7

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Are children that are picky eaters instinctively right?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 07, 2010 at 4:22 PM

My 3 year old son is quite a picky eater. Luckily he likes meat (al kinds) and fish, eggs, butter (just by the spoon), and some veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower. He also likes potatoes, milk and yoghurt. (and cookies, which he does not get)

Now we mostly think he is quite stubborn and it is something psychologically (e.g. if you mash everything, he will like it much better), but sometimes he really just seems to hate the taste. He even gags sometimes.

We don't force him to eat, but we insist that he at least tastes one little bit, even if it is only by licking it.

Over time, we think he gradually eats more and more.

I think that there is also a relation with his grain/eczema/behaviour. When he used to eat a little bit of grains, his eczema and behaviour changed (worse) and he ate less veggies. Now that could have been purely behavioral, or physiological?

What do you think? Is he right, instinctively? Or is he just picky?

And how do you deal with this? Or would you deal with this.

(Edit) He loves bacon!

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 28, 2011
at 11:02 PM

But wait Pieter, definitely check out the article they are referring to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7878094 Just from reading the abstract you can see it's a little different from what you might expect, a different basis for the conclusion you can in fact draw from it about children. I'm going to try to find the complete text later.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 28, 2011
at 10:24 PM

That's interesting. From the second link, similar to what Mike posted below: "Bitterness is a signal of potential toxicity, and kids—with their smaller bodies and less-developed capacities for detoxification—are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins." How did I miss this thread in November? Good stuff.

2206f764adaac82696d7bb1c0dd870f0

(110)

on November 10, 2010
at 02:22 AM

Yeah, I love it. Did you notice all the organ meats they were feeding the orphans?

D339c39d94d65460e28128174845f423

(821)

on November 09, 2010
at 03:52 PM

Our kids seem to be able to eat anything at all without any bad consequences. If they crave the foods that cause them problems, then you're in trouble!

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 08, 2010
at 07:24 AM

Thank you very much, Monica! That is a great article. From 1939!

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 08, 2010
at 07:21 AM

Eva, indeed, I was talking about being picky with paleo foods. We know we can't trust our taste concerning neolithic processed crap like cakes. So that will not be different with kids, I suppose. In ethology, they would call a chocolate cake a superstimulus.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 08, 2010
at 07:18 AM

thanks, that is something I have to check.

D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038

(4134)

on November 07, 2010
at 07:55 PM

Pieter, I hope this helps. If I find something else, I will post it.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 07:26 PM

PaleoGran, again, thank you very much. All the best to you too!

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 05:38 PM

Depending on what you call bad, we allow some, but grains really seem to trigger a fast and strong response re: eczema and behaviour (tantrums). So we avoid those.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 05:37 PM

Leah, thanks, some good advice. We also feel that texture is really important. Mash it up and he will eat it. Same with fruit and veggies. Colour can also be important.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 05:34 PM

Our second son (16 months old) eats everything! Everything! Just some extra info

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11 Answers

4
D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038

on November 07, 2010
at 06:47 PM

Just in case the reasons might be due to sensitivities to things in the foods themselves, such as salicylates, here is a page at FailSafe Diet called "What Am I Reacting To?":

http://failsafediet.wordpress.com/the-rpah-elimination-diet-failsafe/quick-reference-what-am-i-reacting-to/

I have noticed that some folks have an instinctive dislike for foods that cause them trouble, and that the dislike of the foods started very early in life.

Don't know if this is the case with your child, but thought the reference might be of use.

All the best to you.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 07:26 PM

PaleoGran, again, thank you very much. All the best to you too!

D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038

(4134)

on November 07, 2010
at 07:55 PM

Pieter, I hope this helps. If I find something else, I will post it.

3
2206f764adaac82696d7bb1c0dd870f0

(110)

on November 08, 2010
at 04:17 AM

I think you would find the work of Clara Davis very instructive. Here's a PDF of her remarkable paper:

www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=537465&blobtype=pdf

Here are some excerpts for Davis' original article, my emphasis in bold. There is a lot of wisdom in her work, I think, and it lacks the preconceptions that most Americans today have about food. Some of the information (such as that hunter gatherers are healthy on their diets) has completely been eliminated from conventional wisdom.

"For every diet differed from every other diet, fifteen different patterns of taste being presented, and not one diet was the predominantly cereal and milk diet with smaller supplements of fruit, eggs and meat, that is commonly thought proper for this age. To add to the apparent confusion, tastes changed unpredictably from time to time, refusing as we say "to stay put," while meals were often combinations of foods that were strange indeed to us, and would have been a dietitian's nightmare-for example, a breakfast of a pint of orange juice and liver; a supper of several eggs, bananas and milk. They achieved the goal, but by widely various means....

Appetite also appears to have fallibilities with processed foods which have lost some of their natural constituents and which have become such important features of modern diet, e.g., sugar and white flour. Certainly their introduction into previously sound primitive diets has invariably brought with it a train of nutritional evils, and their widespread excess in civilized diets is decried by nutritional authorities.

