My Picky Eater Is 9 Years Old and Is Only Getting More Picky

Updated on October 13, 2010
L.L. asks from New Orleans, LA
48 answers

Hi. My son is 9 years old. He has been a picky eater from the get-go, but now he's refusing to eat anything but pop tarts and corn bread. Any suggestions?

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So What Happened?

Wow, lots of great advice. Just to let everyone who said that he won't let himself starve, he has already lost 6 pounds. He is around 4'-6" tall and started out only weighing around 60 lbs. He can't really afford to lose too many more pounds. His doctor is concerned, but doesn't see a physical medical problem. I have him in psychotherapy. Maybe it's that his father left us. Maybe it's that we're still putting our house back together after the flood which followed hurricane Katrina. I did try the sneaky chef thing, but since he doesn't eat brownies or spaghetti sauce, it was hard to sneak the purees in the food. I will keep trying. I will try to cook vegetables in the corn bread. Thanks for that suggestion. I don't know why I didn't think of that before. Thank you to everyone who wrote in.

June - 2008
We've pretty much narrowed this down to lactose intolerance on top of psychological issues. We've got him drinking smoothies. Thank you to everyone who offered support and suggestions. I really do appreciate it. My son and I thank you.

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M.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Im not trying to be strange, but poptarts are good. you will think back and laugh when he is 14-20 eating everything in sight.

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A.B.

answers from Texarkana on

I have a six year old who is picky...almost no veggies. He'll eat fruit--sometimes. I try bribery, contests with his younger brother (challenge to eat brocoli, etc). I bought a cook book called the Sneaky Chef which incorporates veggies and fruits secretively (like coliflower in macaroni and cheese). What I find works best is, offer two good items..a or b, only and he picks. If he doesn't like it, tell him he has to eat 3 or 5 bites of it. Usually, he will eat more b/c he discovers that he actually likes it. If he stops at 3, I say "wow, that's good, but I bet you couldn't ear 5,6,7, etc) and then he feels that challenge and then eats b/c its a game. I may or may not work, but that's something that's been working for me. Oh, and I get my kids to help cook scrambled eggs with me. They get to feel like they are contributing and mixing up the eggs and the cream. I do the actual cooking, but I call what we do cooking. Good Luck.

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M.B.

answers from Birmingham on

I have 2 children, a 9 year old and a 12 year old. My 9 year old is a picky eater. He has gotten better over time but he still has only a few things that he will eat. A couple of years ago, the kids got a children's cookbook from a relative for Christmas. So the kids will pull it out every once in a while to cook lunch or dinner. My 9 year old loves to cook. He will eat whatever he cooks. They will plan their meal, I'll buy the groceries and they cook the meal together. That way, they both practice cooking and they enjoy eating what they make. Hope this helps!

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E.D.

answers from Boca Raton on

I know you've already posted your request and received several answers, but I remember learning in Psychology class years ago that it is common for children to go through phases where they will only eat peanut butter, bananas, or whatever. As long as you have not introduced sugar into the diet to distort food cravings, kids generally get a balanced diet over the long run.

In the meantime, I did some research on the web and found two websites especially helpful: some tips from the Mayo Clinic and a list of children's books that solve the problem through stroytelling.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ01107
http://www.neatsolutions.com/Childrens_%20Lit/Picky%20Eat...

Good luck!

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L.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Have you tried protein shakes? My kids can be picky but the bigger problem is sweets and wanting to graze all day...not always a balanced diet. I personally drink a protein/fiber shake as my breakfast (because I am just not a breakfast eater) By accident I discovered that my kids wanted to steal my shakes in the morning because they taste so good. Of course I am a VP with Arbonne and use my own products, but here's my recipe should you want to try it...I don't know how it works with other protein powders (ours is pea protein as a source, so no yucky taste in the protein itself)
Arbonne breakfast Shake:
1 scoop/serving of Vanilla protein
2 scoops/1 serving of our orange fiber powder
10 oz or so of skim milk (you could use whole)
1/2 frozen banana
5 or 6 frozen strawberries
Blend for a few seconds...tastes just like a strawberry banana milk shake.

That gives him about 11g fiber and 18g protein. The shakes are part of our Go Figure 8 weight loss line and are typically used as a meal replacement...but it can also be used in addition to meals to build muscle.

Good Luck!

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C.L.

answers from Montgomery on

Missy Lapine has a cookbook called the Sneaky Chef. You make purees and freeze them. You can add carrot and sweet potato puree (she calls it orange puree) to spaghetti sauce and know that they get veggies. Kids will also eat what you have in the house when they get really hungry. Stay strong and I promise if you make them eat good things and sneak some in it will benefit them. They have pizza recipes and macaroni and cheese and burgers and fries. See if any of it will work for you.

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R.S.

answers from Denver on

Hi L.,

Not to alarm you. But make sure he isn't having heart burn. Heart burn or gastric reflux will cause a lot of children to get super picky. Ask your pediatrician and dentist to check for signs of reflux.

Signs you can look for are problems sleeping after eating, slow eating, smells sour, picky eater, easily vomits, etc.

