Food Issues

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by boo, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. boo

    boo Guest

    I think I know the answer, but I'm going to ask anyway. My youngest, probably on the autistic spectrum, will only eat crackers, cheese, pasta, bananas, chips, junk. No fruit, No protein, No meat, other than an occasional cheeseburger from McDonald's. It's a battle if I try to suggest healthier options. I think I need to let it go and get over it. God, it is so hard, I worry about his health. He is growing, he seems to be healthy.

    I'm just having a moment. He would seriously eat fishy crackers every single meal and snack every moment of everyday. And please don't tell me I'm being too soft and giving in and if I don't give him what he wants he will eat if he is hungry. I've been there done that, sure you know how that went.

    finished venting, off to boil pasta... : )
  2. shellyd67

    shellyd67 Active Member

    Hi Boo ! When my difficult child was 6 he was very picky as well. He would only eat a few things too ( I think he is aspergers but what do I know I am just his mom) anyhoo, if your difficult child is healthy and eating I wouldn't stress it too much. My difficult child will try anything now, and he likes mostly everything he tries. I NEVER thought he would branch out where food was concerned. Maybe a vitamin supplement will make you feel more at ease where difficult child is concerned. Just give it time. Good Luck !:D
  3. Farmwife

    Farmwife Member

    My difficult child is not on the spectrum but I had a couple ideas. I guess it all depends on if it is a visual, texture or flavor thing.

    If you want more milk or dairy in general to supplement protein there is banana pudding, sugar free if you prefer. As a transition you could put banana slices on it. Then maybe after awhile you could make a banana shake (smoothie) by using yogurt instead of ice cream. Maybe difficult child would have fun watching you make him special drinks and what's easier than whirring something up in a blender? Slowly but surely you could "accidentally" get strawberry yogurt instead of vanilla and say "oops, but strawberries are so sweet and yummy, you can just try a sip if you want". After that a couple frozen berries added to the smoothie and then you are on your way to peaches or blueberries or whatever looks *fun*. One tiny new flavor an inch at a time maybe...

    Pasta isn't bad and egg noodles have that extra protein. Egg can be put into a lot of baked goods, even just a basic (banana) custard or banana bread. (trying to run with a theme)

    There are so many ways to make pasta depending on if he likes it plain or not?!?!?

    Could you put toppings on the crackers like peanut butter or start off easier with cheese slices, then add some bologna or ham or whatever because cheese misses it's friend the ham. : ) Peanut butter is a good source of protein.

    Fruit leathers are pretty sweet and you can get very healthy ones without added sugar. A nice way to get to the healthy ones is to start out with the sugary ones with the fun themes. There are some awesome fruit juices in the refrigerated aisle or in the grocery aisles. Maybe start with something semi sugary and slowly transition into mixing (out of sight) a sweet 100% juice like peach or white grape.

    Would fun foods help like nuggets, mini corn dogs, presliced apples with caramel for dipping or baby carrots with ranch dipping sauce? Bread sticks dip great in tomato sauce so that is a nice way to ease into a pasta sauce because you can hide a LOT in pasta sauce.

    Anyway...just ideas. I like to cook and have dealt with the occasional picky eater. Like I said, my difficult child is not on the spectrum so I apologize if these ideas are totally unworkable.
  4. boo