All the articles on the list, except lettuce by two and spinach by one, were tried by all, and most tried several times, but within the first few days they began to reach eagerly for some and to neglect others, so that definite tastes grew under our eyes. Never again did any child eat so many of the foods as in the first weeks of his experimental period. Patterns of selective appetite, then, were shown to develop on the basis of sensory experience, i.e., taste, smell, and doubtless the feeling of comfort and well-being that followed eating, which was evidenced much as in the breast-fed infant. In short, they were developed by sampling, which is essentially a trial and error method. And it is this trial and error method, this willingness to sample, that accounts for the most glaring fallibility of appetite. From time immemorial adults as well as children have eaten castor oil beans, poisonous fish, toad stools and nightshade berries with fatal results. Against such error, only the transmission of racial experience as knowledge can protect. Such error affords additional proof that in omnivorous eaters there is no "instinct" pointing blindly to the "good" or "bad" in food.

By this time you have all doubtless perceived that the "trick" in the experiment (if "trick" you wish to call it) was in the food list. Confined to natural, unprocessed and unpurified foods as it was, and without made dishes of any sort, it reproduced to a large extent the conditions under which primitive peoples in many parts of the world have been shown to have had scientifically sound diets and excellent nutrition. Errors the children's appetites must have made-they are inherent in any trial and error method-but the errors with such a food list were too trivial and too easily compensated for to be of importance or even to be detected.

The results of the experiment, then, leave the selection of the foods to be made available to young children in the hands of their elders where everyone has always known it belongs. Even the food list is not a magic one. Any of you with a copy of McCollum's or H. C. Sherman's books on nutrition and properties of foods, could make a list quite different and equally as good. Selfselection can have no, or but doubtful, value if the diet must be selected from inferior foods. Finally, by providing conditions under which appetite could function freely and beneficently as in animals and primitive peoples, the experiment resolved the modern conflict between appetite and nutritional requirements. It eliminated anorexia and the eating problems that are the plague of feeding by the dosage method."

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 08, 2010
at 07:24 AM

Thank you very much, Monica! That is a great article. From 1939!

2206f764adaac82696d7bb1c0dd870f0

(110)

on November 10, 2010
at 02:22 AM

Yeah, I love it. Did you notice all the organ meats they were feeding the orphans?

3
D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

on November 07, 2010
at 04:53 PM

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this one...

My first child: I let him eat whatever he wanted, and made no distinction between "good for you foods" and "dessert" (this was twenty years ago). If he wanted to eat pudding before green beans, that was fine. Today, he is an extremely healthful eater, will try anything, follows my lead on paleo eating and prefers the Primal Blueprint. He loves vegetables, meat and a lot of saturated fat. packs his lunch everyday and only eats fast food a few times a month when traveling or lack of planning.

My second child: (sixteen years ago) I never allowed him to have sweets for many years, always fed him a lot of veggies, gave him cucumber slices instead of baby toast and crackers etc. He is the pickiest eater ever, hates all veggies and would sooner go without a meal that do without cheeseburgers and pizza. I just hope that one day he will try to eat like his brother.

Obviously you cannot make a case for variety with the examples above. I do think we instinctively prefer fat over anything else. But I believe that much of food preferences are based on textural likes/dislikes too. When you want crunch, nothing else will do and hopefully you like celery and bacon over chips and pretzels. When you want smooth, hopefully you want avocado or cream over pudding etc. Children especially are very picky about texture for example: if they have a bad taste experience with green beans- they can associate that experience with either the texture of green beans or the flavor of green beans (or both) for a very long time. If they refuse to eat a certain food, then try it again cooked/prepared a different way.

I think the key is to offer small children variety and don't demonize any certain type of food because you cannot be with them when they are older and they are with their friends or at school. IMO The key is to lead by example and only provide wholesome food at home.

I just wish I would have known about paleo eating twenty years ago. sigh.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 05:37 PM

Leah, thanks, some good advice. We also feel that texture is really important. Mash it up and he will eat it. Same with fruit and veggies. Colour can also be important.

2
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 08, 2010
at 03:45 AM

I think it's a mixed bag. Kids will eat all kinds of stuff, including dirt, chalk, crayons, and paste. That doesn't meat those things are good for you. Plus all kids I know will happily eat copious amounts of table sugar and candy. There could be an argument, though, that if raised in a more natural way with natural foods and natural allowance for exploration and tasting without guilt complexes and finger wagging, most kids would probably naturally develop what we paleos would probably consider to be healthy eating habits. The trick is, I think you need to keep sugar out of the picture. That stuff can be like crack! And keep the starches in their natural state like in tubers. But really, if you taste a piece of most cereals, they don't actually even taste good unless they are bathed in sugar. So I don't think many kids would naturally want to eat Mueslix or some blah processed carb over steak and eggs if given the choice. THe problems is that cake and ice cream just taste good, paloe or no! Perhaps in our lust for pleasure, we have managed to bypass some of nature's natural checks and balances. I think for those kinds of foods that are not natural, we can't so easily say to let nature take it's course, even if that often works great for natural foods.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 08, 2010
at 07:21 AM

Eva, indeed, I was talking about being picky with paleo foods. We know we can't trust our taste concerning neolithic processed crap like cakes. So that will not be different with kids, I suppose. In ethology, they would call a chocolate cake a superstimulus.

