Josh Peterson, Picky Eater
In my practice, it is common for me to see a parent whose child only eates macaroni and cheese, french fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, and cold cereal with milk. Parents routinely tell me, "Johnny won't eat any fruits and vegetables!" Incredible as it seems, high-calorie, trans-fat-filled french fries are the most common vegetable eaten by young children today. Twenty-five percent of children eat fast food french fries daily.
The Petersons brought their three-year-old son, Joshua, to see me because his prior physician had prescribed twelve seperate antibiotic prescriptions for recurrent ear infections in less than nine months. Most often, within a few weeks of stopping the antibiotic, he was sick again with another illness. The latest advice from their pediatrician was to put Joshua on a low dose of antibiotics continuously to help reduce the incidence of these infections. I explained to them that for Joshua to stay well and not require antibiotics, he had to adopt a dietry program of superior nutrition. They laughed.
The Petersons didn't need me to tell them that Joshua's diet was inadequate. They clearly knew it. They did not think it was possible to get Joshua to eat healthy food. They were wrong. The followed my advice for reforming their picky eater and when they returned to my office one month later, they proudly reported to me that he was eating a diet of all healthy food. Importantly, they accomplished this without difficulty. We stopped his antibiotics, and he proceeded through that winter without any further ear infections.
When a family first brings their chronically ill child in to see me, I insist that the entire family come--both parents and all siblings--so that we can devise a new eating plan for the entire family. The focus is never solely on the ill child. For the ill child to recover, the crucial first step is for the entire family to make a recovery from their less than optimal diet style.
When the Petersons insisted, "Josh won't eat fruits or vegetables," I explained to them that all children would eat healthfully if ship-wrecked. True hunger is difficult to deny. If faced with limited options, they will gleefully eat whatever food is available, without intellectual gymnastics to get them to.
It is not necessary to coax them to eat or to eat healthfully. In fact, battling about food with your child is counterproductive. The trick here is to adhere to this one most important rule: only permit healthy food in your home. Children will eat whatever is available. They will not starve themselves to death; they will adapt easily and learn relatively quickly to like the food that is offered.
The story of Josh Peterson (not his real name) is from Disease-Proof Your Child by Joel Fuhrman M.D. To learn more about this new book, or to buy a copy of Disease-Proof Your Child, click here.