Parents of fussy eaters come hither

(22 Posts)

How do you cope with your fussy eater?

My DS is 6 and a nightmare. My DD eats everything. So I don't think this is all down to me. She isn't afraid to try new things and has a good appetite. But DS just moans moans moans. I have tried everything really but I think now, he is how he is.

I have tried to handle him as gently as possible - I don't want mealtimes to be a battle. I do not cook everyone different meals or offer alternatives either. But DS would happily eat the same 3 or 4 things in rotation and I don't know whether to just go with that or watch him go without dinner for half of the week. Nothing has ever changed how he is.

Experienced parents of fussy eaters help!!

baggyoldcow Wed 20-Nov-13 18:38:27

watching closely, I have this problem too!

Procrastinating Wed 20-Nov-13 18:40:52

Mine is 8. Nothing works or ever has worked.
I have two normal eaters so this is not my fault (whatever my mother might imply). I just make him what he likes now, I have given up.

Patilla Wed 20-Nov-13 18:44:16

I make sure there is something on his plate that he does like but dont stop putting other things on ESP if he has eaten them in the past.

I'm also trying to desensitise him to sauces by slowly adding them.

I put him into school dinners as well To encourage him to try new things.

Thanks, it's good to know I'm not alone. I have listened to, followed, and repeated to others lots of the general advice for encouraging them but there comes a point doesn't there?

But of course Patilla you're right that I mustn't stop offering other foods, all too often it's easy to think of a meal and say, ah but DS won't eat it so why bother? But if he never has XYZ put in front of him then he hasn't even got a chance and I suppose now and then even the fussiest eater will try and like something new.

He would live on roast dinners, sausages, fajitas, and anything like fish fingers or nuggets. Oh and beans, jacket potatoes. He probably considers his diet to be varied. He's had a cheese and marmite sandwich for lunch every day since September. Won't contemplate school dinners sadly, even when I try to intice him by reading the pudding options blush

I made sausages and mash today and he cried because the mash 'looked different'.

thomasmad Wed 20-Nov-13 23:20:26

Hi Lady,
I have 3 DS and my first was very fussy!! He ended up being seen by a Child Health Clinic for eating issues. It was very frustrating. He is quite slim, had and still has sensory issues with food textures and was very stubborn. Having had limited success at the clinic and feeling that the eating issue was one that dominated our household and made everyone stressed I turned to mumsnet for help. We had tried not giving him pudding until he had tried a meal, offering no alternatives, giving in and giving him a limited diet; cheesy pasta and toast!! rewards/bribes etc. I felt that the rewards thing was counter productive because it made food more of an issue. Anyway to cut a long story short he was surviving on apples, fromage fraise, raisins, pasta and toast in the September and by Christmas he was eating a whole Christmas lunch!!

The main strategy: is to change your behaviour - take away some of the focus and stress. Get a bowl and cook your child their fave meal. If you want them to try a new food decide on that food e,g sweetcorn and cook a tiny amount. "Now DS we are trying to eat healthily/ help your little brothers eat. Everyone has to try a tiny amount of sweetcorn e.g 2 pieces and then you get fave meal. You have to stick to your guns and don't give meal until they have tried i.e put it to their mouths. Every family member must try. Same routine for 10 days and then sweetcorn goes on plate with a fave food. We worked up from carrots to every type of green veg. It is harder for "mixed stuff" like shepherds pie but it is a simple and gradual "desensitising programme". Plus little food is wasted.
Other suggestions - a "lazy Susan" on table with 4 veg - they get to choose which two they eat ( tiny amounts) School dinners, peas cooked into muffins!!!, cooking with the kids, menu planning a meal so you do a colour themed food day!! Carrots out for snacks around house so no pressure and good old "Gummy bears" vit tabs. Hope this helps.Google Food Bowl for old thread.

thomasmad Wed 20-Nov-13 23:38:01

Sorry, didn't explain the strategy clearly!!! The bowl bit is because you have a "tasting bowl" with the chosen food in it. Everyone in the family has to try it before they get their meal. The other thing I found interesting was in the book "French Children don't throw food" which talks about serving children courses, introducing new foods by talking about textures/ tastes and generally being very positive about trying new things. I have 3 children, One was awful but now a pretty eater and the other two eat most things. Hope this helps!!

NoComet Thu 21-Nov-13 00:01:27

They get very very very very slowly better as they vet older, at least at 12, DD2 accepts she's a pain and even eats a few more things than she once did.

I have long ago stopped nagging her. I just serve up stuff she likes and add sauce and interesting veg after I've served her.

mummaemma Thu 21-Nov-13 20:33:24

My sons nearly 14, and he is still a fussy eater and drinker,been like this for 12 years. Has never eaten a vegetable, potato, egg, rice, chicken, fish, pretty much all the main food groups, mainly eats cereals, bread, and drinks 2 large glasses of milk a day. Won't even eat burgers and chips, my other 3 children eat normally

mawbroon Thu 21-Nov-13 22:12:21

DS1 was very fussy when he was younger, and coupled with allergy to egg and intolerance to dairy, there was a very limited number of foods he would eat.

When he was 6yo ish, I discovered he had tongue tie. He was having physical difficulties with many of the textures and found chewing some things very tricky.

His ties were revised a year ago, and although he is still limited, he is definitely improving. He can now chew his food properly which makes a huge difference to his ability to control the food in his mouth.

noblegiraffe Thu 21-Nov-13 22:19:55

Thomasmad, that's really interesting. You say they have to put the food in their mouth. What if they spit it out every time? Or after ten goes and it is included in the favourite meal and it is still untouched?

I have two that are fussy about different things!!!

Eldest was always a poor eater - he was difficult to breastfeed, projectile vomited, refused food and we had to trick him into eating - total nightmare. Younger son was a brilliant eater as a baby and toddler and gradually got fussy as he got older.

They are 13 and 12 now and eat a pretty decent range of food and are gradually expanding it all the time. But just to be awkward the things they are fussy about are the opposite things!

Vegetables are a struggle for Eldest but he will eat them as long as he can see them or have the texture - so, he knows I put grated carrot into spaghetti bolognaise but is happy to eat it. He will however eat most fruit. He won't eat potatoes unless they are very thin chips. He does however eat any kind of fish, curry, chilli and loads more

Youngest is not too bad on the veg but wont eat beans, bananas, fish (unless in batter or fingers!), pears or any kind of soup.

I was never too hard on them and probably indulged their favourites a bit too much, but we just built on small things.

So, for example if he'll eat chicken nuggets, try doing your own pieces of chicken with breadcrumbs and then gradually lose the breadcrumbs and turn it into chicken strips and then you can add some flavouring cradually such as chinese spices or bbq - when he likes that flavour, then add that flavour to something else such as rice or noodles. Basically when you serve something new make sure that there is something familiar about it - either the texture or flavour or food type.

long as he can't see them

ToysRLuv Thu 21-Nov-13 22:55:51

Marking my place. DS (4) is fussy. Was a good eater until 18 months and then just started to gradually refuse things. Our main problem is mixed textures and foods with sauces, which rules out a lot of stuff, such as spag bol, cottage pie, lasagne, soups, stews, etc. He will eat most veggies raw, but very few cooked. He also eats a lot of fruits and other healthy stuff like wholegrain, nuts, strawberry yoghurt and cheese. I try to not worry, but ask him to try something new each day. Sometimes he will point blank refuse, so I can't make him. Also he goes nuts if there is something he doesn't like on his plate (even if it's not "touching"). He will cry and refuse to eat. I don't know what else I can do really. It's frustrating and infuriating when people imply that it's your fault angry sad

thomasmad Thu 21-Nov-13 23:01:10

Hi NobleGiraffe,
Yes I thought we would have spitting out too!! but because it was more of a "game"/routine and very tiny amounts were allowed we had no problems. Believe you me, we had experienced the full range of tantrum, spitting out food before. If you google Mumsnet Food Bowl and fussy eaters, the original poster whom I took advice from explains it better. I believe that I was always going to have a fussy eater due to his issues with food textures and needing to keep food separate; but that my anxiety in response to the non-eating did not help. Therefore it was a breakthrough to change our behaviour as a family. Plus you feel that you are making positive baby steps. After 10 days we had no issues and put only a tiny amount of the "new" food on the plate.

thomasmad Thu 21-Nov-13 23:07:36

Plus I think that even if they put the food to their mouth/ spit out!! a very positive "Well done you tasted it" and no pressure will mean that they can move on to trying more fully the next day. Good Luck!! and yes Toys R Luv it is maddening when people assume it is easy to get them to eat!!

tricot39 Fri 22-Nov-13 14:00:10

thomasmad is correct that reducing stress at mealtimes is key to giving kids the space to try new foods, but it will not solve the fussy eating for everyone..... I always feel very inadequate when people suggest this as it just is not that simple for the hardcore children!

For those with major issues, just being in the room with an unacceptable food can spark problems (not our DS but I have seen a child try to escape from a group/food therapy session because a pot of yoghurt was opened!!). It could be way too much to expect a very resistant eater to put a food in their mouth if they were not ready.

About a year ago I posted this support thread

It has gone quiet, but if you look way way down the bottom, I listed out the steps which children have to get through before they will eat a new food: Being in the room with the food, it being on the table, on a plate near them, on their plate, touched with a tool, touched with a finger, picked up; sniffed, touched to lip, licked, put in mouth & spat out, chewed then spat out and chewed & swallowed. You can't try to move on to the next stage without managing the previous steps 5-6 times each. It is best not to tackle this at a mealtime as it really does ramp up the stress. It has made little or no difference, but after a break of about 6 months or so, we think we may start to try it again for a while.

