Very picky eaters kids who are not provided with preferred foods. Do they eventually eat or starve?

Assuming you have a kid who is otherwise healthy, but refuses to eat anything other than a few select foods. Assume further that facilities do not exist to force feed them via IVs or similar. If their favored foods are not available do they eventually get famished enough to eat what is available or do they starve and die?

They’ll eventually eat something when they get hungry enough.

My understanding is that before Plumpy’ nut became popular, kids in famine-ravaged countries starved to death in higher proportions than they do now because the previous supplements were not as yummy. Starving kids have to be motivated to eat just like non-starving ones.

A picky kid might nibble at the edges of a broccoli spear or a spinach leaf eventually, under the right conditions. But would this kind of “nibbling” be enough to stave off starvation? I don’t know. I know I’d probably break down and eat the worms in my backyard if things got bad enough. But I’d probably eat the barest amount necessary. Certainly not enough to keep me in good shape. Because worms don’t register as food to me.

Some of them might eat, but I think some of them would starve. My brother is a picky eater, and from childhood, if he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t eat it, even if that meant missing a meal or two. I don’t think my mother ever let it get past that, because he was always very underweight, so she would make sure his preferred foods were available.

It always seemed to me like he didn’t get hungry in the same way. Like, his brain didn’t make the connection between hunger and eating so he only ate if he liked the food. If it was one of his favourite foods, he could eat a huge amount but if he didn’t like it, he just didn’t eat.

My daughter went through a phase as a baby where she didn’t eat because she was too busy crawling around. She didn’t grow between 6 and 9 months, because she wasn’t eating. She must have been hungry, but that didn’t seem to matter to her.

There’s a lot of time between a kid refusing a meal and them dying of starvation, and it’s hard to imagine a situation where a concerned parent wouldn’t find something for them to eat. But from seeing my brother and my daughter, I think that their brains are wired differently and hunger isn’t a major motivator for them so I think maybe they could actually starve.

When my mother and stepfather got married, my stepbrother moved in with us. He was a great kid but a notoriously picky eater who had always had a custom meal prepared just for him by his mother. We sat down the first night to have dinner and my mother pulled something like chicken enchiladas out of the oven. My stepbrother declared “Oh, I am sorry, I don’t eat Mexican food” (or just about anything else). My mother just smiled and replied, “Thant’s fine Andy, we don’t have Mexican food here every night. Maybe you will like what we are having tomorrow much better.” We just started eating and he looked horrified that no one was taking his indirect order.

He ended up eating dinner with the rest of us that night albeit reluctantly and has never been a picky eater since. I use the same line on my kids. They can skip a meal if they want because I know they aren’t going to starve to death but they aren’t getting any custom prepared meals just based on preference alone either.

You’ll wreck your garden eating all the worms out like that.

That’s awesome but doesn’t work on every kid. Mine are highly selective eaters, as was I as a child, so they come by it legitimately. We’ve been in situations where they weren’t being offered any of their preferred foods and knew none were going to be on offer in the near future.

Camping is one example we’ve lived through. They simply won’t eat. Hiked all day, played outside, hungry and tired? Still won’t eat, even if they know it’ll be hours until breakfast and breakfast isn’t gonna be their preferred foods anyway. And then they won’t eat breakfast either.

I wasn’t some kind of spoiled, indulged brat, and neither were they. As babies their first foods were tofu, sweet potatoes, beets, blueberries, apples, turkey and the like. As toddlers they ate what we ate, including chinese, mexican and italian. They snacked on kale chips and havarti cheese. Both of them at about 3 suddenly narrowed to a few selected foods, no matter how many times they were offered foods they liked mere days or weeks before. As a mom you can’t imagine how maddening this is - my kids who used to stuff beets and tofu into their faces by the fistful no longer eat a damn thing.

I think picky eaters are just wired differently.

That raises the question - which comes first, a fussy eating child or an accommodating parent? If the child knows that if he doesn’t eat this he’ll get something he likes better, why eat this? If the parent is afraid that the kid won’t eat, they might be too quick to accommodate.

I was one of those picky eaters. A lot of those foods I didn’t like when I was little gave me a ‘weird sore throat’ as I used to say. My mom used to tell me that it was just me being picky. Even up until recently, from time to time I would try to force myself to eat something that gave me a ‘weird sore throat’ on the assumption that maybe it really was just my way of not eating something I didn’t like and even if I liked the taste I still couldn’t get past the first bite or two of it.
I ended up reading about Oral Allergy Syndrome here and started wondering about that and for unrelated reasons I had to get some allergy testing done. Turns out I actually am allergic (mildly, but still enough to make my throat itch) to all those foods I used to complain about. I’m now getting allergy shots done, I’ll be thrilled if someday I can eat an apple or strawberry.
Having said all that. My daughter is a picky eater, she’ll skip meals if it’s something she doesn’t like. Whether or not she’ll actually starve to death, I’m not sure, but she’d probably end up making herself sick after a while of eating nothing but her one favorite food if we let it go on too long. I do have to pay attention to make sure she doesn’t, for example, have only yogurt for all three meals for a week straight or only Mac & Cheese for lunch and dinner for a month. There are some challenges of divorce that you don’t expect until you’re living it. You try to communicate with your ex, but you don’t think to talk to her about what the kid had for dinner at their house until she has some, er, GI issues…

Don’t forget the Grandma that doesn’t say No.

