Friday, March 6, 2009

Chicken Fingers and Mac and Cheese

One of the biggest problems that we’re currently having with Meghan at home, and at school, is her need for consistency. I know, I know, kids with autism need to have a consistent schedule, however, Meghan also wants her food to be consistent, as well.

Lately, her only SIBs (self-injurious behaviors) have been around food selection. Meghan loves to cook, so she chooses to help with dinner preparation at her house. However, she wants to cook the same meal over and over again every single night—chicken fingers and mac and cheese. (Ohhh, I know--ideal comfort foods, how can you blame her!??)

But it just can’t be; it’s not healthy to eat the same food over and over again, especially chicken fingers and mac and cheese. I’m not sure why this is happening; she was never like this before—needing to eat the same foods over and over again. I’m guessing it could be one of two things:

When she comes home (every other weekend) she likes to make Chicken Cordon Bleu (chicken filled with ham and cheese) so we make it with her since she likes to cook. It’s funny too, because every time I make this with her I’m reminded of something Nick said a few years back, when we first started making Chicken Cordon Bleu. He said: “Uh, no Mom, it’s not Cordon Bleu, it’s Cordon Yellow” (we use yellow cheese) —like duh, what’s wrong with you, Mom!! It’s funny—sometimes Nick thinks he’s so right and the world around him is sooo wrong!!

So perhaps Meghan feels it’s like a little piece of home life at school? Could she be that nostalgic? Or it could be that chicken fingers (breaded strips of chicken) is the only thing she knows how to make (and likes to make) so she, and everyone else at her house, will just have to eat it Every. Single. Night. And for the rest of their life, too... Damn it! (Some restaurant she’s gonna own someday: “Meghan’s house of chicken fingers and mac and cheese—don’t you dare ask for anything else…” Come to think of it, it just might be a winner!!)

So I’m wondering if I should stop with the chicken when she comes home? But I’m not sure we can, since she looks forward to it so much!?


tiffrutherf said...

I say if its every other weekend, why not let her have that one...especially if it makes her proud!! Heck, I gave my kid chips for lunch the other day..Im not the one to talk!

Shea's Mom said...

I think you are probably right. There is a lot of comfort in that comfort food. Why break the rhythm? If this is something that she feels ok about, AND helps make it, I don't see a problem.

I would put that in the pick your battles category.

Interesting post.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Yeah, that's a tough one. If she has two weekend nights with you, maybe one of the nights could be designated as her specialty night, and then try something else the other night, but you might have to work up to it.

And the "cordon yellow" - ha! Definitely something Nigel would say!

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Thanks for you input and help, ladies!! I will try chicken the 1st night and anything else the next..and see what happens...

Kate said...

Hmm, well, personally, I don't see anything wrong with this.

Certain foods make you feel certain ways. If I don't have some kind of meat (usually in the form of chicken) then my stomach feels very weird and I can't focus or think on anything; I need that protein source, I don't feel full without it. I can't function without my chicken, lol.

I too have chicken for almost every single meal. I might have other things with it, but my stomach doesn't feel right without the chicken. I mean, if my dad is cooking and he makes steak or fish I'll have that; those are also good sources of protein; but I need a certain type of food for my stomach to feel okay and chicken is usually it.

I can certainly see the comfort aspect of it. If I'm away from home I definitely like to have my chicken, because the consistency is definitely comforting, and it is VERY difficult to deal with all of the other changes in routine *as well as* a change in what I'm eating - it's just too much. I need the chicken to make me feel physically well enough to deal with all the other changes.

So, personally, if it's something she looks forward to, why not? I mean, I don't think chicken is so unhealthy. It's not fatty, it's got protein, it's not junk food; it might be one thing if there was something really junky she wanted to have every single night, but chicken doesn't sound that bad to me.

I don't know much about Chicken Cordon Bleu, but, sounds ok to me.

Routine and repetition are enormously comforting to those of us on the spectrum, even the really high functioning end of it that I'm on. She probably gets an enormous sense of satisfaction from cooking that food, plus she likes the way it tastes, plus it's reasonably healthy.

Maybe you could ask her to have other food *with* the Cordon Bleu, but I don't see any sense in taking the main meal away.

Just my two cents.

