Improving Children’s Picky Eating Habits

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What can you do if your child is a picky eater?

That’s a very good question and often a common topic between parents. The very first thing to do is be patient, very patient with picky eaters, don’t be too pushy or it will just scare them away from trying new foods even more and, second is…keep reading this revised article I wrote for Vibrance Magazine. I am sure you will find good tips!

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If you would like to switch your children from a SAD (Standard American Diet) to a vegan or raw-vegan diet or just improve your child’s eating habits in general, this can be quite challenging for everyone involved. Children often are reluctant to try new foods; the different appearance, textures, flavors and aromas of new fruits, vegetables can make many kids squeamish. That’s just human nature when children have been reared on unnatural diets.

I have met many parents who want to improve their children’s eating habits, but are concerned that if they remove their kids favorite unhealthful foods, the kids will go hungry.

Why not just let children eat whatever they want? Well, your child may appear to be healthy, but on the long run their body is not building  a strong immune system. Consider the fact that our body is made of what we eat, so if we eat junk food our cells are being made of junk food. Denatured and processed foods lack in essential minerals, vitamins and more. Only fresh, whole foods can provide all the nutrients our body needs to be strong and prevent the development of any health problem in the future.

How do I know my child  is a picky eater? Here are some common signs: the child is under-eating, picking at his or her food, losing weight, looks unhealthy, moody or over sensitive, eat mostly “white foods” (white bread/pasta/crackers/cheese), complains that the food smells or taste funny and/or prefers mostly unnatural foods, in general. If any of signs are happening, good planning is necessary to help your child make better choices.

 

Begin By Withdrawing These Two MAIN Culprits

There are some foods commonly eaten by unhealthful eaters which typically make the transition to a healthier diet difficult: One such type of foods is grains, especially when they contain gluten. Dr. William Davis explains why: “National Institutes of Health researchers showed that gluten-derived polypeptides can cross into the brain and bind to the brain’s opiate receptors”[1]. Grains, therefore, act as a super drug that can cause mild euphoria, which is what creates an addiction. To make matters worse, getting off wheat products can have drug-like withdrawal effects which perpetuate the addiction.

I have a six-year-old boy, Arthur, whom I have raised on a vegan diet. (You may have read about us in Vibrance Issue no. 9.) We eat mostly raw foods at home with some cooked rice, beans and veggies. In the past, I allowed foods containing gluten in our home, but not anymore. Here’s why: A few times in the past, we tried raw sprouted bread, which contains gluten, my son became quite addicted to it. That bread was all he asked for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the loaf was gone, it would take several days for him to stop asking for it. Eventually, I learned that we needed to break that addiction for good by eliminating foods containing gluten from his diet. Even today, he doesn’t ask for it.

Dairy is another type of addictive food which makes a transition to healthier eating difficult. When I went vegan about 7 years ago, the hardest foods to give up were dairy products, especially cheese. This is common for many other people too, and the culprit is a peptide called “casomorphin.” But why? According to the website, www.notmilk.com: “Even the most wholesome cow’s milk from organically raised bovines naturally contains a powerful opiate in the morphine family called casomorphin. Concentrated milk products (cheese, ice cream, and milk chocolate) contain concentrated quantities of these addictive substances.” The site also states, “Eighty percent of cow’s milk protein is casein. After eating milk chocolate, casein breaks down in the stomach to produce a peptide opiate, casomorphine.” In addition to being addictive, casomorphin has other negative effects. “Florida researcher, Robert Cade, M.D., has identified a milk protein, casomorphin, as the probable cause of attention deficit disorder (ADD).  Dr. Cade found Beta-casomorphin-7 in high concentrations in the blood and urine of patients with either schizophrenia or autism.”

These are just some of the reasons why children prefer wheat products and dairy over fresh fruits and veggies—they are addictive. So, slowly removing these products from your children’s diets should be a priority and after a while that they were removed and your child’s system has been free of them, it is more likely that they won’t ask for these foods.

 

Tips for Transitioning to Healthful Eating

• Begin by considering how long your child has being a picky eater with a preference for heavily-processed foods. If this has been a long-standing issue, it is likely that he or she is deficient in some minerals. One example is zinc, which affects the function of the taste buds. When there is a zinc deficiency, one is unable to enjoy the vibrant flavors of fresh vegan foods, and nothing may taste appealing. You can try offering zinc-rich foods, such as raw nuts and seeds.

• To add extra minerals, also try offering fresh-made juices and smoothies made from fruits and dark green leafy vegetables. Dates and raisins also are a rich sources of minerals and they contain some zinc. Be sure to include them in the smoothies and serve them as snacks.

• Keep healthful snacks in bowls where your children can easily see and reach them.  Some enticing suggestions include dried fruits, like dates and figs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, such as celery and carrot sticks and cucumber slices. This is a smarter approach than the standard candy dish and cookie jar!

• Offering new fresh, whole vegan foods every day or two is a good way to stimulate your children’s curiosity and tempt their taste buds.  Don’t get discouraged if they don’t try them right away. Try adding one new fruit to a breakfast dish; at lunch or dinner, introduce a new sweet potato, yam or squash. If your child resists, suggest that he or she at least smell the new food or try a little bit while assuring that he or she does not have to finish the food but at least try.

• Every child is unique. What may work for one may not work for another, so don’t be discouraged by some rejections. There are many ways to interest your child in new foods. However, if a child does not want to try something new, don’t insist. Use this time to talk about why a fruit or veggie is beneficial, explaining about their nutrients and how they will make him or her healthier. Children are great learners! Try rejected food items a few days later—don’t give up!

• Another good strategy is to take your children with you on shopping to health food stores and/or farmer’s markets. If you let them pick some out some veggies and fruits that interest them, they will be more likely to try them.

• When you are back in the kitchen, invite your children to participate in the meal preparation. Children love helping out and “playing” with food. Allow them to arrange salads, press the food processor, and juicer buttons, move serving bowls to the dining table, and so on. Enlist their help in creating wholesome meals with their favorite vegan foods. Let them know about your daily plans for three nourishing meals, while downplaying talk about in-between snacks. And of course, avoid buying unhealthful snack items.

 

Changes Will Happen!

By trying some of these transition ideas, I am sure that you will eventually have success in guiding your children to healthful eating and beautiful, vibrant health. Remember to always be flexible, patient and loving. In addition to my son’s success, I have witnessed wonderful transformations in others. For instance, my friend’s son used to be a very picky eater who wouldn’t touch fruits. But a while after she began packing only fruits in his lunchbox, he began to eat more fruits. Sometimes, it’s just of matter of providing options. One of my nieces used to only snack on cookies and milk. After my sister switched the household to a mainly vegan diet, my niece soon caught on, and now she enjoys eating all kinds of fruits and vegetables and usually asks for more!

If you are switching to a vegan diet, be really open to your children and tell them all the reasons why you are choosing a plant-based diet: That it is not only for your family’s health but also for the animals and our beautiful planet!

So, keep the faith in you children’s natural senses. With diligence, you will create your own success stories!

 

 

Questions? or Comments?

 

 

References:

[1]- Natural Health 365 – “How wheat is killing millions of people”

notmilk.com

webmd.com

 

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