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Tips for Improving Gut Health with a Picky Eater

This entire blog was sparked when working to heal my middle son’s health issues by targeting his gut health. He is my canary in the coal mine. He is sensitive to many foods and environmental toxins. He has had a cold or virus almost every 3 weeks since August.

Something happened when Ezra turned 2. At his 2 year well-check his pediatrician said something along the lines of look out– you are entering the picky eating year. I was one of those moms who thought “that will never happen to me”– we eat a balanced diet, we only offer healthy foods and he loves his veggies.

Well… here we are, approaching year 3 and he has a very limited diet. Many times he refuses to eat rather than eating what we are serving. It is a control thing, not a palate thing. One day he loves asparagus and beans, the next day he will only eat bananas. It’s tricky.

It is “normal” for kids to catch 8-12 viruses the first year they are introduced to the public. My kid has caught them all. I do lots to help him fight them off, but how do I keep his gut in check when he won’t eat? It is a tough place to be when the nourishing foods you know will help are refused.

Something like 70-80 percent of our immune system is based in our gut. When our gut bacteria isn’t balanced correctly, our immune systems are compromised. Based solely on what my son *wants* to eat, I can see that his “bad bugs” want to be fed (fruit, crackers, etc) and no veggies. Even though fruit is “healthy” it still metabolizes as sugar. Nature’s candy, is how I like to think about it.

How do I help this kiddo out? How do I help support his healthy microbiome and immunity when what he will eat is limited?

  1. Prebiotic/Probiotic supplement. Taking a boost of prebiotics and probiotics support and balance out the microbiome. I have found a kids formula that tastes good and he enjoys taking. It is now part of our morning routine.
  2. Fiber supplement I choose one that contains fructooligosaccharides. Fructooligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that are low-calorie, non-digestible carbohydrates which aid in immunity, bone health and the growth and balance of important bacteria in the digestive track. Simply put, it is what the good gut bacteria like to “eat”. These are found naturally in foods like asparagus, onions, chicory, etc. Since getting him to eat veggies is an issue, I have found a shake that he enjoys and I give it as a treat. The thing I noticed was that after giving him these two supplements together for about a week he started eating a better variety of foods (veggies and meats, woo-hoo). I will also add spinach, a scoop of green powder, or avocado in the shake so it is disguised.
  3. Grazing Tray another way I get him to eat a better variety is make a grazing tray and put it on our table with our art station. I put cut up veggies, proteins (like nuts), olives, cheese, dips and other things he often refuses. He will snack without thinking as much when he’s engaged in an activity.
  4. Limit Snacks Ezra eats the majority of his calories in the early part of the day. He also really enjoys snacking. After lunch, I limit snacks so that he has a healthy appetite at dinner time. This still doesn’t always work if he’s already decided that he doesn’t want our dinner.
  5. Continually offer and plate our normal meals. I cook nutritionally dense foods. He WILL often refuse, or just drop the food on the floor. However, some days he will eat it all without an issue. I also keep the fruit and crackers out of sight and only offer what is reasonable in a day.
  6. Being part of the process sometimes entices him to eat. He enjoying helping me mix or cut (soft) things and serve them on colored dishes that he chooses is an incentive. I praise him for how good his cooking is and often he will put a few bites in his “mouf”. I also let him choose between two veggies or will turn meal prep into a color, phonics or counting game. He’s very into these things right now, so it holds his attention.

These are my tricks these days for dealing with my toddler. This too shall pass, although his health is always at the forefront of my mind. Especially since he is in this phase of being a germ incubator. Feel free to comment or contact me and I will share what supplements have been working for us if you’re dealing with the pickiness and sickness phase.

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