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Older children who are fussy eaters. Should I just continue what we've been doing or start to force the issue a bit?

(23 Posts)
foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 19:23:38

Dd is a good eater - she eats a lot of food but will only eat the food that she likes. Unfortunately, what she likes is based around what she wasn't allergic to as a baby/toddler (egg, milk, soya) so excludes a hell of a lot of foods.

This causes problems - e.g. if we are out and want a sandwich, we have to find a place that makes them from scratch because she won't eat butter. She won't eat any pasta with a creamy or buttery sauce (she also won't eat cheese) and she won't touch any meal that is like a stew or casserole as a hang over from when she was allergic and steered clear of these foods (as it's hard to tell what's in them).

I've always let her get away with this (with the occasional 'try this bit of cheese' but she always hates it) but recently, a friend of mine (who also happens to be a GP) pointed out that dd would quite happily eat ice-cream and chocolate and was only avoiding the other stuff because it wasn't sweet and because she wasn't used to it.

So I'm wondering whether I should actively keep trying with stuff like cheese or butter (because it is a pain, her being so restrictive, she often has to have different meals to everyone else) or whether I should just do what we're doing, and basically leave it but try it every now and then.

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 19:26:29

didn't realise how long that was!

WanderingTrolley Sun 01-Jul-07 19:37:18

How old is she? Does she say she dislikes the foods she was allergic to, or is she nervous of them because of her previous allergies? Can you tell her it's not butter in her sandwich, but non dairy spread that tastes like butter?

If she doesn't like cheese, she doesn't like cheese - plenty of children don't like dairy. It's not very common, but I've known dairy-avoiders in children without allergies.

Also, don't underestimate the significance of texture. Many children dislike sloppy food - will she eat pasta with tomato sauce/pesto etc? Personally, I don't like slimy,oily food. I don't like butter much, or olive oil on salads.

It sounds like you're not making a big deal out of it, which is the right thing to do, imo. It won't hurt to offer her cheese etc, but I wouldn't cajole her at all.

What are her favourite foods?

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 19:42:06

thanks WT. She's 7 in a month's time.

I think it's part nervousness but mainly, she really doesn't like the taste. I think a lot of it is that for basically 5 years, she did not touch those foods. Now at nearly 7, she's just so unused to eating them, that she doesn't want to!

I think you are right about texture. It's only been in the last few months that I've managed to get her to eat tomato sauce on pasta - beforehand, she would only have plain pasta with no sauce at all (grrr). She won't touch pesto - she doesn't like the taste of it or the texture (same with things like humous).

Her favourite foods - probably apples and cabbage. She quite likes a lamb curry I make for her (that she's had since she was a baby) and things like roast dinners.

coppertop Sun 01-Jul-07 19:53:02

I would go with the "leave it but try it every now and then" approach. My ds1 (7yrs) used to have a very restricted diet but is slowly improving. I've found that having school dinners sometimes has helped. It's a way for him to try out new foods with no pressure on him. Sometimes it works and he suddenly acquires a new food that he will tolerate. Sometimes it goes wrong and he will ask to go back to having packed lunches for a while.

IME likes and dislikes aren't set in stone at this age. Just because your dd won't eat it now it doesn't necessarily mean that she never will. GPs aren't necessarily the best people to advise about these kinds of issues.

Good luck with whatever you decide. I know how incredibly frustrating it can be.

PigeonPie Sun 01-Jul-07 19:54:09

Fox, my niece has had a very similar experience to your dd and is almost the same age (7 in January). My sister has had a nightmare with her but they are now coming out the other side.

DN wouldn't eat things with tomato, tuna, onion, anything with a sauce and much more besides. My sister just decided in the end that there was only so much that she could take and that she needed onions etc in things and gradually she has started to accept them by being introduced to them one at a time, but making sure that they are kept separate from the other foods (she still will eat all of one thing, then the next etc) so she can choose what she wants to eat.

It has been a long hard slog but she ate my homemade Bolognaise with onions, tomatoes and all in the other day without a whimper .

