Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: My little boy is so picky! He won’t eat healthy food! What do I do?
The first time a child is presented with a healthy food, he often will not like it. We have CREATED “pickiness” in our culture, because we introduce babies to refined sugar. Once you’ve had it, nothing else tastes good. We then bombard our child with ads, and opportunities to eat sugary and salty foods, everywhere they go in a day.
They aren’t defective kids. They’re little addicts.
(My least favorite question at green smoothie demo classes—and it comes from middle-aged and elderly adults, mostly—is, with nose crinkled as if they’re dealing with something very distasteful, “Does the green smoothie TASTE good?”)
The answer is, “If refined sugar and corn syrup are staples of your diet, NO, it doesn’t.”
When you eliminate those, everything tastes better. Get rid of refined salt, aspartame, and MSG too—those are the addictive substances that change your tastes.
Some significant research with kids shows that they need 10 exposures to a food, to fully embrace it. That’s why I constantly talk about staying the course and being consistent and persistent.
Getting the junk food out of the house. When carrots and cucumbers are competing with Cheezits and Cheetohs? The Cheetohs are gonna win.
They’re easier to chew than carrots. They don’t oxidize or go bad. They taste salty and they melt in your mouth.
Of course, they’re also going to cause inflammation for every part of the body exposed to them.
Ten exposures mean that you COMMIT to a lifestyle where your home is stocked with real foods that nourish and build, protect and detoxify. Not a plastic, fake-orange, bright-yellow-drinks-in-a-can, caffeine-propped, processed hell.
Don’t be a parent who brings home a veggie, gets rejected, and quits. You don’t go to the store and bring home pretty bell peppers and split peas, instead of last week’s Oreos and Spagheti-O’s, and expect everyone to be jumping for joy, and then just quit already when you meet with some resistance. Steel yourself. Educate the kids. Plan and prepare for the long-term, not just this shopping trip. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel (vibrance, health, the weight you love to be at)…..not the initial resistance.
It doesn’t work like a charm, overnight. Obviously, 10 exposures to a healthy food takes some time. It requires some patience.
And don’t underestimate the way eating corn syrup and cane sugar undermine your goals to raise a whole-foods family.
It takes a little time to find enough food you like, to replace all the junk habits. But you can really starve out all the bad habits over time. I know this because I did it.
Growing a garden puts your kids in touch with where food comes from, too. Far too many of America’s kids would have no clue how to explain to you what is in Chips Ahoy, and where it came from. (For that matter, I can’t explain some of those ingredients either!)
When kids participate in growing “real” foods, they are more interested in eating them. Most of America’s kids know nothing about the sources of their foods beyond the fact that apples grow on trees. Some urban kids don’t even know that.
Many kids love animals and have no understanding that the “chicken nuggets” on their dinner plate means that somebody trapped a bird in a tiny cage its entire life, hacked its head off, ripped its skin off, ground the rest of it up, mixed it with some chemicals, fried it in a giant vat of months-old grease (filtered once a week, whether it needs it or not), formed it into shapes in a factory and froze it for your child to eat months later.
My oldest two kids ate everything I gave them, no problem. The last two gave me a run for my money. They tried to be “picky kids.” Fortunately by then I had my nutritional “core values” firmly in place. I don’t indulge “picky.” Both of those kids eat giant plates of salad, daily green smoothies, and one of them even enjoys vegetable juices and wheat grass shots. Both have told me thank you for having a kitchen full of whole foods. Both have complained that there are often no healthy foods to eat at Dad’s house. I know they don’t want everything I serve. But I also know that I’m sending them into the world with good tastes for real nutrition, an awareness of which foods maintain health, and a knowledge of how to prepare them.
About once a year, I write about picky kids. Here are five previous posts on this topic for anyone who wants to conquer this tough situation facing America’s parents, which is almost entirely our own fault, and within our control if we’re patient and persistent: