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Picky/resistant eater 10yo DS(27 Posts)
DS (10) has always been a picky eater but it’s getting worse with age. His range of foods is very limited - it’s basically beige & processed/unhealthy stuff.
There’s only one sandwich filling he will eat (ham). Meats are limited to chicken, bacon & one specific brand of sausages. He won’t eat rice, cous cous or any form of potato, even chips. He hasn’t eaten a single vegetable since he was 13 months old. It’s very difficult to plan family meals that include foods he likes because there are so few. A typical day for him would be:
Breakfast: cereal + toast with Nutella
Snack: cereal bar/biscuit/apple
Lunch: ham sandwich & crisps
Dinner: chicken nuggets, pasta & tomato ketchup or pizza or sausages & pasta
Dessert: jelly/yoghurt/lolly/apple/berry fruit
We have spent years trying to encourage him to try new foods (tiny tastes) and have tried to follow the advice that its our job to provide him with a balanced meal, his job to decide whether to eat it or not. We try to involve him in shopping/meal prep (he’s not interested). We put food in serving dishes in the centre of the table & always include something he likes (usually nuggets as there’s so few foods to choose from 😳). However, then he only eats the food he likes & won’t try the new foods. We try not to be drawn into discussions about what he is eating (getting more difficult the older he gets).
None of this has ever made any difference.
We have sought advice from health visitors, GP & school over the years because we suspect he may have sensory processing issues but school have no concerns & GP isn’t interested because he’s within the healthy weight range (just - he’s right at the bottom). We don’t know where else to turn for help.
Online the advice seems to fall into 2 distinct categories:
1) serve the same meal for the whole family and if he doesn’t eat it, tough - he goes hungry.
2) serve him what we know he will eat (chicken nuggets & pasta pretty much every single day).
We’ve done 1) many times before & it has never results in him expanding his food range. He just cries because he is desperately hungry & then wants 3 lots of breakfast the next day to make up for it.
2) is what’s suggested for picky eating related to sensory processing issues. We find ourselves doing this more & more just because 1) never gets us anywhere. But we feel like we’re failing him as parents as we’re not providing a nutritious balanced diet and he’s starting to go off more & more foods leaving us with even less options to offer him.
We’ve also tried having a frank discussion about the importance of eating a variety of foods for his health but when it comes to it he just won’t even try. Mealtimes just feel so stressful.
I should add the rest of us have a balanced meal including vegetables & his 5yo DD eats most foods including spicy foods with no issues. She’s always been a good eater & it’s such a contrast from DS.
I’m sorry that was long but if you’ve reached the end & have any advice on what we can or should be doing, I’d really appreciate it. Thankyou
could you try hiding veggies in his food that he enjoys? I don't know if this is the recommended solution, but it might work? things like:
hidden veggie nuggets- sprinkleofsesame.com/2020/06/20/hidden-veggie-chicken-nuggets/
hidden veggie pasta sauce - www.myfussyeater.com/hidden-veggie-tomato-sauce/
hidden veggie ketchup (make and then pour into the existing ketchup bottle) - www.ditchthecarbs.com/homemade-ketchup-hidden-vegetables/
hidden veg pizza - www.superhealthykids.com/recipes/hiddenveggiepizza/
hidden veg sausages (it's a meatball recipe, but roll into sausage shapes) - www.morganmanagesmommyhood.com/hidden-veggie-meatballs-with-zucchini/
Our son is the same. We employ 1) serve the same meal for the whole family and if he doesn’t eat it, tough - he goes hungry - religiously. If he can't have crisps, none of us do. No sugary cereal, because of course then he knows he'll just get that for breakfast. He doesn't have to eat what I cook but all he gets then for snacks or food are fruit or veg. If he tantrums he wants junk snacks, I show him the fridge and cupboards (which doesn't have junk - I love junk snacks and food, but I can't have it in the house as of course that's what he'll want(
I shoulf also add my ds doesn't have any SEN, which is why we're not lenient on the trash food.
Check out “kids eat in color” on Instagram and her website. American dietician who has loads of tips and she also does a course for very picky/limited eaters. I’m sure you may have tried lots of it before but she seems to give good advice
No advice but my 11 yr old DS very similar. Very similar likes too although he has started eating spaghetti bolognese and meatballs recently and will eat cucumber and apple. Like you we've tried every method/trick over the years to minimal avail.
So we do 2. Sometimes at wider family meals and meals with friends he will just have to go hungry. I actually hate it when people try to force him to eat stuff - you would never do that to an adult. I just do my best - make sure meals finish with fruit, always add cucumber, make own chicken goujons when can etc. His redeeming features are he is super healthy, very sporty and rarely unwell...if he were skinny and often poorly I'd be more concerned.
I share your worries though. It's a little reassuring to hear we're not alone....
I have a child with ARFID (avoidant and restrictive food intake disorder). I feed him what he'll eat. I would rather he ate something than nothing. He has daily supplements and although he is slightly underweight, he is now normal height.
