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Daffy2016

Food battles - please help

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Daffy2016

DD will be 3 in September and has always been a good eater, in quantity if not really in variety. However, in the last few months she has stopped eating lunch at daycare and refuses dinner unless it’s one of her preferred foods.

She will eat:

Any type of fruit, Peanut butter or Vegemite sandwiches, cheese, chicken nuggets or chopped up chicken schnitzel , chips, porridge, sultana bran, weetbix, eggs (sometimes but mostly just the toast), sausages (sometimes) and bolognese with grated veggies (sometimes).
 

There are obviously lots of things missing from her diet. I wasn’t too worried when she was eating lunch at daycare because that filled a lot of gaps, but now she’s existing mostly on fruit and crackers there, and almost never eats dinner at home.

DH thinks we need to take a hard line and she goes hungry if she doesn’t eat. I’m struggling with that because I worry she’s just not getting enough during the day, let alone in the evening.

We almost always eat dinner at the table together, which used to help but doesn’t now. I try to go on the principle of putting one thing she likes on the plate but she just eats that and nothing else, then asks for things she likes.

Any suggestions, wise EB?

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seayork2002

Ds had a few things he liked so I've did the one thing on a plate as we varied it, he did not have as much variety as we wanted him to have but i have never won an argument with a young child so we just kept with that he is 12 and still fussy and eats a small dinner and then supper later it is just the way he has devopled

The 'go hungry' thing would not have worked with him he would have gone hungry and I did not see that as healthier so we never did this

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ekbaby

For me...I would just go with what she does eat...that’s actually quite a reasonable range 

will she eat any veggies (apart from grated in bol)? Sometimes kids prefer individual things they can recognise & pick up eg carrot sticks, corn cob, Cherry tomatoes...how about mash does she like that ? 
If not I’d just keep doing what you’ve been doing, keep offering, try to keep foods separate as IME many toddlers are wary of things like curry/stew etc but will might eat those ingredients separated our, try not to wear yourself out making a million different things ...eg freeze bolognese in small amounts....maybe try cut down on crackers but all the other stuff looks good. 
If she eats nuggets and schnitzel u could try strip of grilled chicken or piece of bbq chicken ? 

Also trying to offer dinner as early as possible, if difficult because of work etc even a snack platter in the car of vegetables/fruit/cheese 

starving them rarely works 

I have no expert qualifications but have 2 older children who eat a good mix and a 5yo who rarely eats the offered dinner. Will only eat sausages, roast chicken or meat with veg, and plain pasta. But will pick at all the veggies while I’m trying to cook, will eat most plain veg steamed. So while the rest of us want to eat a normal range of meals most nights she has only steamed veggies, maybe plain pasta and a “washed” small piece of chicken. I remember the middle one being like that at that age and he’s pretty reasonable now so I’m hoping it’s just a stage. I don’t offer her most favourite “safe” foods as the dinner alternatives (for her- sweet yoghurt & toast). But will still have some option (easy for me, because I’m not a chef) eg on the table I’ll have curry, rice, raita but also a plate with plain chopped cucumber and cherry tomatoes, and a bowl of plain Greek yoghurt, and all the people get to choose what they want. I know the 5yo will prob just eat cucumber and if I’m lucky a couple of spoonfuls is the yoghurt. But try not to end up in a fight about it. 

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eigne

Ah, you are clearly me and your daughter is clearly my daughter! Same problem at the same age. Very similar list of acceptable foods!

Our approach has been the “you provide, she decides” method. So I will give her a variety of foods for dinner, some of which I know she will eat, some of which she may choose not to (how fun is that guessing game!). We are having some success with tasting plates rather than plated meals which works because she can eat as soon as she’s home from day care, I can provide a variety of foods, and I don’t have to prepare anything special! Tonight she had some grapes, yoghurt, cheese, chicken, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and PB on toast. Tonight she ate it all up and asked for more, other nights she might eat the grapes and cheese and flail about moaning. It’s pot luck. 

i save the foods that are a bit newer or controversial for plate family meals so I can role model.

