids, you may need to venture out. I haven't gone down the OT road yet as we are looking more at possible ADHD issues with some minor sensory issues. An OT might be the way to go. I would head over to the Davidson gifted forums - you can probably find other parents there who have dealt with the same thing!

http://giftedissues.davidsongifted.org/BB/

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Have you tried occupational therapy for the texture issues? I have a friend with a son in the same situation. She started taking him to therapy because they have a three day field trip coming up. She is concerned that he won't eat anything the whole time if its not the few things he likes.

I began transitioning my kids to paleo when I started W30 in August. It's a slow process for us (although faster than I thought it would be). My son is 11. He has stomach issues. We are trying to figure out food triggers, but I think it's a stress response. That being said, his stomach does not bother him as much when he's eating clean. Kids don't need the same variety as we do. My daughter hates cooked veggies, but she'll eat them raw all day. My other son doesn't care for protein unless it's covered in ketchup. My other daughter will eat anything. I keep these things in the back of my mind when preparing meals, but I don't make separate meals for them. With four kids, I could be a short order cook. No thanks. I allow them to have paleofied breakfast things. I stopped buying frozen waffles and make my own. I also make a sweet potato banana pancake that they love. I make a huge amount and then freeze them. Just reheat in the toaster. Peer pressure may work against what you're trying to do. My son has been made fun of for having healthy lunches. Lucky for me, he doesn't care too much what other people think (at least where food is concerned). I can tell you that cutting down on processed food has helped with the hormaonal behavioral problems around here. My daughter is 9 and already starting with cyclical grumpiness. It takes time and patience. Don't focus too much on what you should have done. Those days are gone. Start from here and make changes where you can. I find my children naturally reaching for nuts and fruit for a snack instead of chips, goldfish or candy. We made paleo cookies at Christmas time. They thought some of the treats brought over by our guests were too sweet and tasted funny. This is after just a few months of healthier eating. We have a long way to go, but slowly things improve. I hope things get better for you soon.

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Jessica -

Take heart! I WAS that kid! Just a heads up: the seams on socks ARE that bad ;)

Thankfully, my pediatrician was amazing and recommended this book to my mom. She considered it the most valuable reference she had as a parent. Granted, it's been 20 years, but it might be worth looking into.

http://www.amazon.com/Living-Active-Alert-Child-Groundbreaking/dp/1884734774

She says it gave her strategies for dealing with me, my teachers (who she coached throughout my education), and family members who gave her hell for the way she raised me. I'd also highly recommend the book mentioned in the "People who bought this book..." section on the page - Raising Your Spirited Child. I have one of those, and this really helped me develop strategies for working with her.

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If it gives you hope, my daughter was a seriously picky eater growing up, and is also quite petite. She decided to be vegetarian when she was a high school freshman, which I supported (mostly bc I thought it was a phase that wouldn't last long). She stuck with it. The first couple years she probably got the bulk of her calories from milk, cereal, French fries and junk food. I tried so hard to make really nice vegetarian dinners, she would take a bite and say ick. It was hard. Very slowly she started exploring and enjoying more of a variety, and by her second year of college was eating a wide and healthy (well, maybe not by paleo standards) variety of food. She went vegan last June, and she is now (at 20 yrs old) possibly more adventurous with food than I am. I don't think it is uncommon for picky eaters to grow out of it, and I think often it has at least a little to do with control.

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I don't think it is uncommon for picky eaters to grow out of it, and I think often it has at least a little to do with control.

You're totally right here. Especially for kids with sensory issues! So often they are overwhelmed by the sensations around them, and one input they CAN control is their food. As they grow up and gain more independence and control over their surroundings, and feel less overwhelmed by sensory input, they are often more willing to try new foods.

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Wow, thanks for all the feedback. I have a lot more reading to do. It's so awesome that I came on these boards because of MY personal experiment with Whole30 (day 9, doing well) and have learned so much that will benefit my whole family in just this shoe amount if time. Awesome people here and great information. :-)

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My 21 yr old was the pickiest eater around as well. Even as a baby he would spit out vegetables. I provided the best nutritional foods I could for him and left it alone. He sat at the table, and if he didn't eat, he didn't eat. I tried to include at least one thing he would eat. I didn't argue, plead, or otherwise make this any kind of issue.

He still won't eat beans of any kind, but beyond that, he eats. He's in the military and has to eat, so all of those things he wouldn't touch are part of his normal diet now.

Eventually, it will be ok. Just keep offering the best food choices you can.

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