I recently was talking to one of my health coaching clients about how kids eat. This client was lamenting the fact that her toddler, who used to love sweet potatoes, now refuses to eat them. I thought, “What a smart little girl!”
There are many reasons the child might suddenly refuse sweet potatoes one day, especially after eating them this winter:
1. Fruits and vegetables always taste better when they are local and seasonal. Watch your toddler eat a strawberry that has been shipped across the country compared to one that has been picked locally and in season—her reaction will tell the story! (This is why I only eat strawberries in May and June in Pennsylvania, where I live). Children may be more sensitive to the subtleties of taste than we adults are, so perhaps the sweet potatoes just don’t taste that great right now!
2. Our bodies seek balance with the seasons and the weather. Most of us notice that when it’s cold we crave soups and stews, and when it’s hot we crave salads and fresh fruits. I love sweet potatoes in the winter, but when spring comes, I am eating more greens and berries and I am not attracted to things like potatoes and winter squash.
3. Our bodies are always trying to achieve homeostasis. Perhaps a sweet potato isn’t what this child’s body needs right now, nutritionally. Often I eat the same thing for a while and then suddenly my body has had enough, and I don’t want to eat that particular food. My body has had enough of that particular nutrient. (We wrote about how to cure sugar addiction via nutritional homeostasis here.)
4. Sometimes toddlers just want to establish autonomy and decide for themselves what they want to eat. This is normal! The best strategy is to not get involved in a power struggle, but to offer a range of healthful choices. If a child won’t eat sweet potatoes, how about suggesting some other orange vegetables–like carrots. For toddlers, I might grate them and squeeze a little orange juice on them or make a grated carrot and raisin salad. You could also try some fresh cantaloupe this time of year.
The Wisdom of a Two-Year Old’s Pickiness
We often don’t give kids enough credit. We eat with our minds so much these days because of all of the information about what is good to eat and what is bad to eat. Before we pollute children’s minds with all this information, they eat with abandon. We teach them that food is to be enjoyed.
Little children really eat with their whole bodies. Watch them! A toddler eats using more than his/her sense of taste. He uses his sight, his sense of touch, his sense of smell. How much more pleasure he gets from eating with more than one sense!
When we get pleasure from eating, we are less likely to overeat or finish feeling dissatisfied and therefore reach for more food or dessert. If we participate in a meal with full pleasure by not simultaneously reading the newspaper or watching TV, we may find ourselves enjoying the food more and consuming less.
Children are wiser than we think, so sometimes we should trust their cravings, preferences, and aversions. Of course, I know this is easier said than done, and it certainly doesn’t mean that kids should be presented with packaged foods throughout the day. Here’s a list of ten healthy snacks that appease even picky eaters.
P.S.: Next week, I will be blogging about fresh garden peas for kids. Peas have been a great way to get my grandsons to eat greens that are seasonal and super nutritious.