There is a lot of info online. However I would talk to your pediatrician first. And keep in mind there is silent and regular reflux.

R.

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R.S.

answers from Oklahoma City on

go get the book Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, it worked for my picky eater

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D.L.

answers from New Orleans on

My picky eater is now 17 years old, still picky but much better. by wanting to fit in with his friends he's become more adventurous with his food choices.
We tried everything. Mealtime was the worst time. We spent it trying to force him to eat a variety of foods. Not a pleasant time.
In retrospect, when we stopped focusing on it, he did better.
Serve what you are going to serve, and if he eats fine if not don't fret. Being nine he won't starve himself. Try not to react to him not eating. It's hard, I know, just ignore if he eats or not. Talk about other things at the table. If you can't stand him not eating or him making a ruckus, make available something nutritious that he can make himself like a sandwich, an egg, or easy mac instead. I'd take the pop tarts and corn bread out of the picture. When they disappear out of the cabinet just don't repurchase.
Good Luck. The 3 things you can't make your children do, eat, sleep, and potty.

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D.M.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I dont actually have this problem, but one of my friends did. And several times she invited one of her sons friends over who was NOT a picky eater and while praising him for finishing all his food, she eventually was able to start getting her own son to start eating more. This may work if your son has any friends that you could have over sometimes. Also While dealing with a small kitchen in the past, I found tons of Crockpot recipes that were delicious. I also make several things at the same time, or a lot of one item and freeze part of it. You can also cut up extra veggies and what not, and freeze portions that you can just pull out when needed. It makes clean up and cooking time a lot easier.
Good luck!

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K.H.

answers from Houston on

Hello L.,

I too have a "picky" child. Picky is actually an understatement. Caleb is 8 and from the very beginning when he was just starting solid foods, he would gag and vomit and refuse food. And it seems to us he is only getting more "picky" like your child. I don't have to tell you it drives the family crazy. The pediatrician just kept telling us all kids were picky and the will grow out of it. So we didn't worry too much in the early day. However as time went on it became evident Caleb had bigger issues. He has some developmental delays, but is very high functioning. After finally getting a referral when he was 6 to the Texas Children's Hospital Feeding Disorder Clinic from our pediatrician, I became very aquainted with feeding disorders. (Not to be confused with eating disorders of anorexia/bulimia. Feeding disorders have to to with highly selective feeders, many of which have developmental delays, autism, etc. and many have sensory issues)

You name it, we have tried all the various methods to make him eat. Rewards, punishments, insisting he eat what we all eat, withholding the "favorites" and insisting he eat what he is served, 2 years of sensory integration therapy, etc. None of it worked. Just reinforced that he has a problem that is bigger than all of us.

Twice, he has gone without food for as long as two weeks! He just refused to eat anything solid at all. I did manage to get just enough water in him that he wasn't as dehydrated as he could have been. Two ER visits during one of these periods and all they did was hydrate him intravenously and discharge him and tell me he was constipated. Of course he was, because no food and little water intake, there will be no outgo! Neither ER had any grasp of the situation.

On two occasions when he was younger (4 and 5 years old) we withheld his "favorites" and only offered healthly suitable choices for meals as the result of pressure from family members who think Dr. Phil knows best. This was done under the generally held assumption that no kid will starve themselves. And for 96% of the pediatric population, this is probably true. Well, he ate nothing for 2 weeks and I told my family that I wasn't going to do that to him anymore. I do believe he would starve himself. He was weak and his ribs were starting to show. (This was before he was on all the meds he is on now.)

Caleb only eats bacon (turkey and regular), chicken nuggets (must be Tyson), Ritz Crackers, water, plain M&M's, occasionally chocolate milk. He will eat beef fajita meat and pork from the Vietnamese noodle houses when we go out and eat. On special occasions he is allowed to have a soda or chips. But he is picky about junk food too. That is about it. No fruits, veggies, juice, pasta and other things kids might eat.

I also have a 5 year old who of course like kid friendly stuff, but will also try all kinds of new things. But for Caleb, new foods are something he avoids like the plague and sticks with his very limited selection. So I can't believe it is us that made him that way since younger brother is "normal" in his eating habits.

The therapist tells us it is all behavioral. Yes, I agree, but why is so flipped out about food? I mean when a kid is presented with a new food to try and he has a first class screaming meltdown and runs away or when he is persuaded to try it, vomits and gags, you can't tell me this is way deeper than a kid trying to control the situation.

And it seems the bigger deal we make out of food, the more he refuses. Since he is on the heavy side, the doctors still don't seem to worried about it. (They said they would worry more if he was underweight.) He is heavy because the few foods he does eat are high in fat, plus he is on 4 medications, all of which make you gain weight. He also has mild cerebral palsy, so he isn't as active as other children.

So we just keep on hoping that one day as he matures he will change and expand his food choices. I do believe the more of an issue you make out of food, the bigger problem it will become. I worry about Caleb because of his weight, potential for diabetes and heart disease, but I can accept his strange ways and accomadate them. For my husband and his mother, they go from totally accomadating Caleb to harshly demanding that we stop giving in to Caleb's "manipulating" ways in regards to food.

