Who doesn't know a child who is a picky eater? Most of the time you think the parent has just given into the child's desires and is catering to what the child will eat. That maybe the case sometimes, but I'm starting to notice that there more parents out there trying to do the right thing to combat the picky eaters. There is so much advice and information out on the Internet it makes you wonder if you are doing what it takes to help them.
My oldest daughter has to have a gluten free diet. The nice thing is that she will eat just about anything. In order for her to eat what the family is eating I buy lots of gluten free products. It is so nice that the availability of them is so good now. I get her gluten free pasta, crackers, pretzels, pancake mix, frozen waffles and cookies. This girl eats green beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, squash, peppers, mushrooms, all dairy, most meats, and almost every fruit. I buy her 2% organic milk and she drinks at least 2 glasses a day. Heck ya I'm going to let her have some junk food. I just recently started buying her rice bread. She is thrilled to be able to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her sister. Despite the gluten restriction she has a very well rounded healthy diet that includes fruits and veggies.
Now, my youngest has no strict diet restrictions per se. She tested as mildly allergic to egg whites, but the doctor said that small exposures to egg whites wouldn't hurt her. So we don't make her any kind of eggs for breakfast, but she does get pancakes and a few other products that have a little egg in them. It doesn't appear to effect her. Plus, I wouldn't describe her diet as well rounded. She is a picky eater so we give her what she will eat.
I saw a piece on Nightline the other night where they profiled a 7 year old with nutritional deficiencies because she only ate about 7 things. She has food neophobia. It got me thinking about my youngest diet. She has quite the discerning palate. She can tell the difference between organic chocolate milk and the regular junk. I have tried to slip nutritional proteins into her chocolate milk and she won't drink it. She will tell me it taste yucky. I even tried chocolate almond milk today and that didn't pass the test either.
Concerned that at the age of 4 she doesn't have a well rounded diet, I started listing all the things she will definitely eat and what she will occasionally eat. There are 17 foods she will eat that I would consider part of a normal diet, like grapes, cheese, cantaloupe and whole wheat stone ground bread. Then there are about 15 junk foods she will eat, like hot dogs, ham, candy, and french fries that have very little nutritional value. I do buy Hebrew National Hot Dogs, but still they really don't meet the nutritional needs of a little girl. There is only 2 vegetables she has ever eaten more than once, slices of raw peeled zucchini and broccoli dipped in ranch dressing. Although tonight she didn't eat her slices of zucchini. It was from a local farm here, so I think they had to much flavor. I thought it was yummy.
So I guess since she will eat that many different things she is just a picky eater and probably doesn't have a food neophobia? I continue to try and find ways to get veggies into her, but she really isn't falling for any of it. Usually I can bribe her into trying one bite of things, but if it resembles something she doesn't like, she won't even do that. I tried not to cater to her tastes, but she will go hungry before she will eat something she doesn't know or like. I do make sure that at dinner there is at least one thing I know she will eat. I present her with 1 teaspoon of whatever we are having and ask that she try anything new. I will still put that 1 teaspoon of food on her plate even if she has refused to eat something 10 times. I sometimes think that just maybe she will get tired of being hungry and eat some. Even if she likes something she doesn't always eat much of it. She likes bananas, but they have to be just the right taste. Often times she will only take one bite even if she is hungry. In order to prevent starvation I do let her snack on her healthy favorites throughout the day. The issue is when we are out and about. She often times will get exhausted and cranky because she is hungry. It breaks your heart to hear your child cry, "my tummy hurts Mommy."
I learned from that Nightline show a few other things I can try to get her to eat more foods. I will try that, but I think I have decided I need to keep a food journal for her. Then I can take her to a nutritionist and find out if she is getting enough of what her body needs. Her pediatricians have never been much help. They have said, "She doesn't loose weight, don't worry about it, she will eat when she is hungry." However, I know that she doesn't eat when she is hungry. She only eats what she likes no matter how hungry she is. I don't want her to be 7 years old like that child on Nightline when I figure out she needs professional help.