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What do you do about a child who is determined to live on bread alone?

(32 Posts)
Caligula Mon 23-May-05 22:13:32

My DS has been fussy with food since about the age of 18 months. Every single day, he wants pasta for lunch and dinner. No sauce on it (just butter, disguised as melted) and he will eat bits of bacon on it or bits of carrots and/ or broccoli mixed in with it.

But that's it. For school lunch, I make him ham sandwiches, put olives, carrots and cucumber in with it, and he'll generally only eat the ham (although he will eat olives, carrots and cucumber at home, which is why I optimistically put them in the effing lunch-box).

He doesn't seem to like any food that is "messy" ie, wet, with gravy. And the veg he eats are: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, olives, sweetcorn. And that's it. I have done the whole "you can only have what's on the table and if you don't eat that, you can only have bread and butter" routine, and I swear, for the last 10 days, he has eaten pasta (when I have served it), rice (when I have served it), unsauced meat and then dry bread "because I don't like butter".

I'm concerned that his diet has become restricted to the meat or fish on his plate, plus dry bread. If I'm there, he'll eat his limited repertoire of veg, but if I'm not, he seems to go all day at school with just a slice of ham or fish.

Is this a phase, or will it last till he's ten?

moondog Mon 23-May-05 22:14:49

Does he look ok? If he does,then he's fine.

starlover Mon 23-May-05 22:19:45

caligula how old is he?
tbh I would just say he eats what is on the table. If he doesn't then he goes hungry. No bread and butter.
You KNOW he likes things like olives, carrots etc... so there is no reason why he shouldn't eat them at school etc.. although obviously what he eats there is up to him as you can't supervise!

But yes, persevere and he WILL get the message. He won't let himself go hungry so do stop him snacking on bread between meals. If he refuses to eat, then put his dinner to one side and re-heat it if he comes back later wanting food.

The veg he eats is a lot more than some kids so wouldn't worry too much about lack of variety in that respect.

Caligula Mon 23-May-05 22:28:40

He's six.

I've tried to tell myself that he won't starve himself etc., and this evening I refused to give him extra bread, I said he had to eat at least some of the veg on his plate. He refused and so I said, OK fine, go to bed hungry. While watching the Bedtime Hour, he then asked for a banana and some apple chips, so I was quite pleased that at least he was eating those! But what I get quite worried about, is his willingness to go literally hours without any food at all, or with a bare minimum - a fist size bit of meat.

Is that really OK?

moondog Mon 23-May-05 22:31:11

His fist or yours??!
Seriously,we all need less food than we think. Dieticians tell adults to eat no more at a sitting than can be held in the palm of one hand. They also say a protein portion should be the size of a cassette tape.
Not much,I'm sure you'll agree.

starlover Mon 23-May-05 22:33:18

he does it because he knows that you will give him what he wants!
he doesn't eat his dinner because he knows that later on he can have apples and banana chips instead.

he really is fine going that long without food. I do think that it is a battle of wills more than anything else. You KNOW he won't go hungry (after all, he asked for the other food later)...

What I would do is serve dinner and if he doesn't eat it then let him know there is nothing else until breakfast time!
If he still refuses then I would just remind him (perhaps an hour or so later), that there isn't anything til breakfast and that you will reheat his dinner if he wants it.

It is hard, I know... but if you break the habit now then you'll feel so much better!

tabitha Mon 23-May-05 22:35:25

Caligula, if you're concerned about his health, get him checked out by your GP, if only to put your mind at rest. If it is causing you problems or if you're really concerned about it ask if you can be referred.
My ds is 7 and is fussy in a similar way to your ds, ie will only eat a very restricted diet and also gets extremely emotional if he thinks he will be put in a position where he may be faced with food that he doesn't eat, eg school dinners/going to a friends house.
I was told that it was 'just a phase' but tbh it's a phase that seems to be never-ending and I'm sick of it, if only because I end up having to make 2 or 3 different meals every night to suit him and my other children.
I took him to our GP just before Christmas and to my surprise she took me seriously and referred us to the local hospital, where we saw a paediatrician who assured me that physically he is very healthy, depsite his limited diet. We have been refered to what they call the 'feeding' team and I am currently waiting to see they child psychiatrist as I think it is a psychiatric problem of some sort.