    boo Guest

    Thanks for the thoughts. Honestly it's just been one of those days where everything's been a battle with both my difficult child's. He will eat peanut butter crackers and he will drink V8 splash. He wouldn't touch a carrot if it came within 5 feet of him wrapped up like a piece of candy. And god forbid you put any kind of sauce on pasta! I think he is asperger's, time will tell. It's texture, it's things can't touch, it's the day of the week, the time of the day, etc etc etc.... LOL! He spits things out constantly because of texture. I do give him a vitamin each day. He's healthy, I should count my blessings. Just looking forward to the day when I don't have to make 3 or 4 different meals! His other big issue that I worry about is that he WILL NOT have a bowel movement on the potty. He is still going in a diaper and he holds it for days. He pees fine standing up. I give him miralax and a stool softener every day. I don't think he is ever going to go. His will power is something to behold let me tell ya! god, give me strength ; )
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Boo, I would be the last parent to criticise you over this. I do understand - we had a house full of food issues. easy child 2/difficult child 2 will eat nothing with "bits" in it, everything has to have a smooth, creamy, baby food texture. But difficult child 3 wouldn't touch anything creamy, he would gag on it. It was Jack Spratt and his wife all over again. I stopped making biscuits because I wasn't permitted to put nuts or fruit in them. Cakes - no using cream or even butter cream. And again, no 'bits'.

    Your youngest is 6 years old. There is a lot of time to go. When difficult child 3 was this young, we didn't force the issue too hard but instead we tried to adapt his foods. A lot of the problems were due to change. We used to buy frozen fish fillets (crumbed) which we would bake in the oven. He would only eat one variety of one brand. When they went off range, we had a horrible time trying to find a replacement. We got tantrums in the supermarket as difficult child 3 raged at the manufacturers for being so changeable.

    What I suggest for you - with the pasta, switch to home-made. Make it yourself. Buy a pasta machine (a cheap hand-cranked one, if you shop around you can get them very cheaply). I bought the most recent pasta machine for A$30, but there were also more expensive ones (looking almost identical) for up to A$230. The expensive ones sometimes have a ravioli attachment, but you can make ravioli without one.

    Home-made pasta recipe - when you're first learning, start small. I use whole egg, flour and a little salt. No added water. You can add other ingredients such as chopped herbs or lemon zest, or tomato paste. This changes the colour as well as the taste, I would only do this after you've got him onto home-made pasta. To start with, keep it plain.

    Plain pasta - first make sure you have a clean laminex (or similar) bench. CLamp the pasta machine to the bench (g-clamp). I often put down a silicone sheet (like those heat-proof baking sheets) and work on that.
    In a large bowl or jug, put in about a cup of flour (all-purpose). Add half a teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the middle and break in one egg. Mix it all together and knead it. I'm not sure if it will be too dry or too moist, but it will take up a surprising amount of flour. It will seem dry and crumbly, but as you knead it, your hand will feel damp spots. Mix it all up so the damp spots take up as much flour as possible. Add a little more flour if it is still too moist. Eventually it should start to come together into a ball, even if only bits of it do. All this should only take a couple of minutes.
    When it starts to come together and you have at least some bits that don't feel too moist, start rolling it through the pasta machine rollers. This is when you will almost certainly realise that the mix is too moist. Any loose flour in your bowl, put it on the dough now and knead it again. The rollers help knead it.
    What you're aiming for is a smooth sheet, not sticky to touch, with a uniform texture. The edges can often be a bit stickier or crumblier so if this happens, lay the sheet out, fold in the edges, press it down with your hands then fold it over end for end to seal in the edge fold-over. Pass it through the rollers again, making sure it doesn't unfold at the edges.
    Once the sheet seems right (not sticky, not too dry, add a drop or two of water if it's too dry but go easy) then roll it out over and over, moving the rollers closer together each time (there is a dial on the side, the higher number = rollers closer together). When the pasta sheet is thin enough for you, pass it through the cutting roller (choose the cutter of your preference - I ask the kids which they want). Meanwhile, you should have put the water on to boil. I also add salt to the water.
    The pasta dough can be hung over a rod to dry a little before cutting, or after cutting. If it is floured well, it will be OK to pile the cut dough onto a plate. But if you leave it for too long or it is too moist, it will stick together. If this happens, it's OK to start over, roll it back into a sheet and roll it out again. All tis takes a little practice but once you have the knack, you can go from eggs & flour to pasta on the plate, cooked, in ten minutes.

