F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

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SJAR
I'm hoping that some of the wonderful forum members here might be able to offer some positive advice please. I have an appointment with a pediatric nutritionist is a week but it can't come fast enough. 

I feel really worried and at a loss of how to help  my beautiful 3.5 yr old son with his very restricted eating. 

My son's diet is extremely restricted and it's uncanny just how adamant he is about refusing nearly all foods. He doesn't have any other mental health issues relating to autism, he is extremely articulate and sociable so I just can't work it out. Thankfully he is a really good weight - he is not underweight and he is not over weight.

Meal times are particularly stressful and extremely disheartening because he just won't eat a thing unless its curry (literally the only proper meal he'll eat) or something extremely plain like bread and butter. No amount of coaching, encouragement, love, support or even bribing will help the situation. Often he just sits there pushing the food around his little plate for a few minutes, gets up and does other things and refuses any kind of encouragement. It becomes long and drawn out and he becomes distressed. It's stressful for everyone. 

His diet is so restricted to white carbs that he is constipated and I'm just so worried. 

I desperately wish I could help but can't even make a tiny step or breakthrough. 

I really hope there's something we can do to help him. 
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ValentinaGermania
This is concerning and I am glad that you found us here.
At this age you can do a lot to get him on path. I have a few questions:
1) Did he see a gastroenterologist to check if there are any medical issues for his behaviour or is it "just" a psychological problem?
2) Has he ever eaten normal after he was a baby? If yes, when did he start to restrict and was there a special incident for that?

My d had a very special diet as a child, too. She did not want to stop breast feeding and refused to eat anything else than my milk. I breast fed her for 14 months and then the paediatrician told me to stop it totally to get her to eat. She did not eat anything for about 2 weeks (you can imagine that I nearly freaked out about that but thank God she was a very proper baby due to the breast feeding). She then started to eat something but it was a very limited diet and she was a very picky eater. She only ate apples and bananas. No other fruits. No vegetables. Only this yoghurt 3 times a day for weeks. Then she was done with it and went to the next strange eating beahviour.

Our paediatrician though this was funny but not concerning as she was in the middle of weight range and not sick at all. In fact she was never sick before AN moved in. Today I know that this behaviour was the opening door for her ED years later.

Most of the strange eating behaviour stopped when she came to Kindergarten and she saw what other kids eat and she then wanted that too and she wanted to be "normal". Some behaviour stopped because we said no.

So first aid for you:
Can you mix some vegetable or fruit into that curry he is eating? If you buy some baby glasses with carrots or apples you can put some few spoons (tea spoons at the start) into the curry sauce without him seing it. He needs some vitamins and vegetables against constipation.

Does he have hunger cues? What would happen if you for example would tell him that bread was out in the supermarket and you have only xy to eat in the house? How long would he refuse to eat that?

Can you tell us what he eats on a normal day so we can help you with ideas where to sneak something in?
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Foodsupport_AUS
Welcome to the forum, sorry that you have had to find your way here. Restricted/Picky  eating is of course very common in toddlers. My daughter is way beyond this but I have known a number of children over the years who had had some pretty weird food habits. Remaining healthy of course is the key. It is great that he is eating curry, it is a great food to disguise things in, as she has mentioned things can be pureed into it so it appears as part of the sauce. The flavour of the curry should help to disguise things. Red lentils well cooked are a good source of fibre as well as protein, and pretty much dissolve. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
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Enn
He will need to eat different foods. With picky eating I have seen some recommendations that you do not distract at all (different from ED) and that you offer a variety of food. Of course start with one new thing a time. One article I saw suggested that the only time a child could say they did not like a particular food was after they had tried it three times. 
I am concerned by hiding the food in what he eats he will never choose them on his own and never get exposure that is needed
to try a different food. Is he copying another family member who has strong food choices? Many do grow out of this but he needs to have the exposure to different foods sooner rather than later imo.

Eating out with other kids may help, but I think ultimately the change will need to happen at home.
Some ‘picky eaters’ have issues with texture. Is that an issue?
if so make foods that have a similar texture but different taste/foods and see. Purées or soups. Does he like cheese? A cheese sauce on top of veggies may work.
I hope the nutritionist has some good ideas to try. Did you doctor give you any literature to read as well? Of course google can give some information to kick start things too.
all the best 
When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.  (Dejan Stojanovic)

Food+more food+time+love+good professional help+ATDT+no exercise+ state not just weight+/- the "right" medicine= healing---> recovery(--->life without ED)
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Enn
I have also read that involving the child in meal prep may help pique the interest in that food. And keep persisting with the food that they did not eat last week. Offer small amounts of the same new food ever week or so and keep at it. It does seem a different approach from ED though. 
When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.  (Dejan Stojanovic)

Food+more food+time+love+good professional help+ATDT+no exercise+ state not just weight+/- the "right" medicine= healing---> recovery(--->life without ED)
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mtkmbc4
I want to encourage you to seek a consultation from a developmental pediatrician or a child psychiatrist or child psychologist—whoever is qualified to evaluate your son for autism in your particular geographic area. Unusual food choices are a big red flag for autism. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, those who are high functioning may be very verbal and have some social skills. 