We have come to some degree of acceptance that DS will probably be like this until he is 18-20 (the thread above had some nice stories from a mum much further down the road than most of the posters). We dose him up on smoothies (supplemented with Vegepa fish oil capsule contents and mineral/iron and multi vit Floradix plus Milk Powder for extra protein). It helps take some of the worry out of it all, but I do wish life could be just a bit normal and we could go out for a nice meal sometime...... sad

So no - you are definitely not alone!
Good luck.

Just to add to all the good advice here, when our eldest was about 3 we really got fed up with all the stress etc.

We decided to give him his breakfast which he would usually eat reliably, his normal morning snack of something like juice and cheese or raisins etc. offer him his lunch but take it away if he didn't eat it, give him his normal afternoon snack and again offer dinner but take it away saying nothing if he didn't eat it. We didn't give him any extra milk, juice, snacks etc but didn't take those away either.

We prepared for the long haul.

2nd day he hadn't eaten anything other than a breakfast and his snacks. My OH was a stay at home parent and i'd phoned him mid afternoon just as he had sat down to eat beans with toast. he'd lashed the beans with pepper, tobasco and soy sauce. While he was on the phone to me, No1 son went to the cutlery drawer, got himself a spoon and started tucking into the beans like there was no tomorrow. we then realised that he didn't like the bland, plain food we'd been presenting on the basis that it was what he would like as a fussy eater.

he is a fussy eater who likes spicy, strong flavoured food. He is still the same, struggles with vegetables and bland stuff but will happily scoff peppered kippers, gorgonzola, salami etc. Hates some textures though so likes pasta sauce as long as it's blended.

Maybe try some realy bizzare things with your son - he might just have a different preference for tastes than you do.

ToysRLuv Fri 22-Nov-13 15:04:45

tricot: I know what you're talking about. DS started whining and complaining because I put a bowl of sweet corn at the table. It was at the far end of where DS was sitting and there had been no mention of "trying it". DS was waiting for his potato wedges and chicken fingers. DS said that the sweet corn was disgusting and smelly. He covered his nose with a tissue in order to not smell it. No way would he tolerate having something like that on his plate.

In the end I persuaded him to put a kernel in his mouth at the promise of dinner (felt bad at doing this, but thought the "trying bowl" was worth a try). He put it in and spat it straight out. I was happy enough with that.

Yesterday I offered him a cream cracker with a very thin layer of peanut butter, which is a food he hasn't had before. He does like peanuts, though, so I thought it was worth a try. He point blank refused. In the process, his finger touched the sticky surface and he screamed and flicked it across the sofa.

Also, DS does like some spicy stuff and will e.g. eat raw chives from the garden, but baked beans - forget it. That will probably be the last food he would ever eat.

thomasmad Fri 22-Nov-13 16:45:25

Hi Tricot, will read your thread it sounds interesting. I feel awful now if I've made anyone feel inadequate, the "fussy eating/food refusing" scale is vast and our child (although limited enough in his diet to be referred to a clinic) was on the lower end of the scale. I would never presume that "fussy eating" was down to "the parents" - I've had that said to me enough!!! and much of it seems to be linked to sensory issues. However, the tasting bowl thing was a real breakthrough for us and helped us have a cohesive approach as a family which reduced our stress about the issue. When I have used the tasting bowl it contains a really tiny amount but perhaps it might be worth starting the tasting bowl as a mealtime routine working up from something they enjoy for 10 days and then onto a food that they aren't so keen on. I stress that this may be worth a try for those with issues (but lesser issues) and tricot's thread sounds like an excellent source for advice. I think the tasting bowl at meals was to "model tasting" not to ramp up the stress but I can see how it could add to the stress for some. It is tricky isn't it? there is so much conflicting advice!!!

scattergun Fri 22-Nov-13 19:05:49

I did not deserve my ds's fussy habits that's for sure. I read all the books and did everything right (can you sense my up-tightness already?) and he was always one step ahead. He sustained an 8 year campaign of food resistance. I swear he must have been stalking me on mumsnet to keep ahead of the tricks.

I stuck with the advice on here and there are occasional glimpses of hope. He will bite (but not bite off/chew/swallow) tomato, eats a mouthful of 2 other veg max, and tolerates only one fruit. However, he loves loads of spicy food, most roast meat, cheese and yoghurt, plenty of carbs. The thing that made a difference for us was when he trusted me that if I said he needed to taste it, just a minuscule textureless glob on his tongue, I'd be happy. So now he'll taste anything and sometimes tries a proper bite.

By the time he's in his 20s, he'll be able to take the girl I've chosen for him to a nice restaurant and not let me down.

tricot39 Fri 22-Nov-13 19:41:33

thomasmad don't worry i am just jealous that this doesn't work for us. our salt said we were.model clients and she wished everyone followed her advice like we had..... and still the boy will not eat. sigh.

lol at scatter!

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