Picky Eaters: Developing Better Eating Habits for Better Health
Looking at a child’s appetite is important in determining growth, energy levels, and overall health. Many times parents don’t seek help for this, chalking it up to normal picky eating. I have news for you: There is no such thing as a normal picky eater.
My goal here is to make sure you don’t wait for a steep decline in growth of your child before getting some help. Once you start seeing a steep decline, the issue becomes much harder to correct.
When discussing a child’s appetite, you must consider the amount they eat, how often they eat, and what they eat. Some of the more pronounced issues with appetite come when looking at picky eaters and those who fail to thrive.
Many times, children will not complain about stomachaches or indigestion. Why? They may have felt like this their entire life, so a stomachache becomes normal. Because they don’t know what life is like without stomach pain or nausea, it doesn’t seem unusual to them.
Additionally, many children on the autism spectrum have very high pain thresholds. To give you an idea, I have seen children with broken bones and burst eardrums who never complained to their parents about pain. Just because a child does not complain does not mean there isn’t cause for concern.
I would like to break appetite down into a few categories that you may be facing to clarify what you will want to look for in your child.
Under Eating (Small Portions or Not Enough)
There are children who will eat very small portions or not eat often enough, and this may not seem like an issue until an adult sees the changes in their weight or overall appearance when undressed. I find many times that these children in particular have reflux, food allergies or sensitivities, chronic digestive inflammation, and/or dysbiosis (imbalance in the gut flora).
All under-eaters have trouble digesting foods, but the types of foods depend on what else is happening in their digestive system. A simple stool and urine test can determine what is happening inside their digestive tract, and blood work can determine deficiencies and imbalances in their system. If you put together a plan to heal the gut and feed the deficiencies, you will see an increase in appetite and therefore an increase in amount of food eaten. Children are very smart and intuitively know what bothers them from infancy, so if your child refuses certain foods, take that as a possible food allergy or sensitivity and investigate it further to determine if it is an important factor.
The picky eaters are perhaps my favorite cases because it’s so fun to see them go from eating five foods to eating unthinkable things that shock their parents. I have parents swear their children will never eat well, but with proper care, these kids blossom into curious little foodies.
As discussed previously, many of these children feel awful and hide their pain, and picky eaters have it the worst. Everyone remembers being told or telling their own child, “Don’t touch the stove—it’s hot!” But what happens? They touch it and learn that, not only were you right, but they don’t want to go anywhere near that stove again.
This is how introduction to foods goes with children too.
Children’s digestive problems begin in infancy most of the time, and as food is introduced, they begin to realize which foods harm or hurt them and which ones do not. So, being wise, they decide that if the mashed potatoes made them feel upset, then they should avoid them, much like the hot stove, and add mashed potatoes to the list of things they don’t like.
In many cases this seems okay. Not everyone can like everything, right?
That may be the case, but as children grow, parents might begin to notice the list of things their kid doesn’t like getting longer and longer until one day he’s six years old and will only eat five or ten things. The list of refused foods grows as they might base refusal on color, texture, or odor.
I can hear your concern from here: “My kid won’t eat if I don’t give her what she wants.” And you’re right.
Children might eat very poorly for the first few days when you try to change their habits. Do not try to deal with their dietary restrictions without medical supervision, because there is support available to help them digest their food, heal the gut, and take that stomachache away for good.
Parents will often fail if just dealing with the food aspect of the problem, so remember that the food is the symptom—NOT the problem.
Do you see the bad pattern here? Continually feeding children whatever they want usually entails a diet comprised of foods that digestively inflame them, such as gluten and casein. Not to mention that much of the food kids choose for themselves is processed.
My hope is that you can see the cascade of events that starts out very small and can roll into something life-threatening. The lesson to take from this is to get help regardless of how small you may think your child’s health problem is.
These things don’t fix themselves and only breed larger medical issues with time.
If you are concerned about chronic illness or developmental delays in your child and you think picky eating may be a sign of a deeper problem, I invite you to a FREE consultation so you can get start getting the answers and solutions you’ve been searching for to help uncover the root problem of your child’s struggles.
Think nutrition or diet may be the cause of your child’s challenges?
Are you considering or desiring alternatives to medication?
Have you tried other therapies with little or no success?
If you’ve had tests done that did not lead to a diagnosis; tried treatments, medications or supplements with little or no success; or are generally frustrated and want answers to your questions and solutions to the underlying cause of your child’s developmental delay, we will help you understand why they don’t always work and what can be done to help.