“When he is hungry, he will eat.” This was the advice that a dear friend gave me because I was always so anxious about Angel’s eating habits. However, it wasn’t until he turned four that I finally understood what she meant.
As a newborn, Angel was very particular about breastfeeding. I remember the anxiety I felt because I was constantly wondering if he was getting enough nutrients.
I had Angel on a schedule when he was a toddler. I had a set time for him to have breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. Anyone who babysat Angel had to follow this schedule. Most of the time, Angel had his own agenda and I just had to deal with it. I kept a food log to track when he ate, how much he ate, and what time he should eat.
After giving Angel breast milk for seven months, I retired my Medela pump (long story) and switched him to formula, jar food, and pureed foods like sweet potato mashed in the food processor. Then, Angel developed gastric issues. He started throwing up after almost every bottle. So, we switched him from regular dairy formula to soy.
When he turned one, the throwing up continued and we put him on rice milk. One of my cousins suggested that we have Angel tested for gluten allergies. So, we took him to a gastroenterologist. After an evaluation, we were told that Angel would need an endoscopy to figure out what was triggering his inability to hold food down. He was only two. When his results came back, we were told that Angel did not have a gluten allergy. However, he does have a sensitivity to dairy milk. Post-surgery, Angel had to take an antacid called Zegerid for two months. Today, he can hold down his food and we are grateful that he had the surgery.
A few months after Angel’s surgery, a speech therapist came to our home to evaluate Angel for Early Intervention. She suggested we take him off jar food. She said he needed to experience different textures of food to strengthen the muscles in his mouth. I panicked. What would I feed him? Jar food was easy. Eventually, I got it together and slowly introduced new foods into Angel’s diet.
After Angel was diagnosed with autism, I came across an article about sensory processing disorder. The more I read, the more I started understanding some of Angel’s behavior and how possible sensory issues could be affecting his relationship with food.
These days, I am more at ease when Angel has eaten his rice or baked French fries with a protein and some vegetables. To me, this constitutes a full meal. Now, we are facing an issue with breakfast. One day, Angel decided that he doesn’t want Honey Nut Cheerios anymore. This was coming from a child who had us constantly running to BJs to make sure we had several boxes in stock.
So what is Angel eating these days? He loves fruits like apples, bananas, peaches, grapes, oranges, tangerines, and nectarines. We have to hide fruits from him because we started finding bite marks in them before they were washed and served. While some children need sweets as a reinforcer during therapy, Angel is just fine with fruits.
Here are some other yummies that Angel enjoys:
Broccoli (steamed in water and served plain with no butter or seasonings)
Greens (spinach and collards prepared with smoked turkey)
Chicken (especially the drumstick)
Pizza (especially the crust)
Baked French Fries
Bagels (served with the inside facing downward)
Vanilla Almond Milk (with 1 tsp of Nesquick chocolate mix)
Juice (Ratio varies but most times ½ water to ½ juice)
High Protein Boost (cheaper than Pediasure and handy when he just doesn’t want what we prepare)
Water (a work in progress)
Looking at this list, I have to say that Angel’s tastes have truly evolved. My anxiety has subsided and now I just want him to eat what he can to sustain his health.
Our next goal is getting Angel to sit still at meal time. Running around with a drumstick in his mouth is an accident waiting to happen. In the end, my friend was right. When he is hungry, he does eat.
Is your child particular about his or her meals? How do you handle it? I look forward to hearing from you.
Before you leave, please check out the following articles for more information on Autism and Diet and a study titled: Picky Eating by Autistic Kids Won’t Affect Growth.