Oct 13 09
by cara
at 11:51 AM
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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)
  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate  (this is absolutely on MY list of scream-free foods too!)
  • Butter
  • French fries (But they can’t be too crunchy.  Or too mushy.  Or too cold.  Or too hot.)
  • Craisins
  • Oreos (only really eats the filling.  Occasionally eats the cookie part too)
  • Ice Cream (egg allergy prevents many options here)
  • Popsicles
  • 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).

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  1. Wow, Cara, I can’t even imagine. From what I can tell, it sounds like you’re doing everything you possibly can for your little guy. It sounds like he’s in good hands with all the specialists, and in good hands with a mother like you who seems to be so determined to try everything!

    And I must tell you, chocolate is on MY list of scream-free foods, too! 🙂

  2. That seems so difficult. I thought my daughter (just turned 26 months) was picky, but her list of foods she’ll eat is definitely longer. It is frustrating that she will hardly eat any vegetables, though she will drink spinach, carrot and fruit smoothies so I sneak it in that way as many times a week as I can. She’s all about carbs, but I’m trying to get her to be all about veggies. It’s an uphill battle:-P It seems that you are doing all that you can. Don’t get discouraged or feel guilty (okay, easier said than done) about the FTT. You seem like the type of parent who will do everything to help her child.

  3. I feel for you, because I’m right there! Dare I say it… my Fynn eats less than your picky apple… No fruits (except for raisins, on occasion, or if I bake them into something yummy), and the only thing on your maybe list he’ll eat are chicken nuggets. It’s beyond frustrating, so I feel your pain.
    Our redeeming factor is that he’s only allergic to peanuts, not everything that you are dealing with. I can’t even imagine that. The nut thing is limiting enough, everything else makes my head spin.
    Like the other poster said, it sounds like you’re doing everything you can. I keep telling my hubby that these little picky eaters will end up being the future food gourmet’s or something 😉 Hang in there, don’t let the mama guilt get to you – you’re an amazing mother!!

  4. Cassie, Julie, and Corinne- Thanks for your words of encouragement. For the most part, I’m handling this okay, but every once in a while I get completely overwhelmed.

    Corinne-peanut allergy is no fun either! We’ve been encouraged to avoid nuts too, even though TLA tested negative for them (we experienced some false negatives). And as sorry as I am to hear your son is just as picky (if not pickier!) than mind, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  5. Andrea permalink

    You’re a fantastic mother and you have more patience than I could ever imagine. If it makes you feel better, I refused to eat as a child and my parents had the same problem. Now I love to eat (although I am still a bit picky)! There’s hope…

  6. Well bless your heart. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be on so many levels. The mommy guilt thing is the worst. (Hope this is not TMI, but I was unable to breastfeed and here it is, 2.5 years later and I STILL have massive guilt about that.) Everyone tells you not to feel guilty, but you do, right?
    I too was an extremely selective eater as a child – I just couldn’t be bothered with food and my parents really struggled with me. I was always underweight – that is, until I hit adult hood! 🙂
    It sounds like you have an awesome attitude about all of this and that you’re doing your very best to provide for your son. He is blessed to have such a patient mama!

    Hang in there,

    PS: you made me laugh about the “things I said I wouldn’t do with my kids” bit – if I had a nickle for every time I’ve eaten pre-kid words…

  7. Hi Cara! Thanks for stopping by my blog last week, I have really enjoyed yours 🙂 I know how you feel about the Failure to Thrive label… The first time I heard that I felt more Failure as a Mother 🙁 Of course I know that is not true, but you know what I mean! Well I am glad that you posted all this, it definitely helps me to know what other mothers are going through and how they are dealing with it. Right now we still do not know why Alexis is not gaining any weight (or height) for that matter. She has her 1-year checkup next month and I have a feeling we will be going down a long diagnostic road from here.

    http://www.mommyesq.com/ is another blog I follow. She is going through similar things with one of her twins…

  8. I have to tell you – you are lucky he eats that! My son is almost 8 years old, and his list of what he WILL eat is still not even close to your son’s! And we have added sooooooo many new food s this year. Up until he was 6 years old he ate like 5 things – EVER!

  9. Kay permalink

    I definitely sympathize. My 2 1/2 year old is also extremely picky and just under average for weight though we are fortunate his curve has been steady. He has multiple food allergies as well (milk, egg, peanut) so this also has limited our options (especially for foods that can bulk him up 🙂 Honestly sometimes we give him leeway with milk containing foods because he feels so deprived (from seeing his hefty older 4- year old brother eat whatever he wants) and just deal with the occasional itchy eczema he may get as a result. I wish I could get veggies in him but because we have worried about his weight for a while end up giving in to the not so healthy options (nuggets and snacks/chips) much of the time. I think what has helped his caloric intake is he is addicted still to the bottle (which we fill with formula).

  10. Amy permalink

    Cara – I found your blog a few months ago while searching for some info about gastroparesis. I have twins – they are 11 months old right now. We are dealing with issues such as reflux and suspected DGE. I am familiar with trying all day (or so it seems) to get the twins to take bottles and to eat their solids. I love reading your posts and am so impressed with your positive attitude about it all. I sometimes come back and read these posts to let myself know that I’m not alone in this and that it will be ok.

    The phrase I hate the most is when people tell me not to worry – “they will eat when they are hungry.” It makes me laugh (with sadness) because that applies to children without reflux and DGE.

    Your son seems so healthy and energetic and is doing great. Love the blog and thanks so much for sharing your experiences with your child’s DGE and g-tube.

  11. Anonymous permalink


    Thanks so much for your comment! One reason I chose to blog about my son’s experiences is because when HE was originally diagnosed with gastroparesis, I got so frustrated by the lack of information and had a hard time finding any other parents going through this with their kids! I definitely want others facing this to know that they are not alone, and I’m glad my posts were able to help with that.

    Oh, the phrase “they’ll eat when they are hungry” drives me nuts too!

    Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your babies! I hope you find what works for them soon!

  12. Lljarman permalink

    Oh I am so happy that I have found your story and your page. Our 15 month old is barley 16 pounds and had all the same physical health issues your little one had they probelms have been resolved and we have been dealing with her barley eating since we have brought her home. I have been worried for months and the doctors told us they would contiune to watch her and not to worry till 15 months now she is at 0 percent for weight and 1 percent for height. You son sounds like my little girl and I can not wait to talk with her dotor tommorow we are in the middle of testing right now to find out way she is not eating or does not seem to have an appitette is more like it……Thank you so much God bless you and yours.

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