This approach has taken all the stress out of it for us. If she is hungry? She will eat the food in front of her and maybe try something new. If she is tired or not hungry she won’t. Simple! 

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eigne

Oh and when my daughter asks for more of the thing she demolished, I tell her of course she can have more once she has eaten the rest of her dinner. And then I follow through.

i also don’t offer ‘dessert’, I just put it on front of her with the rest of the meal. She’ll always eat the grapes first but at least they’re not a reward for finishing all her dinner. 

I don’t know if that’s the right approach but it seems to be working.

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Silverstreak

Your DD sounds similar to my DS with the range of foods. Honestly I have had to learn to pick my battles with food. For DS, it's a sensory issue, he likes wet food and crunchy food. I have had success with my infamous tuna casserole (peel and steam five potatoes, a wedge of pumpkin, mix with a large tin of Sirena tuna in oil, add butter and cheese if you like.) DS lives off the stuff and it's easy to cook in bulk and freeze.

As he has gotten older he is starting to enjoy my stews and curries again. He doesn't like the texture of rice, but now enjoys cous cous, as the grains are finer. I use a stick blender to blend up vegetables in bolognese sauce, he is very fussy with textures. I've learned to try him with a dish and then leave it for a week or two before trying again. I also insist that he at least smells and licks a food, or tastes a mouthful, before deciding he doesn't like it! If he doesn't like something, fair enough.

Also, he won't eat berry yoghurt, only the Jalna vanilla yoghurt, which he eats with peaches, bananas, tinned apple etc. He has started to like toasted sandwiches in the sandwich press, but cheese only. He does eat sandwiches for lunch, they have to be chicken loaf on white bread with margarine and a little mayonnaise! Maybe try chicken loaf if your DD likes chicken? DS will eat a little scrambled egg, but I have to add cheese to it and serve it on toast.

Hope some of this info is useful to you!Good luck and all the best!

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Expelliarmus

DD2 did this at a similar age. There are lot of similarities there to the 'White Diet' which is a sensory thing. Not to sound alarmist but if her range does start to narrow even further, I would seek medical assistance sooner rather than later rather than rely on a mish-mash of well-meaning parenting advice. Everybody means well, but if there is an underlying cause, getting onto it early would be better than later.

As it turns out, my DD who is now 18, has Autism. Being female she was able to manage and mask it until the senior years of high school brought everything crashing down. She has a range of sensory issues and  anxiety - particularly around food. But one thing that could have been (and should have been) an early tip-off was that her eating regressed much like your DD's. She used to eat a reasonable variety in adequate quantities but by the time she was three she was living on cheese, crackers, white bread, weet-bix, potatoes, pasta, chicken nuggets and sausages.

PP's have great advice but if it doesn't work and her diet narrows even further, please see a Developmental Paed. Good Luck.

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amaza
4 minutes ago, Expelliarmus said:

DD2 did this at a similar age. There are lot of similarities there to the 'White Diet' which is a sensory thing. Not to sound alarmist but if her range does start to narrow even further, I would seek medical assistance sooner rather than later rather than rely on a mish-mash of well-meaning parenting advice. Everybody means well, but if there is an underlying cause, getting onto it early would be better than later.

As it turns out, my DD who is now 18, has Autism. Being female she was able to manage and mask it until the senior years of high school brought everything crashing down. She has a range of sensory issues and  anxiety - particularly around food. But one thing that could have been (and should have been) an early tip-off was that her eating regressed much like your DD's. She used to eat a reasonable variety in adequate quantities but by the time she was three she was living on cheese, crackers, white bread, weet-bix, potatoes, pasta, chicken nuggets and sausages.

PP's have great advice but if it doesn't work and her diet narrows even further, please see a Developmental Paed. Good Luck.

This. All of this. Exactly the same happened with my DS and he absolutely would have gone hungry if we took the hard line. I promise we have tried everything. Different variety, serve yourself, cook yourself (now he's older), go hungry, eat what you want. Nothing made a difference.

Also, don't let a professional tell you that "They are healthy weight with shiny hair and eyes, don't worry he'll eat when he's ready". If there is further regression please get it checked out further and insist if you need to. Listening to the above advice has been my biggest parenting regret and I still remember that specialist and how defeated I felt when he said it even 10 years later. I wish I knew better and had followed my instincts that there was more to it.

