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"Picky Eater" Syndrome
‘Picky Eater’ is a label coined to describe the phenomenon that someone has discerning taste preferences different from their parents or others. These discerning taste preferences are dictated by their blood and body type. It is important for parents to accept and model the ‘real’ purpose of food. Quite simply, food serves two purposes-growth/repair of worn tissue and fuel for the body to run on. The number of calories needed per day is based on body structure, height and level of activity.
If a child is fed on demand from birth and then offered solid foods on demand consistent for their blood and body type, the child will in time eat all the foods that are nutritionally healthy, if they are offered food consistent with their types and in a ‘take-it or leave-it’ style.
The ‘picky eater’ struggle comes to the fore because children begin to assert their independence simultaneously with the onset of solid food consumption. If the parent uses bribery, enticement, cajoling, and begging, the child quickly learns, NOT eating is a way to maintain control of their life-albeit-a tiny slice. But at 6 months old, what seems like a tiny slice to an adult is huge to a child. As you will notice babies seldom are bribed, enticed, cajoled or begged to drink milk-it is ‘offered’ to them. Yet, when the child is introduced to solid food, parents seem compelled to cajole or beg the child to eat ‘at least one bite.’ Given the time to learn the new tastes and textures, children will eat the food their blood and body type requires or prefers, if it is offered in a ‘take-it or leave-it’ style.
The ‘at least one bite’ rule sets up a power struggle between parent/caretaker and child. More often then not, the ‘at least one bite’ includes a bribe. “You can have dessert (something sweet) if you eat one bite.” The number of tries, threats, bribery, and begging all set up a power struggle between parent and child. In the long-term, both parent and child, lose. The parent loses because the child learns they are in control and can extract a price or leverage something by eating. The child loses because they learn manipulative behavior and controlling vs the parent(s) being in charge of managing a healthy food plan and healthy interactions. In the long-term the child also loses because it sets up a life-long internal battle with food.
Disguising food also sets up a power struggle in a different way–the child usually suspects the deception at the out-set and will more often than not refuse to eat it. When the child asks, “Is this ___?,” the parent is faced with a dilemma. “Do I tell the truth or lie for a greater good?”-enticing my child to eat what I think they need to eat. A child will sooner than later discover what has been done. This form of dishonesty with the child is a betrayal of trust and the parent(s) loses integrity with their child. The question is: Is disguising the food in a foolhardy attempt to cajole your child to eat what they don’t want to eat worth compromising your integrity and betraying their trust?
Humans are born with the most important effective food management tool-a hypothalamus, which helps to regulate the amount of food required for maintaining optimum health and weight. The main function of the hypothalamus is homeostasis, or maintaining the body’s status quo. Factors such as blood pressure, body temperature, fluid and electrolyte balance, and body weight are held to a precise value called the set-point. Although this set-point can migrate over time, from day to day it is remarkably fixed.
You know it is difficult to make children eat when they are not hungry-and it is almost impossible to deal with them when they are hungry. Toddlers in perpetual motion sometimes eat only small amounts of food, but they eat frequently enough to meet their needs, because at this juncture their natural food management tool has not been overridden or indoctrinated with poor nutrition habits and poor eating practices. You have probably noticed that during periods of rapid growth, particularly the teen years, children may be hungry all the time. When their caloric requirements decrease, they lose interest in food-thus they avoid eating more than their body needs.
Each blood type is better fueled by certain foods. And each body type has a unique like or dislike to certain textures and tastes. Deepak Chopra, MD author of “Perfect Health: Complete Mind/Body Guide” identifies three body types: The thin, restless Vata; enterprising, efficient Pitta; tranquil, steady Kapha; or any combination of these three. These body types become the basis for a specific Ayurvedic food plan for optimum health, stress reduction, neuromuscular integration, exercise and daily routines. The result is a total plan, tailor-made for each individual, to reestablish the body’s essential balance with nature; to strengthen the mind body connection; and to use the power of quantum healing to transcend the ordinary limitations of disease and aging-in short, for achieving Perfect health.
