"Children eat the foods their bodies need" Really?
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Many parents comment to us in our workshops and consultations that their little one eats lots and lots of the same food over and over again - and they let them do it, because they believe they are craving a nutrient, vitamin or mineral from that food their body needs.
We've searched the archives tirelessly and are yet to find quality evidence supporting the claim that "children will eat what their bodies need", since so many factors come in to it - psychological, emotional and behavioural.
It's common for little ones to go through a short phase of eating the same things over and over again. Short-term it is often not a problem but very quickly this can be the start of narrowing your baby's palate and restricting their tastes.
It could be that your little one has tasted some yummy things and thought “I like that – I want more of it!”. No food is “bad” when it is eaten in moderation and rotating these foods in to your baby's diet so they don’t come to expect them is a great way to gain balance.
Routine For Security
An example of a psychological factor would be that very quickly, children can slip into routines. Routine gives children a sense of security, and so are good things when they are constructed by their parents (ie by people with the maturity of thinking to know what the child's needs are and who construct a routine around this).
However, routines can mean something entirely different if they are self-created and/or if they become rituals that the child 'must' stick to or they get upset and seem to be about needing control (e.g. only eating food when it doesn't touch other food). These kinds of 'routines' represent the child's effort to manage anxiety/insecurity. This may occur when change or instability happens in the home (e.g. possibly mum has gone back to work or breastfeeding has stopped). This could therefore also manifest in food in terms of always wanting to eat the same things over and over again, and only you can gauge if your child seems to want these foods to gain control in some way.
Children frequently are drawn to sugary foods in times of stress as breastmilk/formula milk has always been a comforter - and those are super-sweet and triggers the release of serotonin which is an enormous comforter!
You're the parent!
You're the parent and you're in charge and if you're okay with your child eating those foods in that volume and you know it's short-term because it's a special occasion then there shouldn't be any problem - but don't kid yourself that your child knows best and her body is craving calcium or some other nutrient. It's more likely, the foods are new tastes, yummy and sweet and most likley being super-sugary they trigger serotonin which all make her feel happy making her want even more.
Plenty of adults demonstrate this same refined sugar reaction over christmas day when they couldn't stop eating "just one more" mince pie or slice of yule log despite their buttons bursting from a big turkey dinner!
Lots of sugar switches off your ability to feel full
When you consume fructose, a hormone called Leptin is down-regulated. Leptin is the hormone that makes us feel full and so with that not circulating in our bodies telling us to stop eating, we instead keep eating and eating and eating. This is one of the many reasons why we are such advocates of zero sugar in all our recipes.
|image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net|