The Secret to Helping Kids Overcome Picky Eating August 12 2015, 0 Comments

Almost every family has one…the picky eater. They hate vegetables, they won’t touch fish; they only want to eat sweet, sugary foods or fattening, salty ones. Every meal becomes a struggle. And while the disruption in the home can be a pain, the long term effects of picky eating can actually be more dangerous than you might think. 

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, a recent study shows links between childhood picky eating and eventual anxiety and depression disorders. It seems like all the more reason to get your kid to eat his broccoli.

But every parent knows that strong-arming his or her child into eating is never going to actually solve the problem. If anything it makes the child more averse to the food in front of her. So what about trying to get to the root of the problem and working from there?

In her Paleo Magazine print article ("Raising Intuitive Eaters"), Alexa Schirm encourages parents to rethink the way they serve meals and to foster what she calls “intuitive eaters” – eaters who get the proper nutrition because they listen to their bodies’ needs.

Leaving your kids’ nutrition up to them, though, can be a bit of a scary idea, especially when all they want to eat is dessert. Obviously, too, meal times need some structure to encourage order in a child’s life. Letting your kid eat (or not eat) whenever he wants doesn’t seem to be solving your problem.

But what Schirm and The Wall Street Journal are suggesting is overcoming an anxiety about food intake – an anxiety that may not only belong to five year olds. It isn’t the anxiety of not getting enough to eat. It’s the anxiety that comes from something deeper – a disjunction between mind and body, between knowing what your body needs and listening to what your mind (or taste palate) thinks it wants. The current culture of eating – saturated with sugary, processed foods – encourages a mindset of indulging. And it creates the idea that indulging never coincides with being healthy. So why would a child ever want to eat healthy? It just doesn’t taste good.

So how do we solve the problem? How do we get kids to want what their bodies actually need?

The first step is to bring tasty back to healthy. And the only real way to do this is to get rid of distracting, processed foods.  

Store your kitchen with healthy foods and snacks. Substitute that bag of potato chips for organic sweet potato chips. Get rid of the sugary sodas and offer them all-natural juice. Gradually empty your house of the unhealthy products that have your kids addicted and fill it with wholesome, nutritious options. This makes the next step easier for you.

Let go and let the kids choose their own meals. This may sound a bit extreme, and there are certainly times to step in and direct, but allowing kids to have control over what they eat makes them feel responsible, which will begin to bridge the gap between mind and body. If your house is already full of healthy options (that they enjoy), you have little to worry about.

Trust them to know what their bodies need; that trust will help them feel confident in their choices. That confidence will carry over into other aspects of their lives and stay with them well past the picky years.

Finally, teach them about what they are eating and show them that you are participating in healthy choices. Create a “trying new” system in which you try something new together, and make it laid back and stress free for everyone.

And, as always, may love be the main ingredient at your table.™


Paleo Magazine, June/July 2015 Issue (