I do hope your son's issues aren't like Calebs. Hopefully your son will outgrow this "phase" soon and it will be just a distant memory. But to let you know that you are not alone out there and it isn't your fault.

My email is [email protected]____.com. I can recommend a couple of books that deal with feeding issues. Even if they don't specifically help your current situation, they have the effect of helping you cope with it.

Kim Howell

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G.F.

answers from Decatur on

quit buying pop tarts and stop making corn bread. I'll bet the bank he'll find something else he can eat by the end of the day, make sure you have something nutritional around by the end of the day. JF

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M.O.

answers from Chicago on

We helped raise our grandson until he was four. He was a pretty good eater except when his dad was around because he would nag and pick and threaten throughout each meal. Even we didn't want to eat. Well dad remarried and psycho M. fought with the child about food and if he would not eat what she gave him, she fed him hot sauce and locked him in his room. In the year and a half she had him, he lost 20% of his body weight and weighed 30 lbs with clothes and shoes one when he was turning six. The courts finally pulled him out of there and placed him with us. The first words out of his mouth were: "whatever you say, I'm not gonna eat". He placed himself firmly in front the television. I determined that the first thing we had to address was the eating issue. I fixed him a plate of ham, cheese, cantalope and apple. I just placed the plate in front of him on the coffee table and said:"this is for you". Within five minutes, he was in the kitchen: "that was pretty good, do you think I could have more?" I responded: "you can have anything you want." "You mean I can have candy and cookies?" "Yes, but you need to eat some good stuff too." He ate a second plate and some cookies and milk. His little stomach was so shrunk, we found he could not eat a full meal most of the time. We let him eat in front of the TV for awhile because it was a distraction from the food battle. It didn't take long before he easily sat down at the dinner table with us. I alway gave him a small plate and told him he could have more if he wanted it. I gave him Ovaltine at least twice a day because of vitamins, etc. At Sunday breakfast he would order hot chocolate with whipped cream and add about six creamers into that. I would not use this as a normal childhood diet and did not feed my three children that way. But I realized that food had become his battleground, it was the only thing he could control. When we backed off and just placed the food in front him, he ate. If he said he couldn't eat it all, that was okay. If he wanted something more in an hour, that was okay too. It took him three years to catch up in growth. At the end of the third year he grew four inches one summer and has stretch marks on his back from it. I knew he needed lots of simple and complex carbs to get him growing and kick-start his brain. I don't know if this w/help your son, but considering the emotional upheavals in your lives, it might be worth a try. Be patient. It won't happen overnight.

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T.S.

answers from Little Rock on

My kids are a little picky. I put dinner in front of them and tell them that they have to eat it. And you know what they do. Sometimes not all of it but most of it. But on the other hand, my cousin is 15. He is picky. He is a good sized boy and he eats what and when he wants. Very little that is good for him but you know what my mom has always said they will eat what they need when they need it. He went years eating the spaghetti with no sauce no nothing. He will not eat chicken if it is on the bone. Bad thing is my grandmother and aunt both just let him do that. I watch on Sundays when we eat together. She will tell my 2 year old to eat but her son is alowed to be at the table for 2 minutes and eat very little and then get dessert. He will eat and like the other post said if you do not buy it he can not eat it.

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M.F.

answers from Huntsville on

Hi L.,

This always worked for me. Set his meal in front of him, tell him he does not have to eat it, but that is what is being served. Take it away at the end of the meal. believe me the message will get to him and he will eat when he is hungry. Do not have the other stuff in the house. Keep fruit, etc. available, he will adjust. Secondly, let him help plan and cook the meals. I teach cooking and I have a few children as clients age 9 and up. They really enjoy it. Basically when kids refuse to eat and persist like your son? That is button pushing hon, and you need to be strong and not let him do that. Good luck. God Bless

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M.F.

answers from New Orleans on

Hi L.,

I think you've got to be cruel to be kind in this situation. Don't buy any poptarts or make any cornbread. Only serve your child what everybody else is having. You can still keep it kid-friendly and healthy. If he doesn't want to eat, take his plate away. Let him wait until the next meal. If he can't wait, give him a banana. Nutrition is so important for a child's physical and mental development, especially with view to concentration and academic success. Sounds like your kitchen is a challenge. Maybe making a list of easy but healthy meals would be helpful. Things like a fruit salad topped with cottage cheese; peanut butter and sliced apple sandwich; or tortillas with canned refried beans and cheese are all dishes that are easy and healthy. Egg or tuna fish salad on bread is also quick. French toast with apple sauce and strawberries will go down a treat. You will also help him to have good lifelong eating habits which will ensure that he does not become susceptible to dietary illnesses like diabetes. I know it sounds difficult, but really it'll only be a few days where you'll have to be tough. You can make some of the meals more fun by making them into picnics, eating either outside if the weather is good, or on a blanket on the floor inside. Milk is also an important thing for your child to drink if he is not getting enough nutrition from solid food. You can make smoothies if you have a blender - just add a banana, some berries, and some ice-cubes. If you have some fancy straws, the kids will love it even more. Again, just present his food as a no-choice option. Don't cajole, plead, or beg him to eat. And don't give in to his whining. I'm sure he'd rather have french toast than starve, especially if he refused the last meal. Your concern for his health should outweigh any other considerations and will help you to be steadfast.
Good luck!
M.