    To cook the pasta - throw it into boiling water. Stand guard with slotted spoon and bowl, because this literally takes no more than a minute. A boiling pot will soon try to boil over after the pasta has been added - take out the pasta, it is cooked. Cooked pasta floats. It also expands a bit, so the raw pasta dough might look a bit light on for a meal, but what you cook is a lot more. Our serving guide is based on weight.

    Once you have the knack, you can make a larger batch of pasta dough. But I don't recommend more than six eggs at a time, no matter how many you are cooking for. It just gets too cumbersome if you have too much dough at one time. I sometimes make up a larger batch (4-6 eggs worth) and keep it in the fridge wrapped up for a few days, in a block. Then to serve it out, I weigh the dough and allow about 100 g per person (big appetite, no other food in that meal). mother in law is a small meal person, no more than 60 g for her. Or easy child 2/difficult child 2. difficult child 1 is a big eater, up to 120 g of pasta at a time.
    If you get the dough from the fridge or freezer, keep it wrapped until it is back to room temperature or condensation will add moisture and you will need to add more flour to stop it being sticky.

    The beauty of this, is the whole egg in it. Protein. We serve the pasta with just a little butter; maybe some home-made pesto sauce (made with cashews instead of pine nuts); Paul Newman's pasta sauce or home made bolognese sauce.

    We got through a lot of difficult child 3's upbringing with home-made bolognese sauce. difficult child 3 would have it sometimes on pasta; he would eat it as chilli con carne (add tinned kidney beans and pasta spirals) or as our version of nachos (corn chips base, dollops of bolognese sauce, topped with grated cheddar, put under the grill).

    The other thing we have found has helped difficult child 3 greatly - your son may not be old enough for this yet. But it's worth a try.
    We got difficult child 3 to have a taste of anything new. We had previously noted that some foods still had to be avoided, foods we already know he hates. We know he hates prawns/shrimps, so we know to not try him with crab or lobster. We also knew to avoid anything with cream, or overly creamy texture. However, we did get him to have a tiny taste of choc-flavoured butter cream, and also chocolate ganache.
    When getting difficult child 3 to have a taste, we made it clear - one tiny taste only, and we wouldn't force him to have more. He also was permitted to have something else handy to get rid of the taste from his mouth if he didn't like it. We also praised him a lot for trying something new. It took a lot of encouragement and patience but it was worth it.
    The next step - we would ask difficult child 3 what he thought of the food. He had to be honest, but he was allowed to say if he didn't like it. But he had to say why. Whether he liked it or not, he had to say what it was about it that he liked or disliked. Of course, tis also gave us useful information. And sometimes he realised he did like it, and it was OK to ask if he could have some. As we said to him, if he had never tried chocolate ice cream, think of all the treats he would have been missing out on, by avoiding it because it wasn't on his list!

    Don't insist he eats something entirely different for a whole meal. Always let him know that his preferred food is there for him if he chooses it, but you want him to try this first. If he doesn't like it, he can have his pasta. But while he's waiting for his pasta to be cooked, he can at least try this.

    This "have a taste and tell us" rule was brought in for us by SIL1. We already had the "have a taste" rule but sometimes, often, difficult child 3 would fall back on "I don't like it," and never have to eat more of it. But by getting him to tell us why, he had to analyse his own likes and dislikes which made him realise how limited he was, and made him more willing to try. Also knowing he always had choice and could refuse more, made it easier for him to be honest with himself.

    When we travel, we like to try the foods that a place is famous for. We buy the local produce and prepare it ourselves, too. When we went to NZ for a month, SIL1 and easy child came too, and tat was when tis rule was suggested. It worked brilliantly for us, and it got difficult child 3 eating a lot of new foods, most of which he liked, to his surprise. And each time he finds a new food, he is encouraged to try again next time. Of course there were a lot of foods difficult child 3 didn't like, but at least he had tried them. We also HAD to eat in a restaurant at times when on holiday, and the crowning success was when difficult child 3 ate the biggest adult meal on the menu and polished it all off! A huge steak with mixed roast vegetables. And then asked for his favourite dessert - plain scoops of ice cream!