Caligula Mon 23-May-05 22:35:31

I know, but my logic for giving him apple and banana, was that at least it's one of his 5 portions!

D'you reckon I should have said no?

tiddlypom Mon 23-May-05 22:38:33

My dd, just 7, is similar, if that helps. I'm resigned now to doing lots of cooking/food preparation with her to get her more interested in different foods. She made a yummy 'fruit salad' today of apple, melon, parsley and rice cakes which I ate with relish. Next week is half term so I'll be getting out the kids' recipe books

Caligula Mon 23-May-05 22:39:14

tabitha, this is my problem - although I think he's perfectly healthy, and there's no way I'm going to crack and give him chocolate or smiley faces instead, my primary worry is that if I let him, he would literally go for a whole month just eating bread and pasta and drinking milk. OK, he might supplement it with bananas and apples.

And I suppose it is doing my head in - I am just sick of continually offering good food that gets rejected and having gone for about six months with saying "better to send him to bed hungry than with a belly full of crap" he really would prefer to be hungry. And I'm now asking myself, how long can I stand him being hungry? And how long will he hold out?

Caligula Mon 23-May-05 22:40:11

And I've tried involving him with cooking, which he loves - but will he eat it afterwards? Will he heck as like!

SueW Mon 23-May-05 22:41:03

Have you been watching Tiny Tearaways? There has been a child on with this problem and the blame was put quite firmly with the parents who, once food started to be messy i.e. when weaning, cleaned their child up very hastily, wiping mouth, fingers, etc as soon as they were the dslightest bit 'dirty' or messy.

I have no idea whether this is likely to be your problem but the way they have tackled it is by gradually introduing messines and 'it's ok to get messy' So a yoghurt/choc mousse - just put your finger in and you can have a bite of bread/a crisp. Then go on, dunk it right in. ANother crisp. A picnic where the game was putting yoghurt on your nose.

They worked up to a goal of child eating roast dinner with gravy which happened. In six days.

Also very important not to overload with food - only small portions, can always have more.

tabitha Mon 23-May-05 22:42:24

Wish I could help Caligula, but as I've been spectacularly unsuccesful with my ds, I just don't know what to suggest
My ds also likes cooking (wants us to open a restaurant ffs) and knows all about healthy eating but just can't put it into practice.

tabitha Mon 23-May-05 22:44:11

I also think that my ds is now too old to be helped (although I'd very much like to be proved wrong)
I wish I'd sought help years ago instead of just accepting what everyone told me, id 'it's just a phase' and 'he'll grow out of it' etc, etc

starlover Mon 23-May-05 22:44:51

i personally would have said no caligula. even if what he is having is healthy. I do realise that it is difficult though!

I think at the end of the day it is him vs you, and at the moment HE is winning because he gets to eat what he wants when he wants.

You WILL feel like the "big bad mummy"...but going to bed hungry one night will certainly not hurt him. Just make sure he has a nice big breakfast in the morning!
Once he knows that you are serious then he will start eating his meals again. But at the moment he knows that if he refuses to eat then he gets what he wants later.

NannyL Mon 23-May-05 22:45:55

Dont worry too much!

No child has starved themselves to death yet!

If i were you stop allowing extra 'top up snacks' between meals!

He can eat the dinner you give him or be hungry until next meal.... where he can eat OR be hungry until next etc! When he is hungry he will be more likely to try new things

remember 'milk' is a food as well.

Sounds like you are doing well, he does seem to like lots mroe veg than a lot of kids!

Involve him in cooking... what about pizza, he can put lots of olives sweetcorn etc on there and my charges LOVE making faces.

Welldone you for resisting junk all this time BTW

sounds liek your doing well

arizona Mon 23-May-05 22:46:24

Caligula, my ds is fussier than yours (age 6). He sounds absolutely fine. Let him eat his apple and banana-really healthy! I also thought about seeing a dietician as the whole thing drives me mad sometimes, but hey, as long as they're covering the main food groups and eating some good stuff, we should stop worrying!

