picky eater

My 26 weeker is now 23 months old and is a very picky eater. He weighs 22 pounds. His preference, by far, is anything crunchy-granola bars, dry cereal, crackers, chips, popcorn etc. I'm wondering if this is a preemie issue, or just a toddler issue. Is there something more going on, or is this normal? I worry about him getting enough nutrients, calories and a balanced diet. Should I not give him these things and hope that he gets hungry enough to eat something else? Looking for any opinions or suggestions.

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Feeding issues are very common with premature kiddos. My daughter has been in feeding therapy forever and addresses many of her sensory issues with an OT. She will only eat hard, crunchy, highly seasoned foods and was totally bottle dependent until 32 months of age.

Has your son been evaluated by a speech therapist or OT? Have you been followed by early intervention? Does he have any aversions to things in his mouth or show hunger? What does his ped say? Sorry to ask a lot of questions but feeding issues are complex. My daughter does not gain weight - I mean NO WEIGHT and has stayed steady at 27 pounds for several months. This is only a 3 pound weight gain in 2 years. She won't eat purees or vegetables, can taste fats in all varieties and will not take meds. If your son is any way like this I would have him evaluated. It takes a long time for typical children to accept new foods and you have to expose, expose, expose them until they are accepting. For kids with feeding disorders it's not so simple and often backfires. What we take for granted as gross can be off the charts disgusting for them. We have to give my daughter what she will eat and then work hard to incorporate more of the not so desirable things into her diet.

You may want to try hummus on rice cakes or melba toast, large rod pretzels to increase protein. We also like peanut butter on crisps or whipped cream cheese (it's taken months for her to accept cream cheese) on triscuits. If your son will drink milk willingly you can always add carnation instant breakast. It's a great way to boost calories in kids willing to drink milk and costs much less than pediasure. We also sautee small breakfast porkchops in olive oil and garlic for our daughter and she eats these without issue (one of the few things). Another thing we like is to add cream cheese to her pasta sauce and give her the curly rotini noodles to dip in it. She loves this and makes for one high calorie meal. Hope that helps some! Good luck.

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Thanks SO much for your feedback. A lot of what you're saying is very similar-we've tried peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus to increase calories without success.
He has been involved with early intervention since we came home which included an OT. He was choking on liquids, which has resolved with speech therapy, and we do still see her. The approach has been for us to expose him to more things, but when he refuses the "right" things, we get so worried about the calories that we'd rather him eat plain pretzels than none at all. He doesn't have an aversion to things in his mouth, quite the opposite, but he doesn't really show hunger. He asks for "bar" (granola bar) and Cheetos frequently, but doesn't ever really act hungry. Friends and family have told me that I'm giving in to him, and that I need to refuse his preferred foods so that he'll eat the others.....very hard for me to do, and I don't know if it's the right thing? We will be seeing the speech therapist next week, I will talk to her more about these things as they don't seem to be getting any better.

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Thanks for posting. I am in a similar situation with my former 27 weeker who is now 27 months old. He has only touched 10kgs and hates purees and wet food such as fruits or veges or mash potatoes. He loves crunchy unhealthy food such as chicken nuggets skin, and chips and cookies. Can eat pasta but only perhaps 2 or 3 adult tablespoon which can take him ages to eat.

Completely understand about the dilemma of either giving in to junk food or risk starving him. Sometimes, his lunch can just consist of biscuits and i would feel so bad.

For the past week, i discovered that he didnt realise/mind that I blended banana into his pediasure formula! Tried with kiwi, but those black seeds gave the game away! Had to throw that bottle away.He didn't mind papaya in there too. Feels SO much better knowing that he has his portion of fruits, albeit in a liquid form.

In my country, I am not able to find an OT for what they just sweep aside as d picky eaters :(

Anyway, i am relieved to hear abt other preemies who only liked hard food.

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You can get a bit creative, even if he is so limited with what he will eat. Buy nutritional yeast flakes (Bragg's brand is what I get) and sprinkle it on buttered popcorn for extra nutrition.
Make sure that the crackers he eats are whole grain. Try Annie's brand whole wheat bunnies, for example. Will he eat toast? If he will eat toast with peanut butter, mix a bit of vegetable puree (baby food squash or sweet potatoes for example) with the peanut butter to increase the nutrition. You can do the same with grilled cheese if he will eat that. Spread each piece of bread with vegetable puree, add the cheese and grill it. Do the same with quesadillas if he'll eat those. Use whole wheat tortillas, and if you spray them with cooking spray before frying they get quite crispy. Also using tortillas, you can spray with cooking spray and bake them until they are crisp like chips.
Since he likes chips, try Revolution Foods brand Pop A Longs. You can order them at Amazon.com, but have to order a 12 pack. You can get them one bag at a time, to try them, at www.diapers.com. There are 3 flavors, "regular" cheese (which is my kids' favorite) and cinnamon for a sweet option. They are whole grain and not fried, so a healthier alternative to chips.
If he will eat crispy/fried foods (I know, not ideal), try making your own chicken or fish nuggets. Mix veggie puree with egg, dip the fish or chicken chunks in that (think small doses of nutrients from the egg and veggies here), and then coat in either seasoned whole grain bread crumbs, or crushed whole grain cereal, and then fry them until the meat is cooked through and the nuggets are crispy.
Does he like cheese? You can oil a non-stick frying pan, put in a cheese slice or shredded cheese, fry it until it is crispy on the bottom, flip it over and fry it until the other side is crispy. Put on paper towels to drain. Again, frying foods is not the ideal solution, but it may help to get some variety and nutrients into him until he decides to broaden his horizons!
If he will drink milk, you can add fruit purees and/or whey protein powder to give it a nutrient/calorie boost, and a flavor that most kids like - we usually use vanilla protein powder, but you can use strawberry, chocolate, whatever you want (just make sure it is high quality - no added sugars, no artificial flavors). I use Natural Factors protein powder, which I order at www.luckyvitamin.com.
Hopefully you can find some variety and nutritious food that he will eat!

