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Extremly Fussy Eating In 4 Year Old - Can't Cope

(35 Posts)
xStrugglingMumx Tue 12-Jul-11 19:13:41

I am really struggling with my 4 year old DD and her fussy eating. It just seems to be getting worse and worse and foods that she would eat even if not very healthy i.e. fish fingers are now even going on the list of won’t eat foods.

Basically, for breakfast she will eat Oats so Simple Porridge (Syrup Flavour) but only sometimes, if it’s too lumpy she won’t eat. She will decide if it’s lumpy by looking so won’t even taste. Rice crispies, Shreddies, cherrios and cornflakes but if they are too soggy will not eat.

Lunch - Bread plain with butter, jam or spreading cheese. Bread toasted with butter or jam, used to eat a cheese toastie will not now. Pancakes with butter or jam. Crackers with spreading cheese.

Dinner - Pasta cooked but no sauce (will occasionally eat it with a tomato sauce and very occasionally macaroni, Heinz pasta shapes in tomato sauce, Potato smillies, roast potatoes, fish finger but will now only eat one piece now. Pizza with cheese and tomato or pepperoni (this is the only meat she will eat) and Tomato soup.

She will not eat or even taste meat and even if she does she has a few chews, gags on it and then spits it out.

She eats yogarts, fruit i.e. strawberries (but sometimes says they are too jaggy), melon, raspberries, blueberries, apples. She will occasionally eat carrots and sweetcorn.

Other things she will eat are Breadsticks, fruit flakes (plain) not yogart coated, walkers or McCoys ready salted crisps, cheese.

She does love chocolate, biscuits etc like most children but we do try to limit it.

Basically, this is what she lives on and I’m really struggling. Tonight I made omelette as she will sometimes eat egg and she ate a couple of mouthfuls and then said she did not like it and we had a real struggle to get her to even eat the potato smillie.

She is now asking after a couple of mouthfuls if she can share with us, which is her way of trying to get rid of the food. She wants to tell us jokes, chat nonstop anything but eat!! Also, she says can I get something else i.e. yogart. Up until we have been giving her one as all the research I have read says that you should offer two courses but I feel like she knows it does not matter if she does not eat her main course, as she will get something else.

Mealtimes are now no fun and I really dread them as no matter what I make DD finds fault with it even if it’s something she has picked.

DD was a great eater and would eat anything until she was about 2 years old and then the fussy eating started but it's getting worse and worse.

We have followed all the advice on fussy eating to no avail and are at a loss as to what to do next. confused

exoticfruits Tue 12-Jul-11 19:26:37

Don't make food an issue and give her attention. If she doesn't eat it, don't comment take it away. Don't give snacks. Do the same at the next meal. Don't get drawn into discussion.She won't starve. Don't discuss food at all.

Al1son Tue 12-Jul-11 19:28:29

The one really important thing to remember is not to allow this to turn into a power struggle. You need to appear to be unconcerned about what she eats.

The diet you've described isn't massively wide and varied but it isn't horrendously restricted either. It contains all of the important food groups and I can't think of anything important she'll miss out on. If you're really concerned that she's going to be missing something vital you can ask for a referral to a dietician.

My advice would be to place the food on the middle of the table at each mealtime and allow each person to serve themselves. If your dd only takes one mouthful that's fine. Allow her to get down and go away until the next mealtime. I don't know what the reason is behind offering two courses but could you offer something a little less sweet for the second course?

Don't be disapproving if she gets down and don't make too much fuss if she eats. Just include her in the general table conversation if she joins you to eat and carry on without her when she's down.

Even if you don't manage to expand her diet for a few months or years at least you can remove any pressure which causes her to limit it further.

She will eat normally again one day.

exoticfruits Tue 12-Jul-11 19:34:38

If you make it a power struggle you will not win (from someone who tried everything and failed) the only answer is to never discuss-treat it as totally boring and uninteresting.

TheArmadillo Tue 12-Jul-11 20:18:19

Her eating habits aren't that great but I've come across much much worse.

I agree with the others - stop making any comments on what she's eating. Make the food available then she can choose to eat it or not. No negative comments, no cajoling or encouraging - absolutely nothing.

Also make sure you are only giving very small portions - you can give more if she finishes what she has but some children do find a full plate overwhelming.

I personally don't give pudding unless they have eaten their main course but don't even offer it as 'they clearly aren't hungry'. But then we don't tend to eat pudding more than once a week so not really an issue.

If you are worried about the quantity she is eating you can introduce a morning/afternoon snack time - maybe cheese/fruit/yoghurt but unless she is showing signs of being seriously lacking in energy or fainting then its not something to worry about.

You can also try giving vitamins with iron in as anaemia can cause a lack of appetite that won't help with the eating.

