My 7-year-old daughter does not like to try new recipes. She eats only bread and butter. She is not ready to try pasta, rice or Mac and cheese. Among fruits and vegetables she eats only carrots and pomegranate. I feel totally frustrated because of this. If she does not get the food she stays hungry throughout the day. This worries me because she is an active participant in all the sports.
As a preliminary: IME this is just the age around which this is worst. Young children eagerly eat everything you suggest tastes good, older children learn to experiment. In between, they wreck your nerves.
:) I currently also have a seven year old and when it comes to being picky about food she's currently by far the worst of my children – despite the fact that just a few years ago she was much easier to deal with in that regard than some of her siblings. I remember similar phases with her older siblings.
Expect having to struggle with this for a few years, but if you keep demanding her to be open and try, it will eventually get better. (Remember the parental mantra: It's just a phase. It will pass.)
That aside, here's two questions I have:
- How does she eat bread if there's pasta on the table at dinner?
I never force my children to eat anything I cook. But I won't let them force me to provide more than one meal at the same time either.
- What happens on the second day?
You say she stays hungry throughout the day. I don't think a hungry day is anything to worry about with a healthy child. But on the second? The third?
You might want to look at this answer of mine where I have written down how I deal with such situations.
A different idea would be to just let her eat what she wants for a while. Often, children do not like to mix different food as we do and they can eat the same food for what seems an incredibly long time. But if they are healthy, at some point their body tells them it wants something else and will they switch. Often, that cures them of craving the one food so badly that they stuck to for so long. (Note that for most children, sweets are an exception to this "rule".)
Also, I found that children eat many things they wouldn't normally eat after they helped cooking them.
Another thing I found out (the hard way) is that almost any soup is acceptable once it's pureed. (This, I think, caters to the urge to not to mix food. Once it's a single mush, it counts as not mixed and is fine.)
If she's going to restrict herself to four foods, then choosing bread, butter, carrots, and pomegranate is not so bad. There are far worse diets she could be on.
Enough bread should give her plenty of energy to participate in whatever sports she's interested in. I wouldn't worry about that at all. If she was lacking in energy, you'd know it!
Carrots and pomegranates have quite a variety of vitamins in them, provided she's eating plenty of them. Carrots are good for vitamin A; pomegranates for vitamin K; and both contain a variety of B-group vitamins.
I'd worry slightly about trace minerals like iron and calcium. There will be some in the butter, but butter is not usually consumed in sufficient enough quantities to, say, provide a reasonable source of calcium.
Is she a fussy drinker too? Making sure she drinks milk could help with her calcium intake; orange juice has lots of vitamin C.
But only you know the quantities of these foods she's eating. Do some quick back-of-an-envelope calculations to make sure she's getting 100% (or near enough) of her recommended daily allowance of the key vitamins and minerals. (Bear in mind that the widely published recommendations usually apply to adults. Children usually need less - try to find guidelines applicable to her age group.)
If she's lacking any vitamins or minerals in particular you could consider giving her nutritional supplements as a temporary measure while you work on expanding her food repertoire. This need not be as a pill. There exist various "fortified" breads on the market.
Gradually try to introduce foods that are slightly unfamiliar but you can market to her in safe ways. Parsnips are basically just white carrots. And if she likes bread an butter, why not try a cheese sandwich made with a mild cheese?
Also, try using social pressure to persuade her to try new foods. Invite one of her school friends around for a play after school and to stay for dinner. Serve something like a ploughman's as a platter. There is bread and butter involved, and she would have the option of just sticking to that without feeling awkward, but she might be tempted to try some of the other things on the platter if she saw her friend enjoying them.
Even my step daughter is the same. She hates most of the food and eats only selected items.
What my husband does to make her eat everything put on her plate :-
Warning: this may sound cruel
My 14 yo step daughter is a fussy eater. She loves pasta and chicken and hates bread, roti and vegetables.
In the lunch, we give her roti, vegetables and chicken. She would eat the chicken but leave the roti and vegetables. Then my husband devised a method for making her have balanced diet.
He would tell me to make her favourite pasta and chicken for dinner and she would get to eat it, only if she has completely finished her lunch.
So, for first 5 days, while we ate her favourite dinner, she didn't get any and had to eat her leftover lunch during dinner. After one week, she started eating her complete lunch and stopped wasting food.
We have struggled with our children being fussy. However, one of the best things we have found is that getting our kids to trust us with food has been one key. The issue was getting them to try new things. This was a struggle, but trying new forms of existing food started to open their minds -- "It's just like pizza, but it's been folded over" (calzone), or "It's the same as the carrot you like, but it's been mushed up".
It's easy with our kids and sweet things, but once they try a new sweet thing we can then say to them about other things and say "last time you tried something new it was really nice, wasn't it, so give this a chance" so it's been about getting them to feel safe. The dual position is also that if they are willing to try new sweet things then they must try new savoury things or go hungry, which our kids don't like to do.
For us it's been about getting them to feel safe, and that they don't need to have control over food or kick up a fuss over it to get attention (we've been down that road!) and that they will be healthier for their sports they do. The biggest problems we've had in the past have been when we've had a battle about food, and then whichever one it is at that time becomes much more conservative as the battle can turn into a negative attention thing.
These are just my experiences, but I do feel for you. We haven't got the perfect family as far as food goes at all; we are all on a journey, after all and every child is different.