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 19:58:15

thanks coppertop - funnily enough, we have been doing the same with school dinners. She had them for a term but it eventually emerged that she was only eating the vegetables on the side - because a lot of their meals were things like cottage pie or fish pie (i.e. some sort of fairly non descript mush), she was completely avoiding eating and was coming out starving (she also hated the smell of eggs and cheese). She's on packed lunches at the moment.

The school has just changed its catering contract and they are having a tasting session so I'm desperate for her to go back to that (I think it does them the world of good, eating school dinners!).

That's interesting about your ds acquiring new foods. It feels so set in stone (her dislikes) but maybe I'm too negative and things will change a bit. Hopefully, this tasting session will go well and I can sign her up to school dinners again and that will help.

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:00:22

lol pigeon - bet your bolognaise is delicious . Yes, that might be a good plan. To start putting them on her plate, separately, just a little bit and seeing what happens.

(dd is very like that - if I give her spaghetti bolognaise, she'll pick out the pasta and take the mince off every strand and eat all the pasta and leave the sauce!).

WanderingTrolley Sun 01-Jul-07 20:09:50

Plan 1: in whatever way you can, bring new foods in with a big helping of something she does like - eg cabbage with a tiny bit of butter mixed in (you don't have to tell her this!) Likewise, if you want her to try something new, put a good helping of something she does like in it. I used to make a pork stew with apples in it, to sweeten it up, for example. Tell her there is [liked food] in it, and point it out if necessary. Let her pick out the bits she likes and leave the rest - she'll still get a taste.

Plan 2: get her into the kitchen. Empty the fridge onto the counter. Get her to make her own sandwich/top her own pizza/fill her own pitta. I know this is waaaaay easier said than done - even if it's once a week or a fortnight you'll be familiarising her with a variety of foods. The idea here is to stop any phobias before they begin - children have a way of building up fear out of nothing (or so it seems to us.)

Plan 3: respect her taste. Many children are more likely to try something when the spot light is off them. I always say if you want a child to eat, ignore them while they do it - no big 'WAHOO! You're eating!' If you offer her something she doesn't like (which is well worth you continuing to do imo) and she says no, don't say,'oh go on, just try' but say 'no? ok then' and leave it there. This is probably what you are already doing.

Plan 4: liken as much as you can to the food she does like - eg chicken curry is like the lamb curry she does like.

I can see exactly why it's a pain to have a fussy eater when you're out, especially now you don't have to avoid dairy etc.

Back to plan 1: when she's been eating (eg) cabbage with virtually-undetectable amount of butter on it for a week or two, casually mention - not at a meal time - that the cabbage had a tiny bit of butter in it. She may be horrified and demand you never do it again (don't) or she may accept it.

I'm turning this into a long rambly thing, and re-reading it, I seem to have made your dd to have a big eating problem! Sorry - you're doing all the right things, I think. You have to offer children a new food 20+ times before they'll try it, I've read.

Good luck!

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sun 01-Jul-07 20:15:17

I agree too with coppertops approach but I have to say my experience with dd doesn't offer much hope.

Dd was tube fed for over a year, then had trouble with textures, lumps, reflux etc. She had a very restricted diet early on - it got more restricted at around 3 or 4 and has slowly improved again. It's not fantastic though by any means.

She eats very little meat, no fruit whatsoever, no pasta, no rice. It would quicker to list what she does eat. But she eats loads of what she likes She is very 'anti' new tastes. But I just keep offering new foods and very occasionally we find something else that she likes.

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:17:09

thanks WT - there are some great ideas there that I will use. It dawned on me today, while she was busy taking apart a scone, yes a SCONE (because I had put sultanas in the scone and she didn't want them in there) that, actually, it is probably worse than I've admitted because I just carried on exactly as we did even though she'd outgrown the allergies (weirdly, even I found it hard at first, to try and reintroduce food).

I'll put a lot of that into practise (and we have the summer holidays to get her into the kitchen and help with the cooking) and let you know if we see any progress.

