Not too long ago I received an email from a worried mom that read: “My 4-year-old ate everything in sight until she was two, then she became unbelievably picky. I am really concerned that she will never eat anything healthy again. Any ideas would be helpful.” When she was 4 years old, I, too, was certain that my daughter would either starve to death or be incapable of learning a thing in school – all she would eat was mac and cheese and wieners! (Thank goodness I had given her the best of all nutritional foundations by breastfeeding her for nearly two years!) I’m happy to report that she did survive and is now a wonderfully healthy eater but I sympathize with all parents who are dealing with difficult, picky eaters.
Remember that a healthy diet is one based primarily on vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lean, organic poultry and meats and lots of fish. My favorite saying is “If it comes in any package other than the one that God put it in, don’t it eat!” Stay away from fast or convenience foods and highly processed, packaged foods. Eat as many colors of fruits and veggies as you can obtain – colors of foods are related to the vitamins and minerals they contain.
Involve your child in the selection and preparation of the food your family eats. Ideally, you and your family either garden at home or are involved in a community garden where families grow some of the food that you eat. Research shows that children who are involved in growing their own food are more inclined to eat it and to be more adventurous about tasting other foods.
Take children to some of the “pick and eat” farms that are frequently on the outskirts of large cities. Do some container gardening on your patio – even at this late date you can plant carrots and beets, kale and lettuce that will produce food before the first frost and even grow through the winter. Visit farmer’s markets, where children can see the colorful arrays of fresh produce and vegetables.
At the grocery store, help them to pick out healthy foods by playing a game: “How many colors can we take home with us?” or “How many shapes can we find?”
Involve your child in the selection of the menu and the preparation of their food. Give them carrots to peel, teach them to cut up veggies safely, let them break up lettuce and put all the ingredients you have cut up into the salad bowl. Play spelling games, “guess the vegetable’s name” or talk about vitamins while you are preparing your family’s meal. If they refuse to eat what they selected for the meal, don’t make a fuss, just let them be hungry. They will eat eventually, I promise!
Have only healthy, wholesome snacks on hand at home – sliced fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds. Take these on the road with you when you leave home so that you won’t be cajoled into stopping for a Happy Meal and a Coke.
The single most important thing to remove from a child’s diet is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – it is what sweetens most soda, breakfast cereals and packaged foods. Childhood obesity and Type II Diabetes are the result.
And most importantly, please be willing to model healthy eating habits for your child – both of you will benefit!
Annelle Norman, BSc LCH, has a holistic wellness and anti-aging clinic in Point Roberts. Visit her at www.annellenorman.com.