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D.M.

answers from New Orleans on

My brother went for years eating baked potatoes, bananas, and poptarts. I mean years! He finally got tired of it and moved on to other specific foods for other long peroids. He is in great shape now at age 22, exercises regularly and eats better somewhat. So i say, Get the whole wheat poptarts and let him eat them till he gets sick of them. And, you can add vegetables to the corn bread check out some recipes.

Good luck - Dbbie

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B.H.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Don't buy poptarts and corn bread one week. Buy some healthy snacks...grapes, apples, yogurt etc and healthy meals.

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C.P.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Hi L.,
I have one of those "picky eaters" too. But let me tell you something I learned. This is pretty amazing. I saw an article on kids that are "supertasters," meaning that they have a very keen sense of smell/taste--more so than the average person. It addressed the fact that people considered these kids "picky" when in fact, they are just able to taste and smell so much MORE than the average person, that there are some foods and textures that they just can't handle-- that doesn't make them "picky"--just more sensitive to food. Just like some people are sensitive to allergens, or have a keen sense of hearing, etc. Ever since he was a baby, he was very definite about likes and dislikes in food. I never insisted that he eat things he just didn't want. He went through a time like your son, where he wanted to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 3 meals a day. Then he moved on to McDonald's sausage biscuits. He was too young to read or know the difference (so we thought) so one day my husband stopped by Hardees and got a sausage biscuit for him since it was on his way, rather than going to McDonalds. When Casey took a bite out of it, he put it right down and said he wanted a SAUSAGE BISCUIT. My husband said "That's what you have." and Casey told him, "No. It's not MY sausage biscuit." It was the only way he had of saying it was "different." That made a believer out of my husband, who had been thinking he was just "picky"-- pretty amazing that he could tell the difference at such a young age--I don't think he was 3 yet. The same with bologna. If I bought any other kind other than Oscar Mayer, he wouldn't eat it. He has always been very sensitive to smells, too, and can smell things before any of the rest of us can. So don't worry about it too much. Casey got to where he wanted vegetables-- but not the "usual stuff" (like corn, peas, green beans). He wanted squash, okra, and eggplant. My husband never said another word about him being "picky." I can't even get HIM to eat eggplant! Hope this helps, and if you need more info, please e-mail me!
C.

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L.C.

answers from Enid on

Our children would get along great together! My son is the same way. I DID START MY SON OUT WITH HEALTHY FOODS! This seems to be an age when children are testing their own independence of likes and dislikes. It seems to be a phase. There was a time when I couldn't keep enough chocolate penut butter in the house! I wouldn't worry too much. Compromise. I let my son eat poptarts for breakfast. Dinner and Supper are Healthy. I offer a special treat at bedtime (perhaps cornbread would be your trick?)

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A.C.

answers from Dothan on

I have the same issue with my nine year old. He has always been extremely picky, but it seems to be getting worse. I have tried everything that I could possibly think of to help this situation.Hope you have better luck than I have had.

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K.L.

answers from Oklahoma City on

When he was younger you should have started him to eating other things whether he liked them or nt. I am not saying force him to eat them, but babies will spit out food one day and another day they will eat it like its their favorite food. You shouldn't have let him go this long eating like taht because now that he's older it will be harder to get him eat other foods. If i were you i would not force him to eat other things, but i would tell him that he will eventually have to eat other fppds and i wouldn't buy pop-tarts and i woudn't make corn bread as much. That is just somthing he will have to learn to do because he needs vitamins. There is an illness that you can get from lack of vitamin c in your body an di can't think of the name of it right now, ut what it does to you is it makes your muscles have spasms so bad that you literally can't move, you can't walk, and you can't crawl. It is very painful and it is very rare, but it comes from lack of vitamin c and you will be hospitalized and be given vitamin c through an i.v and you can't leave the hospital until you get enough in you to help your body get back to normal. My friend's son had it and when they foubd out that he was a picky eater and he owuldn't eat they called child services on her and she called me and i argued with and i told them they were not going to take her son because she feeds him good, it's just that he only eats what he likes and it's not her fault that he will only eat what he likes. As long as she's offerin ghim food she can't do anything else if he doesn't eat it, but make him something that she knows he will eat and that's no form or fashion of child neglect or abuse and they left her alone about it. Good luck!!

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G.D.

answers from Huntsville on

From the time my daughter began eating table food, she would only eat tuna (straight from the can), applesauce, hamburger (no bun), the hot dog bun (but no weiner), and Spaghettios. It drove me nuts! Her pediatrician didn't see any of this a problem. As long as your son is not anemic or suffering from vitamin deficiencies, he will eventually grow out of some of it. In the meantime, I would make certain he takes a multi-vitamin each day. Also, allowing him to help you cook/mix ingredients will give him a desire to taste what he prepared. Let him (and the other child) have 1 night each week to choose the menu. Make certain you brag on how good it tastes and make a big deal over who prepared it. He'll want to help cook (and taste) just for the extra attention I bet. As an added note, when my daughter reached the teen years, she was still picky, but would at least try to eat other things her friends were eating (peer pressure). Now, she will taste almost anything at least once and eats very healthy foods.

