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Old 02-20-2012, 01:08 PM   #1
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Need Advice on Getting 3 YO to Eat

This should maybe go in Special Needs parenting, not sure.

My DD has Celiac disease that went undiagnosed for almost a year, so that greatly affects what we are dealing with here. Her poor little body was starving despite the fact that she was eating enough calories because her intestines were so damaged.

Now that we have that all figured out and she has been gluten free for a year, we are still dealing with food issues. She will not eat anything that is not on her list of acceptable foods. If we make her eat it, she will choke and gag on it to the point of nearly or actually throwing up. She will do anything to get out of eating if it's not one of "her" foods. Her most commonly used tactics are peeing on her chair and screaming that she's tired and wants to go to bed.

The adage that kids won't let themselves starve doesn't seem to apply to her based on her history. I truly believe she would indeed let her self go hungry until she had access to food she has deemed acceptable.

So where do I go from here. Do I make her separate meals? Do I only prepare food for all of us that she approves of so that I don't look like I'm willing to give her whatever she wants?

Here's what she will eat:
cold hotdogs
plain meat such as roast, hamburger, or pork as long as there is no seasoning other than salt on it
carrots
sweet potatoes
regular potatoes
kale
apples
blueberries
raspberries
yogurt
tortilla chips
sometimes cheese

I know it's not a super limiting list, but we can't just eat plain meat as our main dish every night or that gets too expensive. Soup and casseroles even if they only contain the above items are not ok with her. I'm just sick of the food battles.

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Old 02-20-2012, 02:10 PM   #2
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Re: Need Advice on Getting 3 YO to Eat

There was an article in the most recent parents magazine about food aversions, and how these children are often not trying to be difficult, and the parents aren't lazy, but that it's a real issue, like sensory wise. I threw that mag away already, but from what I remember, especially with children with bad food experiences (I would classify undiagnosed Celiac under this category), they need to be presented with a new food up to 15 times before they will accept it. They need to see it, touch it, smell it, and time to adjust at each stage before it goes in. They talked about serving meals where there was always one thing the child would eat, and letting them eat what they liked from the offerings. I fully believe this is true. My parents went through a brief period of the 'clean your plate' mentality, but eating food I didn't want literally made me gag, and sometimes vomit. I wasn't doing it to be difficult, I couldn't help it. I never had problems when I made a conscious choice to try something. I actually had to have pills instead of liquid meds because I couldn't keep those down either, and to this day the idea of eating jello, just the texture of it, makes me gag....

I wish I had the mag, it had a specific professional you can see for food aversion, probably an SLP or OT??
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:47 PM   #3
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:52 PM   #4
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Re: Need Advice on Getting 3 YO to Eat

If youre interested, I have that magazine on my nightstand if you have any questions pertaining to the article
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:14 PM   #5
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I'd love to hear the highlights about how to make sure she gets enough calories in a day without making her separate meals. It's hard on nights that I make soup or a casserole because that often is all that there is for dinner since it has all the parts of the meal in it. If I offer her fruit with it and just let her eat that she will literally fill completely up on fruit to the point of giving herself digestive troubles. She has such a sensitive gut.

Yesterday she hardly ate anything because she didn't like what was offered. Today I've only served food she loves and she's eaten enough for 2-3 days worth. Almost a whole quart of full fat yogurt, several servings of blueberries and raspberries, two hot dogs, peas, pretzels, a quarter lbs hamburger and two large servings of French fries. And it's still 2hours til bedtime, so there will probably be more.
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:31 PM   #6
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At her age, it's what she eats over several days rather than in 1 day that's important. So, as long as it's healthy food, it's fine if she eats a ton one day and not so much the next.

Unless you see it affecting her digestive issues anyways.
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Old 02-20-2012, 09:56 PM   #7
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Wow that's tough while my 3 yo dd doesn't have the medical issues yours has, she can be pretty difficult at mealtime too.
As far as the soup/casserole thing goes, would she notice if you separated the ingredients on her plate? For example, when I have made pot roast I will separate the carrots, potatoes, and meat. Sometimes I even rinse them off so they don't all have that same flavor on them and then I tell her that I made hers separate.
Other than that, I have started being more firm at dinner time and telling her she has to take two bites of everything and then she can be done. At first she would fight me a lot but now once I tell her that she will eat ALL of her veggies, which is huge for her! It took me awhile to get to that believe me. I am not a "clean your plate" person and I have seen her get so upset that she starts choking and gagging on her food, but I felt like I had to try to push just a little to see what would happen and it seems to be working for us. The key for us was to be really calm and matter-of-fact about it and also to start really small (you have to eat one pea and one carrot). I know this wouldn't work for everyone, but it's just my experience. Hth
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:26 PM   #8
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Re: Need Advice on Getting 3 YO to Eat

I would just give her what she will eat and introduce 1-2 new foods that you are making for you and expose her and at some point maybe she will just try it. We just went through a food refusal for months and we just kept offering food and he finally decided he's eating again. I was grateful that we stayed on the toddler formula so my attitude was either he eats or not. I make separate meals for all of us. I pick a few core things and then adapt for each of us (husband eats meat but doesn't fully care, I'm super picky).
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:07 PM   #9
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Re: Need Advice on Getting 3 YO to Eat

Kearnan was like that. He was starving for a long time because of intestinal problems. He was eating but he wasn't getting any nutrition from his food. He also had so many food aversions and feeding issues that he would have rather let himself starve than eat a food that he didn't like. He has SPD and that is just the way he is. We dealt with people assuring us that if we just kept offering him food he would eventually eat it, but it didn't work that way. Eventually he needed feeding therapy to start eating other foods.

I am not walking in your shoes so I cannot make your decisions for you but from what you have posted it sounds like there is a chance that this is more than just a situation of a picky child and perhaps your need extra help. I would absolutely continue to offer the foods that she will eat so that she gets enough nutrition. I would also try introducing new foods. The average child needs at least 3 introductions to begin to be comfortable with a new food but children with past negative food associations (like intestinal problems and pain) can need far more introductions of a new food. I know how exhausting food battles can become. Ultimately Kearnan required feeding therapy to learn that food didn't equal pain and that textures could be tolerated in his mouth. If you are interested in feeding therapy you should speak with her pedi about it. Usually an SLP does it.
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