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:19:09

saggar - it's interesting isn't it. I did read somewhere about 10 months being a very key age for having foods and textures introduced (mind you, this was a long time ago - research may have changed) because dd's first year, she practically only had her hypoallergenic milk + fruit and veg because her diet was incredibly restricted. I'm sure it does have an effect that seems to take years to undo.

PigeonPie Sun 01-Jul-07 20:38:51

My sis did exactly what WT suggested as her first suggestion, just introducing things slowly like that. Fox, your DD sounds so like my DN it's untrue!

She still can be fussy, but my word she's eating huge amounts and much more quickly than she used to and to show for it, she's shot up in size to the extent she's grown out of all her summer clothes her mother bought for her six weeks ago!

sibble Sun 01-Jul-07 20:39:11

I have the same with DS1 who also has food allergies(although I'm sure the allergies bit is a red herring). I think for him it's texture. He will quite happily exist on fruit, veg and cheese sandwiches. Will wretch at all meat, sauce, gravy and heaps of other things. As for trying something new, bring out the kings official taster I've found some of the posts here helpful. FWIW I don't stress about butter, cream, milk or other things that I don't think are essential to his diet. Alot of these are hidden in foods he will eat. I went through 2 years of cooking vegetarian for him, he will eat lentils, quinoa and heaps of things other children would run from! When Ds2 came along and time went out the window some things became non negotiable. He eats chicken and fish 3x/week. I carefully space everything on the plate so nothing is touching etc. Having a step son who is now 15 and remembering what I was like as a child I'm confident that he will grow out of most of it with time.
I would carry on like you are.

moljam Sun 01-Jul-07 20:42:24

id leave it and try every now and then.i was very fussy as a child and the way my parents dealt with it made me worse,i still have problems with food now.

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:42:33

thank you everyone.

Yes, these posts have really been very helpful. I know it sounds corny but it's when mumsnet is at its best because I don't know anyone else whose child eats like dd yet here we are, with lots of the little devils!.

I often find it difficult as my other child is a complete dustbin and will even eat food of mine that has turned out a complete mess (recipes that haven't worked!) so having a picky dd is quite a shock to the system!

Skribble Sun 01-Jul-07 20:44:13

My 7 and ten year old are quite fussy I suppose when it comes to some foods, they are fine for going out for meals because of the selection they do eat so I don't feel the pressure to push it. I do try to encourgae them to keep trying different foods.

I think they are old enough to understand that the foods I am offering are perectly normal and most kids do eat them and that they really should try them. I also let them know it is Ok to have likes and dislikes and that I will never force them, but that it is good to keep trying and that our tastes change and develop.

I like to keep things laidback and meals are a family sociable time. But I do keep offering small amounts of foods to try, I read once that a new food has to be offered over 20 times before a child will even contemplate liking it could be true.

sibble Sun 01-Jul-07 20:51:05

oooohhhhhhh, forgot to mention - how not to stress when out for a meal. Buy 1 adult meal give DS1 most of the veggies and the rest to DS2 the human dustbin, No waste, no Dh carrying on about wasting money and he should get over it etc . Not ideal but I eat in peace

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sun 01-Jul-07 20:52:10

Oh Lord foxy don't mention a 'weaning window' you'll get shot!

I'm convincing we missed the boat with dd. She's 13 now and the damage still isn't undone.

She has though eaten a full roast lunch today with 4 yorkshire puddings, and would be happy eating that every, single day.

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:53:08

yes, I too hope that one day we will go out for a meal and dd won't be fussing about what she can and can't eat arrghhh!

I will continue with my laid back approach with a view to trying a few more new things this summer and see how it goes!

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:54:06

lol saggars

I know shhhhhhhhhh don't tell the Weaning Police.

But I'm convinced there's a window you know. But shhh, we'll keep it to ourselves.

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sun 01-Jul-07 20:55:12

<knowing look, taps side of nose>

foxinsocks Sun 01-Jul-07 20:56:53

we'll have to get them all together and cook a HUGE roast. It's one of dd's fave meals too!

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