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H.Z.

answers from Greenville on

He can't go buy food himself so why is he only eating those two things? Pop Tarts are really bad for you, but that's besides the point. Your son will eat if he's hungry... he won't let himself starve. He can't eat Pop Tarts and corn bread if they aren't in your house, right? So don't buy them.

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J.H.

answers from Tulsa on

Try using the pop tart or corn bread as a bribe, which can only be had by eating something else.

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J.G.

answers from Dallas on

My 7 year old is extremely picky and has been since he started eating solid foods as a baby. I finally had enough and had a long discussion with his dr. He recommended that we take him to Our Children's House at Baylor to address his food aversion issues which is sensory and behavioral. They told me - that hungry and eating are learned behaviors - basically children learn to ok with the feeling of hunger. My son is still getting growing and gaining weight normally. He basically eats PB&J sandwiches along with a handful of fruits, chips, and brownies, cookies, cake, etc. Basically in the therapy they have us work on desentizing our son to different food and having him touch the food and helping to prepare the food and them moving to kissing and throwing the food away and moving to taking a bite and spitting it out and then taking small bites. This can be a lengthy process but if your child won't even touch the food or tolerate it on his plate then there is no way he will put it in is mouth. We have also set up a reward system. It is nothing that happens over night - this has been a long process for us but I have seen small improvement. I feel your pain with having a child who doesn't eat and you have tried everything. Best of luck!

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M.B.

answers from Stationed Overseas on

I know you must get really down about the situation sometimes. I think people who say "he'll eat eventually, just withhold the bad items" have no idea how hard it can be to have a picky child. My son is 8 and eats only certain things. I thought maybe when we moved here and couldn't always get to the commissary to buy what he wanted that he would become more flexible, but that didn't work. He just went without eating anything but french fries for several days. I do think my son is supersensitive to taste, smell, and texture. We have had a small amount of luck in designating one day a week that he has to try something not normally on his menu, but I wonder if this is also too much emphasis on food. I do talk to him about health, etc. But with the problems you've described, there certainly sounds like there could be a psychological component to his behavior, him controlling one of the few things in his life that he feels he can. If he is losing weight, this isn't good either. Keep pushing medical, and be patient. You are doing the right thing by having him in therapy. Keep being his biggest advocate, and if one therapist doesn't seem to be working, push for another referral (we all know how hard it can be with medical). And I'm sure you are doing your best to not make food the big issue that it can be for all of us with picky eaters. Best of luck to you!

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D.O.

answers from Sarasota on

i dont know the answer but i hope you find it,im 43yrs old and never was cured of this ,its effected my social life people think im a weirdo or a wuss cause i wont even try new things but i know by looking/smelling it if im going to be able to,i hate going to cookouts because i have to be ragged about it, i dont want to be this way,i eat-hamburgers,pork chops,chicken,bacon,spaggetti but only the kind with no chunks of vegetables(i strain the small onions out),peanut butter(only creamy),french fries but only crispy,i like most junk foods like twinkies but nothing with fruit in it,and that about does it,oh and yeah i cannot have cheese on my burger has to be ketchup only,i dont eat ANY fruits or vegetables whatsoever-i know im a ticking time bomb for cancer but i will never change,my parents didnt seek help and now im stuck this way-ive been dumped by several women who found this too odd,my point being even sex/love cant make me change-im doomed please dont give up on your kids those that read this ,it has ruined my life

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E.F.

answers from Philadelphia on

L.-

Hi, how are you? I read your post and was wondering if you ever considered a feeding program for your son. I work for a company which has a feeding program. Are you in the Philadelphia, New Jersey area? My email is [email protected]____.com free to email me and I can discuss details and provide you with additional information.

Thanks,
E.

How can you find help locally for your child?
If your child is having difficulty with mealtimes, help is available! Clarity Behavioral is one of a few local services for intensive feeding and meal time intervention.
Most parents take mealtime for granted as they cook, serve, clean up after their children and provide nutrition in the process. But for some families, mealtime is much harder and heartbreaking. Up to one third of typically developing children and their families experience mealtime difficulties. These potentially serious issues are much more common for those with autism spectrum disorders - many of these youngsters experience feeding concerns... While the causes of these problems are complex, the effect is clear: it can be difficult if not impossible for parents to feed their child. Additionally, the child may experience nutritional deficits or a failure of oral motor skills to develop normally. While the problem is alarming, effective treatments are available locally.


What are effective treatments for feeding concerns?
Physicians' primary solutions for severe feeding problems include use of a gastrointestinal tube (g-tube) or naso-gastrointestinal tube (ng-tube). However, behavioral interventions have been successful in augmenting and in many cases eliminating tube feedings for children who are tube dependent. In this approach, the focus is on teaching specific behaviors and skills such as increasing bite acceptances, reducing refusals, and improving tolerance or increasing acceptance of textured foods. Such intensive programs report very high levels of success in areas including increased caloric consumption by mouth, decreasing bottle or tube dependence, fewer inappropriate mealtime behaviors like tantrums, and increased texture or variety of foods consumed. And, the improvements in quality of life for the family are immeasurable.


