Being a mom to 3 young kids means being creative (and somewhat flexible) with meals. I expose my children to a variety of foods and encourage trying new things. I do not cater to their whims when they are opposed to the meals I make. With that said, I have one child, in particular, who is especially picky. Though she eventually eats what is on her plate, if it's something she doesn't want to eat, she will let you know about it. If I stick to her "staple" meals (the foods that she is guaranteed to eat...pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc), we will have no issue. But whenever I try something new, I'm prepared for the fits; "what is that?", "I don't like that", etc. I have to remind them when we go out to have good manners and be polite about the food, especially if we are eating at another person's house. Thankfully, every restaurant has a kid's meal. If there are hamburgers, chicken nuggets, or macaroni and cheese, I know I'm safe when we're eating out. Mealtime with kids can be exhausting, and even annoying!!
One of the symptoms of frontotemporal lobe dementia is an altered food preferences. This means that the person will lose their taste for things they once loved, or become overly obsessed with particular foods. Over the past couple years, my mom's food preferences have drastically been altered. Foods that she once loved have lost their place on her taste buds. In fact, like my children, there are only a few types foods that she prefers to eat.
She loves chicken and chicken nuggets. She really loves hamburgers and milkshakes. Her absolute favorite meal is tortellini with alfredo sauce and LOTS of garlic, frozen mixed vegetables on the side. My Aunt gave her a recipe for a broccoli cauliflower salad. She will make that salad every week and eat it for lunch. Every time she does, she tells us about how delicious it is and how grateful she is that Tia Tina gave her this delicious recipe. She likes tacos, pizza and burritos. She drinks a slim fast every morning for breakfast (stirring it exactly 100 times) and drinks Ensure frequently.
"It's so delicious" is her catch phrase on meals that she really enjoys. Sometimes she will even sing the preschool song "Yummy yummy yummy in my tummy tummy tummy". It doesn't matter if we are at home or out in public at a restaurant; when she's excited about her food, she will break out into song.
She has been known to offend people when acting picky about the food they've prepared for her when she's visited their home. She's even gone so far as to reject their food and go to Jack-in-the-Box instead! When I say she's offended people, this is before her diagnosis. We now have an understanding that this is beyond her control, and we don't take offense when she brings her own meals to our houses for family dinners. We anticipate beforehand that she may not always like/eat what we prepare.
When it comes to eating out, she has become more difficult than the kids. When given a choice of where to eat she will always choose from the same places: Miguel's Jr (a local fast-food Mexican place that we have been eating at our entire lives), Outback Steakhouse, or Jack-in-the-Box. When we are completely sick of those 3 places, or when those aren't an option, we know that if we find a place that has hamburgers and milkshakes, we will be okay. The picture you see was taken over the weekend at Miguels. When I call to invite her to go to Miguels, she becomes giddy like a schoolgirl.
"Oh YES! Thank you so much. I just love Miguels so much, thank you! Their food is so delicious too!" (She will usually then give me the run-down on her favorite burrito, and ask me if I've ever tried it, the "Miguel's Garbage Burrito").
Writing this doesn't capture the enthusiasm and excitement in her voice. It sounds like a kid who just opened a gift that they'd been anticipating for some time. I've learned to just smile at the childlike innocence and wonder in her voice.
This symptom of the disease can be very problematic for many dementia patients. Fortunately for us, mom loves her ensure, frozen vegetables and salads. But many people with dementia lose their desire for healthy foods and instead become obsessed with junk food. Oddly enough, my once chocolate-loving, queen-of-baking mother has lost her taste for sweets. She never eats sweets or desserts anymore.
For those who are reading this, and are struggling with keeping your loved-one healthy (whether it's a picky child or a person with an illness), I have a few suggestions.
1. Give them ensure to drink-it is packed with vitamins that will give them some nutrition.
2. Learn to cook with purees. I started doing this with my family. It's super easy to hide vegetable and fruit purees in simple meals that you make. I learned how to do when I purchased this cookbook. It was worth every penny!
3. You can crush vitamins (if they are resistant to taking them) and hide them in foods, shakes, etc. Or better yet, get liquid or powder vitamins and/or supplements to hide in their food.
4.There is a cookbook that was written specifically for people with problems chewing and swallowing (which eventually develops in dementia patients). There are some yummy and healthy recipes.
Dealing with picky eaters can be a real challenge. In all honesty, it is easier to coax my kids to eat what is put before them than it is with a dementia patient. But with the right tools and knowledge, the fight can become a little easier!