Conquering the Skinny Picky

Girl with no appetite

At my low-carb/keto clinic, when nurse Sylvie and I teach patients to open their minds to new culinary possibilities with low carb food, we often have to make them shift their focus from “everything they won’t be able to eat anymoreʺ to “all the new possibilities you never knew existed for youʺ.

Most patients, eventually, come around to discovering how delicious low-carb food can taste. Still, it is a struggle for many of them. And they are adults.

Kids, however, can give bring the word ʺstruggleʺ to a whole new level when it comes to food. If you’re the parent of a picky eater, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re the parent of a picky eater who has known the pre-LCHF era, you KNOW what I’m talking about. And you might even be shaking your head, feeling defeated, right now.

I’m a family doctor, but I also have a family of my own, which includes a spirited 3-year-old girl, a sleep hater 1-year-old boy, and a husband who has recently been stepping dangerously into the high-fat high-carb zone (but that’s for another blog entry!).

I was breastfeeding my boy when I started eating low carb. He has been weaned onto low carb, and so it’s never been a problem. He thrives on scrambled eggs made with 35% cream and old cheddar, butter on everything, plain 10% yoghurt, etc. Indeed, this baby will eat anything, including sand and rocks, if he gets the chance. Easy.

My daughter, on the other hand, has always been a picky eater. And she’s always been very tiny, so we have constantly worried about her food intakes. Despite our very best intentions, our numerous wholesome and healthy attempts, her diet slowly, unnoticedly, morphed into basically sweet yoghurt, plain chicken, pasta, and everything sugary.

It was sub-optimal, to say the least, but dealing with a difficult second pregnancy, then a newborn who never intended to sleep, and having to return to work too early, left me with little energy to constantly fight with her at every meal. If she ate something, we kind of considered it a victory.

Enters low carb

Do you want to talk about feeling defeated?

Andreas, the doctor behind DietDoctor, once said to me that it was easy to do low carb with kids: just serve them unprocessed healthy natural foods. That’s it.

This is great advice.

It works wonderfully with my boy, who prefers creamy omelets over sand and rocks any day. But clearly, he hasn’t met my 3-year-old daughter… who prefers air over low-carb food.

So, I recently embarked on a mission to fully turn my daughter into a low carber (at least at home, where I have control). After all, I have been eating low carb for over a year, and my husband has joined me about six months later (and let me tell you he didn’t go down without a fight!). We all low carb it, except for my picky daughter.

I also have numerous parents in my low-carb clinic who always ask me how they are supposed to feed their kids with this way of eating.

Now, kids don’t necessarily need to be strict low carb. Wholesome unprocessed food is the way to go, and fruit and veggies can be their main sources of carbs. Fruit are not necessary every day. Let’s no forget that there are no essential carbs, and that their brains don’t need exogenous sources of glucose to function properly.

But in practice, how do you conquer picky eaters and turn them into happy and thriving low carbers?

I decided to ask wiser women1 who are also doctors, and who, for sure, would know better than to only feed sweet yoghurt, chicken and pasta to their picky kids. Here’s a list of their suggestions:

  • Buy full-fat plain yoghurt and add unsweetened applesauce to make it taste sweet. Slowly decrease the amount of applesauce until there is none left. And stop buying sweet yoghurt. If you don’t have it at home, you won’t be able to serve it.
  • Serve a mayo dip at every meal, for everything from veggies to meat.
  • Melt cheese on top of everything that is disliked.
  • Put cream cheese on veggie sticks, like cucumbers, and peanut or almond butter on slices of apple.
  • Offer cheese and nuts as a snack.
  • Make low-carb crêpes, pancakes or waffles for breakfast, instead of cereal. Instead of maple syrup (we live in Canada where this is the norm), melt butter and add a little bit of maple extract, and pour over the crêpes. Add whipped cream if necessary.
  • Makes pancakes with one mashed banana and two eggs mixed well and cooked in coconut oil, topped with peanut or almond butter.
  • Bake low-carb cookies, with your kids if possible.
  • Offer scrambled eggs with extra butter as a bedtime snack if supper was a disaster.
  • Eating dark chocolate is sometimes better than no chocolate at all, from the kids’ point of view, so keep some in your pantry for cases when chocolate is necessary (and help yourself too if it’s been that kind of day).
  • Bacon tends to be loved by kids. It’s a way to increase their lipid intakes.
  • Tacos with shells made out of cheese tend to be on the winning list.
  • Fathead pizza is also usually a winner, including with picky partners. A little pureed broccoli can be hidden in the sauce.
  • Marinara sauce can hide pureed vegetables quite well.
  • Serve paleo bread or any keto bread. It’s really the toppings that matter.
  • Add loads of melted butter to cooked veggies. And some salt.
  • Lay out a tray of veggie sticks with a low-carb dip in front of your kids before supper is ready. They are likely to start eating them.
  • Try cheese fondue with lightly cooked veggies to dip in the fondue.
  • Offer “ice creamʺ made with Greek yoghurt and a frozen fruit, like a banana or a mango, in the food processor. No need to add sugar.
  • Make popsicles with full-fat yoghurt and fruit.
  • Make drinkable yoghurt with kefir and some berries, and a bit of maple syrup or Swerve in decreasing amounts.
  • Whipped cream with berries make a wonderful dessert.
  • Make a ʺmilkshakeʺ restaurant-style with full fat yoghurt, full fat milk, low-carb protein powder, vanilla extract, cocoa powder and a little bit of sweetness in decreasing amounts. It can easily be topped with whipped cream and a few shaves of 90% dark chocolate. Leave nothing to chance and serve in a nice glass and a straw. Currently, the PawPatrol glass is the one that makes the milkshake taste the best in our home.
  • Make chia-seed jam with 1 cup of strawberries, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, a squirt of lemon juice and a little bit of maple syrup or honey (if your kids are older than one year of age). Let it sit overnight in your fridge. If your kids are picky with textures, you can always put it in the food processor once the seeds have become jellied.