How does behavioral intervention work?
At times, a consultation model of advising parents is appropriate. For other children, a short intensive period of multi-day intervention may be helpful in the home or in a clinic setting. However, for many more serious cases, participation takes 2-4 weeks and begins with a detailed assessment, involves intensive treatment, includes a caregiver training program and is concluded with follow-up consultation.

Who can help?
Clarity is a group of dedicated professionals that provide effective and caring Feeding, Applied Behavior Analysis and Verbal Behavior consulting, training, and intervention in southeastern Pennsylvania and central New Jersey.
Dr. Robyn M. Catagnus, the founder and Director of Clarity Behavioral, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Certified Brain Injury Specialist with and EdD in Special Education from Arcadia University. Her specialized training in Behavior Analysis included a MSEd Degree in ABA from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Dr. Sean Casey, Director of the Clarity Feeding Program, is a behavioral feeding expert and Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Casey received his PhD in Special Education from the University of Iowa. His clinical work includes consultation for behavioral disorders, educational programming, and pediatric feeding concerns.
In addition to our feeding assessments and treatment, Clarity staff also conducts behavioral and curricular assessments, as well as home programming and school support.

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T.S.

answers from Shreveport on

I have done this from the begining and it works. I have a 14year old and 11 year old. They eat what I cook. And they have to try whatever veggie i put on the table. But if they dont like what i cook then they go without. They have only done that a couple of times. I cook good meal that are healthy. If they choose not to eat it then they can wait til breakfast.

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B.J.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi L.,

Your 9-year old is controlling you. Get rid of the pop tarts, corn bread, etc. and restock your fridge and cabinets with fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, cheese, eggs, yogurt, pasta, and spices. No child, to the best of my knowledge, has ever purposely starved him/herself. Limit the options and explain to your 0 year old that he has a choice to make. Eat what is available or go hungry.

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T.R.

answers from Little Rock on

It sounds harsh, but don't let pop tarts and cornbread be an option. Don't even allow them in the house for awhile. At 9, he's too young to starve himself long...he doesn't have that kind of will power yet. Make him a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner and don't let him do any snacking until he eats his meal first. When he gets hungry enough, he will eat anything you offer him. Trust me, it works.

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C.E.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi L.,

I know how concerning this issue is. I have a very picky 11 year old girl. Parents that haven't been though this just don't fully understand the dynamics and complexity of it. There are patterns that happen and to do a totally turn around quickly might be too much too fast, but I do believe you need to keep trying and never give up. It takes a whole lot of patient to not loose it on them. At 10 years old, I decided to take my daughter to a occupational therapist. We went once a week for nine months. She didn't like it but we did it and she definatly made improvements. I then had to quit for insurance reasons. I would recommend it. She now eats many more foods individually, however her challenge now is to eat different food combinations with sauces etc. This has been very difficult for her and we are now at a stand still. So I keep trying. One thing I would recommend for you is to not loose the poptarts and cornbread altogether but to use them for something he can enjoy after he has eaten something healthy or tryed something new. Good Luck, I feel for you greatly.

C.

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P.G.

answers from Sheboygan on

Hi L.,
My oldest son is a very picky eater also.
We tried Manwich and he loved it, so I will puree beets and sweet potatos and blend them in, he never notices and eats it well.
Just a thought!!
Good luck!
P.

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D.L.

answers from Columbus on

i've always been one to think that pickiness is more of a control thing (like being spoiled) than a food thing,but thank goodness my kids are piglets and eat everything!:)so i don't actually know what i'd really do. have you tried blending your own nutritional shakes,or pedialyte (popcicles too),maybe he can shop with you and help you pick some things he'd like to try, hell if he ate icecream until he froze i'd be happy. he may honestly have a sensory disorder, a friends son has this sort of thing and literally food will taste extremely bitter, sour or feel sharp on their tongue. i don't know much about it. aside from the stress he may really have underlying problems find a pediatrician that will take you seriously so you may avoid nutritional deficiencies which can have long term affects

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T.D.

answers from Lafayette on

I am totally with you. My son who is now 11 is still so picky. He eats poptarts, pizza, nuggets, hot dogs, etc... Not too healthy. We have taken him to the doctor and had him tested for throat problems. You name it, we've done it...forced him to eat, withheld his favorite foods, punished him...the list goes on. Meal times were such a stressful time. It was hard to go out to eat, go to friends and family's houses because we were worried about not having food for him. We usually fed him before we left or brought his own food. Finally, once we brought him to the doctor and were pretty much told that it was our fault because we were placing so much emphasis on food. Unfortunately, my husband and I are overweight and doctor pretty much slammed us because it was obvious that food was priorty to us. He said, "feed him what he likes and stop making it a big deal. Very subtly, have him try new things... just a bite here and there and if he didn't want to, then oh well. Make sure he takes vitamins and get some exercise." He has added new things to what he likes, although still not too healthy, but meal time is much calmer now and he doesn't seem as stressed either. Now when we go out to eat or go to someone's house, we tell him that there is food available, so he either eats what's there or wait until we get home. Many times, he has just sat at the table with a drink. We do make sure that we have the food he likes available at home. I hope this helps...stay positive!