It's been difficult to accept that he's not doing it to be a pain, he really would rather not eat than eat horrid textures (mine will not eat pasta or sausages).
When I was younger, I had a friend who wouldn't eat anything other than a very limited diet. The doctor told his parents to just feed him what they were eating and not to 'pander' to him. He ended up so malnourished that he couldn't stand up. I hope that doesn't happen to your son @YouJustDoYou.
And any child who refuses to eat to this degree probably does have some kind of additional needs.
@YouJustDoYou - does your ds eventually eat?
@Brunionfire - my ds is also 10, but he has complex needs (including ARFID) and as he is very small for his age we go with an approach closer to 2. We try and make eating as pressure free as possible...it is bloody hard sometimes though.
There is an ARFID awareness group which might have some good advice.
Our two are both picky. I've learned to make meals flexible so that there is always something everyone will eat, so lots of dishes at the table, typical meal being a roast chicken, rice, mash, veggies (some raw, some cooked, gravy and eg a lemon sauce. It sounds busy but i'll always cook extra mash when I make it and extra sauce if I make lemon chicken, and I'll sauté any left over roast potatoes, so various options for the next day. Rice is a doddle to make anyway. And people can choose whether they want gravy or sauce. Then things like roast gammon and macaroni cheese - one will eat both, the other will just eat lots of macaroni cheese. Youngest doesn't like the sauce for spaghetti bolognese so I'll make him spaghetti pesto. Simple tweaks that make everyone happy.
Oh yes and I still make the Annabel Karmel hidden veg tomato sauce 😉
I own one like this, tried every trick in the book. I gave up 2 \ 3 years ago as it was too stressful. We have a mixture of healthy and unhealthy meals now.
We don't hide veg, he wasn't daft and just became suspicious of the foods presented at mealtimes. He won't eat fruit , veg, chicken, bacon, pork, lamb or beef..
So a typical meal will be bolonaise, he will have a pile of pasta to which he will add grated cheese plus the beef and sauce to the side and a garlic bread. Until recently he wouldn't touch the sauce or beef and instinctively he will say he doesn't like the meal, but I just ok that and just tell him to eat what he fancies. The next day will be pizza, which he likes strangely enough
I refuse to eat his rubbish everyday but will accept it 50% of the time
Following as I have a similar child. I have yet to crack this one because he would rather be hungry than eat something he doesn't want to. I absolutely cannot stand it when someone trots out glibly "Oh, he'll eat it if he's hungry enough"! Luckily for us, though, he also does not like any junk food so at least he is not existing on rubbish, just existing on a very narrow range of healthy foods.
He ended up so malnourished that he couldn't stand up. I hope that doesn't happen to your son@YouJustDoYou
No he's fine thanks 😁👍 I also read the story of the teenage boy last year who died from only ever being fed pizza etc, so - balance, and all that.
Bupkis, yes eventually he eats something. Sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes just bananas. But we don't have endless amounts of either money or time to make lots of different meals for everyone in the house, so we literally.can only stick to "this is what there is, there's nothing else" He has a strong gag reflex like me so cant eat certain textures, and doesnt like mostly every taste. But as long as its not too strong, and theres no sauce, we've gradually gradually prgrossed slowly over the years from just plain rice, to rice with actual side food like veg and chicken, just as long as they don't touch. They say "offer something 12 times and evetually they'll like it", but that's times 2 years worth for him. We dont make a fuss, theres always a bowl of fruit and veg for him if he refuses his dinner. it's been 6 long years of not giving in, and only having relatively healthy stuff in the house. He used to be able to tell instantly by taste if I'd tried to mix veg in with say a homemade meatball so we just put it on the side.
Our son is the same. We employ 1) serve the same meal for the whole family and if he doesn’t eat it, tough - he goes hungry - religiously.
I have 2 autistic D.C. so I tend to go with what they will eat. One is now 17 and eats a huge range that he wouldn't even have looked at when he was 10. The other one is getting there. They always took a multi vitamin each day to ensure they were not missing anything.
Thanks for the replies, it really helps to feel we aren’t alone with this. It’s something I thought he’d have long outgrown by now but here we still are!
I will look up that ARFID group thankyou Bupkis.
Hiding vegetables is a complete no am afraid - He’s too old to be fooled these days. He loves tomato ketchup but not any other kind of tomato sauce e.g. bolognese. He doesn’t really like any kind of sauce - prefers his food dry so if I made, for example, chicken curry & rice for tea, I’d cook plain chicken pieces for him & we’d have the curry.
The hardest bit is that he doesn’t like potatoes in any form, or rice or cous cous. The only carb he will have is pasta & I’m just not prepared to cook it every single day so oftentimes he will only eat a few chunks of meat and literally nothing else. I worry it isn’t enough, it’s less than my 5yo eats.
Do you mean the boy who went blind?
Unfortunately with ds if we resorted to eat or go hungry....he wouldn't eat.
I'm glad your boy is well and will eat.
I think leaving a child go hungry because they have sensory issues is horrific.
