The Pickiest of Picky
You’ve seen me mention before that The Littlest Apple is a very picky eater, right? Well, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, and anyone who has had the pleasure(?) of feeding The Littlest Apple knows that saying he’s “picky” is the understatement of the century. I honestly don’t think my own mother or mother in law REALLY understood the depth of this until they were in charge of feeding him for 24 hours or so. Most of our friends and family have heard us tell tales of The Littlest Apple’s awful eating and his struggle to gain weight, but I still doubt they really get it. And in typical Littlest Apple fashion, he will do his “performance eating” where he eats reasonably well (for him) while in the company of other kids, thereby making the other kids’ parents think that we’re just big ole liars. (Note: I was greatly hoping the “performance eating” would occur at mother’s day out, but no such luck.)
I have had SUCH a hard time getting this post together, going through several drafts, trying to find a tone that is warm and witty but also conveys the true nature of this without being a total downer. Because it’s really THAT BAD, y’all. The food and the eating of the food is a daily battle here, and it is not pleasant. Not one bit. Because we’ve been dealing with it for oh, 2 years now, this has become our normal. We have gotten used to it. That’s not to say we’ve gotten complacent and aren’t concerned, but it is so much easier to “accept the things I cannot change” instead of crying in frustration every time I try to feed this kiddo.
Why is feeding The Littlest Apple so awful? Let me count the ways….Well, for starters, we’re working with a fairly limited food selection, despite my attempts to broaden his eating horizons. The Littlest Apple is the KING of refusing to acknowledge the existence of any new foods that are on his plate. IF they make it to his plate, that is. He will also scream if he doesn’t like what you’re putting on his plate if he sees you prepping the meal. Yesterday, he took this to the next level by screaming at me for adding certain foods that he didn’t want TO THE SHOPPING CART AT THE STORE.
Just for kicks (and for the dietician), I’ve compiled a little list of foods The Littlest Apple will eat, along with comments for each since there are few foods that without their limitations. (Please note that lots of the foods on this list fall into the category of “things I said I’d never feed my kids”).
Will eat most of the time (let’s call these the “scream-free foods”, shall we?):
- Most fruits (apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, oranges, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe)
- Chips (plain potato chips, pita chips, tortilla chips, flavored chips, Cheetos)
- Crackers (saltines, Goldfish, Cheez Its, Ritz)
- Chocolate (this is absolutely on MY list of scream-free foods too!)
- French fries (But they can’t be too crunchy. Or too mushy. Or too cold. Or too hot.)
- Oreos (only really eats the filling. Occasionally eats the cookie part too)
- Ice Cream (egg allergy prevents many options here)
- Jello and pudding (but usually only at Grandma’s house)
Will eat some of the time:
- Cheese quesadillas (only the kind I make with flour tortilla, cheddar cheese, and lots of butter. Not the kind you can order at restaurants, and don’t try to sneak any meat in there or switch up the cheese either)
- Cream cheese (plain, not flavored)
- Ranch dip (but much screaming if it gets on his fingers)
- Graham crackers (though yesterday he crushed it to bits and threw it on the floor, just for fun)
- Yogurt (must feed himself, does not want help. Also does not want it on his hands, so you can see the conundrum here)
- Pizza (not frozen…must be delivery, preferably fresh. Will not eat it reheated unless you can somehow convince him that the Pizza Man told him to eat it)
Will eat on rare occasions (most of these he used to eat more frequently, but then stopped):
- Hummus (but may or may not be allergic to sesame, so I’m discontinuing. Bummer.)
- Chicken nuggets (egg allergy prevents most restaurant, fast food, and frozen varieties. Current only eating dino nuggets, and even then, it requires much “pretend to be a Little Applesaurus Rex and bite the head off the dinosaur! Roarrrr!”)
- Shells and cheese (many issues with temperature here, also, only SHELLS will do. No elbow macaroni allowed. Also, must be from the single serving containers, don’t try to serve from a family size box because it isn’t the same. And leftovers are not allowed.)
- Pasta with butter and salt (more temperature issues, the noodle type can also be problematic. Usually just licks the butter off)
That’s about it. He is missing some major food groups, wouldn’t you say? He will not eat vegetables. Not. a. single. one. Carrots have been used as dip-to-mouth conveyances, but none have been consumed, not even by accident. He will not eat meat, except for the rare bite of chicken nugget. He’s not keen on baked goods such as bread, muffins, cake, either (and there are some big egg-allergy hurdles here as well).
Only a few of those foods are high calorie. And even when he likes a food, he rarely eats more than a couple of bites. 5 grapes=breakfast. ½ flour tortilla=snack. 1.5 crackers and a tbsp of craisins=lunch. ½ cup watermelon and 10 pretzel sticks=dinner. These examples are taken from one particular day last week.
As recommended by his dietician and doctor, we’re currently supplementing his diet (such as it is) with Boost 1.5 (which he calls “milk”) because he’s not getting the calories he needs. This product is like Pediasure but more nutritionally dense and must be special ordered. He will only sit down long enough to drink his “milk” if we let him watch TV (things I’ll never do as a mother, take 2). And being the smart 2 year old that he is, he’s learned to ask for “milk” so that he can watch TV. Super. He’s gone from picky eater to the more extreme resistant eater on the far end of the eating spectrum.
The Littlest Apple is a resistant eater to be sure, but this is just one of the many reasons for our food battles. He’s got reflux, delayed gastric emptying (meaning his stomach takes FOREVER to empty and he doesn’t have normal hunger cues), food allergies (egg, sesame, previously dairy) and a very strong-willed personality too. And have I mentioned that he just turned 2?! The classic 2 year old independent streak at the dinner table is not helping things either! Each of those things could easily be a blog post on its own (and may be in the future).
To add to the eating pressure (you know, because all that wasn’t enough), when he was six months old, the pediatrician gave us the dreaded Failure To Thrive (FTT) diagnosis (could there BE a more guilt-inducing name for this?!) based solely on his low weight (no developmental delays) and referred us to a team of specialists. The team consists of a pediatric GI, dietician, social worker, feeding therapist, psychologist, various other assistants and nurses. The Littlest Apple weighed 4 pounds 9 ounces at birth (born at 36 weeks) and just wasn’t catching up the way he should have. The pediatrician now defers to the “team” for all things weight related. He’s still struggling to gain weight. The Littlest Apple (25 months old) is currently 33 inches tall (20%) and 21 pounds (not on the charts yet for weight, but so far following his own little curve). He’s been tested for everything under the sun (cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, among others). He’s been thiiiiiiiiiis close to getting a g-tube for feedings, and I’m afraid we might almost be back at that point again. The dietician mentioned it again in passing last week in our when she was going through her list of “things to try” and realizing that we’ve pretty much exhausted all other options with little to no success. When the tube feeding option came up before, the doctor told us that The Littlest Apple would be the first child at this (rather major) children’s hospital needing a feeding tube that has no other MAJOR medical issues. Parents are all about comparing whose child is “best” and “first” at stuff, but this is not exactly what I had in mind, you know? I’d much rather have the first kid to read or write (and maybe I will! Ha!).
Sometimes it is hard to see the humor in this, but I’m really trying. I hope this post wasn’t too much of a downer. I’d love to hear from those of you dealing with picky eaters, whether yours is mild, severe, or somewhere in between. And I’d certainly love to hear from any other kids diagnosed as FTT (because hello, mommy guilt!!). It always helps to know there are other parents struggling too! I’m hoping to update the resources section soon with some books I found to be (quasi) useful (and probably more useful to those of you with children a little less extreme in their pickiness than mine).