TheArmadillo Tue 12-Jul-11 20:20:35

I meant to say I do sympathise - ds eating has had me in tears and tearing my hair out at times. And although it is improving now it has taken years

Scootergrrrl Tue 12-Jul-11 20:21:25

What about taking some of the worry away by having a snack box containing healthy-ish stuff that she can help herself to between meals? She might try something she wouldn't normally if no one is looking and she's hungry!

xStrugglingMumx Tue 12-Jul-11 21:18:21

Thank you so much for your replies and suggestions it really means a lot to know that I’m not alone. I think from what you are all saying is that we are making meal times into a battle with trying to persuade her to eat, telling her she won’t get anything else etc just general nagging and also we have been making a big deal if she has eaten something which maybe is not helping.

Usually we give her a yogart or fruit after her dinner and the odd time she will get a proper pudding. However, she is now asking for something else, which she never used to do maybe, that is because we have been giving her something even if she does not eat her dinner. Also, at times we have said you won’t get anything else unless you eat your dinner. I guess we must be giving her mixed messages as we have tried so many different things threats, not making a fuss etc to see if it makes any difference.

I usually do try to give her a healthy snack, like fruit, breadsticks etc and I have even tried cutting those out to see if it makes a difference but it does not.

I’m really going to try and not make a fuss as I think we are giving her too much attention at meal times. I think we have to try the suggestions of not even mentioning food as sometimes DH and I will say oh this is really good etc to try and get her interested.

Can I ask as a rough guide what time do your kids have their meals at as I sometimes wonder if DD’s are all quite close together? She has breakfast between 8am and 8.30am, morning snack at approx 10.30am, lunch 12 noon (which she usually always eats with no fuss) afternoon snack at 2.30pm and dinner at 5pm. Interestingly she always eats better when it’s just me and her at home but dinner time and the weekends when DH is there she seems to play up and is more excited wanting to chat to DH and basically do anything but eat.

pestroid Tue 12-Jul-11 21:41:34

Please, as the adult version of your daughter. Do not make a big fuss about what she eats or doesn't eat, don't leave her sitting there with the same dinner for hours (meals!!) on end. Just take it away if she doesn't eat it, DO NOT COMMENT take it away. Don't give snacks. Do the same at the next meal. Eventually she'll cave in, its a power struggle and for her sake she can't win this one.
Believe me, I wish my mam had done that, these days the food that I will eat is very limited. (I eat a healthy diet but a very very narrow diet) and the thought of someone inviting me to their house for a meal - well that MY worst nightmare. I am not trying to scare you. I am sorry if thats how I have come across, Its just I wish my mam had done things a little differently.smile

exoticfruits Tue 12-Jul-11 22:28:48

I'm glad that you find it works pestroid. It isn't really about food, she is getting attention and power through it.
The snack box isn't a good idea-she is never going to eat a meal without fuss if she can graze when she feels like it.
I don't see anything wrong with your timing, but I would only give snacks if she ate the meal. Don't fight about it. Just say, with mild surprise, I'm not surprised that you are hungry, you didn't eat breakfast. Don't get drawn in, just sound like a broken record and bored. If she does eat a meal you can serve a snack, but don't comment when you give it-keep off anything explanations-she will work it out for herself.
She can't make food an issue if you don't engage.
Serve things up in bowls so she can help herself-she can always have seconds-it is better than being overfaced.
Let her help make meals-but again-don't get drawn into lengthy discussions.
It is difficult when it is your own DC because you want them to eat and they know you are anxious.

xStrugglingMumx Wed 13-Jul-11 09:03:53

Pestroid thanks for your views from an adult perspective. I really should know better because as a child I was forced to finish everything on my plate even foods I did not like and even now, I will not touch any of these foods, which include most meats.

I agree what everyone is saying about DD having power and control at mealtimes, which means she is getting lots of attention even if it is negative.

I think we will definitely try the approach of no fuss, no mention of food and see how we get on.

If she says she does not want/like it we will try something like “oh, are you not hungry? Ok, then” and leave it at that. Fingers crossed, things will improve and we might be able to start enjoying meal times instead of dreading them.

sparkle1977 Wed 13-Jul-11 10:26:48

strugglingmum - Your DD sounds much like my DS. He ate really well until about 2 years old then he has limited his diet to a ridiculous extent. Breakfast wise he will eat toast, bread, pain au chocolat and sometimes weetabix so thats ok. Lunchtime he generally has a packed lunch style thing and will have bread and butter (no fillings whatsoever), he will eat flapjacks and those cereal sort of bars sometimes, yogurts very infrequently now. Teatime is the real nightmare tho as hot meal wise he will only eat cheese and tomato pizza with no other toppings at all. He used to eat a certain type of pasta but has now decided he does not like that. He literally will eat nothing else hot whatsoever, no meat, no potatoes of any variety, nothing junk food wise like fish fingers, sausages etc etc.
Fruit - he will have strawberries and raspberries sometimes and the odd banana.

Its driving me mad and is a complete nightmare when we eat out, which we don't tend to do with much as he will just whine, cry and complain if pizza is not on the menu.