Caligula Mon 23-May-05 22:46:49

SueW - if only! I wish I was a tidyness freak!

No, food has always been messy, I always encouraged him to do finger food as soon as he could, I chase my mother away and tell her not to persecute the kids with face flannels, etc. Up until about two months ago, DS loved gravy. Now won't touch it.

My DS's table manners are quite atrocious, partly because I've always taken the view that as long as he eats, I really don't care if he does it elegantly - he's got years to learn how to wield a fork nicely. But now it seems I've got the worst of both world - a child who will only eat with his fingers, but a really limited menu!

starlover Mon 23-May-05 23:02:39

arizona, i don't think it's that much about whether what he eats is healthy enough.
it's about the fact that he is not eating the food his mum has prepared for him because he knows he can have whatever he wants later on!

as far as healthy eating goes I think you're doing really well caligula.... do stick to your guns though and he will soon realise that YOU are the boss!

SueW Mon 23-May-05 23:26:27

Oh bum - no easy TV answer then! ;)

TBH, I'd rather he ate the limited range he will eat than give him bread and butter. At least he's eating veg, which is more than can be said for lots of children

And lots of children like just pasta, no sauce. My own DD who eats quite a wide range, will ask for a bowl of pasta no sauce maybe some butter and cheese, then eat a bowl with sauce depending on the sauce. Pasta no sauce - I can't imagine anything worse.

And my niece won't eat anything remotely fatty - butter, cream, etc. I guess she's unlikely to have weight problems when she gets older.

mears Mon 23-May-05 23:35:06

Out of interest Caligula - do you all eat at the table and have the same meals?

Gobbledigook Tue 24-May-05 00:16:44

That sending them to bed with nothing if they don't eat dinner just doesn't work for me. I do it quite often but then they eat masses of food for breakfast and they well on lunch (packed lunch at pre-school) and then back to dinner time and they are not interested.

Very restricted diet too but all healthy so that's something.

Caligula Tue 24-May-05 10:17:41

I try and have the same meal as them at the same time. Not every single day, but as a basic principle, so they see me eating what I serve them.

I think my main worry is that DS is quite happy to live on 3 olives, a slice of cucumber, 2 slices of bread and a bowl of cornflakes a day! For a week or so, it doesn't worry me, but it really has been going on for at least 6 weeks now, and all the techniques which everyone has mentioned, don't seem to be working. It's not just the limited diet, it's the tiny amount he eats which worries me - DD eats about double what he does, and she's 3.

He does have big breakfasts though!

assumedname Tue 24-May-05 10:35:49

What's his big breakfast?

puddle Tue 24-May-05 10:36:32

It's really common isn't it - the aversion to sauce! My Ds has become more and more fussy over the years. He would eat plain pasta with grated cheese on it every day if I let him. I just keep dishing out a range of food to him, along with some things I know he will eat. I do think the key is keeping at it rather than limiting what you give them.

If my ds says he doesn't like something I ask him to try it (a decent forkfull while I am watching) and if he still doesn't like it then he can leave it. It's gradual but he is beginning to eat more of a variety. Recent victories have been lentil moussaka and tuna and tomato sauce with pasta. Plus various veg and lentil soups which he wouldn't have touched six months ago. If no vegetables are eaten with dinner he gets fruit for pudding rather than yoghurt. We do the extra bread thing if he's hungry at meal times and for snacks he gets fruit or a sandwich - he gets very hungry after school.

My worry has been that his sister (2.5) copies everything he does and she was starting to get fussy too, made worse by the limited range of foods I gave her. I did get into a habit of giving them the same meals I knew they would eat but I think this compounds the problem and means I underestimate them too - they both amazed me the other day by tucking into grilled mackeral ('real-looking' fish with heads and tails).
We now have a star chart for meal times, partly to encourage good behaviour at the table, but they also get stars for being adventurous with food and being willing to try new things - even if they don't eat them all.

Don't know if this helps at all - I do sympathise.

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