Thursday, May 31, 2012

Food issues

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later... having a child with food issues. And now in the course of two months I have two. One is somewhat expected and the other is out of the blue.

For the past couple of weeks we have been learning how to cut dairy out of A.'s diet. She had been having mysterious stomach pain that we didn't quite know what was causing it and then we went to China. Where she didn't have mysterious stomach pain.  Ever. Except in Guangzhou, twice. When we ordered pizza. Then when we came home, and we had a little dairy-fest, the stomach pain intensified to such a degree that I took her to an emergency appointment with the doctor. Thanks to a blood test, we were able to see that there was no infection which caused me to start putting all the puzzle pieces together. And when those pieces were all assembled, we realized that A. just can't tolerate cow's milk any longer. She loves cheese and milk and sour cream and cottage cheese... Well, you get the picture.

It's been a couple of weeks of experimentation. She can have goat's milk and sheep's milk products which is wonderful. This means that goat cheese, feta, and romano are still possible. I have also found a sheep's milk cheese that melts somewhat (kasseri if you're interested). And my grocery store sells butter made with goat's milk which tastes exactly like regular butter. We're slowly figuring it out. It also means I dropped a bunch of money at Whole Foods one day buying up all their dairy substitute products. Let's just say I won't have to do that again. A.'s verdict is that she can't believe anyone would voluntarily go vegan.

This also means that I have been rethinking what I serve for dinner. Much to TM's dismay, we are usually heavy on the melted cheese around here. But, I can't serve something that A. loves and can't eat. That would be cruel. So, all cow's milk cheese dishes are off the table, so to speak. I do have to think a bit harder when I'm meal planning, but it's probably healthier for us in the long run.

So, while disappointing for A., it is a pretty straightforward thing to deal with. The more complicated food issue is H.'s. When I say 'food issue' it sort of sounds as though we're having trouble getting her to eat, or that she is very picky, or something along those lines. But that is not what I mean. She loves food. We have yet to serve her something that she hasn't loved. Even rich, creamy, gooey, cheesy, very American things that most Asian palates (at least in my experience) really can't stand. She loves it all and wants more the minute she is done.

I'm happy that she is eating. I'm happy she is pleased with her food choices. I know that having what seems to her to be unlimited food is a new and very exciting concept. But it's a problem. Like with her emotions, she is pretty out of touch with how she is feeling physically, which means I'm not entirely sure she knows when she is full or even if she knows what foods she likes or dislikes.  (The bizarre thing is the only food she has expressed displeasure with is white rice. Familiarity breeds contempt, I suppose.) While I want my family to be well fed, the rest of my children have learned to listen to their bodies and stop when they are full. They are also very active and have high metabolisms which means they can eat a lot of calories and remain the sticks most of them are. H. is a different story. Although we encourage her to move and be active, she is still learning to move and use her body as a typical child would. Her caloric need is not very high at the moment, and certainly does use the calories she would like to take in. We are working on moderating her caloric intake, but we have to do it in a way where she doesn't feel we are depriving her of food or that we are giving all of our other children more food than we give her. I'm sure it will all even out in the future as she becomes more physically active. We have seen her activity level increase even in the past two months. But I also don't want her to gain so much weight (and she's gained a bit already) that it becomes an issue in and of itself. I feel as though we're walking a tightrope. It's made a bit easier since we don't do snacks or soda as a family and these things just aren't in the house. It would be much more difficult if they were here and she saw other people eating them. I know she loves, loves, loves these things and it would be disastrous.

4 comments:

Molly said...

I know a little about food issues. My Jojo can put away food as well as some of her uncles (and that is saying a lot considering there was a yearly family eating competition for a while). Josie has great metabolism but I know at some point it will catch up with her, being downs and not being as naturally active as the boys are. My two main suggestions are to encourage her to drink lots of water. Sometimes Josie would really be thirsty and she called it hungry. We got her a few special waterbottles that she can keep filled up and sip on all day. Secondly she always has whatever I am cooking for the whole family but if is something really rich and she wants seconds she gets a choice of something like an apple or carrots and dip first and then if she finishes that and is still hungry she can have more of the regular dinner. The crunchier thing the better for her. She gets the eating feeling but has to work harder. Apples have lots of fiber and really seem to fill her up.

I would never ever want her to feel deprived so I always figure I will let her eat as much as she wants as long as I am monitering and making sure she having healthy options. My mom's advise for me was "what is the harm in letting her eat extra apples, celery sticks, etc? If she eats it up, then she really was hungry. If she whines about wanting something else sweet then you know she is bored or eating for other reasons." That has seemed to work really well for us. Good Luck!

Amy said...

My first son was this way and we implemented the carrot stick test much like what Molly did with her daughter. If our son had a normal amount of food and then wanted more he was told he could have carrot sticks if he was still hungry. Celery or cucumbers would have also been good choices since they are very low in calories but substantial in bulk. My son grew tired of carrot sticks but would eat them if he was still really hungry. I didn't want to outright deny my son food either which is why came up with this compromise. He still eats a lot but is a nice healthy weight.

Our daughter who came home from China at four would also eat anything but rice. She now likes rice again but it took a few years not having it be the staple of her diet.

Anonymous said...

I'm sensitive to dairy too. I drink the lactose-free milk from Organic Valley. When I want to eat dairy, I take Dairy-Zyme Caps by Country Life.It is a digestive aid. It really makes a difference. Lori

Kristin Mueller said...

I'm also sensitive to milk, as is my cousin, and it seems like we both have milk products that affect us more than others. For me it's fresh milk and cream, for her it's cheese & ice cream. I believe that hard cheeses have less lactose than soft cheeses (but don't make those nice gooey cheesy dishes). I've been told that yogurt with active cultures helps break down the lactose on its own. And I find that using the generic version of lactaid really helps--if you want A to try any meds. Soy milk for me, though!

I also notice an interesting side complication, that my mom said happened when I was little, too--I notice that I have patches of eczema when I have too much dairy. Maybe there's a correlation, or maybe it's imagination! :)

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