Ok, I'm going to try to keep this reasonably short and still get in enough details. I know this has been discussed over and over here but I need help! My DD is 6 (turned 6 in early June) and we have always struggled with food issues. She is a very, very selective eater but seems to intensely crave carbs and sweets. We maintain a pretty healthy, well-rounded diet at home. They have never been deprived of treats or sweets but I try to limit it and we hardly ever have junk food (soda, cookies, chips, candy, packaged sweets, etc) in the house. Every meal is balanced and contains lean protein, a healthy carb, veggies and/or fruits and water.
It is nearly impossible to get her to eat vegetables (though there are 3 or so that she likes), any fruit (she will eat strawberries and fully peeled apples, but that is it), any meat (she will eat chicken on occasion). I have tried to avoid making it a struggle. We have come up with a meal strategy that has helped a lot with dinnertime but I am worried more about her overall choices than about specific meals. It is also affecting what the rest of our family can eat. I can't make or serve dinner rolls or any kind of bread side anymore because she obsesses over it to the point of tears. She can't see anything else on the table if there is bread on it... and she will eat an entire loaf of bread or 8 to 10 dinner rolls of given the opportunity (we tried just not limiting anything for a while last year).
The pediatrician has been advising me on this for years and just kept hoping she would outgrow the "phase." Last month I finally asked that she be tested for food allergies/intolerances (particularly celiac disease). The test results, which included everything from a full parasite screen to allergy testing to full blood and stool testing (including thyroid), ALL came back normal. She is growing well but does have some digestive issues and occasional stomach pains. Her weight and height are both in the 99th percentile and her body type tends towards being a little heavier, which is fine with me as long as she is healthy. But at this point I am really concerned about her health in the future as she gets older and is more responsible for her own food choices.
She seems overly sensitive to food overall. She has almost OCD-like tendencies regarding food preparation, look, texture, smell and eating rituals (what plate, what utensils, etc). If I am cooking something she can smell it from almost anywhere... even things that barely have any smell. She will obsess over sweets and junk like crazy, eating it whether she is hungry or not, and she doesn't think about anything else until she has eaten herself sick (at birthday parties, her grandmother's house, etc). If we do have that kind of food in the house she can't do anything else until it is gone. If there isn't junk food in the house she can be VERY creative in making her own... I caught her pouring sugar out of the container onto slices of whole wheat bread yesterday morning and calling it "cinnamon toast." So, not having those things in the house isn't even working at this point.
I'm at a loss. Please share any ideas and/or suggestions with me. If you made it this far, thank you for reading!
A healthy relationship with food could come from this. My Dh is 6 and she's almost the same way. I don't limit anything. I just don't buy it. I don't like bread so I don't buy it unless they've specifically asked for it for sandwiches. As far as her obsessing over it, it's easier to obsess if others are obsessing with you. Fear you'll stop letting her eat it. Also, kids go through phases, my oldest Dh only ate pasta for a year. Oh and apples. The little one went on a banana and oatcakes diet during her toddler years.
My mother did a little too much stressing with me, I loved to snack when I was younger. I couldn't get enough of certain things and would beg for them. With my mothers obsession and our family doctors validation of her obsession I became anorexic at 10.
So be careful.
No advice on the food issues perse...but would she be more intersted in some of the more 'exotic' foods (ie veggies and other fruits) if SHE got to choose them/put them in the cart while shopping? If she was the one who cut/prepared the food for the meal? What about different fruits with 'dip'? (I usually use plain whole milk yogurt/greek yogurt with a squeeze of chocolate syrup, or honey and cinnamon, or jam) Make 'fries' out of root veggies? (use sweet potato, carrots, etc) Make muffins with veggie purees? (pumpkin, squash, sweet potato... beet and chocolate is super good)
Maybe she needs some higher fat foods she does eat (whole milk? whole milk yogurt? butter?) to help make the foods she does eat more satiating?
BC i need a little clarification
here are what i see are the issues in your post
1. you are concerned about the variety of food she eats. you would like her for instance try other vegetables and meat and fruit rather than just strawberries and apples (btw just an fyi - those are the two really high pesticide laden fruit so make sure you get organic - even if you peel the apple).
2. she has an unhealthy appetite towards bread. can eat a whole loaf. like she cant stop herself. she has some stomach issues digestive and pain. no allergies or celiac. she also craves sweets and stuffs on them when she has access to them.
3. she is overtly sensitive to smell, food preparation, look, texture, smell and eating rituals (what plate, what utensils, etc).
the one thing that stands out for me is the amount of bread she can eat. her obsession over it - so much that you cannot have any on your table. i feel perhaps there is something more going on between her craving bread, stomach issues and pain. i am not sure what other tests to do but it seems there 'might' be something medically going on.
craving sweets. normal.
has she been tested for diabetes? it runs in my family and one of the signs are obsessive eating of carbs and sweets along with other symptoms.
her limited food variety. normal. her cravign sugar and gorging on sugar stuff = normal. sometimes i catch my 8 year old putting brown sugar on her lightly buttered corn tortilla - as dessert after dinner.
the last part about being ocd about foods many kids are like that. they dont want their foods to mix. mine cant stand a mixture of textures - like no fruits or raisins in her oatmeal. i know some kids have keen sense of smell. but perhaps the smell could be a symptom.
how much sugar is she allowed? or how often? twice or thrice a week? or a little even everyday?
i dont know. the full loaf really stands out for me. and it makes me think there is something medically issues here.
not sure if i am way off the mark. hopefully other mama's will offer better advice.
