Confessions of a Culinary Nutritionist

Why I Dread my Kid’s Mealtime

I remember thinking every day (if not almost every moment) when I was pregnant that I hope that I have healthy kids with no major medical concerns. I think all parents do that. However, do we ever think about the smaller things that could perhaps go wrong, the very basic things?

On October 7 2008, my second son, Hunter James Dec (my married name) was born with a heart-shaped tongue (how cute!?). My husband was the first to notice it. We quickly learned that our sweet little boy was tongue-tied (www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/Ankyloglossia.cfm). Our pediatrician assured us that there were very few instances where there is a functional problem. Translated: we didn’t have to worry. Phew!

Hunter seemed fine when breast-fed but when bottle-fed (I had to stop breast feeding after four days due to personal medical issues), the formula poured out of either side of his mouth. And it took him over an hour to drink 2-3 ounces. I wanted to shoot myself! At his one-week check up his weight was down and upon observing Hunter feed, our pediatrician told us that his frenulum (that small band of tissue that connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth) needed to be clipped. Ok, so my kid had no major diseases, but he COULDN’T EAT!

So, at one week old, Hunter was clipped! Yes, feeding improved but not by much. Formula still poured out of his mouth and he took forever to drink the smallest amounts. As we soon found out, he had problems coordinating sucking and swallowing (apparently not connected to being tongue-tied?). Although he would eventually grow out of (as per our doctor), I couldn’t sit by and watch my kid struggle eating if there was something I could do to help. At my persistence, we were referred to a myofacial pathologist who taught my husband and I how to help Hunter eat. And, after almost four months Hunter was able coordinate his sucking and swallowing on his own. Yippee!!!

Onto solids. Whereby my older son started eating solids at four-months (and eating everything under the sun), Hunter wouldn’t even entertain the idea until 7 months. For the first month or so he would gag and throw up most of what he ate. I am the culinary nutritionist here, so I am supposed to know what to do, right? Well, all I felt like doing was crying and throwing in the towel (you can’t do that when you have kids!). Were there more problems or did he just hate my cooking? On top of everything, I also discovered that Hunter had geographic tongue, a benign oral condition that gives your tongue a map-like, or geographic, appearance. It can sometimes cause tongue discomfort and increased sensitivity to certain substances. Another complication (albeit small) to add to the mix.

I found myself beginning to dread mealtimes. In fact, sweating them. I put my ego aside and tried jarred food and he seemed to enjoy. Hmm? Jack loved everything I cooked! I kept telling myself, “All kids are different and Hunter has a history of oral issues.” Let go, and take a deep breath! Hunter was going to be my food challenge. Now it was about trying to better understand what Hunter could tolerate and actually enjoy. But, then there were blatant food sensitivities to complicate things even further—citrus and eggs made evident by the onset of eczema after both were introduced into his diet.

So, I may be better equipped than most to deal with a child with food challenges BUT none of that matters when it’s your own kid! I am like many out there—a mom of two who is trying to meet the demands of family (including a dog who is literally my shadow) and part-time work (as well as trying to take care of me). So any complication makes things a little more difficult. But hey, that is life! And I gotta deal with the cards I am dealt!!!

I am in the process of accepting that Hunter is different from Jack (it is hard not to compare the second to the first). And that perhaps the feeding difficulties Hunter had upon birth, the geographic tongue and food sensitivities all contribute to the challenges I meet on a daily basis when trying to figure out what to feed him. I have to keep telling myself, “It is OK!” My kid is surely not starving at almost one year old and 25 pounds. In the scheme of things, this is no big deal for sure!

Although I dread (and sweat) Hunter’s mealtimes, I will still offer some advice (that perhaps I too can take): It is OK to dread your kids’ mealtimes. Just make sure that you are doing all you can to give them the healthiest choices you can within the given restrictions. It is our job as parents to offer our kids a variety of healthy foods to choose from. If they don’t eat, they won’t starve!

And, thought you all may want to see what Hunter’s diet looks like (and this is after months of trial and error). But, please note that typically what he likes one day, he can push away the next (thus, this is an average):

Breakfast (options)

  • Millet toast* with cream cheese
  • Yogurt (1/2 YoBaby with 1/2 Greek plain)
  • Pancakes/waffles
  • Some fruit (though barely)
  • Water

Lunch/Dinner

  • Rice pasta (sometimes with mixed vegetables)
  • Bell and Evans (antibiotic and hormone-free) chicken nuggets (I make my own but no go!)
  • Grilled cheese/quesadilla
  • Some pureed soups I make
  • Earth’s Best jarred baby food (few options)
  • Packaged fresh frozen baby food (few options)

Snacks/other

  • Apples
  • Apple sauce
  • Cheese
  • Midel gluten-free animal cookies
  • Crackers
  • Good Health Veggie Sticks
  • Chips

Adverse to

  • Foods with too much texture
  • Foods with too much spice/flavor
  • Most vegetables (unless pureed or in foods and even then picky)
  • Most fruits (unless pureed or in foods and even then picky)
  • Fish, meat
  • Foods sensitive to (soy, citrus, eggs)

* Although Hunter does not seem to be sensitive to gluten, I keep his diet 90% gluten-free.

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  • 5mamacita5

    Thanks for sharing your first hand experience. I wonder if kids are naturally adverse to foods they are sensitive to even if they don't know it?