Did you know picky eaters are largely
made and not born? And do you know the difference between a picky eater and a picky eater at risk for a future eating disorder? Hi, I’m Dr. Colin Henderson at Marda Loop Family Chiropractic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’ve heard parents say, oh little Jimmy is a real picky eater but that’s just normal for kids. Science says this is wrong. Picky eating is largely made by parental
behaviours, not inborn in a child. Here are some ways parents, even healthy food parents, unknowingly contribute to making a picky eater. One, by feeding children their favourites too often, sometimes as a way of avoiding arguments over new food. Some parents by doing this, are training their kids to dislike anything that isn’t their favourite. When parents feed their children at least food, they are also training their children to accept moderately healthy food rather than actually healthy foods. For example, at least these chicken nuggets have protein in them. And then thirdly, bribing kids with a brownie to eat their vegetables trains kids to think that good foods, veggies, are so bad they need
bad food, brownies, to make them acceptable. So what is normal for kids when it comes to eating? Neophobia is when a child rejects or fears new foods. While picky eaters reject new and familiar foods. One theory about neophobia, is that it’s an innate mechanism that keeps little Jimmy from wandering away from his parents and eating something poisonous. It is a theory, and it’s difficult to scientifically validate, but it does make some sense. Picky eating however, is largely learned. This comes from two opposing beliefs in our society, the first is that children need healthy food to grow and develop and be healthy. That one’s true. While the second, getting children to eat healthy food is difficult. Is not true. Now a small amount of picky eating is inborn. Children have very simple palates. They spend the first part of their life drinking breast milk and eating various colours of mashed up stuff. When they begin eating solids they are exposed to a much wider range of flavors and textures. New flavours, even slightly spicy for example, can be too intense the first time a child encounters it. As well the transition from simple solids like bananas, cheese or cucumber, to more complex textures like oatmeal quinoa or ground turkey, takes time and multiple exposures. If you will be having a child soon or if your child hasn’t passed the simple solid stage, here are a few strategies to help not grow a picky eater. Introduce new foods slowly but with persistence. Children need multiple exposures to even decide whether they do or don’t like a food. After a while you’ll be able to distinguish between food being rejected because it’s new, which requires persistence, and food being rejected because your child just doesn’t like the taste or feel of it, which requires a long-term break before reintroducing. Number two, avoid processed foods as much as possible, for as long as possible and this includes bread. Processed food is highly engineered to tickle the pleasure center of the brain. Once a child experiences that, they will be drawn to food that hits the pleasure center again and again. Once processed food inevitably does get introduced, you’ll need to work harder to maintain boundaries around healthy food. Rest assured, you’re not an abusive parent for not feeding your child hotdogs and granola bars all the time. Kids eat, what they grow up eating. So you get to define that reality until they’re about four. Which leads to number three, after four when processed food has most likely been introduced and your child is going to birthday parties in school and various other places, where you can’t manage every bite going into their mouths, this all becomes a balancing act. With too much emphasis on healthy eating and only healthy eating, you can create a rebound effect where your child eats the junkiest food they can get their hands on whenever you’re not around. Or worse your child can develop an eating disorder. Both of these can have reverberating effects into the teens and even 20s. With too little emphasis on healthy eating however, you can be creating habits that will undermine their development sleep, learning and that even predispose them to future diseases. We as parents have to battle over a number of things with our kids. Healthy eating is worth the fight. If your child is already past four and you’d like to change their eating, for the better, click on the link at the end of the
video to read my recent article, “How To Get Your Children To Eat Healthy Food.” I list my top five strategies for getting your children to prefer healthy food. Finally as promised, my favourite number one action, for getting healthy food into my children, my secret weapon, is avocado chocolate cake. A simple search online will provide you with a wide range of recipe options including full out gluten, grain and dairy-free options. Now the general rule in our house is no sweets after 4 pm. My children play better and sleep better under this rule. There are occasional exceptions of course, so when I want to do dessert after dinner but I want it to be as healthy as possible this is my go-to option. Try it sometime, they’ll gleefully lick their plates clean. Finally remember that food and eating are not really about the food. They’re about the relationship with the people around us and ourselves, and we as parents need to do a better job of interacting with our kids when they’re eating. This makes a huge difference in the choices that they make now and in the future. I hope this video and my recent article, “How To Get Your Children To Eat Healthy Food,” helped set up your family for super healthy and battle free eating for years to come. I’m Dr. Colin Henderson at Marda Loop
Family Chiropractic, and we are dedicated to helping you and your family, Live, Life, Well.