We are still fobbed off by doctors because my DS is tall, strong and physically healthy and blood test results showed only mild anaemia which was easily sorted with a couple of months of iron tablets. The reality is that there is something more there but the struggle to get proper help is real.

Apparently Vegemite with white bread is the sole magic food that keeps kids alive and thriving ;)

I'm sorry if I'm being alarmist too. I don't want to scare you and it absolutely may not go that way for your child. I have another child that did similar too but it didn't last long so I'd say for lots of kids it's just a developmental thing, just please don't ignore it if it continues.

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Expelliarmus

Thank goodness they put in vitamins and minerals and otherwise fortify white bread these days is all I can say ...

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Daffy2016

Thank you everyone. I should mention she will eat corn on the cob but no other veggies, and adores Parmesan cheese ( who knows?).

I’m definitely keeping an eye on any further restrictions because her flat out refusal to even try new things - like plain chicken - does worry me. But she is very stubborn and determined and can always seem to tell when we really want her to do something and then does the opposite, so maybe she’s just asserting her rights. Fingers crossed!

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Ruf~Feral~es

I didn't know about the 'white diet' but it is my DS too. .  Some sensory issues, but no formal diagnosis.  He was terrible when younger, but is much better now at 14 - still much more limited than I would like, but meh.  He's healthy and nearly 6ft tall (albeit skinny).

I refuse to fight or argue about food - my parents battled with me from a very young age, and it culminated in disordered eating as a teenager, and I continue to battle some issues now.  Get professional advice, and temper the advice you get from family/friends/internet with what sits best for you and your child.

One tip - DS will still eat frozen peas and corn, but not cooked/warm.  Might be worth a try if you haven't already?

My only advice is don't make food a battle ground.  It really isn't worth it.  I was really worried when DS's choices shrank, but they eventually expanded again.  I used to try to make him replace one loss with a gain - and find a way to give him control in his choices.  (I still make him eat one piece of brocolli when I make the chicken stir-fry he likes.  He pretends he's going to vomit, but humours me :) )

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Jenflea

Mum didn't give me much advice over the years, but she did say never make food a battle. 

Kids control so little in their lives that they assert their control over what goes in their top end and what comes out the other, and when. 

Offer all the foods, but don't make a fuss over what she doesn't.  

Get her involved in buying and preparing the food, give her raw foods to try(DD loved to eat a red capsicum like an apple at 2) and try not to stress too much. 

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anatomicalheart

Things that worked when my children were that age were:

Big ''sharing plates'' of food at the table. Similarly, a "snacky plate" after school/daycare filled with things like cheese, carrot sticks, green beans, apple slices etc when they're ravenous. 

Not giving them big plates of food, especially at dinner time when they're tired- it can be overwhelming, and then they don't want to eat at all. Much better to start with a smaller serving and then have more if needed.

Food on sticks. And, food with something to dip into it. 

Not commenting on what they were eating/weren't eating, aside from encouraging them to take ''a polite bite'' to try a new food. At one stage, with one of them, even just smelling the food was enough for me. 

Fresh vegetables seemed to be far more palatable than cooked- even to an extent, they still do. 

Getting them involved in cooking- at three, they're old enough to help pod peas, stir things, add ingredients in...

I don't offer alternative meals, but I don't make things they really, really genuinely dislike (they've been allowed to nominate two vegetables each that I won't put on their plates but everything else is fair game), but I do offer milk or a banana after dinner if I knew they'd not eaten enough. 

I'm also fairly certain that one of my children developed a liking to mushrooms on pizza just because I would sit down and make noises about how delicious it was and stealing slices of my pizza became a game. 

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CrankyM

Yeah really don’t make food a battle or go the hard time. It can backfire spectacularly (yeah my kid decided not to eat for 2 days, and at some points survived on sustagen. He’s autistic but eats a decent range. Most of his food issues related to taste, sensory issues and low tone in his jaw. If it takes too much effort to chew he’d give up at that age. My non autistic child was just as bad. Actually he still is.)