I’ve no research to back it up, but believe Monstro is on the right track: imagine what you would do if you were only offered foods you find repulsive. Worms was the example she gave. I gag on large hunks of wiggly beef fat. If chunks of beef fat were my only substantial source for calories, I’m sure I swallow a few hunks each day. If I was too young to cook and couldn’t prepare my worms and fat crispy and disguised, I suspect I’d stay alive but skinny.

I’d be interested in hearing about adults -as well as picky kids- who have faced a steady diet of repulsive food. Did you ever come to enjoy it?

I had issues as a kid for being a “picky eater” but it turned out I had food allergies. i wasn’t eating those foods because they were making me ill, and if every time you eat X you get sick pretty soon you will no longer like X.

Oh, sure, there are some things I just don’t like the taste or texture of, but if I’m hungry I will eat some, or I can eat a small portion for the sake of politeness, but that’s different.

When I hear a kid is a “picky eater” I always wonder if there’s an undiagnosed physical issue or not. Certainly not every time, but I’m sure it is a factor some of the time.

Fussy eating comes first. The parent may choose to be accommodating in the belief that the child “will grow out of it” but many don’t. There are plenty of fussy eating adults. It requires a fair bit of work for a parent to overcome a child’s fussy eating in a sensible way.

I hated tomatoes and spent my childhood avoiding them. Then I moved overseas to a place where during the winter, the only source of vitamin C was tomatoes. At first I ate them like medicine, swallowing them in small chunks that I put on the back on my throat and washed down with water. But I would often get the flavor of tomatoes in my mouth, and at first it made me shudder with repulsion. But after a while I got used to them and even chewed slices before swallowing them. Eventually I got so used to the flavor (winters were loooong) that I came to enjoy them. I started eating sliced tomatoes on bread for breakfast most mornings. In a few years I came to really enjoy them and now I love to eat fresh tomatoes.

Some will eventually eat. Some will not. And if you’re like me with a child who is on the bottom of the chart weight-wise (she is just barely above underweight for her age and height) who looks happy and healthy and all that jazz today but won’t next week if she opts to avoid food for the next seven days you *will *make yourself sick worrying about it.

Luckily I have a kid who will eat most anything if you give her enough time but not everyone gets dealt that card as a parent. And I can tell you from experience it is heart-wrenching to hear my daughter say, “Eat please, mama, I eat please!” if we are in the car or otherwise in a situation where I can’t feed her for 20 minutes or so. That instinct to feed your kids is insanely strong and I can’t imagine watching her not eat for a long period of time, even if that pain and hunger was self-inflicted. I think most parents of infants and toddlers will eventually give in at least a little bit rather than watch their child go without. As kids get older that can (and should) change, but never underestimate those parental instincts.

There’s a lot of truth to this. Some people also have very sensitive taste buds (the term is “supertasters”) and others have texture issues. That’s very common amongst people on the autistic spectrum.

It’s very uncommon for a child (or, for that matter, an adult) to refuse to eat to the point of starvation unless something really is wrong with them.

Someone on another website has talked about what a horrible cook her mother was, and when she got a blender ca. 1960, went a little nuts with it. Her “specialty” was blenderized bologna, heated and served as a sauce over Minute Rice.

Yeah, I don’t think I would eat that either. Another person on that same site said that “Home cooking just like Grandma used to make” would, for her, be the ultimate insult. As much as she loved her grandmother, she just.could.not.cook.

And in his autobiography, Ozzy Osbourne talked about what a terrible cook his own mother was too, and one day, she served boiled cabbage that tasted a little off. It wasn’t until they reached the bottom of the pot that the cause was discovered - it had been unintentionally cooked with a Brillo pad. :eek: Her cooking was normally so unappetizing, it wasn’t investigated further. :dubious:

Some children have eating disorders or food aversions so strong that they would indeed starve themselves if was no intervention. With one of these kids, “he’ll eat when he’s hungry” will work about as well as it would with an anorexic. Fortunately, true “resistant eaters” are rare, but it’s important to know that the condition is out there.

In those extreme cases, they often place a feeding tube. If that’s what it takes, that’s just what you do.

I have a friend who was an insanely picky eater. He said that when he was a kid, he’d have these epic battles of will where he wasn’t allowed to leave the table until he ate his meal and he’d stay up all night at the table. What a shock he had food issues as an adult.

Later, he met the woman he wanted to marry and she pretty much told him he needed to get over the food thing because she’s not eating the same three meals for the rest of her life, and he did.