For example Vata body types prefer: Warm food (not hot), moderately heavy textures, added butter or fat, Salt, sour, and sweet tastes; soothing and satisfying foods. All soothing foods are good for settling disturbed Vata. Use foods such as: Warm drinks, cream, butter, warm soups, stews, hot cereals, fresh baked bread. Since vata is a cold dry dosha, warm, nourishing foods such as these are good for stabilizing vata types. On the other hand cold foods such as cold salads, iced drinks, raw vegetables and greens are not very good for persons with vata imbalance. Use hot cereals such as: Cream of wheat or rice-provided there is no sensitivity to wheat or rice. Type B blood types need to avoid Wheat and Corn.
Coupled with “Eat Right for Your Type” by Peter D’Adamo there is a clear, simple food plan for each blood type that anyone can follow. For example there is a direct connection between stress, autoimmune disorders and red meat in the Type B system. I can attest to this research. Long before “Eat Right for Your Type” was published, I discovered red meat caused me to feel stressful due to pain in my stomach and nerve endings. It felt like my stomach lining and nerve endings had been scraped until they were raw. I discovered this pain was prevalent after eating red meat, thus, I stopped eating red meat and the pain in my stomach and nerve endings ceased. Many years later without knowing my blood type, I read “Eat Right for Your Type” and wondered if my blood type was B. After checking my blood type, I was not surprised to discover my blood type is B positive.
Encouraging a child to eat different food for the sake of eating different foods is counterproductive. Providing the food consistent with their blood and body type their nutritional requirements will be met. It is a common phenomenon for children to want to eat the same thing at every meal for varying periods of time. Avoid the temptation to talk them into eating something different. It will merely set up a power struggle. Offer your child a choice of two things which supports their food requirements for blood and body type. If they consistently chose the same food what harm is being done?
There is a psychology to eating. Food manufacturers have teams of psychologists and researchers to create food that is esthetically enticing. For example: The red juice from beef is not the natural blood of cattle. The majority of blood is drained from the meat during processing and is replaced with red dyed water. Why? Because the actual color of beef is considered an unappealing blue/gray color. Look at the veins in the back of your hand or pulse point. It appears to be blue, which is the same effect with beef. Red dye is toxic, however, meat processors are compelled to use the red dye to satisfy consumers’ preference to have beef appear ‘blood red.’ Red dye in meat is seldom used in other countries.
McDonald’s spent considerable time and money researching the content of their French fry ‘mixture’-they are not whole cut potatoes. McDonald’s French fries are made from mashed potatoes extruded through a press. By using the pre-cooked potatoes many additives are used to create the flavor the majority of people’s taste buds like. Research on body types indicates Sweet Crunchy foods are appealing to more people than Crunchy Pungent foods. And if you check the majority of processed food, crunchy or otherwise you will note there is a plethora of sweetners in the majority of products-Corn syrup, Glucose, Glucose syrup, Sucrose, Dextrose, Maltose are the most frequently used, as well as artificial sweetners-aspartame, saccharine, acesulfame k and sorbitol.
A preference for food presentation only becomes an issue when the child discovers they can use it to control. Notice a child doesn’t turn up his/her nose at McDonald’s hamburgers loaded with unhealthy additives and wrapped in paper. McDonald’s marketing strategy of a ‘toy’ with every meal and making meal time fun for the kids and easy for the parents is the key to enticing both parents and children to eat their low-quality high cholesterol product.
-Is peer pressure a factor in your child’s food preference? Peers can influence a child’s curiosity about food, but not their long-term preferences. If a child has an allergy to a food most parents are surprised how easily a child will accept the food restriction even though their friends eat it. With only a few reminders that ‘wheat’ causes your tummy to hurt, so you can’t eat hamburger buns, the child readily tell their friends, “I can’t eat hamburger buns, they make my tummy hurt.”
-Does food color and texture play a part in food preference? Based on body type research certain body types prefer one texture over another. See “Perfect Health: Complete Mind/Body Guide” By Deepak Chopra. Color has been thoroughly researched regarding what color evokes what response-red and orange for example attracts attention, but also repels after a short period of time. As you will note: Fast food restaurants predominantly use red, orange and a bright yellow-thus, the color draws people in, but also it repels within a short period-as we become over stimulated by the colors. Thus, the fast food restaurant’s needs are met. They draw us in, but repel us in a short period. Food colors have long ago been integrated into the human psyche as the color of food and children quickly learn that the color of food is simply the color of food.
-“How do I convince my child to eat healthy food?” Isn’t it ironic parents wonder how they can convince children to eat health foods? When all parents need to do is buy only those foods which are healthy and be a role model. After all, children don’t do the grocery shopping. So, the issue of children eating healthy is easily solved-don’t have unhealthy foods in the house.