2
Fab01b4dbedb2252688eb552d0071306

(216)

on November 07, 2010
at 11:02 PM

Are children instinctively picky eaters? I've read yes. I believe in the book Survival of the Sickest the author argues children cannot properly deal with many of the natural toxins that are in vegetables..and as we get older our bodies can effectively deal with them. Some examples were broccoli and onions I believe.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 08, 2010
at 07:18 AM

thanks, that is something I have to check.

2
1c4ada15ca0635582c77dbd9b1317dbf

(2614)

on November 07, 2010
at 08:56 PM

My almost four year old didn't eat any grains for the first two years of his life. We offered him bread - but he refused it. He just wanted to eat eggs, some meat, any and every kind of dairy, and fruit. Pretty much.... paleo.

And as discussed above - he preferred everything mashed up if possible (still does), especially meat. I've noticed some animals chew up meat for their youngsters before they can manage it themselves - it reminded me of this.

I do think children can have an instinctive feel for the right food

2
209d2fc1f43df88348031c7c38077172

(693)

on November 07, 2010
at 04:53 PM

Our 5 year old does "courtesy bites" too. If we don't force her to eat anything she will typically eat what she can stand. She'll even make a comment how she doesn't like it but will eat it anyway because it's healthy. In that regard I think it's totally psychological. If they make the decision to eat something it's OK. I think it's part of their growing independence more than anything.

1
2b4f887f5fd32a37c6038eb0aaaf3bf5

on February 28, 2011
at 10:04 PM

This is something I've thought a lot about also, because I myself was HORRIBLY picky child, and was very good at throwing temper tantrums over it. I would gag at eating carrots (which I now love). My parents STILL give me a hard time about how all I would eat was hot dogs and cat food (yes. I ate the cat's food. Not a proud memory. But I was three). Now, when my parents bring it up, I just tell them that perhaps I needed more protein! And those were available sources.

Of course, kids are going to go for sugar, it's a real trick against our biology. But yes, if you are just talking about Paleo foods, I would think that kids have a natural ability to respond to what their body wants or doesn't want. And what a great gift to your child, to teach them to listen to their body for what it needs. I know my body lets me know when I need more protein, or vitamin c, or water.

I haven't had a healthy relationship with food in my life, though, and am, now learning it. There was a lot of judgment placed on what I ate and how I ate my entire life, and I always heard A LOT about it, and it has given me a bit of a complex. And I also realized that food became a lot about power, because I would eat what I wanted to eat, and not what I was being made to eat. So, from the perspective of one picky child, I would say let them listen to their body, and don't make a big deal about it. As they get older, they will get more adventurous. If I could go back in time and tell my parents how many vegetables I ate now, they would be SHOCKED. Now I eat better then they do!

Good luck!

1
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on February 28, 2011
at 03:35 PM

Interesting information for picky eaters on a very interesting rather paleo-esque parenting website: www.parentingscience.com. From the about page: "Parenting and child development from the perspectives of anthropology, evolution, psychology, and neuroscience".

picky eaters

biology of picky eaters

By the way, as an update, my son (the one from the question) is gradually eating more and more fruits and veggies.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 28, 2011
at 11:02 PM

But wait Pieter, definitely check out the article they are referring to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7878094 Just from reading the abstract you can see it's a little different from what you might expect, a different basis for the conclusion you can in fact draw from it about children. I'm going to try to find the complete text later.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 28, 2011
at 10:24 PM

That's interesting. From the second link, similar to what Mike posted below: "Bitterness is a signal of potential toxicity, and kids—with their smaller bodies and less-developed capacities for detoxification—are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins." How did I miss this thread in November? Good stuff.

1
D339c39d94d65460e28128174845f423

(821)

on November 07, 2010
at 04:54 PM

I have a very picky 9 year old that just loves everything related to sugar, grains, and fruit. Luckily, he'll eat meat and veggies too.

Our younger boy is much less picky.

The girls seem to crave meat more than the boys.

We are dealing with all this by trying to make good foods available as much as possible, but not going nuts about them. We let them eat bad foods in limited quantities. For us its enough that they are eating way better than their peers.

If you're having kids you gotta have faith.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 05:38 PM

Depending on what you call bad, we allow some, but grains really seem to trigger a fast and strong response re: eczema and behaviour (tantrums). So we avoid those.

D339c39d94d65460e28128174845f423

(821)

on November 09, 2010
at 03:52 PM

Our kids seem to be able to eat anything at all without any bad consequences. If they crave the foods that cause them problems, then you're in trouble!

0
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on March 01, 2011
at 12:56 AM

When I was an Au-Pair, the two kids I was taking care of (3 and 6 years old) could eat whatever they wanted and were not forced to eat anything... the younger one wanted to it ONLY white bread with nutella, the older liked tomatoes in addition go it. I am serious, they hardly ate potatoes even, meat almost never. I looked at it with terror in my eyes.

I think there needs to be a healthy balance. I wanted to eat meat only (almost) with some chosen veggies (potatoes, tomatoes and peas), but also loved eating bread, even if I was a celiac...

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