It’s ok to only eat broccoli and bananas. Really. Here’s why.March 6, 2012
Just because I talk about kids liking real food does not mean, in any way, that Danny eats everything I give him. Sure, he likes green smoothies. But he’s discovered the power of choice, and makes sure to exercise it at each mealtime.
For me, it’s an exercise in patience. Case in point: A month ago he was shoveling scrambled eggs in his face at top speed. He loved nothing more than cheese.
This week? The only food he doesn’t spit out is broccoli or banana.
While one part of my brain screams, “He has to eat some PROTEIN!” the other part of my brain knows that I can’t force him to eat what he doesn’t want. And yet another part of me knows that there is a method to this madness, that his likes and dislikes are probably related to what his body needs right now.
We’re all wired like that, you know? In the summer, watermelon and cucumbers sound so good! Tomatoes, yum! And those foods just happen to be in season and full of water – exactly what our bodies need in the heat. Come winter, we’re craving comfort food like pumpkin and potatoes. It’s what our bodies need. Or for instance, when we’ve had a hard day. We crave sugar! It gives us energy and makes us feel happy (at least in the short run.)
Our bodies have a natural intelligence about food.
It only makes sense that kids’ bodies do too.
In the 1920′s, there was a pediatrician named Clara Davis who ran a really amazing study. Comprised of 15 recently-weaned babies, it was eventually titled “The self-selection of diets by young children.” When I first read about this in Real Food for Mother and Baby, my mind was blown all over the place. She basically let these 15 children eat whatever they wanted, with no prompting whatsoever. They were given a buffet of 33 foods: meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, salt, even cod liver oil.
No two babies had the same eating pattern. Some showed strong preferences or aversions to specific foods. But over the course of a few days, they always ate a nutritionally sound diet. And get this – a child with severe rickets decided to drink cod liver oil, all on his own. That stuff does not taste good! But wouldn’t you know, cod liver oil is a perfect food to treat rickets. This suggests that babies deficient in a particular nutrient will go after the exact foods they require.
So…broccoli and bananas? I don’t know. Maybe Danny is deficient in foods that start with the letter “B.” Who knows.
Handling a picky eater actually means letting the baby drive a bit. I’ve started putting out whatever food I’ve got and let Danny point and choose. I try to trust him. After all, his brain hasn’t been filled with do’s and don’ts of eating.
He’s acting purely on instinct, which is so cool.
Truth be told, I do prompt him with some salmon if he’s had no protein – or maybe some cottage cheese or plain yogurt. And he’ll eat a little. Then we’re back to the broccoli.
There is one very important point.
This method, just like the study, has to include only real, whole food. If you put a cookie in the mix, it’s going to throw everything. I like to think of it this way: our bodies are programmed to understand whole, real food. But pre-made, packaged, sugary or fast food throws off our inner compass.
I want to say something else about handling a picky eater. This goes back to my firm belief in breastfeeding. Say what you want about nursing a toddler, but this is when they learn to be picky. I’m still nursing Danny about 4 times a day, so I can really breathe easy if he’s not eating his protein or whatever. Because I am. He’s getting a really wonderful nutritional base from me. In addition, the antibodies in breastmilk multiply significantly after 1 year, which is of course perfect timing for when baby is scrambling all over the floor putting god-knows-what into his mouth.
So, note to self: Relax.