    Left to his own devices, difficult child 3 will still gravitate to instant noodles. But he now has a much bigger food repertoire and sometimes will ask me to prepare something special.

    The last thing but certainly not the least to try - involve him in gardening. Vegetable and herb gardening. Then involve him in harvesting it and cooking it. And of course since he helped, he has earned the right to taste, and also to suggest ways of preparing it that he likes.

    I have other recipes for you to try - home-mde gnocchi is possibly something he would love. It's made from leftover mashed potato mixed with egg (about half cup of potato to one large egg) with flour added to make a wet dough, then you roll the dough in flour and roll it to a 'snake' (like children learning to use modelling clay). When the snake is as thick as your index finger, cut half inch slices off, roll them in a little more flour, then gently press with a fork. Roll them gently off the fork so the pieces are slightly flattened, marked with the tines of the fork and curved over. This helps them hold the sauce when they're cooked.
    To cook - throw the little gnocchi dumplings into boiling salted water and stand guard with the slotted spoon. They cook faster than fresh home-made pasta. As you drop the gnocchi into the boiling water, they sink. As they cook, they rise and float. When they have floated and boiled for about 20 seconds, scoop them out and drain. Serve immediately with sauce or a little butter. Delicious! If you have to leave either home-made pasta or gnocchi for more than a couple of minutes after cooking, toss with a little oil or butter, to stop it sticking. Sometimes I put a layer of oiled gnocchi in a baking dish, pour over some bolognese sauce and top with cheesy bechamel, then bake.

    As you can see with the gnocchi recipe, it's a great one to make with pre-school kids, they love to roll out the dough and then squish the pieces. And making it gives the child ownership and they're more inclined to taste it (and like it).

    It's still not the best food in the world, but it is an improvement.

    The other beauty of developing a taste for home-made food, is when you make it yourself, the taste often is subtly different. One batch may be better than another. This gives the child some acclimatisation to a little variation.

    When I was a kid, I was a very fussy eater. What used to bother me was the way my mother would hide certain ingredients in the food. However, my mother was also working with often poor quality ingredients plus she wasn't a great cook. Once I was able to cook meals for myself, I was able to amend the ingredients to my taste. I had already been helping my mother with meal preparation which made it easier for me to have the courage to change a recipe.
    At school in cooking class, the curried eggs were notoriously spicy. The word was out in the classroom - watch out for that class! So the day our class had to make curried eggs, I sneakily adapted the recipe. While every other group was adding the required three tablespoons of curry powder to the bechamel sauce (turning it to a bright mustard yellow colour) I made our little group of three only add three teaspoons of curry powder. Our bechamel was a very pale lemon yellow colour. We quarted the hard-boiled eggs and stirred them in. We boiled the white rice. The sauce smelt tasty, I hadn't realised that I could like curry. We cooked everything else according to the recipe, then like everyone else in the class, we sat down to eat what we had cooked. Our group was the only one to be able to eat it all - all around the room, students were gagging or begging for glasses of water. We polished ours off and the teacher looked very suspicious. We got top marks. I even went home and cooked it up for my family, who liked it.

    The secret - I had control. Plus because I had done some cooking before, I had the confidence to make the change.

    It's never too early to involve a child in cooking. Don't force it too hard, even if all he does is help stir a pot for you for a few minutes. When making pasta, I get difficult child 3 to turn the handle of the pasta machine for me. Also he can stand guard with the bowl and slotted spoon because as soon as he fishes out the pasta, he gets to eat it! It's the fastest way to get his food.

    I hope you can use some of this.

  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Boo, you posted before me and I hadn't read it.

    The pasta is OK without sauce. A little butter or oil to stop it sticking should be OK. It also adds a little flavour. He does sound like he's doing OK. And yes, it does sound like Asperger's possibly.

