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Picky eater and sugary food

My son is 3. He's been super picky over a year now. He was fine last year. Tried new foods and ate almost everything on his plate. Now he won't even open his mouth. Even if its his favorite food. He has lost so much weight over this year. Because of his improper diet, he's not growing much either. But he's super active
I try every possible way to get food in his mouth. We don't do tv while dinner, but for his sake I've let him watch his favorite cartoons just so he'll take a few bites. Being firm and stern doesn't help either. My husband is a health nut, so I cook all kinds of healthy foods with variety. Pasta, rice, vegetables, meat, beans/lentils, fish, fruits you name it. I even make my own whole wheat tortilla beard sometimes! This kid just doesn't eat. I've talked to his pedi several times but she told me to offer variety in foods and give him smoothies. He used to love banana shake (fresh banana and milk, that's it. No artificial flavored or anything). But he stopped drinking that too. I've tried other fruits as well. He takes a sip which is about less than an oz and then he's like "all done mommy". When I force him to finish it, he starts running away or just crying and screaming.
So today I added sugar in his milkshake. He finished it!!! Should I continue to add sugar in his diet ? He's super active anyways, how much worse it can get? I know too much sugar is not good for kids (or even adults for that matter), but he's getting some food in his stomach. Any other advice?


Asked by cookie269 at 12:15 AM on Aug. 4, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

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Answers (8)
  • I too think it's more than "just" being picky. It sounds like the dynamic is about control (not "wanting" to control you or to "have control," but feeling very defensive about having control over himself/his body.)
    I think feeling desperate to GET him to eat may contribute to his unwillingness TO eat--even to the point of working against himself. This (going against his own best interests) shows that he is preoccupied with control as a primary need.
    That is the dynamic I would work to correct. By adjusting myself. (I have done this before.) It is about responding to signals in our kids.
    It isn't about Why--blame or fault. It's noticing a dynamic & taking responsibility to help correct it. It's addressing the underlying cause (his belief that he must struggle/fight for control over himself.)
    You correct that by taking control & struggle out of the equation. And continuing to demonstrate that it's no longer an issue.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:24 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • It's odd to find a child who will be so picky he actually begins to starve himself. I'm wondering if he has a stomach condition. If he has reflux or esophageal stenosis and it hurts him to eat, that would slow him down. Has he complained of discomfort?

    Answer by Ballad at 1:00 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • No. Adding sugar to already sugary foods is not going to help him in the long run. If he is truly being so picky that he is loosing weight and not growing then you should be visiting a pediatric nutritionist for assistance.

    Answer by But_Mommie at 12:32 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • I am also wondering for a medical issue.

    No for sugar. Maybe honey or agave?

    Answer by staciandababy at 2:19 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • I wonder if the willingness to eat it with the addition of sugar is indicative of some kind of actual medical problem - I don't know what could be wrong that sugar would fix, but I would call his doctor and explain what happened and see what the doctor thinks.

    I don't think I would just start adding sugar to everything just because it made him eat, at least not without talking to a doctor to find out if there's a legitimate reason to do it. The fact that he's been so resistant to eating that he's losing weight and not growing makes it sound as though this is more than just being picky. It sounds like there is something behind it that's bigger than just not wanting to eat what you cook.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 7:58 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • The cartoons thing sounds like it may be part of a bargaining dynamic. I am all for being flexible & accommodating with kids, so I am not judgmental about what you do, but I don't think a dynamic of "needing" him to eat & putting the attention on eating bites if he has a particular activity (like it's what he has to do to have the cartoons while at the table, or like he has to eat if he wants to watch TV) is helpful. Particularly since you have a full-blown power struggle over eating already.
    You can have a conversation (or just come up with some ideas, yourself) about "what might help you enjoy eating" and then add those things. (Cartoons could be one, or certain foods, fun shapes, whatever.) Then, you do or provide those things. But you don't focus on whether or not he did what he "agreed" to do since he got what he wanted in the agreement. You leave WHETHER he ate & how MUCH he ate (of what you provided) up to him.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:33 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • Since he is so out of whack (probably to the point of ignoring hunger signals "on principle," and perhaps pretty disconnected from his own inner signals), you can assume that he will spend some time "proving" whether he truly doesn't "need" to struggle anymore. If you get upset or beseech him to eat more since you both agreed on XYZ, you will be confirming that he DOES need to struggle, that he is NOT in charge of his own body.
    That is why you take the initiative & make adjustments, and THEN continue to demonstrate that those changes are true. Give him room NOT to eat (though you want him to) and see this as the process of giving control back to the person who owns it. Eventually, control won't be an urgent need (because nobody is struggling with him) and his other needs can take priority in his awareness.
    THAT is what you're trying to correct things to: a child who is responsive to his own signals, no longer so sensitized.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:41 AM on Aug. 4, 2013

  • "He takes a sip which is about less than an oz and then he's like "all done mommy". When I force him to finish it, he starts running away or just crying and screaming."

    The second part (when I force him to finish it) is the part I'm talking about. It is coming from love & concern, and your fear for him, but I think it is part of the dynamic and your son is "acting out" something important.

    That's how kids signal what's wrong (they "act out" their feelings.)

    There is an author (a nutritionist, maybe?) who has a book & a detailed website about feeding issues. She advocates adopting the idea of the parent providing food (so you are deciding what the options are) and the child being in FULL control of whether he eats any of it and how much of it he eats. (Can't think of her name.) I think transitioning there is important to correct the dynamic you've got, but just know that it won't yield any kind of "instant" results.


    Answer by girlwithC at 9:55 AM on Aug. 4, 2013