There was a documentary featuring the boy who went blind and it included a study/support group (sorry it was a while ago I saw it so memory not the best!) but it showed some techniques to help with texture/taste/chewing/biting sort of taking everything back to the very basics. I don’t have any personal experience of this but might be worth searching for it in case something in it might be useful to your DS.
There have been many “Picky” eaters in my family over the generations. So possibly sensory issues. I know how awful it is when someone tries to make you eat something that literally makes you gag. So I would never force the issue.
When mine were younger I generally made two different dinners. Now they are older they eat a wider variety. So I just need to adjust the main meal. Eg if I am making spaghetti bolognaise, the one who won’t eat that will have the plain spaghetti & I do something he will eat to go with it, eg chicken goujons.
What I have found is that often there is a big improvement in late teenage years. This was the case for me & my brother & for ds1.
I really don’t stress if mine want the exact same sandwich every day (does it really matter?) And Ds1 who ate barely any fruit or veg ever until a couple of years ago, is perfectly healthy & over 6’ now.
There is plenty of variety in the list you gave OP.
Hi OP, my DD (7) is similar, though the exact restrictions are different; she will eat rice, couscous and chips, but bananas are the only fruit (and broccoli the only veg). No sauces at all, food shouldn't be touching. I'm encouraged by others on this thread that she may get better. So long as your DS is getting a reasonably balanced diet (if you've found a palatable multivitamin, I'd love to know) he'll probably be OK.
I don't want to eat as limited a diet as DD (and DH has other allergies) so I'll usually cook two meals, or find a variant that DD can eat. From what I've read of those who grew up eating a limited diet, they absolutely hated battles around meal times, and didn't enjoy being hungry either; pretty much all of them have said their preference would have been to be served food they enjoyed. DD doesn't get an unchecked choice (she'd happily subsist on beige junk, though very specific beige junk!), but I don't try to force her to eat things she doesn't like.
My DD had a s far wider range of foods until she hit 7 or so..she has a distinct list of her can/will eat and was pretty bad from age 10-12.Tinned spag,cheese toasties,crumpets,plain pasta, cheesy beans on toast..i think i stopped trying to offer up alternatives as it just wore me out and was bloody difficult so i ended up giving her calcium&vit D, multi vits,iron and then cod oil too-she still grew tall and strong(currently 5'8) and has never had poor/health or issues which is a blessing..Since she turned 13 she started trying everything i offered her and stopped rejecting things based on the idea/sight alone! she now eats a myriad of homemade soup, veg burgers& veg lasagne and all manner of legumes and broccoli,carrot,cauli peas and corn.Loves couscous/rice dishes.We can even joke about how nightmarish it all was and she still doesnt know exactly why she says,apart from she just hated the sound/thought and knew what she wanted to eat?!..So there's hope for your son op he may grow out of it as he grows older.Just as long as hes eating and getting his calorie needs met try to fill in the nutrient deficit with supplements.
My ds is 9 and is exactly the same. The thought of putting something new in his mouth will make him reach. So he had a multivitamin, 3 lots of fruit/veg a day (that’s all I can manage) then give him what he will eat (not loads of junk though). No stress over food since I started doing this and a much happier house.
I have an extremely fussy eater and my current strategy based on something i read in an ARFID book is the following.. so i take a food that he does like (even if it's junk) such as a chocolate chip cookie and i might buy cookies with white chocolate chips. He's suspicious but i reassure him it's still chocolate and he might try it. The goal is to try new foods and be open to variety, not instantly start liking a chicken curry.
The next week i might buy brioche burger buns because they're in the 'bread/beige' category that feels safe to him but they're new. Ot once i bought burger buns with seeds knowing he wouldn't eat them but he was happy to pick them all off. In my eyes he was engaging with the food and he wasn't stressed that the burger was 'contaminated' by the seeds as the bun itself was such a safe food.
He eats rice cakes so i bought the chocolate covered ones. Two safe foods combined. He was reluctant but then delighted with himself when he gave it a go and they were delicious. Again, i know they're junk food but it's still a new food for him.
My son's newest food is pizza. Literally just a pizza base that i brush with oil. In time I'll put sausages on top and who knows, maybe one day he'll eat pizza with sauce.
Another simple tip is to present foods the child will eat in different ways. So my son loves melon. Sometimes i chop it up and put it in a bowl, sometimes I'll serve it in the skin or even on a skewer.
It really is baby steps. Go right back to the beginning and use the foods he does like as a starting point.
Oh, last thing. If there's something he might reluctantly try (maybe a different looking chicken nugget) you can say "have a taste, if you don't like it just spit it out. No big deal"
Oh, I didn't realise there was a boy who went blind from it too, that's awful. I was thinking of Scott Martin, but I think he might've been just out of his teens, he was the one who died.
I'm lucky in that my son will eat at least. It's not the same for everyone, and it's been horrifically difficult as it is to get this far. Eating is complex for children- one size doesn't fit all, but we do what we can.