I get a lot of comments and questions about how to get picky eaters to eat the way my son does. These are great questions because tons of children out there.. sick or not… autism or not — are picky eaters.
Being a picky eater is not a “bad” thing to be. Children have naturally sensitive taste buds to help protect them from poisonous foods. They naturally crave bland and push away the bitter foods like kale and cabbage. So, how is a mom of a sensitive child on the autism spectrum supposed to use diet to help heal her child when he/she refuses to eat? I’ve got about ten zillion tricks up my sleeve, and I’m going to share some of the most important ones here.
Understanding Digestive Bacteria and Gut Health
The bacteria and yeasts in our guts create the foundation of our health. They help make vitamins for us, detoxify poison and waste, balance moods, and so much more. When the digestive bacteria is out of balance, which is the case with autism, allergies, and all auto-immune illnesses, you will crave foods that feed the pathogenic bacteria and yeasts (like candida).
So, if your child is craving things like processed foods, that is because pathogenic bacteria thrive on acidic foods. In other words, they cannot help but want what their bodies are telling them that they want. When I was really sick with systemic candida, spinach tasted like metal to me. (On a side note: this was also because I was detoxing metal).
Understanding Stress and Eating
Our gut bacteria communicates vibrationally (through measurable electric currents) with our brains through what is known as our enteric nervous systems. Our guts send more info to our brains than our brains send to our guts. It is well documented that stress and the way we deal with stress affects our gut bacteria — and consequently our thinking, moods, energy and more.
My feeling is that if we create stress around eating, we open the door for candida and more pathogenic organisms to grow in our childrens’ guts — even if we do finally get them to chug down the fish oil or green smoothie. Whatever you do, attempt to do it with a sense of calm… or do not do it at all. Sure, we may have to introduce healing foods that our kids may have a hard time with at first. But, that’s why we go slowly and calmly.
Create a Strong Trust Bond with your Child
Knowing that there are reasons for our kids to be picky eaters, and that children with sick guts may be even more picky — helps us to begin diet changes from a place of ultimate understanding. Add that to unconditional love and you will be set.
My friend Shannon from BEDROK introduced me to the Son-Rise program several years ago. And, although I could never afford to do the program myself, I believe in the concepts and have adopted my own version of Son-Rise at home. I think that it offers a great starting point for creating that trust bond with our kids.
You can do this at home by first listening to your child. If your child is saying “no” to a certain food… listen to them. Say “okay, not today then,” or something of the like. But, then you eat the food yourself, enjoy the food and try again with them the next day. Allow your child to know that you are trusting their opinions.
When you want something from your child, first create a scenario where you are interacting with your child on their level, at their activity – -and introduce the new food in a comfortable setting.
Emotion does not enter your trust bond building phase. Yes, you love and kiss and smother your child with affection as much as you like always (I do with mine), but do not show emotional pain for their eating choices. Make it really up to them with major suggestion (so to speak).
I like to intro 1 new food at a time to help the children get acclimated at their own pace. I will offer the new food every day for 2 weeks in a very relaxed, delicious, and un-demanding way. I do not award or punish with any kind of food. So, my child always eats. We do not tell him”no dessert” or anything like that. The new food is a part of the meal.
If your child does not like the new food after trying it, then you can move on to another new food and try that one again in a while. I like to tell Dougie something like ,”okay , we’ll try that when you are six. Can we do that?” Remember that our kids are people. We all have our own tastes. Yes, this is affected by our gut bacteria, But there is more to it. If someone is completely repelled by a food, they may even have an allergy to it.
Forget the Broccoli and Spinach. Go for Fermenteds!
When you really want to change your diet to improve your health, I always recommend skipping right past the veggies and on to the fermented foods (if you have a picky eater). Fermented foods contain the healthy, living bacteria that will re-populate in your gut, and literally change your taste buds. Fermented foods are pre-digested. So all of that nutrition is so easily absorbed by your body.
Many children with autism are given laundry lists of supplements that they need to take. Parents have the hardest time feeding them food and getting their supplements in because the children have taste and texture issues. We recovered Dougie by first addressing his gut problems with fermented foods. We didn’t go for all of those single extracted vitamin or nutrient supplements. I believe in healing with whole foods and adding in supplements as a last resort.. but after the fermented foods are started and the trust bond is created.
Because fermented foods are so nutrient dense, you do not need to give your child lots of them. In fact, gradually increasing small doses really helps set the tone for lasting results.
There are also many ways to make fermented foods taste good. I began with coconut kefir which can easily be mixed in an organic juice (raw, preferably). and sweetened with green stevia.
This small first step will begin to change your child’s gut bacteria. When the gut bacteria becomes more balanced, they begin to crave more healthy foods.
Check out these crackers and ice creams for more ideas on making fermented foods taste good for your children. Food should taste good. It should make us happy. You can focus on including something your child really likes (in it’s healthiest form) with their new fermented foods.
I think it’s pretty smart to start children off with the fermented liquids. They are much easier to take than vegetable or powders.
You can make home-made kefir, buy fermented beverages from Body Ecology, or another new favorite company of mine, REAL FOOD. REAL LIFE. These are all excellent top quality ways to get the necessary probiotic foods into your child’s gut.
Super Foods Rock
Super foods, like algaes, contain much more nutrition per bite than a salad. I love E3 Live brand algaes. I have used both their regular and their “Brain On.” So, again, these are options for nourishing your picky eater that do not include hours pleading at the table. Algaes taste really good in avocado or coconut based ice cream. They mix almost un-noticeably in chocolate. You can replace cacao for carob in my chocolate recipe too.
Like I said, my favorite healing foods are fermented foods. But second to that, I love algaes. I also love Reishi Mushroom, Cordryceps, Bee Pollen, Cod Liver Oil, Goji Berries. These are foods that work for us. And, guess what? You can actaully buy fermented (which means it’s probiotic and more easily absorbed) algaes from REAL FOOD. REAL LIFE.
These particular herbs and superfoods work for us. You can take any herbs and superfoods that work for your family and add them to a delicious ice cream or cracker recipe to make them tastier for your babies.
Note to the Mamas and Papas:
Eat with your kiddies. Enjoy and give thanks for what you are eating. Make the kids a part of the meal from shopping to prep to clean up (at their level). Go easy on you, and have fun with this. If you are taking on a journey to heal parts of your life, know that you are getting there with each bite.
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