Parents…I totally get it. One day she loves blueberries, the next day, hard pass. Or one week the lunches you pack are being gobbled down, the next week nothing is touched. We rack our brains for the WHY in all of this. Is it a growth spirt? Did I make it different this time? Are her taste buds changing? Could puberty be changing the foods that she likes? While all of these can be possibilities as to why your picky eater is super picky right now, the good news is that sometimes it’s a really good thing for their health.
Our digestive system has a really big job to do. In fact, I would say that it is at the core of our body and at the core of our health. It is responsible for providing nutrients from our food to our entire body; it creates 70% of our immune system to keep us healthy; it creates 90% of our serotonin, our feel-good hormone, to keep us happy; and it helps stabilize and manage our weight. In turn, we need to make sure it is taken care of really well with the right foods in and the wrong foods out.
What does picky have to do with it? Well here’s the thing. Our digestive system is a creature of habit. When we put the same healthy, nutrient dense foods into our body over and over again, our digestive system becomes more efficient at digesting those foods. So, while it might be frustrating that your child only eats ten or fifteen foods right now, it can be helpful to create a strong digestive system (assuming these items are all healthy foods, not high sugar or nutrient deficient foods!).
If you are worried that your child isn’t getting enough vitamins and minerals from the foods they are enjoying and eating, there are really good supplement options available. Here are some of my favorites for kids.
My best tip for parents who are looking to make healthier choices for their kids, is to start with breakfast. Ensuring our kids eat a healthy breakfast that is not going to cause their insulin levels to spike and crash is key. Here is an infographic to help with the do’s and don’ts for breakfast time for kids:
The other great thing about having a child who seems to be craving the same foods over and over, is that it might give you an idea of what vitamins and minerals their body is needing right now. When working with my nutrition clients, I always start out by telling them that when your body is in a really healthy place, you will start to crave healthy foods. They all think I am off my rocker when I say that, but after three or four months of working together, they start to crave things like kale and beans. Why? Because we are now putting nutrient dense foods into our bodies and our bodies are loving it! So, it wants more! How great is that, right?! If your child can’t get enough blueberries or carrots or black beans, while it might feel frustrating that they aren’t currently ‘eating the rainbow’, let it slide. Again, this is only the case if the foods they are eating are healthy. If all they are eating is alphagetti or ice cream, this is not the same.
Is there anything you can do to help get a few more foods into the mix? YES! A few questions to ask yourself:
- Are the foods that they are eating the most of similar in texture? If so, what else might be a similar texture?
- Are the foods that they are eating the most of similar in flavour? For example, all sweet. If so, what might also have a similar flavour?
- Can I sneak in a vegetable or fruit with what they are enjoying? Here are a few of my favorite ways to sneak in some nutrients:
1. Peanut butter & jam on whole grain toast – for an extra health point, sprinkle hemp hearts in between the PB and J
2. Loving yogurt? Stick with plain yogurt and add some berries to the bowl
3. Who doesn’t love a shake right? Find flavours your children love and blend away. By adding plain yogurt and/or half an avocado, not only will you get great nutrients in, but it will also make it super creamy and delicious. Add your favorite frozen fruit and milk substitute such as almond or oat milk.
4. There are also healthy options when it comes to baking things like banana bread and zucchini chocolate cake.
My last piece of advice? Don’t beat yourself up. Just like one healthy meal won’t make you healthy, one unhealthy one won’t make you unhealthy…same goes for your kids. Some days they’ll eat all the fruit and veggies and beans and fish out there. And the next it might be pizza and crackers. They will live…and so will you.
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