Aug 17 2011

My Kids Won’t Eat That!


I often hear moms complaining that their kids won’t eat certain foods, and asking me how I get my kids to eat so many healthy things.

I shy away from answering this question because I know it’s a touchy subject, but I’m going to give my very unscientific opinion.

I believe that kids eat what they are used to. They eat what they are familiar with; what is comforting.

Those tastes begin from day 1, and recently on NPR’s Morning Addition, it was suggested that taste preferences begin even earlier than that.

Some researchers believe, as do I, that what a mother eats while she is pregnant greatly affects what the child will seek out.

As a child I loved oranges and all things orange flavored. I remember my mother telling me she ate massive amounts of oranges when she was pregnant with me.

When children start out at young ages eating nothing but high sugar, high fat, and salty foods, that is what they will crave. That trio of flavors is proven to be highly addictive, and profitable. If your kids develop a taste for those foods, it’s nearly impossible to break the habit.

Therefore, I suggest avoiding these foods for as long as possible, i.e. fast food, french fries, sugary cereals, candy, ketchup. If I started giving my kids those foods and then wanted to stop, I would do it cold turkey and deal with the complaints and misery. Just that simple, I would just stop and start giving them healthier foods.

Would they eat them? Probably not. But eventually they would because they’re not going to starve themselves. Truly they won’t. The first 3 days, as with any addiction are the hardest and it gets gradually easier.

I didn’t put syrup on my four year old’s waffles or pancakes until he was about 3. I noticed that in a very short amount of time he wanted more and more. He then wanted brown sugar in his oatmeal, again more and more. He started asking for candy and plain sugar. During that time I interviewed an allergist, Terry Robinson, for my cable show and decided to get us all tested for allergies. She said my older son had a significant build up of Candida. That is a yeast overgrowth that is fed by sugar and can lead to health problems and fatigue.

It was incredible how quickly his chemistry began craving the sugar, and how quickly his body developed issues. I put us all on a Candida diet for two weeks. Turns out we all tested positive for it to some degree, and most people do.  I didn’t give him sugar or anything in the sweetener family (i.e. honey, jam, cereal). for 2 weeks, continued giving him a probiotic and amped up the greens.

I told the kids that it was not good for their health and if they want to grown up with strong muscles, and be really fast to play sports, they can’t eat like that. I now allow them to have syrup on their waffles as a treat when we eat out on Sundays at one of our favorite healthy restaurants where I know it’s pure organic syrup, and I put a little organic raw honey in their oatmeal instead of brown sugar. I like to bake, so we usually have some sort of pie, cookies, or ice cream once a week.

They can have candy on special occasions (birthday parties, holidays) and I’m not a complete freak about it, but I do not keep “garbage” food and candy in the house. I have explained to them that he can eat candy when he goes to parties etc., but that we don’t eat it regularly because sugar is bad for his immunity and makes him more susceptible to colds, and that they are full of artificial colors and flavors, meaning they are not found in nature, not found in our garden, and therefor our bodies to not know how to process them and they make us sick not only now, but build up in our bodies over time and make us sick when we are older.

I also tell them that the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help protect us against the unhealthy things we come in contact with. I speak to them very directly and I don’t alter my language because of their age. They are 2 and 4 and they know exactly what I’m saying. We need to stop acting like our kids are not intelligent human beings, capable of understanding complex ideas. Kids care about their bodies. They want to be healthy. Give them the information and let them make informed choices as independent human beings.

Some people say “you know when they get older they’re just going to go crazy with all of that stuff”. Well, maybe, but there are a few things that bother me about that attitude.

First of all, it’s so defeatist, and kind of a cop-out in my opinion. Like, why even bother trying to teach them wrong from right if they’re just going to grow up and make their own decisions anyway? Or, why bother teaching them about safe sex when you don’t know if they’re actually going to practice it when you’re not there. Or why not just let them drink even if they’re under 21 because you know they will do it anyway?

It’s our job to give them the best foundation we can, and obviously they will then grow up and make their own decisions. Decisions that we may not agree with, but I want to know that I did everything I did to give them the best foundation. That includes their nutritional foundation.

I was not allowed sugar cereals (except for special treats), not pop/soda (except sometimes on “special” pizza nights), and I have never craved that stuff. The only time I craved it is when I ate some and then I wanted more. That’s because of sugar’s chemical response in our bodies, not because of how I was raised.

I have always been pretty in tune with my body so when that happened I recognized it and stopped eating it. Now I don’t even start. It makes me feel like crap, it’s horrible for our immunity, and ages us because it is so inflammatory.

I’m on a little bit of a rant right now, but the bottom line is, if you want your kids to eat well, you have to …..

(1) eat well during pregnancy – if you eat broccoli, so will they one day.

(2) keep them away from sugar, fats, and salts for as long as possible.

(3) be a good example – you can talk about nutrition until your blue in the face, but if you are eating garbage, so will they.

(4) grow a garden, even if it’s just a potted plant or herbs in your window to get them connected with their food, and they will be much more likely to eat something they grew themselves, that they are proud of.

(5) include them in cooking with you – boys and girls.

(6) educate them!

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