All the advice in the world we received from professionals was very very plain around not making food a battle. Making it anxious and being hard lined about it increases cortisol levels which decrease appetite. They also said don’t make meal times more then 25mins if they aren’t eating. We often did the food plates and serves up foods to try with favourites. Not allowed to touch. But the option was there. huge praise if they even licked it or put it in their mouth. Going sideways from fav things. Getting involved in food making, picking from the supermarket etc. I have one that loves to cook and bake but will barely eat. 
If it continues I’d really look at professional help. A peadiatric dietician and a peadiatrician (developmental would be better but waitlists...)

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AllyK81

We don't make food a battle ground but we are not short order cooks either. Eat what we eat or go hungry. We have never really done 'kid' food.

Our kids are a little older - 5 & 6 - but we have always done this.  DS is a bit fussier but they are both pretty good eaters and eat a wide range of food.

Don't make a big fuss about it, provide a wide range of healthy things, involve them in the cooking process.

I don't know about the white food theory above but I have my own white food theory and that is that I don't eat it! I find kids in particular gravitate to white foods. Toast, rice, pasta, cheese etc. We don't cook with those foods too much ourselves and try to limit meals to a maximum of one of these things so they can't fill up on that and ignore the rest.

Mine also much prefer raw vegetables so I sometimes put out a plate of those when I am cooking. Carrots, cucumber and snow peas are the favourites but they also eat raw broccoli.

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Riotproof

Is anything going on that might make her feel insecure? 

Does she seem to have any stomach pain or upsets? 

I would proceed as you are doing, but I would also consider how she could "help" with a part of dinner to make her feel invested.. so if you are having a salad, you could chop it up, but she could put in a bowl and toss it. Obviously, there are limited things she can do safely at her age, but talk them up!

I also have tried to say to my kids, just give it a bite.. but only one food each time. So if we are having sweet potatoes and mushrooms, ds can decide to try either of them. I also have found, they prefer a lot of veggies raw.. will not eat cooked carrot or broccoli but will eat them raw. 

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CrankyM
Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, AllyK81 said:

We don't make food a battle ground but we are not short order cooks either. Eat what we eat or go hungry.

Yeah I'm not a short order cook either but I'm not going to serve up food I know my kids won't eat. And yeah, sometimes it means I end up make 2-3 different meals because both adults have intolerance and everyone has  food preferences. Because they will choose to go hungry and I don't think that allows them to develop a healthy relationship with food either. I don't like a number of foods and won't be forced to eat them, why should I serve foods my kids don't like up to them? Everyone has preferences. The gentle approach to extending what my kids will eat is important and frankly the only thing that has worked.

And until you have had a child who restricts their food extensively, this attitude isn't really all that helpful. I've faced that before and you know what it did? It caused ME endless stress about food and feeding my kids to point I was anxious making anything for them. Other people being judgmental about what I feed my kids can take a leap. You haven't has 10 years of food battles or have a child who is literally 500g from being medically underweight. (The other child is fine weight wise but still particular around food and I'm not going to force the issue. They have options. Sure some aren't as bad as others. Oh and on white bread, you wouldn't get my oldest to eat it. He says it has the consistency of brains. The ONLY bread they will eat is the coles brand wholemeal. The ONLY brand. Which he eats with lettuce and praise mayonaise every single say for school.)

Edited by CrankyM
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3babygirls

I noticed at 3 my daughters appetite at night decreased at night in particular.
I don't make seperate meals, so if she didn't like what we had then that was it. 

However, I generally try and make sure there is something that I know that she likes on her plate and then encourage her to eat other things. Like she dislikes tomato based sauces, so if I make spaghetti then i'll seperate the sauce and the pasta and encourage her to try the sauce. I might also choose to always have broccoli included with any meat & veg meals, because I know that she really loves that. 

She's just four and i've noticed a lot more that she is trying new things. She does need to be coaxed into trying things sometimes. Like carrot, she would not ever eat carrot but i've been serving it to her since she was 6 months and now will finally eat it and like it! I always remind her of foods that she previously did not like, but now she does. So we don't ever say "I don't like it" we might say "next time you might enjoy it" or "that's not my favourite" or usually "I don't like it yet" which has chagned her mind on foods so much more because if she tries it and doesn't like it, then we talk about that maybe next time she might really love it etc.

