Changing Eating Habits Are Hard For Anyone...But Especially For A Picky Child!
When I first began to look in to changing the way we ate after my son’s autism diagnosis, I was completely overwhelmed and thought there was no way he would eat anything other than his typical macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, or cheese pizza.
I had read that many times once removing these foods, the child would begin to eat new things. They obviously did not know my child!! Any time I would put any new foods in front of him he would throw the food, scream, and cry and gag himself until he threw up.
I knew changing the way he ate was crucial. I knew he wasn’t getting adequate nutrition. He was frequently sick and he couldn’t even tell me when and how he felt bad. He couldn’t even tell me when his tummy hurt. If there was even a slight chance that improving his diet could get him to the point that he could tell me when he had a headache or his throat hurt, it would be worth it.
But…how? How was I going to make this happen?
Based on what I know now about nutrition and health, I wish I would have been more aggressive with his food and supplements, but it was tough. It is tough enough having a child with autism. Then add in the tantrums and frequent illnesses and now having to learn a new way of eating! It was almost too much to handle.
We took the slow approach.
I switched his morning cereal to Rice Chex and almond milk or gluten free waffles. This was literally all he ate for 3 days.
Then…..a miracle happened! He took his first bite of steak and broccoli ever!! If you have a picky eater child, you know how amazing this is!!
This seems to be one of the first changes most parents see with removing gluten and casein from their child’s diet. Almost every parent I have talked to has had a similar experience. The gluten and casein acts literally like a drug in their bodies which is why they crave it so much!! Now, it is also important to say that along with the removal of the “drug” comes “withdrawal”. This is somewhat of a “die-off” response as the gluten and casein is being removed from the body. If you have ever tried a sugar detox diet, you probably had similar results! You feel worse before you feel better.
With this type of effect can come a lot of screaming and crying and even crazy behaviors. Stay strong. You got this! Get through those few tough days because it will get better.
Now, he didn’t just start eating super amazingly healthy all of sudden like I would love to be able to tell you. It was a process. We started by switching all of his regular food to gluten free versions…hot dog and hamburger buns, cereals, cookies, etc. This is not, of course, the healthiest way (nor the cheapest!) to do this but it was such a big change for my whole family.
Like I said, I wish we would have been more aggressive and could have cut out all processed foods all at once, but it was much slower than that in reality. I do 100% believe that his progress would have been much quicker had we been able to make that switch more rapidly.
Other ways I made the change for my super picky eating child:
- Diluted his juice with water….started with ¾ juice to ¼ water and worked up until it was basically all water.
- Smoothies with honey and orange juice as a sweetener, slowly reducing the sweeteners over time and eventually replacing it with stevia. The smoothies started with just fruits and almond milk. I eventually was able to add greens and then I added raw cacoa (which also has amazing healing properties) to hide the greens.
- Switched his morning cereal to gluten free rolled oats and added in lots of coconut oil, cinnamon, flax seeds, and either honey or stevia.
- Switched his gluten free waffles to super easy grain free waffles made at home.
- Switched his gluten free chicken nuggets to homemade chicken nuggets with almond meal.
These are just a few ideas for the super picky eating child. I advocate taking a much faster approach and cutting out all processed foods leading to a whole food approach as soon as possible. I understand this is not always easy in the beginning, especially with a child with autism. Remember it is a process. It takes time and it is a marathon not a sprint. Check out my Getting Started Guide for more information on the switch-over process.
I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Leave them for me in the comments.