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M.C.

answers from New Orleans on

Include drinks like ensure with his poptarts and cornbread. forcing things he doesn't want will make him more resistent.

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S.J.

answers from Tulsa on

I know this sounds harsh, however, we made our kids eat what we ate at dinner time or do without. We would make something that we were sure they liked (they were just saying they didn't) along with the other items that balanced out the meal (potatoes, vegies, etc.). Our daughters were required to have at least a spoonful of everything and were not allowed to go back for more of something else until their plate was clean, at that point they could have as much of whichever item they liked.

As a side note, we did allow each daughter to choose a main dish that they didn't like and on the nights that we cooked this meal, they were allowed to have something else, however, they had to make it themselves. If it was a bowl of cereal, then that was fine because we knew that we weren't going to have that one meal that they were allowed to choose very often and therefore, they were only going to have that one meal (cereal or whatever) that wasn't very good for them only once in a while.

Hope this helps, our daughters are now 14, 16 and 21 and are well balanced eaters as well as wonderful young ladies.

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B.R.

answers from Dallas on

Hi L.
just a quick quick email........ there is no substitute for fruits and veggies EVER..but I did want to let you know that there is a product called Juice Plus that would enahance good nutrition for your precious children. Juice Plus actually has 'gummies' for children (and chewables) that contain 17 fruits/veggies. I put my two teens on it because I'm a single mom and I knew I wasn't cooking properly for them... etc etc.
Juice Plus has a Child's Research Study going on that I was able to sign up for... when an adult basically becomes a customer for the capsules, you fill out some paperwork for your child and the child gets FREEEEE Juice Plus chewables for as long as you are a customer. (well.. the study goes to age 15 for kiddos) YIPEEEE!!

I may not have explained it too well here...... but I could give you more info if you wanted to write me back!
Again, there is no substitute for the real thing!

hope all is well
B.

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P.W.

answers from Wilmington on

Hi
I don't know if someone already said this but how about having him help cook. You would be suprised as to what a child will eat if they cook it theirself.

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M.H.

answers from Dallas on

I have been told that Jessica Seinfeld has a cook book out thati s called Decptively Delious.Try Amazon .com r ecookbooks, or at Barne n Noble.Good luck ,
God Bless

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M.E.

answers from St. Louis on

Refusing to eat can definitly be about control. If he feels like his world is falling apart he could be trying to regain control in any way he can, and his eating is the only place he feels he has any input. You are doing the right thing by having him in counseling, good luck!

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M.S.

answers from San Diego on

Hi there,

I also have a picky eater! I make a plate of healty, simple food. If there are complaints, then I tell her that she doesn't "have" to eat, buy when treat time comes I won't be able to give her any. But if she does it the healthy stuff then she gets a treat. Maybe eliminate the poptarts and give them only as a treat, after he eats the good stuff. Start with the 3 bite rule. If he takes 3 bites of each thing on his plate he can have a treat! I also discuss the health issues with not eating a well balanced diet.

Some suggestions for you: raw carrots, cucumbers, apples, oranges, any fruit he likes, sliced cheese, crackers, nuts, toast/crackers with peanut butter, pizza, scrambled cheesy eggs.

I'm sure there are some good books out there on this topic.

Good luck!

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S.M.

answers from Miami on

Ooooh, L., I don't want to scare you, but if he's craving corn bread and won't eat much else besides that, he might be suffering from some kind of enzyme problem or digestive disorder. Cornmeal is high in lysine (I think? or is it another amino acid?), an essential amino acid, and his body may have trouble processing that essential part of his diet, so that may be why he's craving it. Pop tarts have some cornmeal in them, and the fruit filling has some minerals in it too. So not all pop tarts are bad...but this is not a healthy long-term diet. Lysine is needed for many systems in his body; a nine-year-old losing weight is VERY, VERY BAD. Please take him to a pediatrician as soon as you can, just to make sure he is not sufferring from some digestive or metabolic disorder. SERIOUSLY, get him checked out, and make sure the doctor understands what your son is eating, how long this has been going on, and how much weight your son has lost in this time period. I'll pray for him and for you.

Kids do get into weird eating habits, but if they are healthy, they will not lose weight from

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S.M.

answers from Greensboro on

Don't buy pop tarts or make/buy corn bread. Stock your house with only yogurt, fruit, whole wheat crackers, cheeses, peanut butter, bite-size veggies, etc. When he's hungry, he'll eat. As a child, he's not able to make healthy decisions on his own. Explain to him that if he continues to eat only 2 foods, he'll become weak and sick. I had a friend whose son would only eat chicken and one other food. He got so constipated he had to have an enema and then go on a doctor-ordered diet. Now he's a much healthier kid.