General tips

  • Get the junk out of the house! If it’s not there, it can’t be eaten. This applies to you too, the parent.
  • Try really hard not to reward with sweet things (but rewarding yourself with a glass of red wine after a crazy day is okay).
  • When they ask for something specific (which is no longer in your house because you’ve cleared the junk, right?), keep saying “we don’t have it, but you can have this or that insteadʺ and provide alternatives.
  • When introducing a new food, place one thing in front of them that you know they will eat, one thing they might eat, and one thing that is worth a try. And just keep offering.
  • Try taking your kids to a local farmers market, where they put out plates of fresh vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers for people to try before they buy. Your kids might be tempted to try the vegetables.
  • Make your older kids watch That sugar film. But don’t bribe them with food.
  • Get yourself good books, such as Super Food for Superchildren, by Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot and Bridget Surtees, and get inspired.

book

Don’t forget that you won’t win every time, but you’ll likely succeed in greatly reducing their sugar intakes, compared to other kids their age. In the short term, it’s already a victory. With time, though, you’ll be teaching them notions that will certainly not be lost when they become adults, no matter how you currently doubt it. At least, that’s what I tell myself on a daily basis.

I would love to hear your best tricks, foods and advice to conquer your picky eaters. Leave them in a comment!


Dr. Èvelyne Bourdua-Roy

More

Low Carb Kids – How to Raise Children on Real Low-Carb Food

Low Carb for Beginners

Earlier with Dr. Bourdua-Roy

  1. How I Became an LCHF Doctor Reversing Type 2 Diabetes
  2. “As a Doctor, I Want You to Eat Plenty of Fat, and Add Plenty of Salt to Your Food”
  3. Caution: This Can Cause Addiction
  4. It Takes a Village of Bacon Eaters
  5. Don’t Take Away My Insulin!
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Top videos with low-carb doctors

  1. Thank you ladies (you know who you are!) for sharing your best ninja moves with me.

8 comments

  1. Nicole
    I am living with the world's pickiest eater. Worst part is my 7 years old is losing weight (partially due to a medication she is on), so I need to "fatten" her up and sugars are the enemy. I love your suggestions but my kid will not eat dairy. She has no allergy but since she was a baby, she has hated dairy especially cheese (melted or solid) and she hates yogurt! Even when I add butter she will turn her nose (seriously how are we related?!). I know I helped create this monster (while pregnant with my second and just dealing with my second and heading back to work - diet was furthest from my mind). But now I am trying so hard to convert them slowly to low carb. The pickiness is frustrating because like you said - she will survive on air rather than eat what I serve. We do what we can but the list is limited until we can slowly convert her palate but her weight loss is becoming critical. I look forward to other people's suggestions and creative ways as well to try.
  2. Lorraine
    Nicole -

    What DOES she like? I've been living the keto life for almost 4 years and there is a keto/LCHF version of almost every favorite. Here are some of our favorites:

    Zucchini noodles for spaghetti
    FatHead dough for pizza. I make 3 or 4 at a time and freeze the extra.
    Deep dish pizza: http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2014/06/deep-dish-skillet-sausage-pi...
    Homemade sugar-free jello with berries in it and topped with real whipped cream: http://mariamindbodyhealth.com/sugar-free-jello/
    Cauliflower mac & cheese: http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2015/01/cauliflower-mac-n-cheese-wit...
    Sliced zucchini tossed in avocado oil, parmesan and garlic salt and oven fried (a particular favorite of our 2 year old grandson)
    Smoothies made with frozen berries, unsweetened almond milk and cream. Lightly sweeten with sugar-free fruit-flavored coffee syrups. Freeze for popsicles
    Pork rinds are the only healthy snack in the snack isle and also make great cereal as well as coating for fried chicken or veggies.
    Sugar and grain-free granola for cereal, we like it with full fat yogurt that I sweeten and flavor myself with erythritol, stevia and extracts.
    Fairlife milk filters out most of the lactose and tastes as good as regular whole milk.
    Mashed garlic cauliflower for mashed potatoes. A life-long cauliflower hater, I now love it when made this way.
    Cauliflower rice either as a side or as a layer in casseroles. Our grocery stores now carry it frozen.

    There are lots of great food bloggers out there with tons of fabulous, tasty recipes. Some of my favorites:
    http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/
    http://www.sugarfreemom.com/
    https://ketodietapp.com/Blog
    https://www.ruled.me/
    http://www.kalynskitchen.com/
    http://low-carb-news.blogspot.com/

    Pinterest and Foodgawker are a great way to find low carb versions of favorites.

    On the more expensive, less keto side, are products from The Great Low Carb Bread Company. They are very good, toast and fry like 'real' bread, but have 2g net carb each bagel or 1g for a slice of bread. Not grain-free but perfect for grilled cheese or French toast.

  3. Sue W. MD
    Spot on!
  4. Harry
    Minnestrone and similar rich soups seem to work fine with picky eaters to add to meals, especially in winter. Also bouillon with an egg as a snack. Or combining some veggies with meat, for example cooked bellpeppers filled with ground beef that are fun to eat like easter eggs.

    As a child I was picky only in some regards and e.g. hated almost all fish (I remember a holiday on Iceland almost exclusively eating the sides like potatoes). But my mother figured out that I liked or at least tolerated herring served in a bread bun with some onions and pickles and sauce, a typical food around the Baltic Sea. Then later salmon was okay with me, while tuna and trout still wasn't. And it went from there, now I love fish.

    As long as kids are growing in size and not just in width like adults, I wouldn't worry much about putting them on any low carb diet since their metabolism should be fine processing higher loads. As long as it is "real food" it's healthy, or at least a healthier replacement. If they want to eat oatmeal with some cinnamon in the morning, that's better than very sugary boxed cereals. A rye toast with butter and honey is better than nutella on white bread. Spaghetti with fresh pesto or tomato sauce is better than store-bought pizza and other fast food. Steak with potatoes is fine and better than fries, even if it's not as low carb as cauliflower or broccoli. Freshly picked berries with cream is better than candy and chocolate. And so on.

  5. McDonna
    I had two children and both were horribly picky! The old adage, "They will eat if they get hungry enough!" never applied to them...or to me when I was a kid...or to my Mom to this day. Rather than eating what they didn't want, they were fine to not eat at all for days!

    My children are adults now, but I still wonder how to overcome this problem. It wasn't a battle of wills as much as it seemed to be an issue with underdeveloped taste buds/palate preference. I outgrew it in my 20's and eat a wide variety of foods now, as did my older son in his teens. My Mom is in her mid-70's and would rather not eat anything at all rather than eat what she isn't hungry for. My youngest is the same at age 21 now, too.

    Insights? Thoughts?

    Enjoyed your article very much!

  6. Paul
    my 13 year old boy is extremely picky, I suspect he has ARFID https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant/restrictive_food_intake_disorder

    same as McDonna, he'll rather just not eat anything rather than eating something he doesn't like. there are probably 10-12 foods he'll eat and none of those is low carb. Even before going low carb myself I've always been worried about what he eats. he'll spend his pocket money on crappy foods because I didn't stock them so I started buying some again so he could keep his pocket money for other things.

  7. Françoise
    Did you hear of Gaps. Dr Natasha Campbell Mac Bride wrote a book about picky children.
    See at gaps.me. She is all about real food, cream, but not LCHF. Very good book. My friend is doing much better. I followed her advice to eat cream... bouillon and sure it has help me a lot. I make sauerkraut .
  8. Lisa
    I have no idea how I could apply this, my PE out of the above might have yoghurt popsicles as cake and popsicles is the only way he will eat any fruit or veg, he won’t eat cheese, he already has high fat milk and yoghurt. If we find a pancake recipe that’s as close to our flour version we will wean onto those, but so far still looking. This is the kid who gained no weight and minimal height for a year because we did eat this for dinner or go hungry, he chose hunger 5 days a week and only ate on others because tortillas. He eats no sauce, and min if any meat.

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