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MommyB1234

Toddler Refusing Food. Help!

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The Doctors, my husband (who has celiac's), and myself have been suspecting my son has had an allergy since he was 6 months old. At that time I had to switch him from milk formula to a soy formula. Then he started solids and everything seemed to work out. On his first birthday I was told to try milk, which was tolerated for a short time and then replaced with soy milk.

My son was on a gluten free diet for a year and then at 12 months we did a gluten challenge. He had no problems. 6 months later, his symptoms had returned. So again, we took him off gluten, he failed the second gluten challenge. This is the last time I am playing with his diet, because it is creating a lot of unrest.

He is a little over 2 and I am having a hard time getting him to eat anything but the following:

Peanut butter,

Applesauce,

EnviroKids Peanut Butter Bars,

gluten free cereal.

I am really concerned lately because he isn't gaining any weight. He has been hovering around 23 lbs for a little over a year (with a small downturn during his last gluten adventure). He refuses to eat meat, eggs, or vegetables. He looks at the food and get very upset. Shakes his head. He won't try anything new. Not even during family dinner time.

Lately he has been eating smaller portions than before. Where as he would eat a half cup of cereal, now he barely eats 1/4 cup. I make sure he eats at the table, the TV is off, and it's at regular times.

I've even had to take away soy milk because he was refusing to eat anything instead trying to obtain his calories from soy milk.

I am at a loss of what to do. Does anyone have any insights or advice? He's 100% gluten free and lactose free for good.

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Hello, and welcome.

Well, that is a bit of a dilemma. Perhaps it stems from having bad reactions to foods in the past and he is afraid that the foods will hurt him. Could you try putting the peanut butter on rice cakes? Have you tried him with soups and stews? What about baby food? Anything to get some better nutrition into him. Maybe giving him smaller portions of things (I know, I know, you are wanting him to eat more, but smaller servings more often? Try some yummy things like coconut ice cream, just to try to get him to expand his range. I don't know, not a mother, so hopefully others will have some good advice for you on how to deal with your picky eater. :)

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My son is very sensitive to texture. At age 3 he won't eat meat except the occasional hotdog and will only eat baby food veggies (not in any other form no matter how I cook it). So it's been a challenge getting him a healthy diet. Couple of things come to my mind ... feeding him smaller meals, more frequently. I actually wonder if feeding him in front of the TV sometimes will help to be a distraction (and let him have a more positive association with meal time) if he's getting upset at the sight of food. If it works, you can always wean him from the TV later. Have you tried pancakes or muffins? I doctor up Namaste muffin mix and keep some in the freezer and you can do a lot with pancakes. If he drinks soy milk, can you make smoothies where you sneak in some protein powder with the other ingredients? This may be one that you don't want to do but since he does applesauce, I wonder if he'd do baby food? Earth's Best makes an apple-squash that my son loves. I know going back to baby food is not ideal, but for my son it helps him get the nutrition that I wouldn't be able to get in him otherwise.

My other thought is if you think that it is becoming a health issue, you can probably get a prescription from your ped for an OT. There are occupational therapists out there that specialize in eating programs.

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Little ones go through phases where they eat more at times, less at times. Maybe he's at a point where he is not eating much. The best luck I had with mine (4 girls) is to put just a little bit out, and let them feed themselves. Peas, little bitty cooked carrots, apples...I heat the peanut butter in the microwave to make it soft and easy to dip. Let him help you fix his food, pick out his plate & cup, etc. Don't stress about it because he knows that food is a source of concern. I'm sure he's picked up on that since you've changed his diet around, and talked about it, etc. Children are so smart and observant and intuitive! Sit down and eat with him and make it pleasant. Make a pattern with the peas or apples or whatever, and make it fun. You may be doing all these things already - I'm not trying to imply otherwise. If he refuses, just peacefully clear the food and put it away. Then wait a while and try again. Meal times can quickly become a power struggle, and children learn that they can be in control. When he gets hungry enough, he will eat. It can be very frustrating when they do that, especially when their weight gain is a concern.

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My daughter ate a rather limited diet at that age. She was however a little overweight so I didn't worry about it.

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We have an extremely picky eater here as well. My daughter is 2 years old now and weighs 22 pounds (3%). We have been gluten-free for over 4 months now and I can see that as the gut is healing, she is opening up to more foods. My husband and I have also backed off a lot, because the more you try to push it, the more he will refuse it. There is a great book called "Child of Mine".

we had a couple of sessions with the feeding team at the children's hospital. they approved feeding in front of TV because it is more important to get them to eat.

Something that has really worked out great for us, is beef broth (home made). It is nutritious and really easy to digest. I think kids will reject fluid foods less likely.

our pediatrician has also prescribed something called Duocal, it is a powder (I think hydrolyzed corn) that you can add to anything to increase the calories. It does not change the taste. I have to say though, that my picky eater rejected the applesauce with Duocal.

another item that worked out really well for us, are the squeezable fruit mashups. probably because she could just suck on it, more like drinking with a straw.

i have also found that probiotics, one strain in particular had a very positive impact on her appetite. The strain is called Lactobacillus reuteri, the product is called BioGaia and there is another one called Primadophilus reuteri.

i hope this helps.

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Every time I get into gluten, I start refusing food. I will refuse all food or only eat very little for up to 4 days after being glutened. Your son may not be able to eat corn, which is very common among Celiacs. Dr. James Osborne (of the Gluten Free Society) believes that up to 45% of Celiacs react to gluten (found in corn and rice!), not just to the gliadin in wheat, barley and rye. Try a very, very basic diet with your child. Potatoes, fruit and vegetables and no processed foods. Corn is in citric acid, ascorbic acid, iodized salt and vitamins and supplements. See if he improves. Best of luck!