EDD - one more thing. she might not have CD, but could she be sensitive to gluten?
Thanks, everyone, for your responses. I really appreciate it. I'm just hoping someone might hear something here that I'm missing.
lmakcerka - Thanks for sharing your view. One of the things I am concerned about it an eventual eating disorder so I try to be aware of that. I make an effort not to say much to her about what she eats, outside of guiding her choices when there is nothing in the house she wants to eat (i.e. when we don't have bread or crackers in the house). I try to offer lots of choices and also include her in shopping and food prep. I'm wondering if maybe a possible solution is just not keeping bread or other accessible carbs (crackers, etc) in the house. It seems like that might be tough given there are 4 people living here besides her, and another on the way. Sandwiches are kind of a staple in my pregnancy diet (we have no air conditioning and it it HOT right now... so I've only been able to stomach cold foods and fruit). I would be willing to try it at least for a while and see if it helps her, though.
flightgoddess - Thanks for the food ideas! I wish she would eat more exotic things. We have tried dozens and dozens of kinds of fruits and veggies (I come from a family of farmers, so we have a tremendous amount of fresh produce right now). She does love butter (she will eat sticks of it if she gets the chance) but we generally do skim milk. She won't eat yogurt. Maybe I will try whole milk instead for a while, especially with meals, maybe that will help her feel more full. As far as food prep... she wants to be a chef. She LOVES to shop and prepare food and is learning to cook and bake. Maybe I will suggest we try some muffins with veggie ingredients. She loves zucchini muffins and I bet she would love pumpkin ones, too.
meemee - Thanks so much for all of your ideas. I do realize that the texture issues are normal (she is texture sensitive overall, even about her clothes) and that a limited diet is normal too. I loved sweets as a kid, too, so that doesn't surprise me, either. I was sharing those things to kind of give an idea of the bigger picture. Like you said, I think my concern is that there is potentially something medical going on. It really seems like she loses control of herself when it comes to carbs. I have not had her tested for diabetes, though I did bring it up with the pediatrician twice. Diabetes (and morbid obesity) run in her dad's side of the family. Her doctor didn't feel like she was exhibiting enough symptoms for her to be diabetic. I don't know. On one hand, she does not exhibit symptoms typical of most diabetics... on the other hand, juvenile diabetes often presents much differently than other forms. She also often has abdominal pain, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea, fatty/floating stools, low energy and a number of other symptoms, along with the intense carb/sugar cravings. We did rule out lactose intolerance a few years ago but gluten is still on my "not sure yet" list.
She is allowed refined sugar a few days a week. Like I said, if we go to a party or to my mom's house or something like that then I don't mind her having sugar there. The problem is that I know she will make herself sick on it then be cranky and not feel good. On the occasions that she has refined sugar at home then it is probably an ingredient in muffins, homemade cookies, ice cream or something like that. I really try not to make an issue out of it so she doesn't feel like some foods are "bad" or "off limits." I feel like it is a constant balancing act... like watching her pour sugar on bread and biting my tongue because she asked if she could make her own breakfast and I said "yes."
bethany one more thing. celiac's can show craving for bread even though its bad for them. they eat too much bread, it affects their fat absorption and bang. overweight.
if your dd is just 'sensitive' then it wont show up on an allergy test. just coz the report came back negative doesnt mean she still doesnt have an issue with it.
just for your peace of mind i would insist they do a diabetes test. just to take it out of the equation.
and then i'd take out gluten and dairy from the diet (esp. with teh pain and gas) for a month or two. completely. its going to be hard i know coz you all will have to do it. take it out and then see how your dd does. perhaps she can only tolerate a little bit at a time. so she could have bread maybe once a week when you all have.
honestly for your own records it would help if you kept a food and behaviour journal. i know. its a pain in the 888. its really hard to do. but it might give you and your ped something to work from.
if in your gut you feel its a medical issue dont rest unless you find an answer.
you will be surprised how good breakfasts gluten free stuff makes. esp. just rice. we eat a lot of rice (i have reduced dd's gluten intake too and it makes a huge difference to her. she can eat a little but not too much. same with any milk product. gives her tummy aches and a lot of gas), brown rice pasta, rice noodles ...
as your dd gets older slowly start talking to her about what a good diet is and why we should eat one.
its slowly putting the decision in her hands has helped dd regulate her sugar. and yes like you i've had to bite my tongue when her decision goes against mine, however overall she makes the better choice.
i would also keep my eyes out for depression. carbs is a 'feel good' food that's why its such a comfort food for many.
one of the things we have been able to do is volunteer on a local farm (HUGE impact on how dd thinks about food) AND have dd help our neighbour with her garden. just the fact that she can harvest has inspired her to get more into food and enjoy the food. even squash cooked the right way dd will tolerate - just not too much. she will not touch my eggplant but she will gobble it up elsewhere.
I think you have a budding chef on your hands. One thing I notice is her acute senses and the holistic approach to the entire meal. She seems like she can't ignore them when it concerns food. (I can't filter out sound or touch easily, and feel overwhelmed at times if some new issue that pops up that demands my full attention.)
Kids need first to feel like they are normal. While you are working on the source of these issues, get that kid into some cooking classes where she can dive into the sensuality of preparing food. Help her feel that what she is experiencing isn't *all* wrong. Obsessing about food+talent+drive+market savvy=one successful chef.
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.