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7yo boys: issues with food/eating/control. Please advise!

post #1 of 125
Thread Starter 
My 7yo twin boys are hungry and will only eat a few things (cold cereal; fruit; tacos; pbj sandwiches; green beans).

If they do not like what I make them, they will sneak into the fridge -- without permission! -- and gorge on fruit or cheese sticks or bread, whatever they can get their hands on while I'm in the shower or bathroom!

If we go to someone's house, they will go into that person's fridge or looking for food in their cabinets. They will also eat off the floor in a restaurant.

I am really worried, sad -- EMBARRASSED! My children are sneaking food, eating off floors, and begging! -- and need some advice.

To address some issues:

1. I cook very kid-friendly meals. My own palate is very bland -- not a lot of spices or salt -- and I make a lot of chicken and beef meals with rice and vegetables. Chicken pot pie; lasagna; english-muffin pizzas; broccoli/cheese quiche.

2. I have told them repeatedly that I do not want them in the fridge without permission, or eating without permission. I make them three meals per day, with a snack in between each meal. The snack is usually fruit or crackers with peanut butter or a cheese stick or popcorn. However, if I turn my back, they are in the kitchen sneaking food. Today one of my boys put an apple in his pants to hide it from me.

3. They are clearly hungry. Today my boys did not eat breakfast (by their choice; it was oatmeal with honey and brown sugar, and bacon). We went for lunch at Chick-Fil-A and one of them was actually eating food off the floor when he was finished with his lunch.

4. I am at my wits' end over this. I am tired of fighting over food, but I think it's important that they eat a variety of foods, incorporating lots of colors and textures. I realize I cannot force them to eat, but neither can I have them eating off the floor, or begging people for food -- they also did that at Chick-Fil-A, when they were done eating and one of their friends was still eating his lunch.

Please advise. Every meal is becoming a battleground and I hate it.
post #2 of 125
Could it be that you are underestimating your sons' palates? I was a very picky eater as a child and realized as I got older I was only that way because my parents had labeled me as such.
post #3 of 125
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by treegardner View Post
Could it be that you are underestimating your sons' palates? I was a very picky eater as a child and realized as I got older I was only that way because my parents had labeled me as such.
I post that my kids are eating off the floor, going into strangers' fridges, and sneaking fruit into their clothes and the answer is that it's because I'm labeling them?



I am posting here after months of making various meals only to have them refuse to take even one bite and then gorge themselves on contraband snacks when I turn my back.

No, I do not think I am underestimating their palates.
post #4 of 125
oh man, I cannot imagine. I wish I could offer you some great advice! But Im the lost mother of a 3 yr old. So, all I can offer is a hug! And a big encouragement!! Maybe they are just sneaking into the fridge because they aren't supposed to? I use to do everything if my parents asked me not to. What if you had a basket in the pantry or kitchen (or a special drawer) where there were a bunch of acceptable snacks for them to get whenever they wanted. Or an allowance of 3 per day. They might feel like they were more "in charge"?

My daughter always wanted to play with dangerous kitchen things while I was cooking. So, I gave her a drawer and filled it with all non-dangerous items: whisk, wooden spoon, ice cream scoop, etc. Now she is so happy to be in there and "help" without almost hurting herself.

I hope some of the mommies on here have great ideas for you!!!!
post #5 of 125
Why don't you want them going into the fridge without your permission? It doesn't sound like you're keeping lots of junk in there. So what's wrong with taking an apple or some cheese?

I would read: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter. Her basic message is: Your job is to provide healthy food. Their job is to eat it. Too much control over food leads to battles that you will never win.

Because of that, I would suggest that you relax your rules. There are several possibilties:
There seems to be a late winter growth spurt that a lot of kids go through (at the bus stop, everyone's pants are too short these days). They may be truly hungry.
They may also need more control over when they eat. This is a power struggle that your family has gotten into. Does it need to be one?

We fix lunch and dinner for our kids, but our kids largely decide on lunch. They're completely free to choose their own snacks. The only time I object is when it's 20 minutes or so until dinner.

I would give them a shelf in a cupboard that they can reach and a spot in the fridge. Tell them they can eat what they want from there as long as they clean up after themselves and it's less than 30 minutes or so before the next meal.
post #6 of 125
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

I would give them a shelf in a cupboard that they can reach and a spot in the fridge. Tell them they can eat what they want from there as long as they clean up after themselves and it's less than 30 minutes or so before the next meal.


I pretty much let my kids eat what they want when they want (within reason).

In the list of foods you gave, almost everything is healthy! If they want to make themselves PB&J every night because they don't like what you've made, what's wrong with that? They would likely get sick of it after a while and since they like fruit, green beans, tacos, and cereal, they likely won't suffer from malnutrition any time soon.

As far as eating from the floor...yes, it's gross and yes, I would also be embarrassed. Is it possible they are doing this for a reaction from you? Can you go "oh gross" in a bored tone of voice and look away?