Here is a very recent article about the link between eating problems and autism in young children. There is a link to the medical journal article within the news piece:

https://news.psu.edu/story/579983/2019/07/09/research/unusual-eating-behaviors-may-be-new-diagnostic-indicator-autism
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deenl
Hello and welcome SJAR,

One of our members had a son with a very restricted diet. She has a very detailed thread/journal of how she helped him to enormously expand his range of foods. I find it an inspiration even though my son has different issues. Her son was older than yours but perhaps you could find some ideas that you could adapt to your situation?

I have found the Kartini Clinic blog to be very informative for young children.

Wishing you strength and courage,

D
2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
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sk8r31
Kartini Clinic is a leader in treating children with ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), and picky eating.  It might be worthwhile to check out their website for info and links, or even to speak with them.
It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou
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debra18
Dr o Toole from Kartini Clinic  in her book Give Good a Chance writes about picky eating. I think she wrote that if they are gaining weight and growing it doesn't need to be treated but you should take a look at the book. I think they also need to be able to eat in different social situations like birthday parties, pizza, ice cream, go to someone's house. 
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SJAR
Dear @tina72, @Foodsupport_AUS, @scaredmom, @mtkmbc4, @deenl, @sk8r31 and @debra18,

My sincere thanks for your care, concern and wonderful, reassuring advice. It has warmed my heart and given me much food for thought. 

I will indeed take your advice about mixing things into curry and keep persisting. I have spent the day cooking, pureeing vegetables and making pesto to help boost his nutritional intake. I am also looking forward to our pediatrician appointment to see what else we can do to help our beautiful son. 

He is the most wonderful, vibrant and gorgeous little fellow and we just love him so very much. I think at the end of the day, like every parent, we just want to make sure he's ok, he's getting everything he needs nutritionally and that bit by bit we can help him widen his palate. Slowly but surely.

My sincere thanks to you once again, I am so humbled and grateful that there are such wonderful, caring and insightful people such as you to help us along the way.
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ValentinaGermania
Kids that develop an ED later have often a special character right from birth, that is genetic. Please read Carrie Arnolds book "Decoding anorexia" and if you find some matches with your sons character there please be alert that he might develop an ED. If I had known then what I know now I had seen the risk in my d much earlier (probably at the age of your son).

Debra wrote about Dr. O´Toole: " I think she wrote that if they are gaining weight and growing it doesn't need to be treated but you should take a look at the book."

This was a mistake our paediatrician here made looking back. They told me whatever she eats or not is fine as long as she is healthy and does not get sick. Looking back that allowed her to restrict and have a hundred rules for eating (and other parts of her life as she LOVED rules like most ED kids) before ED walked into our house and I am quite sure that this would have not happened by early intervention from us.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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SJAR
@tina72 thank you I absolutely will look at the book and also be very aware. 
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SJAR
I'm actually pinching myself. I pureed three zucchinis and half a broccoli into the curry sauce. My son scoffed his whole bowl and my daughter had three (smallish) bowls! It's early days and there's a long journey ahead but at least there's a small win. 
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ValentinaGermania
Hey, that is great!!! Increase that slowly and think about where to pour other stuff in. This is only first aid as he should for sure eat all that knowing it is in but I know a lot of parents with small kids that hide vegetables in sauces because they would not eat it as a normal vegetable.
You can also try to serve something new but just pour it and tell him it is "european curry" (that does not exist but he might eat it if it is called "curry").

You can also try to cut out some hearts and stars and what else shapes you may have for christmas cookies or so in your household. My d ate vegetable and bread and cheese if it was in funny shapes.

It might also help to break a rule and eat in front of TV. My d ate a lot of stuff she normally would not eat just because she was so mentally occupied with TV that she just put it into her mouth without checking what it is...just an idea.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Enn
SJAR,
Do you have a proper diagnosis for your son?
I think ensuring that you cover all developmental issues would be pertinent, just to help support your concerns as well as reassure you  if all is ok.  He truly may not have an ED and as we are not doctors we cannot comment as to the likelihood of that for your son. All the best with the paediatrician.
When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.  (Dejan Stojanovic)

Food+more food+time+love+good professional help+ATDT+no exercise+ state not just weight+/- the "right" medicine= healing---> recovery(--->life without ED)
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Honey_Badger
Hi SJAR,

You should definitely get a medical evaluation for your son.  If it is determined he is healthy, but "simply" an extremely picky eater, a few really good resources I suggest are:

https://www.amazon.com/Helping-Child-Extreme-Picky-Eating/dp/162625110X/ref=asc_df_162625110X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312132020328&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3316332342071349690&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007763&hvtargid=pla-436521527895&psc=1

and

https://www.amazon.com/Try-New-Food-Picky-Eaters/dp/1732591814/ref=asc_df_1732591814/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=344004376232&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8927269514077853945&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007763&hvtargid=pla-681142235743&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=69543898032&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=344004376232&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8927269514077853945&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007763&hvtargid=pla-681142235743

as well as an excellent (closed) Facebook group called "Mealtime Hostage"

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MealtimeHostage/

Good luck to you!

-HoneyBadger
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