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Same problem here with my almost-3yo. It is so frustrating. I can't even get him to eat desserts a lot of the time. All he wants is fruit, potato chips, and hummus.

One thing that's helped is to add oil to anything and everything. If he eats a little soup, I hide some canola or coconut oil in it. Same with juice (yes, it's gross but he'll drink it). I've even put it in his oatmeal. I don't give him much but it adds up to 100-200 extra calories a day which is a pretty big deal around here.

I'm really hoping this improves after being gluten-free longer. We're just starting.

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Maybe it would help to let your son feel like he has some control over his diet. Maybe if you gave him some things to chose from. Ask him if he would like X or Y to eat. Or say have some veggie, which would you like, carrot sticks or creamed spinach for example. Maybe you can keep some finger foods in a little tray for him in the fridge so that he can help himself. Maybe a special area in the pantry for him too. Kids sometimes do well with dips. Sometimes they like it when you make faces with the food, like raisins for eyes, etc. I had picky eaters too. Little did I know why until the diagnoses came in.

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Ah, two year olds.

We had a baby foal years ago that would not take any sort of foal formula, and the mother mare was not producing much milk at all, and we were really in a jam. The vet told us to try anything that he would eat, because he was trying to eat hay already. (This mare was trying to eat solid foods at a very young age herself, which had really surprised other people who saw her as a young foal years earlier.) I spent the week literally on my hands and knees handfeeding and trying out different concoctions, until we came up with something that little Bubba would eagerly gum out of my hands. It was based on what the mare was eating during the time she was carrying the foal, early in that pregnancy, which was soaked sugar beet pulp mash and alfalfa. Once we got him eating, then we slowly added in the best foal milk replacer on the market (had to mail order it from the midwest) in powdered form, shelled sunflower seeds for the fat and protein, and corn oil for the fat. I presoaked this with water and alfalfa leaves and a licorice/anise flavored horse protein supplement so it was nice and soft and had moisture. Once he started anticipating meals, it was relatively easy to teach him to eat out of a dish 8 times a day, then 6, then 4, until he was "weaned" off the milk replacer.

All of these foods (except the milk replacer) were ones that we had fed the mare. He was programmed to like what she had been eating, before he was born. The vet had us add the corn oil for the fat content, oddly enough, many horses like corn oil.

He's an adult horse now, and he's not small, either.

Back to the humans. Try to think of what you may have been eating when you were early in the pregnancy, and go from there.

If he's really into peanut butter, for example, you could try making peanut butter noodles, where you take cooked rice noodles and mix it with a sauce made out of peanut butter.

If he doesn't like eggs, you can try just using egg whites. You can take rice or soy milk, and mix it with sweetener, corn starch, and egg whites and maybe even peanut butter again, and make pudding cups.

If he eats cereal, you can try to make your own trail mix or cereal snacks, incorporating the cereal into the mix. For example, cereal, peanuts, Enjoy life chocolate chips, Ocean Spray Craisins. Or cereal, peanuts, gluten free pretzel sticks. Cereal mixed with melted gluten free marshmallows and some peanut butter, for a sort of rice crispy type snack.

You can do soup, based on carrot juice and peanut butter. And before you think "uck!," I've done lots of curried, spicy type soups based on carrot, or pumpkin, or coconut milk, and used nuts or nut butters to thicken them, and they come out pretty well. Just don't spice them up at first.

If he likes applesauce, you can try making "sauce" out of other fruits, like mashing up peaches.

How about banana bread, made with a nut meal instead of a gluten free grain flour ? You can take egg whites, sweetener, a little oil, dash vinegar, baking soda, mashed banana and ground up nuts, add enough moisture to make a batter, and bake it in a cereal bowl in the microwave so it's a quick bread.

While most of these don't have vegetables, if you can get him to start eating outside of the 4 things on the list, that's a start.

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Has he had a scope? My oldest went through 14 months of therapy with 4 different therapists, all trying to motivate/teach him to eat. So much emotional energy and dr bills--only to find out that he had so much esophagal inflammation that he literally couldn't swallow non-liquids much of the time. He would refuse food for up to 5 days at a time, and his weight loss frightened me. When he did eat, it was the same limited foods that were his "comfort foods." He had a lot of anxiety about food because it had caused him so much pain, and it took a very long time for him to outgrow that anxiety even after the pain was resolved. When a hungry child persistently won't eat, I wonder if there is a medical reason. If it's not celiac, it could certainly be another digestive problem. My heart goes out to you--so often it's the unanswered questions and the things we don't know that are the hardest in all this!

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Thanks everyone for your insights.

I was just letting my son eat/drink whatever he wanted, as per doctor's orders. It's hard to demonstrate eating habits to someone when you have a different eating schedule. Breakfast is the only overlap. So instead of keeping all the high calorie carbohydrate filled junk in the house, I have donated what I could to the food bank and stocked up on nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies.

It's really making a difference. I even got him to try broccoli, apples, bananas, and chicken nuggets.

My dad gave him chocolate, which made him ill because it had dairy in it. But the Dr is hoping that he will grow out of his gluten intolerance as time goes on. Especially since he has been able to eat small quantities (such as modified food starch).

Thank you again, everyone, for your thoughts and advice.

H

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