I think we will have to try the suggestions advised too, although having tried them in the past I ended up stressed and upset, DS was upset at not being served anything he liked for tea, and it was a vicious circle.

You are not alone with this horrendous situation.

schobe Wed 13-Jul-11 10:34:54

This is probably really obvious but I make up some tomato sauce and blend a shed load of veg into it. Then spread it on pizza bases and make own pizzas.

Depending on the child, if they help make the pizza it can make them more inclined to eat it. They might even agree to add toppings.

Agree about the whole no fuss approach too.

exoticfruits Wed 13-Jul-11 10:43:02

I am also 'a master of disguise' -find something they like and add things. grin Mine liked tomato soup so as long as it remains th

exoticfruits Wed 13-Jul-11 10:44:08

sorry-posted too soon. remains the right colour and doesn't get a strong flavour of anything else you can get all sorts of veg in and liquidised.

Davsmum Wed 13-Jul-11 12:28:46

Everyone has given really good advice on this one.
As well as not making a fuss or giving the child too much attention at mealtimes, I would never give/offer an alternative. Once you start pandering to different wants of each child you end up preparing lots of different meals !

xStrugglingMumx Wed 13-Jul-11 12:48:17

Thanks again for the replies and suggestions. I’m going to try the idea of hiding veg in sauces etc and like the idea of making our own pizza as that’s one thing DD does like and she would probably love making her own.

I’m going to try chilling out at meal times and see how things go.

Thanks again for all your help much appreciated. smile

TheArmadillo Wed 13-Jul-11 13:26:58

While I do introduce new foods to ds I wouldn't give him a whole plate of foods he didn't like or hadn't eaten before. I adapt meals around him and maybe give him one or two small bits of new food to try. BUt this has taken a long time for him even to try them.

Ds (6yo) eats at 7.30, 12.30-1.30 and then between 5-6.30ish. We don't tend to do snacks, though he does have fruit at school either in the morning or afternoon.

jubilee10 Wed 13-Jul-11 16:48:46

My ds3(5) eats anything. He comes to the table, sits up and eats his meal without complaint. He has a school dinner each day and I'm told rarely leaves anything and if he has a packed lunch eats the lot, which is great as I never have to put "treat" foods in.

For long enough I couldn't understand why he was like this when ds's 1 and 2 were so fussy and ate such a limited diet when, after all, they were all "treated the same". Then It dawned on me that when the two older boys were little I had more time, I was at home more and I pandered to their likes and dislikes often cooking different meals for everyone. By the time ds3 came along I was working full time, the other boys were older and less fussy and dinner was put on the table everyone sat down and ate and I cleared away. I would just ask if everyone was finished and clear up. Dessert was served in the same fashion.

I would make as little fuss as possible, hire a couple of hungry teenagers or invite a non fussy friend round and remember that my two fussy ones now eat me out of house and home. It will get better.

exoticfruits Wed 13-Jul-11 16:56:56

They pick up body language, if you are anxious and they know you want them to eat they will play on it. Have a take it or leave it attitude and they get on with eating it. It is easier with more DCs. I got to the point where I had done my bit, shopped, cooked, served and cleared away -the eating it wasn't my problem.
It certainly works when they are not your DCs. I have taken groups away and fussy eaters have said 'I don't like......' to which I have said 'you will just have to have extra of ......' and in all cases they have said 'I'll try a little' and then come back for seconds!
It helps if they are hungry-a run round the park or a long walk before a meal does wonders!

exoticfruits Wed 13-Jul-11 17:01:01

I have a big gap in ages. I remember DS2 going camping with DS1. DS1 had him eating vegetables-I said to DS2 'why did you eat broccoli when you won't at home?' He said 'because I was hungry and there was nothing else'. (At home I knew he didn't like it and always had a veg he liked in addition).

holyShmoley Wed 13-Jul-11 18:05:40

'if you are anxious... They will play on it'.
IMO not so- it is that the parents create 'performance anxiety'for want of a better phrase. To say the kid, who is four, is playing up/being malicious is going into it with all the wrong attitude.

Davsmum Thu 14-Jul-11 16:26:32

I don't think anyone would think the child was being 'malicious' !
A child will most definitely play on a parents anxiety/fear to get what they want. Its not a conscious thing - its an instinct - they recognise that when a parent is anxious they can often get their own way if they persist.

moggiek Thu 14-Jul-11 16:38:45

I know how very difficult this is while its happening, but please try not to worry. My DS2 would only eat Weetabix, hot dogs, sausage rolls and spaghetti hoops for about 18 months. He's now a 25 year old civil engineer who runs half marathons for fun!

exoticfruits Thu 14-Jul-11 16:48:19

They are not playing on it in a conscious way. DCs unconsciously pick up what you are not saying. I would have no problem getting someone else's DC to eat, if I had them for a week in my house. They wouldn't starve in that time and they would know that I wasn't bothered if they ate it or not-so they would eat it. It is very different with my own-whatever I say -I am very bothered about it-and they know (unconsciously).

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