Saturday, November 17, 2012

Come On Kid! Eat!

What do you do with a picky eater? Most kids don't love broccoli or asparagus but how picky is too picky? 

Most of you know know about our 6 year-old who is on the crazy end of the Picky Spectrum. If you haven't read his story you can read about the beginning or the update on Max.

Recently I've been talking to some other moms who are battling eating issues with their kids. Now I'm by no means an expert or even brillant but I thought I would share what we have learned over the past 4 years about the (highly flammable) combination of Picky Kids and Food.

So for anyone out there that is frustrated because your itty-bitty kid doesn't want to eat, this is for you!

Tips for the Parent of the Picky Eater (PoPE):

Sneaking Fat
Years ago when Max first started seeing his Specialists, many handouts were thrust in our hands. I had pages and pages of recipes and sneaky tips. I think I tossed most of them. But I'm trying to convince you they are helpful. Maybe I shouldn't have told you that. They ARE helpful!

Put butter in all the veggies, noodles, rice, potatoes. Anything warm actually.

Douse their potatoes with full fat sour cream. Let them dip their veggies and potato chips in it.

Put heavy cream in soups, oatmeal, pudding, hot chocolate, shakes.

Peanut butter on pancakes and toast and crackers.
Peanut butter smoothies.
Let them dip their apples and bananas in peanut butter. Or even honey or syrup. Max's favorite way to eat green beans is dipped in pancake syrup. Aaand I let him.

Cheese in the eggs, melted on tortillas, cut in cubes.

Obviously Pediasure has loads of calories but if your kid isn't really into the flavor, get yourself some Breakfast Power by Carnation and stir it into whole milk, shakes or puddings.

Make food interesting.

Let them eat grapes, ham cubes, cheese cubes, bread cubes with toothpicks. Or make mini kabobs with them.

Spread mayo on a small tortilla and give them cheese and bacon (or ham), shredded carrots, chopped peppers, peas, etc to make faces. 

Add food coloring to scrambled eggs.

Use a cookie cutter to cut a shape in the middle of their sandwich and then cut the rest into pieces to form a puzzle.

I'm sure pintrest is showing me up. Go find actual creative ideas there.

Meal Time
If your kids are self-regulated and they actually do eat when they are hungry AND they consume enough calories on their own, family meal times are important for obvious bonding reasons. 

But to the resistant eater, a structured meal time can make all the difference in the world.

It was very obvious to me this past soccer season. Since we had two games right around dinner time, we often ate on the run. The kids ate a pb&j on the way to the game and finished with bananas and cheese sticks on the way home. Not a good setting for Max. Distraction, excitement, movement, Mom can't focus  on her kids like she wants to... 

The flip side is much better for the resistant eater. When Max sits at the dinner table with the family, stays in one spot the entire time, is sitting on a chair that does not distract him, no TV, no radio, just nice family conversation... 

Structure at meal time makes a huge difference to Max. And maybe that just sounds like common sense to you. I guess it is.

Sharing Control
Kids are smart. Maybe a lot smarter than we give them credit for being. I know I've gotten played by kids struggling for control. 

If your resistant eater is also strong willed and stubborn, well, welcome to my world. I'm glad to have you in my world because its more fun to laugh with someone than grit your teeth alone.

Oh my Max... The only two people more stubborn than he is? His mom and dad. Yes we have had some battles. But they are getting rarer and much more civil.

What does Shared Control look like? [Just a little but really important side note: Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk and Love and Logic by Charles Faye changed our LIVES!]

Shared Control looks like this:
Max, would you like one meatball or two?
Would you like ranch or french dressing?
Water or milk?
Do you want to sit by daddy or mommy?
Would you like your applesauce on your spaghetti or beside it? (Yes this is a real question in our house.)

What we have found is that Max is much more willing to cooperate with the non-negociables (ie. you have to eat dinner, you must eat a veggie) when he has some say about what goes on his plate. We only offer choices we are ok with. 

This one is big for us because food has been such a HUGE deal for Max since he's been a baby. 

When fear drives my attitude and my decisions, it's not pretty. That needs to be taken to God. Daily if need be. God, he's pretty great. I don't know how bald I would be by now if it wasn't for his grace. But that's another story.

We had to step back and downplay Max's eating issues. They did not define him. Max was Our Very Loved Monkey Son not The Bad Eater Who Drives Mom Crazy. Eating is just one small part of his complex person. And not the most important part either. 

Eating is important to stay alive and to fill his little body with energy to climb and color and breathe. But we no longer talk about it at every meal and ask him how much he ate at school.

Big Steps
We have a great Pediatrician who was keeping an eye on Max and she made the call to refer him to a Specialist. If you are worried about your itty-bitty kid, talk to your Doctor. Specialists are great people! They probably see lots of kids with the same issues as your kids and we loved all of ours!

If your kiddo is really not where they should be on the charts and your doctor starts talking about the next Big Step, don't freak. The G-tube was a gift. from. God. It is a port to slip nutrients directly into your kids stomach, very easy, very few risks, a beautiful thing. 

Max had been gagging and throwing up almost every single day for months. That first blasted jar of baby food with 3 diced carrots in it gave us a glimpse of what was to come. Occupational Therapy did wonders for Max's oral aversion. If a doctor recommends therapy for your kiddo, go with it. It is most helpful!

Max's first day at OT revealed that Max had other sensory issues besides just gagging on food. While he loved, craved and chased rough touch (swinging, big hugs and especially wrestling) he was freaked out by small/light touch. Walking on wet grass was a nightmare. Esp when wearing flip-flops. Every 3 steps he would stop and brush off his sandals. He didn't touch sand or sticky or rubbery or bubbly.

So we learned that eating issues sometimes stem from something else.

These books have helped us to some degree or another.

Just Take A Bite Easy effective answers to food aversions and eating challenges.
Loving Our Kids on Purpose Making a heart-to-heart connection.
Love and Logic Especially the one on early childhood.

If you are struggling to get your kid to eat, be encouraged! 
You are not alone!
There is help!
And I'd love to hear from you!

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