    Peanut butter is really good (try it on a sandwich, also try it with banana). If you can, get a home-made fresh peanut butter. Try other nut butters too. You can make them yourself in a blender.

    I went years making multiple meals. The freezer helped a lot. But multiple meals means multiple opportunities to taste. And no spitting out allowed - got to swallow, so only take tiny tastes. With water or milk handy (or a banana) to change the taste and texture in the mouth.

    The toilet issues - we had to use bribes. We got mini choc bars or mini M&Ms and blu-takked the thing to the wall in the toilet. When he did poo in the toilet, he earned the chocolate. Seeing it there was the incentive. And "rabbit poo" was insufficient, he had to do a proper job. It took months but that was the breakthrough for us.

    Our next toilet issues was a phobia of public toilets. He needed to be able to control his environment and to know that nobody was going to turn on the electric hand dryer. We resorted to using the single-user disabled toilets, plus showing him that we were switching off the hand dryer at the wall before he went in. That one lasted years. He was 10, I think, before he could take himself to the toilet in public. He learned to wait until we got home where possible.

    But now he's 16, a lot of these problems are a distant memory.

  7. boo

    boo Guest

    I am laughing because I have the HUGEST jar of m&m's you have ever seen just waiting for him to go on the potty! I've even offered to pay him, he's not taking.... yet. : )

    Thanks for the pasta recipe, once the drama of school starting passes, I will try it.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Boo, let me know if you have any problems with it.

    As for the gnocchi - there is a good method that should be available in Suite 101. I was a member for a while (with a different name - please don't mention it here) and I put it there. There are photos.

  9. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member

    Hey Boo!

    My gfg13's iron level dropped to something like 7 (I think normal is the 50's or something). Boy was he tired! We had to give him iron supplements which can cause constipation. Our pediatrician. said difficult child wasn't eating enough meat (he existed on cereal for awhile and I was too busy to think anything about it).

    Maybe you could let your pediatrician know what's happening and ask if your son needs a multi with iron. I'm only mentioning this because it happened to me.

    It's good that he's eating PB and an occasional cheeseburger. What kind of pasta are you using? Some brands are beefed up with omegas, and WW pastas have more protein as you know, if he'll eat WW pasta.

    I remember once gfg17 (in his younger days) ate a whole bag of fishy crackers and threw up on the spot. He was notorious for that, because in those days he did not have the executive function abilities to feel the urge to puke and then run to the bathroom. He threw up all over the place.

    Anyway -- totally off topic. Those were trying times but they seem endearing now, and I have to laugh as I share this story with you. It's good to laugh.


    Good luck with you fishy-cracker lover.
  10. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    Oh, Boo, I so know where you are coming from. My difficult child eats yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, apples (sometimes), bread, and waffles. He recently ate some pasta and husband and I nearly fell over. Our pediatrician has difficult child taking an adult multivitamin (with no more than 100% of the daily rec amount for any single vitamin) and says that, though difficult child's diet is limited, it really isn't that bad. He's growing, he's healthy, and he isn't eating too much sugar or transfat.

    As for the toileting issues...I've been there on that one, too! difficult child did not start peeing in the toilet until he was almost 5 and 1/2. He did not have a BM in the toilet until he was almost 6 and 1/2. His younger sister was fully toilet trained before he was. There really was not magical solution for us. We worked on peeing in toilets away from home in places that seemed "friendly," like at his occupational therapist's house or in single stall public restrooms. difficult child is almost 8 now and these toilet issues are really a distant memory now. He still takes Miralax, but even his need for that is diminishing. It was hard when he absolutely would not use any toilet or any toilet except at home ( travel? what's that?) and it is hard to believe that we have come so far in that area.

