Being the parent of a picky eater can be challenging and frustrating, but more so downright concerning. You instinctively know something is not right when your child refuses the majority of healthful foods, but if you have asked your medical doctor chances are you have been told it is nothing to worry about and your child will most likely grow out of it. Picky eating IS a significant problem however, and an even bigger problem if your child suffers from any health concerns. Vibrant, healthy children have healthy appetites, so if your child’s appetite is not so vibrant, neither is his/her health.
Picky eaters usually eat only a very limited number of food items, which are usually high starch, high fat foods and refuse most if not all fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables. A child who is only eating certain foods is not getting enough nutrients to grow, heal or develop optimally. If your child is facing a health concern, these missing nutrients may be the missing link to why they are not healing completely and continue to suffer from health problems. Picky eaters frequently have inconsistent energy, sleep poorly, are tired, irritable and generally do not perform up to their physical and academic potential. Picky eating can be a sign of a variety of very real health issues, deficiencies, allergies and/or intolerance Many times if a child is suffering from intolerance or allergies, their entire digestive and respiratory tracts are coated in mucus, making most all foods smell and taste not so appealing. Children who are deficient in zinc can become almost repelled by many foods because they have lost their sense of smell and taste or have their senses altered. As with any health concern, picky eating is highly personalized. There is not a “one reason fits all” approach. It is important to work hand-in-hand with an experienced child nutritionist who can help you unravel all the pieces to your child’s picky eating tendencies and address deficiencies, allergies our other nutritionally related health concerns. Picky eating is a problem that can be addressed and resolved.
Here are a few steps and recommendations to help your picky eater expand his nutrition repertoire:
1. Remove irritating foods. Try a simple elimination diet for 4-6 weeks. Dairy is the most common food irritant. Sugar, gluten, wheat and soy based foods follow, as do food additives and chemicals such as preservatives, colorings, and taste enhancers. Many of these foods may be making your child uncomfortable without your knowledge. Removing common irritants is the should be the first step because children will be more willing to make changes once they are no longer feeling physically uncomfortable.
2. Add the “One Food-One Bite” Plan. For the next 2 weeks add one new food of which your child will take one bite each and every day. Help your child decide on which new food they would like to add. It is a good idea to start with foods that have a similar look, feel and taste to some of their current favorite foods. Let your child know all you would like them to do is to simply try one bite of the new food each day for the next 2 weeks. If at the end of the 2 weeks, your child still hates the food, they don’t have to eat it again. (These would be foods to try again in a year or so.)
3. Add one food at a time. Let your child be involved in the process so your child does not feel forced and is able to retain some sense of personal control.
4. Stay calm and balanced as your child tries new foods. Your child may freak out, gag, cry or otherwise create drama around the new food. It is your job as the parent to stay calm and provide the support your child needs to overcome this personal challenge for them. Becoming upset also only feeds into your child’s fear surrounding food and can sabotage the entire effort. Give them encouragement, loving support and let them know you know they can do it because it is important for their health and well being.
5. Involve your child in the shopping and cooking process. The bigger the variety of foods your child is surrounded by, the more open minded they will become. Have your child pick fruits and veggies they would like to try from the produce section at the grocery store and then have them help in making the food. Talk about the importance of food and the different health benefits of each of the foods. Leave big bowls filled with appealing fruits and veggies out in the open and in your fridge so your child always sees the foods. In the summer plant a garden, even if only a small or window container garden. Teach your children where food comes from and show them how to nurture and grow the plants they will then eat.
6. Be a good role model. Your child will learn 100 times more from what you do then from what you say. Try new foods, be open minded and excited about nutrition and nourishing not only yourself but your family. So your child you value quality, healthful food and support healthy foods by how and where you shop.
By implementing these recommendations, you can turn your picky eater into a healthy, vibrant child that enjoys all the foods nature has to offer. For personalized attention and advice please contact me directly through my web site at www.alignholistichealth.com
Candice Marley is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Holistic Nutritionist, Herbalist, Wellness Coach and owner of Align Holistic Health & Well Being who specializes in natural, holistic health care for families and children. She uses a combination of natural ways of eating, balanced lifestyle practices, medicinal herbs, holistic living strategies and wellness coaching to excel at creating vibrant, lasting health. Most people report feeling higher levels of energy and greater health within a week of their first appointment. You can download her free e-book The 5 Key Strategies for Creating Vibrant Health at www.alignholistichealth.com.