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I had a few more thoughts while I was getting my kids ready for bed:-)
If he likes crunchy stuff, maybe try dried fruits or veggies? My kids like Sensible Foods brand "crunch dried" fruits and veggies. Also, check out www.weelicious.com for great recipes such as sweet potato biscuits, apple and pear chips, potato chips (using russet and/or sweet potatoes - use the same method to make zucchini chips), and carrot chips. All have that "crunch" factor while adding lots of nutrients.
I suggest investing in the Sneaky Chef cook books. I browsed through mine tonight to find some ideas, which I list below. I bought my books at www.half.com and the last one I bought was brand new and I paid 75 cents plus shipping! If you want to try any of these recipes right away let me know and I would be happy to post them for you!
Crispy ravioli (meat mixed with veggies wrapped in a wonton wrapper and fried until golden brown)
Crunchy Chicken Tenders (Chicken coated with eggs and "orange puree" which is pureed carrots and sweet potatoes, breaded with "better breading" which is whole wheat flour, almond meal, and wheat germ fried until crispy)
Grab N Go Crispy Granola Bars (oats, almonds, rice crispies, non fat dry milk among other ingredients)
Cheesy Animal Crackers (chickpea puree, cheese, flour, these are baked crackers)
Crunchy Corn Chips (corn tortillas, olive oil, a little salt baked til crispy)
Crunchy Elbows (cooked macaroni, "better breading" parmesan cheese - brown the macaroni in oil add breading and cheese cook until nicely toasted)
All of the above are in "The Sneaky Chef"
Lunch Box Biscuits (whole grain flour, yogurt "white puree" which is pureed cauliflower and zucchini, shredded cheese - baked into a bisuit)
Breakfast Cookies (flour, white bean puree, oats, other ingredients)
There are several breakfast cookie type recipes in the books. The above recipes are in "The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue".
Here are the links for some of the products I mentioned (and few more that I just thought of)
http://www.diapers.com/product/subcategory.aspx?categoryid=5&categoryname=F ormula+%26+Baby+Food&subcategoryid=112&subcategoryname=Snacks&queryfrom=sub category&filtername=Brand&filtervalue=Happy+Baby
http://www.diapers.com/product/searchresults.aspx?freetext=revolution%20foo ds&queryfrom=search
http://www.luckyvitamin.com/m-193-natural-factors?search=1&Query=refine%253 dy%2526Manufacturerid%253d193&view=&SearchTerm=whey+protein+powder
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keyword s=sensible+foods&x=0&y=0

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The craving for crunchy foods is very common. My daughter won't eat pizza (what 3 year old doesn't like Chicago thin crust?) but could eat granola all day long! Like PP said, you have to get creative with the "high feedback foods". We have also found that with the crunchy preference, my kids prefer sour and spicy foods - so you may be able to put a spicy black bean salsa on a cracker, or have him eat some pickels, etc., to broaden the palette.

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You are definately NOT alone in this. My daughter a former 27 weeker who is now almost 22 months (19 months corrected) is extremely picky and much like the rest of you will only eat certain foods. Chicken nuggest, french fries, homemade pizza, grilled cheese, cheese, hot dogs. She will eat Bananas and sometimes apples as for veggies FORGET IT, we have tried and tried and she won't eat them, its very discouraging and frustrating, we want our children to eat right and eat healthy but with her sensory issue to foods that are wet/slimey feeling it makes it very difficult and to me the most important thing is that she is eating. For breakfast she will eat multi-grain cheerios in milk, yogurt, organic fruit cup, toast with peanut butter (but I have to feed it cuz she doesn't like the feeling of the pb), pancakes, eggos and she will still eat the baby cereals the Milupa Biscuit and Fruit one. We also give her 1.0ml of multi-vitamin drops daily.

We have seen an OT ONCE and they said its not an oral issue (We KNOW that) it can be very stressful. We just keep hoping for a turn around!

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Lots of good suggestions above. I like the nacho/salsa idea. Be careful re: the popcorn. Someone posted an article of a toddler who died choking on it awhile back. They said it was very common. I believe the suggested age for it is 4.

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My uncle is a pediatrician, and said that popcorn is very difficult for adults to digest, but nearly impossible for toddlers. He recommends age 4 for kids - he has seen kids have very bad stomach issues with popcorn at a young age. We found out they serve it to the kids 2 and older at daycare for snacks every now and then, so we asked them to just give the girls a tiny bit.

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Ooh, I didn't know that about popcorn! I will probably not completely stop giving it to them, but will watch portions and frequency!

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I just find it frustrating when I ask about how to help my son eat more and everyone always says, "it's just a phase, he'll grow out of it." My son isn't growing out of it on his own.

I did find this website http://childrenandbabiesnoteating.com/ to be very helpful. It has so much information on kids who won't eat (from picky eaters to tube fed), testing, ideas and treatments. It's definitely worth checking out!

Best of luck.

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