PS I started making chicken since it was the only thing I knew how to cook too but found I liked the taste and way it made me feel so much, and thought it was reasonably healthy, that I never stopped. I have other food if available to me but that is usually it. I have fruit with it and sometimes a salad. I know I probably should diversify my diet a *little* but at the moment it doesn't seem to really be on the top of my list of issues, ie take priority over my other current problems.


Connor's Mom said...

I really like the idea of doing her comfort food one night and a different food the next. Hope you find something that works for Meghan!


Holly Nappi Collins said...

Thanks for your suggestions -- we did Cordon bleu last night and tonight will have pizza,pasta and no chicken! I agree that we need to at least try to mix it up so that she knows that it's how it should be. And if she doesnt like it, I have stashed a few frozen chicken strips in the back of the freezer!!

Thanks for your insight, Kate, it was very interesting to read!

kristi said...

Hi, bobbi from Mixed Blessings gave me the link to your blog.

My son eats a lot of the same foods. We have to give him fiber and vitamins. His diet is not healthy. He eats a lot of shrimp, chicken strips, and fish sticks. He likes cheese but not veggies or salad.

Angie said...

Have you tried any special diets? Both our family doc and myself were very skeptical since both of my boys with Autism had been Allergy tested a few different times...however the changes we made in our diets was literally LIFE CHANGING.
Prior to the diets, our boys sounded exactly like your Meghan (which is the name of our youngest, who just turned 3, her name is Megan)...they would self-restrict to the very foods her body was unable to digest..they are not 'allergic' to Gluten, Casein, or Soy, but their bodies do not make the enzyme that can DIGEST the proteins in Gluten, Casein, or Soy (just in the recent past doc's have finally added soy to the list of proteins these specific enzymes our kids cant produce, typical in kids with Autism, because chemically the protein in soy is almost identical to the protein casein, the protein in dairy products...therefore MANY families who tried a GFCF or other Special diet in the past, have usually replaced the GFCF items with SOY based formulas/foods/etc...without the knowledge that the proteins are so similar that their little bodies couldnt digest soy properly they were wouldnt have seen any real progress, or enough to make the special diet more of a benefit rather than just an inconvienience..ya know? I Am not here to judge/debate/argue/etc, I just couldnt live with myself by NOT posting to you...because Meghans story, her diet choices, her behaviors,fits of rage/etc almost MIRRORS my boys, PRE-special diet...I had a longer, more detailed comment, but my computer frooze and deleted it...and I dont have the energy to type it out please feel free to email me more to chat.I will share our personal journey if you want to chat via email, as well as I have links to studies/medical info if you would like it when it refers to the 'hows and whys' of the diet, because, to me, I didnt take it seriously until I understood WHAT is going on in our kids bodies, WHY arent they digesting these foods properly, WHY can they be so agressive, WHY are they eating the foods that are making them so sick? Heck, we didnt even realize just how sick our boys were until we were on the diet...looking back, argh, it makes me mad that I didnt hear about or research the special diets earlier...our boys are off of all of their meds, which were extensive for asthma, allergies and reflux...after 6 weeks of the diet changes, they were off all of these meds, and now, IF they get a cold/virus, it doesnt take double/triple time than 'other kids' and surely hasnt landed my oldest in the PICU with pneumonia that went from a clear runny nose to a collapsed lung in 12 hours (happened 3 times in one winter)! ...anyway, again, not here to debate, but seriously want to help, I know in my heart that changing to a special diet for your Meghan, going with what I have personally seen and experienced in my family with my 2 boys, and your posts about her diet, her Autism, her bad behaviors, previous physical rages/etc...and especially that she self restricts to chicken fingers and mac and cheese (same as our house, but at least we had fries and yogurt our kids were addicted too on our list as well)...I would have never known those things were not being digested because of a lack of enzymes their bodies produced..I would have never known that their bodies produced a morphine like response to these foods, getting them literally HIGH when they ate them...I would have never have heard my son speak for the first time (3 weeks into the diet), and hear him say that 'bad foods make his brain crazy'...
Hope to hear from you soon!

Holly said...

Thanks Angie,

Blogger doesnt follow email so I don't have yours. But I wanted to say that I have tried special diets with Meghan, however I have not tried soy only products. I will look into it. I know that a healthy diet does help our kids in so many ways. I also wanted to point out that she hasn't become this picky and behavioral since she reached her teen years, which is interesting.

Thanks for you comment and you can also find me at my newer site,