It’s probably karma. Growing up, I was my family’s official picky kid. I lurked upstairs in my room dreading impending “fish for dinner.” I even melodramatically gagged when my parents "strongly encouraged" me to sample a despised food.
Raising my own family in uber-health-conscious Boulder, Colorado, and working as a health and wellness editor at Delicious Living, I was determined to feed my first baby, Jack, only the best: organic whole foods, no sugar, the whole deal.
Fast-forward ten years and Jack—although a sophisticated sushi aficionado—subsists mainly on eggs, cheese, pasta, and pizza, along with anything sugary he can get his hands on. Occasionally I get an apple or carrot into him. I watch my friends’ children happily scarf down beets and kale and shrug my shoulders: Jack’s picky.
Recently, though, I’ve been rethinking this pigeon-holing label we’ve put on my son—thanks to a review copy of What’s Eating Your Child? (Workman, 2011) that landed on my desk. Author Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND, offers insightful clues throughout the book that help parents connect the dots between seemingly random symptoms and behaviors (chronic ear infections, rashes, anxiety) and possible food-related disorders, including food intolerances, deficiencies, even ADHD.
For instance, I learned that picky eating can not only make kids tired and irritable, but can be a sign of an irritating food—which can lead to constipation or excess mucus production, both of which dampen appetite.
Here’s a list of more symptoms, along with possible culprits and solutions from the book. (As for me, Jack and I are off to the allergist for a few tests!)
Symptom Possible cause Possible solution
GI distress (stomachache, Gluten intolerance Gluten-free diet
diarrhea, gas) or extreme
anger, bipolar disorder
Chronic ear infections Immune reactions, Dairy-free diet
likely to casein
Failure to grow, poor Zinc deficiency Supplement w/zinc
Constipation Casein intolerance Dairy-free diet,
Excessive anxiety Healthy-fats deficiency Supplement with fish
oil (esp. EPA) to
balance nervous system
Inexplicable hives Allergic reaction to GMO Eat only organic corn,
corn or soy or high-pesticide soy, and produce on
residue fruits like berries EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.
Speech delays Low availability of nutrients Supplement with fish
(dyspraxia) important for learning oil, vitamin E complex,