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D.C.

answers from Chicago on

If you cook meat loaf, meat balls, spagetti, sloppy joes etc try grinding up carret, and / or green beens. My 6 year old son eats veggies so far-thank goodness. However, my stepkids (now 17, 19, and 22) did not eat anything health. Only junk food and fast food. So about 8 years ago after dealing with it for about a year. I thought to myself enough. Also if he eats cheese-try broc loaded with cheese. Hope this helps.

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M.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

I get it. My youngest is Mr Picky, He loves all the bad stuff and chokes and throws up when we would force him to eat a veggie. What I do is make sure he gets his vitamins and I feed him the one good thing he does love "oatmeal". I'll give it to him for dinner and sometimes for breakfast on the same day. I don't know if it's a control thing or not I have 2 older kids they eat everything. We havn't changed our diet since our youngest was born.

I know everyone will tell you it this or that, I can't say one way or another, I just don't want to make it such a big deal that it becomes a lifetime eating disorder. I do keep veggies and fruit on his plate and he is old enough for us to discuss that there are consequences to not having a balanced diet.
While writing this I realized that I was also picky eater. I remembered that my aunt forced me to have a taste of salad I was about 9 and I got in trouble because I spit it back into the salad bowl. I didn't do it on purpose it just tasted sooo awful I just couldn't keep it in my mouth....Oh well.

Also about that same time another aunt forced me to eat peas. Yuk- they tasted like old smelly socks I remember that distinctly it took me years to even taste them again and suddenly they were the best veggie. I am still a picky eater but a balanced eater.

There have been studies done a that prove that when you're young your tastes buds and your eyesight are are at the highest level after around 10 the intensity slows down.
If you think back usually to the best tasting food memory (grapes, cookie, porkshop sandwich for me) is when you are younger than 10 yrs old. So I suggest being tricky with veggies finding one are two items that help your son to digest.
Our doctor told us that childrens bodies always crave what they need so just keep the good stuff available. Offer bites of what your eating and always put a slice of veggie on his plate. Keep a light and easy attitude it yourself and eventually this too shall pass.
It must be difficult to be a single mom of 2 and eventhough your space is very small you can still have simple meals with a one fresh item.

Now I have 2 teenagers at one time and thank goodnes for my picky eater because 9 is and 11 are sweet ages.

I hope this helped.

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S.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

Since your son is small and cannot afford to lose those 6 lbs., I would immediately ask for a recommendation for a children's nutritionist. If the lost weight isn't an issue and you can afford to wait awhile, here is an excellent book---How to Get Your Kid to Eat....but not too much" by Ellyn Satter. She's a specialist in eating issues, disorders, etc. and I know you will find expert advice and answers in her book. Next, I'm no expert, but I've raised 2 boys who went through very picky stages and watched other friends w/boys and girls who also went through picky stages. This is what I've observed---the moms who caved and catered to the pickiness had children who grew into extremely picky adults. If you stand firm on nutritious food in your house, he will begin to eat it eventually. In my home, my kids had/have to eat their veggies. My oldest couldn't stand cooked carrots or peas, so he didn't have to eat those (I'm mean totally gag couldn't stand---you kind of learn the difference), my youngest totally hates squash, so he doesn't have to eat those. (But when I cook acorn squash with a maple syrup glaze he eats that, and he loves grilled yams and sw. potatoes!) He doesn't really enjoy the others, but he tolerates them and he eats them because he grew up eating them---for us, it's not an option. I always explained these foods helped them grow up to be healthier and stronger and they're necessary. They both knew I don't enjoy all my veggies, but I eat them anyway. Also, I would get rid of the poptarts......what nutritional value do they have?? They may be giving your son calories, but no nutrients, so what's the point?? Get them out of your house. Try a platter of raw veggies with a yummy dip on the counter/table while you're prepping dinner when the kids are hungry....they're more apt to eat them at that time then any other. (Unless you let them snack all day long and they're truly not hungry.) Make sure you have kid-friendly stuff---carrots, celery, jicama....possibly cherry tomatoes, raw broccoli or cauliflower. If your son loves corn bread, does he like corn tortillas? What about soft tacos w/chicken or beef? Tostadoes w/refried beans (you can put in some ground beef or chicken), cheese, lettuce and a little diced tomato? Corn on the cob? Possibly you're not experimenting w/enough different foods? He won't eat chicken one way, what about another? How about grilled chicken tenders w/bbq sauce? What about drumsticks or boneless skinless chicken breasts basted w/bbq sauce (kids like the sweeter ones the best), covered w/foil and baked in the oven? I personally haven't found a kid who doesn't like that. You could try that w/corn on the cob (or corn bread) and some raw carrots. That's a somewhat nutrutious meal (and way better than poptarts!). Buy some 100% whole wheat bread (because your son so desperately needs the nutrition), dry it out and make your own bread crumbs (food processor), coat some chicken tenders (I buy them frozen at Costco in a large bag) in beaten egg, then those nutritious bread crumbs, S&P, then fry in some oil. Serve w/bbq sauce, honey mustard you make yourself, ketchup, whatever your son likes. Good luck and hang in there---you have a stubborn child, but his well-being is at stake here and you need to do some homework and extra cooking work to solve this problem. Check out that book---it will help you a lot, honestly!!

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