[When I sent my first born off to college, I held my breath, fearing she would become a junk food junky like the majority of college students. I breathed a sigh of relief when she casually commented that the cupboards in her apartment looked like the cupboards at home. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.]
-“If I offer my children dinner, and they refuse to eat it, will they get sick from lack of nutrition?” Generally, children will eat when their body-the hypothalamus-tells them to eat. If you discover your child has lost weight, recognize this as their body’s signal that something needs to be addressed. Unless your child has been ill, weight loss is due to emotional distress and if your child has been ill it is due to emotional distress. All physical illness is directly related to mental causes. What has your child experienced recently that might have created their inability to listen to their body’s signals to consume adequate nutrition? Has there been a death in the family? Is someone close to your child sick or injured? Is there discord in the family? Is there a new baby in the family? Is there any significant change in your child’s routine–such as a new caretaker, starting pre-school, kindergarten, or a new grade? Has your child started a new sport? Is your child showing signs of emotional distress in other ways besides losing weight? If your child’s body weight is within range for their height and has lost two pounds or more, it is time to seek a professional to help you discern what has created your child to stop taking in adequate nutrition.
-“Is it a mistake to make a separate meal for the ‘picky eater’ if you know they won’t like what everyone else likes?” Based on eating right for your blood and body type, it is imperative to make a separate meal for your child. A separate meal may mean only your child’s main course is unique.
-“Does diet affect behavior? Will too much sugar make them too hyper? Will something specific calm them down, etc?” Yes, diet impacts behavior. “Perfect Health: Complete Mind/Body Guide” by Deepak Chopra regarding body types, you can discern what foods will support your child’s emotional needs most effectively.
“What do you think about school lunches?” For the most part school lunches have improved–however, they are too many junk food items-Potato chips, Corn Chips, French fries, processed foods, etc-and too few choices of healthy foods. The only recourse is to explain fully and thoroughly why eating the ‘junk food items’ are unhealthy. Naturally, children will sometimes eat some, not only at school, but their friends’ homes. However, remember their consumption is minimal since you only offer healthy foods at home.
-“Will kids just grow out of being a ‘picky eater’?” Being labeled a ‘picky eater’ is simply a label, therefore, there is nothing for them to ‘grow out of.’
-“What resources can you recommend for parents/kids?” The books “Eat Right for Your Type” by Peter O’Adama and “Perfect Health: Complete Mind/Body Guide” by Deepak Chopra are the Bible for healthy eating.
Some Important Dos:
-Do become a relaxed and open parent.
-Do respect your child’s food preferences provided it is nutritionally healthy based on blood and body type.
-Do give your child a choice within the foods that meet their body and blood type needs and preferences while being mindful of any food allergies/sensitivities.
-Do allow your child to discern when and how much to eat.
-Do present healthy food for your child’s blood and body type in a ‘take it or leave it’ style.
-Do avoid junk foods.
-Do stock your refrigerator and cabinets with the foods which are healthy for your child’s blood and body type.
-Do have a ready supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for eating raw and cooking.
Writing about the strategies for a healthy food plan for life is more complicated than it is to practice it.
And last, but not least, a ray of hope: The next season’s Sesame Street program theme is advocating eating healthy. There’s even a new song – “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food,” where Cookie Monster learns there are “anytime” foods and “sometimes” foods. Cookie Monster will be featured eating only one plate of cookies instead of two.
• The parents’ primary responsibility is to provide good, nutritious food at mealtime. It is your child’s responsibility to eat it and when they are hungry they will, if it is on their list of acquired healthy favorites.
• Serve meals “buffet” style and let them choose what and how much they want. This eliminates the power struggle.
• Joke about what they don’t like within their healthy foods based on body and blood type. Children love parents to be silly! They can identify with you more readily and it creates a relaxed atmosphere.
• Put your children’s favorite foods on a shelf that they can reach in both the fridge and cupboard, in a space reserved just for them. When they want something to eat, they can get it themselves.
• Let your child help prepare the meals. They love to feel included! Forget the need to have everything perfectly arranged, chopped or prepared. Foster their self-confidence and feed their bodies while giving their soul emotional sustenance by fostering a stress free environment.
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