Babies and small children can be incredibly tuned into their body's needs when it comes to food and nourishment.
Toddlers can be a tough crowd when it comes to mealtimes. They often reject the foods that we, as parents, are convinced are good and healthy for them, or they will request just one or two specific foods over and over again.
I recall one time when my then 1.5-year-old would consume 2-3 bananas in a day. Frankly I was worried she would become constipated. Not that there’s anything unhealthy about bananas, but you know what they say – everything in moderation.
When I lamented to a friend about my daughter’s banana obsession, she told me that small children are very in tune with what their bodies need. Maybe there was something in bananas that she needed. Bananas are a great source of potassium, and vitamin C. They also promote sleep and can actually be a good dinner-time food. So, I went with it, and a week or two later the banana obsession seemed to subside.
Fast forward to when that same child was 3-years-old. Suddenly she started requesting yogurt for dinner every night and getting into a huge tantrum if I didn’t let her have one. I consider yogurt a healthy food – but she was already eating it every morning for breakfast, so wouldn’t that be excessive? Worry struck – is she getting enough variety of foods? And maybe this was just a power struggle, where she wanted to exert her independence and power of decision over mine?
Guess what – we discovered that my daughter was suffering from pin-worms, a type of parasite which is unfortunately quite common in daycare-aged children. (The first hint, though, was that she complained that her bottom was hurting or itchy). Well, yogurt is a great source of probiotics, which can help combat parasite infections as it promotes healthy gut bacteria. It turned out that my daughter was perfectly in tune with her body’s needs.
You may ask then, what if my kid just wants to eat chocolate or junk food? Well, there could be an underlying reason as well. Chips – maybe they’re missing potassium or sodium. Chocolate – maybe they need magnesium. Or, maybe they’re just really tired after a long day at kindergarten and crave a sugar-rich food that will give them a quick boost of energy.
That’s not to say you should allow your kids to indulge in a junk food diet, but perhaps take a moment and try to tap into what their body is telling them. As adults, we would be wise to do the same thing – listen to our bodies’ cues, tune into our hunger and satiety levels, try to understand why we are craving certain foods, and learn to identify which foods can best nourish and fuel us.