Sugar is My Toddler's Enemy (and yours!)
Picky eaters are tough. I have written about dealing with picky eaters before, and how to introduce foods to babies to avoid the picky eater scenerio. And yet, Dane and I found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a toddler food war. Our kid wouldn't eat anything! And what is worse, the majority of foods that we put on the table he wouldn't even touch. How can you claim you don't like something when you have not even had a bite!!
We decided we needed to do something drastic. We were going to try the GAPS diet with our 2.5 year old son, and reintroduce nutrient dense foods to cure the picky eater. This meant the entire family needed to commit to some changes. In the short term this meant a major inconvenience. Our family, like many others, lives on the run. My kids eat in the car regularly, and I started to rely on fruit, peanut butter toast, and granola bars as regular snacks. I was anxious about making a change, but I was hopeful this was going to pay off!
Eliminate sugar and all sweet foods including fruit. Offer only chicken soup, meat, veggies and butter. You can check out the full GAPS diet here! Because we were in the planning stages of this diet, we didn't follow the protocol as recommended exactly. We did, however, see a tremendous and immediate turnaround from our picky eater.
Whole Foods Heal
The word 'diet' has a negative connotation. People go on diets to lose weight and they don't last, weight comes back on, and the lifestyles remain the same. But a diet can be a really healing change, even if it is only temporary. Gut health is incredibly important for overall health, and consuming bone broths and fermented foods are essential in developing healthy gut flora. The goal for this diet was to heal the gut and create a healthier relationship with nutrient dense foods. We would introduce foods back into our diet slowly, and take note of any adverse reactions.
There are some foods that are not good for your gut, and you eat them anyway. Sugar, chocolate, cakes, candies. I wish I could steer my kids away from these foods entirely, but I have not managed to do so. Yes, these are okay in moderation, but it became apparent that the consumption of these foods had done too much damage, and some action needed to be taken. Changing my child's diet and eliminating all sweets is not a permanent change. It is however a necessary step in healing his gut. So please don't offer my child a cookie, a lollipop, or even a piece of fruit for the next few weeks. When he has a birthday in a few short weeks (3 years old!!), he will be allowed to have some cake.
When a child is sick his and his parents decide to keep him home from school, no one is claiming that the child is being deprived of an education. Yet when you request that your child not be offered sweet and sugary things suddenly everyone thinks you are a crazy person for depriving your child of these 'foods'. Removing sweet foods was a thoughtful action to help the child's gut heal and immune system recover.
Probiotics are Essential
Luckily our son likes whole milk, unsweetened, yogurt from Wholesome Dairy Farms! Probiotics are an essential part of gut healing. Our son did not eat much the first 1.5 days. He cried and threw tantrums and refused to eat anything that was offered, but he did eat yogurt. This allowed his gut to be flooded with good bacteria while healing it from harmful sweet and starchy foods.
Stick to Your Guns
He or she can not avoid foods forever. When our son stopped refusing food on the second day of this diet he asked for some raw butter. He enthusiastically shouted, "Mmmmm ... this is so good!" and Dane and I look at one another confused. The next few meals we just raised our eyebrows as our son ate rice and butter, meat, eggs and other things that he would not touch just a week earlier. The next few meals he ate without a fuss and we wondered if it could be this easy.
It wasn't that easy. The tantrums still hung around (he is a 2 year old), but meal time still improved. He made better choices, and sat for 10-15 minutes at a clip eating nutritional foods and he even started asking for more.
We often associate picky eating with a toddler exercising his right to free choice. He is exploring the power arrangement between himself and his parent. This is partially true. However, I believe that the picky eating comes more from his body than his brain. A toddler who is demanding only sweet foods and refusing everything else is driven by an unhealthy gut. The problem is that the foods that he or she is asking for will only do further damage and thus the cycle continues.
If you are faced with the picky eater scenario, I encourage you to try the GAPS diet for a few weeks. Stay tuned to follow our journey. Next post I will detail everything our family ate this week!