What’s Eating Your Child?
I’m a bit obsessed with food, but not in a bad way. It’s more like the whole process of making, growing, preparing, and eating food is utterly fascinating to me. I think it’s because I discovered food later in life. Yes, I have eaten food my entire life, but I was a terribly picky eater as a child, then became a young adult who found the whole process of preparing food to be tedious and “domestic”. When I got married and started having kids, I suddenly had to figure out how to feed my family with absolutely zero knowledge of how to go about doing that. My diet up until that point consisted mainly bananas, PB&J’s and chips and salsa. By then I had outgrown my pickiness and was willing to try new things, but I had no clue how to go about it. Thus began my quest to figure out food and its role in my family.
I’ve been reading cookbooks for ten years and slowly evolving my tastes and interests, but I’ve never read a book on nutrition. I stick to the general rule that veggies and whole grains are good and twinkies are bad. I mean, honestly, we all know what we should be eating, we just don’t always do it. When I read a review of What’s Eating Your Child: the hidden connections between food and childhood ailments by Kelly Dorfman, I knew it was time for me to do a little investigative work, on behalf of my kids. I’ve done research on how to help picky eaters or how to not give kids food issues, but for the most part I have easy kids to feed so I don’t have too much to worry about. But could I do better? Absolutely.
Dorfman is a registered dietician and nutritionist who has been treating children for about twenty-five years. She’s seen just about everything you can imagine and her unconventional methods of treating ailments have garnered her a reputation for her ability to help kids that were not getting better with just drugs. She also has a section on how to help picky eaters and why they might be picky in the first place. I’ve unwittingly implemented some of her ideas for picky eaters with my second daughter over the years, just using my own experience with those issues, but her plan is so much better than mine!
The book covers many different ailments and issues, but most of them are the worst of their type. Not just the typical things you’ll see with your own kids, since she deals with children whose parents are at the end of their rope. But I could see shades of these things in my own kids, like insomnia, anxiety, rough skin, supertasting, pickiness, and others. My kids are healthy and normal, but reading this book made me do some thinking on what vitamins and supplements we needed to add into our diet, and what foods we should avoid. I loved how she used the science of how our bodies process minerals or what function certain vitamins served to explain why each of these kids got better. Not every child in her book was suddenly in perfect health after implementing her suggestions, but they all were better than they were before.
After reading this book, I told my family that we were going to start an experiment. For two weeks, we were not going to eat any added sugar. The natural sugars found in fruit and dairy were fine, but nothing that had sugar added to it. For breakfast, we would eat toast and scrambled eggs instead of granola or cereal. No jams or jellies, no honey, and the only exception would be ketchup. I wasn’t sure how some of my children would survive eating scrambled eggs for breakfast nearly every day with ketchup to go with it. It’s gross, but I was willing to make the exception. Surprisingly, The Experiment was nearly effortless. My kids never complained about not having the delicious homemade and full-of-sugar applesauce we always have on our pancakes. They thought that pureeing strawberries and adding it to the pancake batter was delicious enough to eat without a topping. I bought natural peanut butter, which has no sugar unlike our usual Skippy brand. The kids thought it tasted even better than Skippy! I was amazed over and over again how versatile my kids were and what was shocking for me was how I stopped craving sugar after the first few days. When the two weeks were up, we didn’t quite go back to normal. No one is allowed to put cinnamon sugar on their toast, just honey. The chocolate syrup in milk is a treat, not a privilege. We are no longer having marshmallows as an afternoon snack, by golly. These are baby steps, but I’m still pleased.
If you’re one of those people who thinks that it’s quackery to connect food and behavior, then you will probably not bother reading this book, but I would dare you to try it out anyway and tell me what you think, even if you think there’s no connection and Dorfman is talking through her hat. I definitely think there’s a connection, but that’s also because I have some food sensitivities (not allergies) and come from a family riddled with sensitivities AND allergies. I’ve been convinced of a connection for a long time and have seen my own kids deal with issues on how their bodies process certain foods. I’m the choir that Dorfman is preaching to and I wasn’t a hard sell on the importance of organic foods and avoiding GMOs. I’d love to hear what somebody else thinks on the subject.