I also look at her food intake over the whole day but also the whole week. Some days she seems to do nothing but eat, and then other days she grazes a bit more. We also do lots of grazing plates for lunches and snacks which give her more choice over what stuff she eats. 

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3babygirls
10 minutes ago, Riotproof said:

Is anything going on that might make her feel insecure? 

Does she seem to have any stomach pain or upsets? 

I would proceed as you are doing, but I would also consider how she could "help" with a part of dinner to make her feel invested.. so if you are having a salad, you could chop it up, but she could put in a bowl and toss it. Obviously, there are limited things she can do safely at her age, but talk them up!

I also have tried to say to my kids, just give it a bite.. but only one food each time. So if we are having sweet potatoes and mushrooms, ds can decide to try either of them. I also have found, they prefer a lot of veggies raw.. will not eat cooked carrot or broccoli but will eat them raw. 

I also second this advice. Preparing food, and actually seeing what goes into dinners really helped my 4 year old a lot. She also likes bragging to everyone that she made dinner. Or gets excited when she picks veggies out of the garden.
She also prefers carrots raw over cooked, so i'll make that exception for her when we have cooked ones. 

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Daffy2016

Thanks everyone!

@Riotproof I don’t think there’s anything going on with her at the moment outside the food stuff. She’s pretty good and telling me what’s going on and otherwise seems a happy little chicken?

We do involve her in food prep where we can - she likes helping to peel veggies, crack eggs etc. But I’m now back in the office and it means we have even less time than usual. I might try more meal prep on the weekends and see how we go.

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AllyK81

CrankyM I am sorry you've had some extra challenges.

I was responding to the OP question about how to approach food with kids. I never once suggested there was a one size fits all answer. Being a bit more hard line has worked for us but I appreciate that won't be the right approach for everyone.

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Kreme

My DS went through the stage of actually gagging and throwing up if he tried to eat anything outside his fairly restricted range of food. Add to that the fact that he has hypoglycaemia and going hungry is not an option if we don’t want him to end up in hospital. 

So I just ensured there was always something on the plate that he would eat and yes it was often white. It led to some interesting food combos like a roast dinner with a scoop of plain pasta or rice on the side but it worked. He was also always able to have fruit after dinner.

He’s now 12, interested in nutrition and eats a wide variety of food from many different cuisines, and all the colours of the rainbow. And the only food “rules” we’ve ever introduced was no more than 2 oranges a day at the request of his dentist. 

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Riotproof
3 hours ago, Daffy2016 said:

Thanks everyone!

@Riotproof I don’t think there’s anything going on with her at the moment outside the food stuff. She’s pretty good and telling me what’s going on and otherwise seems a happy little chicken?

We do involve her in food prep where we can - she likes helping to peel veggies, crack eggs etc. But I’m now back in the office and it means we have even less time than usual. I might try more meal prep on the weekends and see how we go.

Hmmm, are her daycare hours the same? 

I know it's hard, but try not to make a big deal of it. It can help to sit with her while she eats, even if you just have a drink for the social/enjoyment factor. 

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Bird1

Both my boys could be called fussy eaters. We follow the breakfast like kings, lunch like princes and dinner like paupers method. 

For us it means no one gets stressed at dinner time. Any time I want to introduce a new meal I do it of a lunchtime on the weekend. It seems to work out well and both will try new foods, as no one is rushing we can take our time.

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Daffy2016
1 hour ago, Riotproof said:

Hmmm, are her daycare hours the same? 

I know it's hard, but try not to make a big deal of it. It can help to sit with her while she eats, even if you just have a drink for the social/enjoyment factor. 

Yes they are - she’s stayed the same because I’ve been working from home, so no change there.

We do try to have dinner together each night. Interestingly I didn’t use the word ‘dinner’ tonight, just said it was time for pasta and bolognese, and she responded much better. Apparently she likes pasta but not dinner - her words. 😂

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