    Good luck.
  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I understand a lot of where you are coming from. The control they can exert over their body is amazing. My son was born with a urinary problem and the first surgery was botched. The second surgery, a few years later, required the use of a catheter. The docs swore he would have no bladder control because the catheter. As he was already potty trained for some time, he was horrified by the idea of not having control and having to use a pullup. During the 2 weeks he had the catheter in he never once wet the pullup. Not a drop. The doctor didn't believe us until he took the catheter out - the end was crimped so that it was clear he was able to stop the flow from it. This doctor was a top urinary specialist at a Children's hospital and he said he had never seen anyone who could do that!

    As for food, I totally understand difficult child's point of view. I am a very texture driven eater. There are foods I cannot stand the smell/taste of and then there are the many foods I cannot handle the texture of. My parents didn't understand it, but they were told that I would eat eventually if I got hungry enough. My mom just kept a selection of healthy snacks around. Marg's plan is a good one to get them to try a small taste and then think about why they don't like it.

    I was always thankful that my kids' picky food choices ran along the same lines that mine do, lol! I still felt like a short order cook a lot of days. If I made pasta for dinner one kid ate just pasta and butter, another pasta and tomato sauce but no meat, a third ate pasta and meat, no sauce, and husband and I ate pasta, sauce and meat. By offering choices like that it let them feel in control. My youngest had food sensitivities (didn't show up on allergy testing but still caused problems for him) and I worked to teach him to avoid the foods. It was hard because he couldn't have tomato, dairy, pineapple, orange, strawberry or artificial sweetener of any kind. He outgrew some of it around age 5 but still cannot handle the fruits or sweeteners. By the time he went to pre-k he knew what the problem foods were and he wouldn't eat them by choice. In many ways he got lucky because he cannot stand the items that cause problems. Even their taste is awful to him, so he didn't sneak the foods.

    There are several cookbooks on the market about sneaking things into food so your kids will get the nutritional benefit and not know it. I think one is called Deceptively Delicious. They should be available used through many sources. Mostly the books call for you to puree various veggies and fruits and add them to food so no one knows they are there. It is likely worth a try, but it doesn't always work. If you don't want to cook and puree your own veggies and fruits, try using baby food.

    The more fuss you make over food the more your child is likely to refuse to eat certain things. If he is healthy and growing, and you know that the foods you offer are reasonably healthy, give him a vitamin and let it go. Involve him in cooking, choosing dishes for the menu, etc... but don't push him to eat.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Deceptively Delicious is written by Jessica Seinfeld. However,I looked at it and really, the amount of good nutrition you can actually sneak in, is minimal. It also isn't likely to be as effective for Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) people or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) people. The main advantage of her methods, is after the kids have scoffed a batch of brownies, you can say to them, "Do you realise there was zucchini in that? Maybe you could try zucchini in other things too." But the amount of zucchini is not that great.

    I just made a chocolate cake for easy child 2/difficult child 2's birthday party tomorrow. At the last minute on a whim, I put three over-ripe bananas into the mix. The result is a very rich, moist cake which is still mostly choc-toffee in flavour. Sometimes adding good fruit & veg to otherwise "rubbish" food improves the texture or quality of the rubbish. But mostly, it links good food with rubbish, so the kids still eat the rubbish and reject the veg.

    We go the other way - I let the kids sneak good food. I peel carrots to roast them, but leave the peel lying around. difficult child 3 sneaks it and eats the peel. If I leave carrots out, he will sneak them too. You can present good food in different ways. Kids often prefer vegetables raw - try peeling a carrot, then keep peeling. Present the kids with a plate of carrot ribbons. Or apple peel. Or both together. If you're peeling apple for the kids, add a little orange juice or lemon juice to stop it browning. Make melon balls (different kinds of melon, different colours). Use the melon baller on apple and pear a well. Freeze the melon balls, freeze grapes, bananas, mango - you can let the kids eat it froze, or puree it frozen and give it to the kids as a frozen dessert. No need to add sugar. Sometimes frozen works better because it changes the texture.