ETA: Can you involve them in menu planning? Obviously you aren't going to make tacos every night for dinner because it sounds like you wouldn't like that, but what if you agree to make them once or twice a week? Can they help you figure out some other things to make that they will eat (chicken schnitzle with green beans, maybe - you said they ate at Chik-Fil-A...)?
post #7 of 125
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoomaYula View Post
I post that my kids are eating off the floor, going into strangers' fridges, and sneaking fruit into their clothes and the answer is that it's because I'm labeling them?



I am posting here after months of making various meals only to have them refuse to take even one bite and then gorge themselves on contraband snacks when I turn my back.

No, I do not think I am underestimating their palates.
Well in your op you state your food is bland, all 3 of my boys *love* peppery spicey foods. I don't understand why you got irritated by someone trying to offer a different perspective?

Maybe you need to let go of all the colours and textures and all the stuff the books tell you and listen to you boys. have a family meeting and put a stack of cookingbooks on the table (go to the library to get a wide variety of foods if you need to) then go trough the books together marking the pages of recipes they find apealing and take it from there. I think at 7 they are more than capable to tell you there likes and dislikes and giving them power over their food might make them more willing to try different things and broaden their foodlikes. also remember that their palates will change quite a lot troughout childhood so if they don't like tomatoes now don't label them as "he doesn't like tomatoes" say he doesn't like tomatoes yet or now. By saying he doesn't like tomatoes you shut the door to them ever liking tomatoes, its much better to say not yet or not now.

Also I wonder if your list in the OP is accurate? don't they like potatoes? what about soup? you can get a lot of veg in soup. spagetti? macncheese even?
post #8 of 125
I think that maybe telling them that they can snack whenever they want but please don't hide food in their rooms (that can become a whole other issue stemming from this) and seeing how they would naturally go about eating would maybe help you out. Maybe they aren't hungry at designated mealtimes? Personally, I hate eating within about an hour or so of getting up but when I get hungry I then need to eat ASAP. I also eat my lunch and dinner fairly close together and like to snack later in the night as well. That is just my natural pattern.

This too shall pass, mama.
post #9 of 125
What I do with my kids, is make 3 meals and then they can snack as they wish. Breakfast is almost always what they choose. Lunch usually is, but if we have something that needs eaten, I'll go ahead and make that. Now dinner is a bit harder. Neither can have dairy and neither like all the same stuff. So I have them help with meal planning. We always do pizza on Friday because they love it and it gives me a break from worrying about how much they're eating. Other nights are different. DS2 loves sloppy joes, so we have about once a month. DS1 doesn't. He loves panini's, so again, about once a month. I do make sure there is something on the table that each kid likes even if he doesn't like the main meal. Fruit, vegetables, whatever.

There is some junk food in our house but my kids have learned they must ask before they have chips or cookies or candy. Anything else is a free for all. I honestly don't care if they have 3 apples in one day.

What I would do, is get rid of some of the food they're taking. Let them snack some more on things you think are appropriate and let them have some control over what's served. I know mine are more likely to eat something they don't love since they know their turn is coming.
post #10 of 125
May I gently ask why you are so strict about food? What you are doing obviously isn't working so why continue down the same path?

Quote:
I have told them repeatedly that I do not want them in the fridge without permission, or eating without permission. I make them three meals per day, with a snack in between each meal. The snack is usually fruit or crackers with peanut butter or a cheese stick or popcorn. However, if I turn my back, they are in the kitchen sneaking food. Today one of my boys put an apple in his pants to hide it from me.
The above sounds so controlling to me. Why can't your son have an apple? Why does he have to sneak it and hide it from you? I mean-it's an APPLE. I would be encouraging him to eat an apple and enjoy it.

I guess I just don't understand where this need for such strict control over what your sons eat is coming from. And, I have to wonder if the other issues (begging for food, eating off of the floor, etc) is a direct result of your attitude towards what they can and can not eat.
post #11 of 125
How frustrating - hang in there mama.

My twin boys actually have a much more adventurous palate than I do (they really don't often prefer typical "kid food") & one of them in particular requires much more caloric intake than people generally realize. So I would wonder if perhaps they're just truly at a point where they just need more food than one might think to fuel their growth? Also, it seems like kids crave certain things when they really need more of some nutrient in that food so maybe that's a possibility why they're sneaking certain foods?

Maybe snacking would slow down if they felt like they had more control over mealtimes too. Like previous posters mentioned, I would also probably try to involve them in meal planning, grocery shopping & cooking. Even if that means I cook dinner for dh & myself & the kids made their own once in a while I would be cool with that. Maybe there are food choices at the store they aren't aware of that they might enjoy. So perhaps a trip to an awesome store after perusing some cookbooks would be productive.

My general approach to eating is that everyone has input, I don't buy anything I don't want them eating, I let them know that what I've bought is all there is for the week.
post #12 of 125
Quote:
Originally Posted by betsyj View Post
May I gently ask why you are so strict about food? What you are doing obviously isn't working so why continue down the same path?



