My youngest is the pickiest eater I have ever met. He has no more than 5 foods/meals he will eat, none of which are very healthy, and will only drink apple juice and chocolate milk. We went on vacation a few weeks ago and we almost had to take him to the hospital because he didn't eat for several days, until we went to the store and got his staples (peanutbutter and honey sandwiches and poptarts). I have hear that a child will not allow themselves to starve, but not mine. Does anyone else have kids this picky? How do you deal with it? Also, could he develop food allergies?
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Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. Incentives also work.
To add some more info. First, my wife and kids are not "paleo", but because I do the cooking, they are probably 70% - 80% just based on what they are fed. Being too prescriptive about diets and young children can be dangerous.
Incentives: We have a behavior wheel for each child. The wheel has 8 wedges. They get wedges for doing what is expected (eating dinner, cleaning up their toys, etc). They loose wedges for disobedience. At the end of the week, if all of them have all their wedges they get a reward. Could be a movie, a date with daddy, ice cream (the pay-by-the-pound places are great. You can limit the amount they get), extra play time, a new book, eating out -- whatever they are into.
The other incentive we use is, if you do not eat something at one meal, you get it again at the next. So there is real incentive to just get it off the plate -- because they know they will see it again.
Peer Pressure: The incentive only works if they all get all their wedges. So they work together. Also, when we do dinner, vegetables come out first, then meat, then fruit (this doesn't work so well with soups, but seems to work most of the time). They all have to finish their veggies before the next "course" comes out. So the older ones tend to put some pressure on the younger ones to comply.
It is rare that we have problems at the dinner table. Occasionally they do not want to try new things (like when I introduced artichokes for the first time), At these times it is important to remember that they are children. And giving them small portions (2-3 bites) so as not to overwhelm them.
If he'll go for it, one way to increase nutrients and decrease additives might be to make some sweet stuff at home--banana bread, or nut-butter cookies. Not even "paleo-ized" versions right away, necessarily--even a home-made chocolate-chip cookie will have a shorter ingredient list than poptarts, and you can use grass-fed butter, maybe add a little flax meal once he's already a fan of the cookies. Anything home-made that he'll eat will allow you to gradually add a little of this or that to make it more nutritious. With the peanut butter, you might be able to mix in a little sunbutter, gradually increasing the amount 'til it's all sunbutter.
Did he starve himself sick or did he starve himself until Mommy/Daddy gave him what he wanted? Did he just have some low blood sugar dizziness or has he been diagnosed with rickets, malnutrition, scurvy, pellagra....? If not, he was not sick. He was just playing a game longer than you expected, and he won.
If he refused to eat after a few days of being offered 2-3 normal, nutritious foods I would tell him that is a very unhealthy thing to do and that he must be sick. Sick people need to go to the doctor. Then I would take him to the doctor. They can test for allergies and intolerances, and whatever sensory perception autism spectrum stuff to which they think they can attribute his extreme pickiness. Then he can get force-fed by the doctor/hospital staff, they can tell him how important it is for children to eat healthy foods and possibly convince him to eat voluntarily, or they can give him nutrients via IV. Whatever works. But giving in and feeding a child a bunch of crappy crap crap just because he doesn't want to eat anything else is not a solution.
He needs to see you're serious and that you, the parent, are in charge. Show him.
It may be just pickiness, but you could be facing the beginning of an eating disorder:
Written by an occupational therapist, she has good suggestions for dealing with this.
Another book your son can read with you is Eat Like a Dinosaur. Recipes and tips on dealing with a picky eater.
Think about a food you hate. Now imagine being made to eat it. Does this make you enjoy food and eating more? How do you feel about the person who made you eat it? How do you feel thinking about eating a meal with that person in a few hours? You didn't specify your child's age, but in my experience kids become very conservative about their eating around 3 or 4. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense--as children become less attached to their parents and more mobile, more likely to be away from adults who will stop them from eating poisonous things, they become very cautious about eating. It goes away, even if you don't force anything. They grow up and become more adventurous. On the other hand, if you make food a battleground, they are not as likely to outgrow that and are more likely to be left with baggage about food, as well as not developing their own knowledge about what foods make them feel good and what foods don't. Focus on ways to make the foods he likes more nutritious--add an egg yolk to the chocolate milk if you can, make some homemade fig bars that might be as good as poptarts, keep a ready supply of peanut butter and honey and make sure the bread doesn't have a million ingredients. In the meantime, keep enjoying the healthy variety of foods you do. When your youngest grows up some, he will branch out... especially if he doesn't feel the need to rebel against mealtime rules. My son eventually was heard to say things like, "I want to try something new today," and "What would be something healthy I could have for lunch?" He asked me to stop bringing him home a candy bar from the store because he didn't want to eat so much candy anymore. Kids want to feel good, but they need to learn about food on their own schedule.
Lots of people have the same issue, I've known friends of my kids that eat chicken fingers and pasta only. Parents need to figure out who is calling the shots. When I grew up you ate what mom put in front of you or you wore it on your head. No excuses were excepted, you just went hungry until the next meal. I ate more than I care to remember of calves liver drenched with Heinz 57. Tell your kids that this is what the family is eating, mom & dad and siblings. If it isn't to your liking then you don't eat. Kids won't starve missing a meal or two. They test and play parents and have no boundaries and limits anymore. Go spend some time with a poor family who can't afford but one not so nutritious meal and see if the kids don't scarf it down. Obviously food allergies might play here, but then everyone in the family should avoid those items.