One of the biggest fears of parents I work with is changing any food their child eats. They have a lot of fears about it. Here are a few:
1- They won’t eat at all.
This is just simply not the case. Children WILL eat what is put in front of them. It might take many times to try a new food, or it might just be a success. Preparation is always key and comfort of your own with the food is essential. So no fear they will eat!
2- If the child doesn’t eat that food, what can they eat instead? There won’t be anything for them to eat.
This is not only a fear of the parents, but also many adults I work with. When they realize that all, or some, of the foods they eat daily and repetitivly might be harming them they immediately think – there is NO food for me to eat. What will I do?
The great news is there are SOOOO many foods beyond the main four that you/your child eats every day. It does take some eye-opening and work to learn about new food, but there is a HUGE WORLD of food out there beyond the four packaged items being consumed daily! My job is to help you find those items and which help YOUR child the most, and eliminate those that are problematic.
3- My child is already a picky eater, I don’t want to make it worse.
Here is what this post is all about – what I have learned that the “picky eaters” are children who reject foods that are harming them, and they will often choose some foods that may also be contributing to the problem. Let me explain…
Your young toddler/pre-schooler rejects foods they have been eating for awhile. They not only say no – they emphatically refuse. Perhaps they toss it on the floor, stomp on it, or spit it right back out. What does this mean?
What I have learned is that this is a rejection not based on taste (as they are very young children and do not know about food preparation) but rather based on how they KNOW it is going to make them feel. I recently had a distraught mom call me with fear her child was backsliding with more issues like he had before starting with me. But in the end it was no back slide, but a food (two actually) reintroduced and when combined together created a bad reaction for this child. Once I was able to look at the logs and see the patterns we removed the foods and tested them and it turns out it was just those two items. They just weren’t for him. You know what he did? When she thought back she realized that over the last two days of eating these same foods all day long he started being emphatic and throwing it and stomping on it (he is very young with limited communication skills). A clear sign this is not for him. His symptoms from mom were moody, angry, whiney, lethargic and more. As soon as these foods were removed he returned to his improved self.
If this still isn’t really sitting with you think of it like this – You LOVE this local Italian restaurant – you go there every Friday. The last three Fridays you got the same meal – the spaghetti and meatballs. Both Fridays, within two hours of your meal you had to run to the bathroom (multiple times). Would you go back after that second time (or maybe even after the first) and order it again? NO! You know why. Your child is very young, they DO NOT LIKE how they feel, but DO NOT have the ability to tell you other than an emphatic refusal. Even with older children who communicate, to find the right words to use to talk about digestive distress is difficult. My son is excellent now, but it took many years for him to communicate issues and even now I will have to ask sometimes if I suspect something doesn’t sit right (he is 9).
Your child will ONLY eat one food and seems to refuse all other things.
This food is probably a trigger for sensitivity. With adults, I will ask what food they CANNOT give up. This is usually a problematic food. With your child, if they are experiencing food issues, or EXTREME pickiness it is time to look at those foods they cannot give up and think about what happens when they eat them. You WILL have to take those away and move to a real food change. It’s inevitable.
What you can do about this
This is the number one way to locate patterns in behavior and bowel movements related to food intake. It is one piece of what I do, and often in your own child’s journal you may still struggle to find the connections. It does help to have someone like myself, an NTP or practitioner to help you look through the foods and find connections.
Ditch processed foods, and introduce real foods
The more you can dump those bags of chips, those cookies, those pouches of goo… the better! I cannot tell you the number of times I hear the same packaged snacks for kids being reported along with extreme digestive upset. I have yet to have many parents report to me that every time their kid has a piece of fruit they are extremely ill. Yes, of course there are children with fruit sensitivity, HOWEVER, the main foods I see in children’s diets are not foods at all, but processed items that need to go. They are filled with chemicals that cause digestive inflammation, and if eaten a lot and daily can lead to repeated infections and immune responses because of the unrecognized sensitivity.
Meal plan & shop with your plan
The only way to make the processed foods disappear, and real foods happen is to go with a meal plan every week, and a grocery list to the store. Stick to that plan, buy those Whole Foods and make those meals. This is the biggest adjustment for most families. Think prep day one day a week if you have a particularly busy and hectic life. This should be your down day, where you have time to focus on making everything warble. Or you create freezer meals you pop out and rewarm. You will find what works best after a few weeks. It is a process and it takes time.
So don’t ignore your picky eater tendencies. Think about what they are trying to tell you with their picky eating. Your answers lie with them!