How can I help my fussy eater?

Kids can overcome their fussy eating habits. If you understand how food cravings and sensory issues work, you can stack the cards in your favour.

5 MIN READ

How to get my fussy eater to eat vegetables

One of the biggest reasons our kid’s health may decline, and their ability to learn and concentrate decline, is the quality of food that they consume. It’s vital that our children are comfortable eating a nutrient dense diet, filled with a wide range of nutritious foods. Fussy eating is a significant contributor to ill health.

Unfortunately, many kids today aren’t so comfortable eating a plate full of vegetables. Multiple things get in the way of them eating a quality diet. Add to that, our families are busier than ever, and we lack the time and patience required to reverse the poor eating trend.

Fussy eating an important topic, however, and we need to do whatever we can to improve their eating habits. As a parent that’s passionate about developing the next generation into the people they came here to be, I strongly believe that there’s not much more important than finding a way to improve their eating habits.

As a result of our children’s bodies not having the nutrients, they require to thrive, many regress from children that hit their targets, to children that are slowly slipping off the developmental curve. The opposite trend is possible, however. That is if their bodies get the nutrition they need.

Our bodies need nutrition, broadly speaking, for two main reasons.
  • Provide nutrients to our cells, so that they can perform the functions they need to perform.
  • Provide our gut bacteria with the nutrients they need to produce additional nutrients and molecules that we don’t get from food, out our normal cells can’t produce.
To be able to make the changes required to help our children, we need to remember these points. Remember these points, even when we are busy and stressed. Making decisions based on these points can take some of the stress away.

Notice that the two main reasons don’t mention calories directly. This is intentional. Calories fall into nutrients, but why should calories be more important than vitamins, minerals and antioxidants? To help transform the eating habits of your children, you may need to reduce your focus on calories and focus more on all nutrients.

What we eat affects our gut health, and our gut health affects our overall health in a big way. Our gut health has a significant impact on our brain. It’s not just that our gut’s produce so much of our neurotransmitters, our gut’s are the first barrier against unwanted chemical entering our bloodstream. If we develop increased gut permeability, substances can enter the bloodstream that should be there, and inflammation results.

To make things worse, gluten from many grains can cause increased gut permeability. Gluten often stimulates the production of zonulin, which signals the gut wall to increase its permeability. Unfortunately, zonulin also increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. The result of this can be proteins entering the brain that shouldn’t be there. Apart from the resulting inflammation, and other concerns, some proteins can trigger the food reward system in the brain. This means the person can be driven to eat more of these foods that have these proteins. These foods tend to be dairy (from the casein protein in dairy), and gluten from wheat. Since these foods can be adding to the issue of increased gut permeability, and inflammation, the person can get stuck in this pattern of eating, and have ill health.

The benefits of a Nutrient dense diet

Eating a nutrient-dense diet can:
  • Increase concentration.
  • Improve learning.
  • Improve Mood.
  • Reduce anxiety.
  • Reduce depression.
  • Improve fitness.
  • Reduce body fat.
  • Improves gut health (which has many positive flow-on effects).

How do I help my fussy eater?

Here are three broad categories to focus on when helping your fussy eater;
  1. Address the main reasons why the child is craving poor quality foods.
  2. Address the sensory issues around food.
  3. Take the stress away from eating.
Addressing these three reasons simultaneously which create a positive spiral. Address them all at once. For example, taking the stress away from eating will increase your chances of getting them to try new food. Removing inflammatory foods, and helping the gut heal will help reduce sensory issues. Increasing the nutrient dense food in their diet will help them feel better and function better.
Many factors may have contributing to your fussy eater. There are however some things you can try to improve their eating habits.

Five things to do now, to combat fussy eating

Here are five things to do now that will help your child overcome fussy eating;
  1. Sorry to say it, but see a health care professional about cutting bread, milk and cheese, and any other inflammation causing food that they may be consuming. Find foods that won’t cause inflammation, that they will eat. Try the elimination diet. It will help them to feel good after eating food, as a result of eliminating foods that cause inflammation.
  2. Reduce your stress about providing enough calories, by using a quality fat. Try coconut oil, or (medium chain triglyceride) oil such as Bulletproof Brain Octane (low taste, and can be taken straight off the spoon). Consider this - is a piece of broccoli, plus quality fat more nutritious than filling up with pasta? Which is better for you child, and which will reduce the fussiness over the long term.
  3. If sensory issues are a concern, start by just consistently having the challenging food on the plate. Progress to asking them the squish the food and then smelling the food. Progress to touching the food on the lips, then tasting. This can be over a period of months, but try it!
  4. Reduce the stress around eating. Having stress and anxiety lowers the drive to try new challenging foods. Don't punish for poor eating. Calmly encourage any small wins.
  5. Increase food reward. Our bodies tend to signal food reward for calorie dense foods. It can be sugary or fatty foods. I believe that quality fats are essential. For this reason, adding butter or MCT oil to vegetables may increase food reward. Adding lots of coconut oil to a curry or stew will help their drive to eat them. Also, try adding a quality salt such as pink Himalayan salt.

Gut bugs are a major influence to fussiness

I encourage you to keep what I'm about to say in mind. What I'm about to say applies to many people, with various goals, such as losing weight and improving health, but it's rarely talked about. It's the reason overweight people find it hard long term to stick to an improved diet, even though overweight people have the best willpower in the world.

Overweight people exercise their willpower regularly and will slip up and eat the wrong food, from time to time, when they can't resist cravings. They can slip up as a result of additional stresses, emotional challenges or simply willpower burning out.

The gut is the most significant signal to our brain to drive us to eat. There are at least ten times more microbes in our gut than human cells. If your gut ecosystem has developed sugar, pasta and chicken nugget loving bacteria, you have trillions of microbes screaming for more. This is a big signal to eat more bad food.

This can even lead to kid's not even wanting to try new food. Why would they? Their body is signally so strongly to eat the foods that the bad bugs want. If their bacteria a nd yeasts in their gut want processed carbs, that's the signal our kids are getting.

The good news is that if you spend a few days being strict on their eating, not caring so much if they eat less food, but focussing on more nutrients, it will get easier. Their gut ecosystem will improve, and the craving signals will reduce. Once the cravings diminish, it will be easier to widen their diet to more nutrient-dense foods.

Author

Warren Gouin
Warren Gouin

I'm a parent of a child that was diagnosed with autism. I'm an engineer and scientist with most of my career in the diagnostic pathology industry. I'm passionate about improve health and I want to help other parents of children with autism.

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