The above sounds so controlling to me. Why can't your son have an apple? Why does he have to sneak it and hide it from you? I mean-it's an APPLE. I would be encouraging him to eat an apple and enjoy it.

I guess I just don't understand where this need for such strict control over what your sons eat is coming from. And, I have to wonder if the other issues (begging for food, eating off of the floor, etc) is a direct result of your attitude towards what they can and can not eat.
I have to agree with Betsy.

Don't have the junk in the house. If you are worried about them "spoling" their diner -- eating with in a half hour let them know you will be starting diner and they have to wait......also sometimes growth spurts happen. Last My 9 year old at a bake potato with cheese on top 45min before diner. At dinner time she ate a salad, 2 servings of green beens, and 2 servings of meat. She does not always eat this way but she was starved.

If your child was eating off the floor, he was needing more food our in a control battle with you.
post #13 of 125
if you tell them not to, they will just do it more. why not make a "yes" shelf in the fridge and let them eat from it whatever they want, whenever they want? i cant imagine being so controlling over what and when my kids eat that they felt they had to hide fruit in their pants.
post #14 of 125
There's a great book, "Just take a bite" that has been super helpful for me--and it was recommended my my son's OT (he's being treated for SPD, and we start speech/feeding therapy soon).
post #15 of 125
As gently as I can say this: If you are rationing apples, they are not the ones with the problem.
post #16 of 125
Quote:
Originally Posted by chfriend View Post
As gently as I can say this: If you are rationing apples, they are not the ones with the problem.

I agree. I say relax your rules a bit, let them eat when and what they want, so that they are in control of their own bodies. I think this problem will disappear. There's no reason they can't control their own intake at 7 years old.
post #17 of 125
Would it help if you involved them in the meal planning process? Let them sit down with cookbooks (especially if they include pictures of the food so they can visualize what it will look like when it is prepared) and decide what to make for a few of the week's meals. Also allow them to help plan their snacks for the week. Then have them make lists, go grocery shopping with you and prepare the meals and snacks. My three year old helps me make almost every meal, and there are a few he could probably make completely by himself if I would let him use the stove without supervision (I don't!). He also picks out almost all his own snacks at the store, within my limits for healthy food. I allow him to taste as we cook and be as involved as possible, because I want him to learn about food, how to prepare it, and how to be healthy in his choices.

Also, if I/we make something and he chooses not to eat it then we don't have a battle over it. It is not worth it because you cannot force them to eat. I remind him that this is the meal (I refuse to make more than one meal for the family and I do my best to make sure it is something everyone will like) and if he is hungry then he needs to eat with us. If he still chooses not to then he is allowed to be done. He does not get another meal prepared later, but he is allowed to choose a healthy snack (crackers and cheese, fruit, bread, etc.) if he decides he is hungry after the meal is over.

I hope you find something that works for you!
post #18 of 125
If you make food an issue by trying to control what your kids eat, they will develop issues about food. Some one already said it but your responsibility is to make good food available and your children's responsibility to eat what they want. My 4 year old has access to the refrigerator and the food in the cabinets and has since she was 2. So what if she drinks all of the veggie juice or eats garbanzo beans and grapes instead of having dinner, she's still getting appropriate nutrients. Though she usually does eat the food we have at meals and loves sitting at the table with everyone. We also let her help cook, which helps increase her interest in dinner. When we made vegetable soup the other night she put everything in the pot, including the spices, and stirred before we put it on the stove.

Just the idea that food in your house can be thought of as contraband is enough to give a person food issues. If no foods were denied then your kids wouldn't need to sneak. Research has shown that even toddlers eat a balanced diet if allowed to self regulate.
post #19 of 125
I agree with all the pps that you need to relax. I am pretty lax about food, and my kids seem to eat pretty well on their own. Our rules are:

1. Eat in the kitchen or at the table or outside.

2. If it's an hour before dinner, they can only eat the veggies I'm cutting up to put in the salad.

3. If I ask you not to eat something because I'm saving it for a recipe, don't.

That's all. I don't keep much junk in the house because I will eat it all, so they have free rein.
post #20 of 125
I agree with the PP's. Keeping a healthy selection of foods in the fridge, and setting a rule that they are not allowed to snack within a certain amount of time before meals are served, isn't really a big deal at all.

Also, getting them to help you with the dinner process might help. Give them choices of what they want for dinner (ask them to select from A, B, or C. Do not ask "what do you want for dinner tonight"), then ask them to help you prepare it.

As for the restaurant problem (ew!), I would offer them a healthy snack to carry in with them while they wait for their meals to arrive. An apple, some raisins, veggie sticks (with dip), etc. And if they seem to be still hungry after dinner, then order a larger plate for them to take home.

I also feel that it's important to allow them to have the junk they want, once and a while. Allow them the freedom to feed (and control) their cravings (in healthy amounts) so they don't start sneaking through your friends cupboards looking for the stuff they're never allowed to have at home.

Growing boys often require much more calories than girls so unless they're gaining a lot of weight or making unhealthy choices, I really wouldn't worry about it at all.
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