When a picky eater is allergic to dairy

My daughter is now going on eight and has not changed her diet at all. I can count all the different foods that she'll eat on my fingers. To complicate matters, she's allergic to dairy. She loves pasta, rice, toast, cereal (with soy milk) and fruit. She hates meat and vegetables (except corn and french fries. She's very thin and looks a little anemic to me. How can I convince her to try something?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

I am going to quote something straight out of a book, ”How to Get Your Kid to Eat...But Not Too Much”, by Ellyn Satter. This book is invaluable when raising kids and having to feed them. From page 225:

Be realistic in your expectations. Children under age ten still use their fingers quite a lot in ways that adults don't, like pushing peas onto a spoon and picking up pieces of meat. They still have some trouble chewing and swallowing tough or dry or fibrous foods, like steak or chops. Part of the problem might be that they don’t have the jaw strength to chew up the meat. Another part is that up until about age eight their swallow is immature. They swallow with their cheeks, as if they were suckling from a straw, not using their tongue like you or I do. Children this age still have a limited number of foods they readily accept. Do not despair. The number of accepted foods will gradually increase as they get older. The numbers will increase -- that is, provided you don't make a big issue about it. Then they will not increase. In fact, they will probably decrease."

I interpret this to mean that your daughter is very normal, and that you should request that the grandparents not make an issue out of it so that your daughter can get on with being normal. Also, I think it is okay to give some more time to the "she'll grow out of it" concept.

The best thing you can do is to offer foods in a non-pressured way. The more she sees them on the table, and the rest of the family eating them, the more she is apt to try them. You can gently praise her when she does try new things, but don't make too big a deal out of it. Always give her the option of spitting something out once she has put it in her mouth.

My son has taken more than one trip to the kitchen sink to spit out something he thought to be absolutely repulsive! He too is, was, a picky eater. He is now 11 and is very slowly increasing the foods he eats. That's just the way some of them are. We need to respect that, and need to capitalize on those foods they do like, without making a big deal out of problem areas. Vegetable and fruits offer similar nutrients, which is why they are usually lumped together as a food group.

Since your daughter is eating lots of fruit, don't worry too much about her low vegetable intake. Since she can't eat dairy, offer her other calcium rich foods like calcium fortified orange juice. Be sure the soymilk she eats on her cereal is also calcium fortified. You can also purchase non-dairy cheese. Perhaps she would like some macaroni and cheese made from that? It would be a good source of protein for her. Also, to help with her milk allergy, contact the web site: http://www.foodallergy.org This is the location for The Food Allergy Network that specializes in children's food allergies and how to deal with them.

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