Excerpt from Cure Your Child with Food
from Chapter 1: How Important Is Nutrition, Really?
Few parents start out with the goal of feeding their children toaster pastries for breakfast and peanut butter crackers for lunch, yet an astonishing number (if my practice is any indication) end up there. How many exactly? Hard to say, because so many of them are hiding in shame. These are not uneducated people. They are doctors, lawyers, and professionals. One high-powered executive with a master's degree in business came to speak to me about her son whose diet consisted almost entirely of candy bars and pretzels. He was, no surprise, not functioning in school or at home, and the many medications they had tried were not working. She felt so guilty and was so defensive that I could not find a neutral area where we could have a conversation about how to help him. She heard every suggestion, no matter how mild, as a referendum on her mothering skills. "He won't do it!" she insisted. "I have tried."
The scenario of a typical diet gone bad starts at age two when a sleep-starved mother hands her red-faced, screaming toddler a cracker or cookie so he will just shut up. The action is not seen as a long-term solution but a rare treat for a bad day. But little crackers and cookies work like a charm for toddlers. They melt in the mouth, can be held in the hand (for maximum control)—they are like toddler crack. The baby is happy! He stopped fussing at church. At Grandma's birthday party everyone remarked on how well behaved he was.
Yes, he refused to eat lunch, but that was a special occasion, and aren't all toddlers picky? No, they are not. If you give them only the good food you want them to eat, they will eat good food. However, once salty or sweet food is introduced and the child is at an age when it's developmentally appropriate to assume some control over what he puts in his mouth, then a bad habit will unwittingly begin, and things will go downhill from there. If the snack food is in the house, the child quickly learns that he can refuse dinner and scream until the preferred food appears. Few of us have the energy or patience at six-thirty at night to deal with a hysterical child. Besides, the rest of the family is trying to eat dinner, and isn't it better for the baby to eat something—even if it is junky—than nothing? A good mother does not let her child go hungry, right?
The final mental argument is that fighting about food causes eating disorders. Isn't this back-and-forth arguing about what to eat harmful to a child? This is how good moms and dads, under the guise of not let- ting their child go hungry and avoiding food fights, lay the foundation for bad eating. The two-year-old, under the chemical influence of highly flavored food and heady with newfound personal power, self-selects his own diet from this time forward.
Radical solution: Don't have anything in the house you do not want your child to eat.
Nutrition to the Rescue
If there is one idea I want you to take away from this book, it's this: Nutrition is important. Not only does it help your child's brain and body develop to his optimal potential, but it enables your child to live accept as a fact that all kids get sick. Perhaps you've been led to believe that conditions such as reflux, ear infections, stomachaches, moodiness, difficulty controlling behavior, and learning problems are all "normal"—and in no way impair how children grow and learn.
You are about to discover that many of these so-called common childhood ailments are indeed avoidable or can be dealt with nutritionally before they disrupt proper development or lead to more complex medical problems. Now you may be wondering, "Is this one of those books that recommends mustard packs for stomachaches or makes you feel bad for not raising your own chickens?" Absolutely not. It is a book that will take you on an important journey. I will show you how to take the concept we all know, "You are what you eat," and use it to make simple dietary adjustments that can make your child happier, healthier, and generally easier to live with. Furthermore, this trip will be entertaining and interesting.
For the scientifically oriented, there will be supportive studies and data to prove I am not making this all up. What surprises me most after more than twenty-five years as a practicing nutrition detective is not the lack of information (though more is always needed) but the limited way nutrition science is turned into usable information. I am committed to changing that deficiency.
Download all of Chapter 1 [PDF, taken from the first edition published as What's Eating Your Child?]