Newly Picky Eater: I have no idea if... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Newly Picky Eater

AlltheLegos profile image
6 Replies

I have no idea if this is an ADHD thing, or just a kid thing (or at least a "my kid" thing). My 9 year old son used to be a great eater. He would try everything and liked most things. I thought I had hit the kid jackpot. But for the last year or so now, he's become super picky. The most frustrating part is that he'll love something one day and then say he doesn't like it the next day! We literally sat down and went through every recipe in my book and marked which ones he likes and which he doesn't. Yet, I'll make those things and all of a sudden he doesn't like it anymore. Until now, we've usually allowed him to have something healthy if he didn't like what was made for dinner, but that was when he was typically an open-minded eater. Now I'm so tired of cooking dinner just to hear him say he doesn't like it and he'd rather have a banana. I feel like every night we're arguing over the difference between truly not liking something, and just feeling like having something different. We're thinking about taking away that option, but I can already hear the arguments and fits that will ensue about us "starving him." And then he'll decide, fine, I'll wait until bed time snack to eat something I prefer.

Any thoughts or feedback? I'm at such a loss and tired of the arguments. (Oh, and he's not on any meds, so that's not messing with his appetite.) Thanks in advance.

6 Replies
ELucas13 profile image
ELucas13

Your son could be my son! Exact thing we are going through now. I think it has more to do with the newest medication we have him on, but golly it's frustrating.

We tried doing a food chart and he could get a reward for doing a good job eating if he earned enough check marks, but it was too much for him and then I'm thinking that it wouldn't foster a decent relationship with food in the long run so we stopped it.

ADHD kids can have some food sensory issues, which I think is why our formerly excellent eater has also become annoyingly picky. We try to ask him what it is he doesn't like about the food: taste, texture, temperature, whatever! Usually the response is, "I don't know, I don't like it anymore." And then he doesn't even want to eat it again ever.

We had taken my daughter to an occupational therapist when she was having issues eating foods not within her narrow selection. One of the things they advised was to make dinner and present this dinner to your child and have two other options that your child can eat and that they can eat as much as they want of that. So, let's say you make spaghetti for dinner and your child won't eat that. The back-up options that would sit on the table with the spaghetti are bananas and yogurt. Your child could eat as much as that as they want. Hopefully, the continual exposure will eventually have your child try the food or eat a few bites. Even just leaving the food on the plate in front of them, exposing them to this, would eventually help. So goes that theory, at least.

Because we worry about weight loss and lack of growth, we find foods we know he will eat and let him go to town. We give him a vitamin and do our best to ensure he gets the nutrition he needs.

Arguments will likely make you both crazy, so compromise to sit at the table to eat together with the other food present may be a good first step. That's where we are! So far, not awful, just managing expectations for both of us and trying not to be a short order cook for an ornery customer!

Pattimum profile image
Pattimum

As you mentioned your child hasn’t been like that in the past and also your child is not on any medication. This might mean that a child maybe recently had a tummy bug and still hasn’t fully recovered? Some stomach bugs can even cause temporarily food intolerance such as lactose etc (which will go away after a few weeks or months) Also have you checked your child for iron deficiency? One of the symptoms of iron deficiency is loss of appetite. Also statistically children with ADHD have low iron more often than other children. This has happened to my son in the past and I really had to be very insistent as the doctor didn’t want to do bloods. He was saying,’ oh, he’s just ‘sensory’, keep exposing him to new foods.’ And I was thinking to myself, how is this ‘sensory’ when my kid loves eating out in restaurants, loves trying new food, eats sushi, loves Chinese and Japanese food as long as it’s not ‘spicy’, he eats clams, mussels, smoked salmon, lamb chops, loves calamari, eats all fruit and vegetables - yet he has a very low appetite, often to the point of feeling nausea and just eats very small amount and very slowly (lazy chewing but also excessively chewing, as if food is growing in his mouth). Eventually doctor agreed to do a full blood count and I looked and saw that ferritin was low (in red). Doctor still was like, ‘oh that’s not yet anaemia so we wouldn’t do anything about it, just keep giving him lots of spinach (!!!! Yes, that’s how little the general practitioner knows about iron rich foods…). He also suggested a dietician. Anyway, I just ignored the doctor and started giving my son Spatone (iron water) and after 3 months his iron went up and his appetite improved as well (coincidence?). I know that neurodiverse kids have ‘sensory’ and ‘control’ and other issues with food however it’s annoying when doctors don’t want to check for ‘physical health’ reasons as well.

My son is still not a great eater but at least I know his iron level is fine now.

I have a strategy with him- if he’s fussing and wasting my time during the meal, I just say ‘Fine, you have a choice- you eat this or you drink a bottle of Ensure juice or Paediasure.’ Sometimes he chooses a drink but at least I know he had enough calories and we can get on with our lives rather than sitting with him at the table and having a power game where I want to make him eat his meal and he is refusing. This strategy is particularly useful if we have a time sensitive activity lined up and we can’t be late. Also Ensure is not a desirable choice (he’s a bit embarrassed that he has these drinks and he doesn’t want his friends to know) so I know I am not ‘rewarding him’ for his choice of not eating a normal meal. If I was giving him just bananas and yogurts instead then I worry it would be too easy choice for him.

Trying1978 profile image
Trying1978

We had the issue pre-meds & it intensified after starting them this past winter.

Personally, I think there's sometimes no solution that works as an explanation: "This is happening bc... So I need to do..." I just go w what works for the moment. You love apple sauce right now? Your diet will be half apple sauce for a few months! This is mainly bc our ped told us it was all a "calories" game at this age & that we didn't need to worry so much abt the food type breakdowns. He's 6.5 btw. I

think we as a culture in general put a lot of blame & pressure on diets as curative so we ended up then blaming ourselves a lot. My wife's father is a retired ped & he ALWAYS stresses "temperament" as most determinative: some kiddos eat all the time, some are actually calm (not any of mine, lol)... You can't control everything so sometimes you gotta seize on one thing that works.

I don't mean any of that to go against anyone else's advice or even to claim it's true for anyone but us. Mainly just wanted to say man, I hear you & I am there (even before the meds!). 😁

eva2022 profile image
eva2022

Our son does this, too. It is frustrating to cook and then have a child tell you that they don’t like it! We take the easy route and just say-you don’t have to eat it. You can choose to have a piece of fruit and a glass of milk instead.

hudzyb profile image
hudzyb

My seven-year-old (60lbs) is picky, but once his meds wear off, closer to bedtime, he’s usually willing to eat his plate of dinner that’s been left on the table. In order to get dessert, that is. He is highly motivated by dessert. By the way, his pediatrician also emphasizes caloric intake at this age but preferably in the form of fats and oils. He can get agitated and argumentative when he sees what I have prepared for him. So I give him a choice to not eat it at all. He usually goes to his room, cools off for about five minutes, then sits back down at the table silently and begins to eat. Hope that helps.

WYMom profile image
WYMom in reply to hudzyb

I do the same thing. My kids may not eat every part of dinner. For instance I make this sausage, squash, potato dish they love....so long as I don't force the squash on them. So I'm flexible about what they're eating but I don't have other options and they will get nothing else if they don't eat. I have 3 kids from 2 to 11 and it works for us.

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