6 Steps for Overcoming Picky Eating

Do you worry that your child’s picky eating habits will halt his or her recovery?

You may feel like you’re in a vicious cycle in which picky eating prevents your child from eating a healing diet, and the limitations of a healing diet might keep your child from eating.  Picky eating is one of the biggest obstacles autism recovery parents face.  The good news is that picky eating can be overcome.  Thousands of autism parents have done it, and you can too.

Following are 6-steps and 5 principles for overcoming picky eating adapted from Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

Step 1:  Select a food or activity your child is crazy about.

Use an activity if you can.  However, a food will work fine too.  Activities might include a favorite DVD, toy or TV show.

If you’ll be using a food, the food you choose will be determined by where you are with diet now.  If you’re already gluten-free, you might choose that gluten-free treat that your child adores, e.g. GF cereal or GF cookies.  If your child is still eating non-gluten-free foods, pick his/her absolute favorite food.  (Non-verbal children tend to respond better to food rewards than toys.)

When you start, you will put away that food/toy and only offer it as a reward for trying a new food.  Do not offer that favorite food/toy in any other context.

 Step 2:  Select a new food you’d like your child to try

Choose a healing food you’d like for your child to try.  For example, you might try cooked carrots or grilled chicken with no breading.

 Step 3:  Set the stage

Set out a small amount of the desired food (a piece of biscuit, part of a cookie, a small handful of cereal) along with a few bites of carrots or other healing food.

 Step 3:  Offer the desired food only

Offer your child one mouthful of carrots (or whatever) with the favorite food in clear view but out of reach.  If you’re using non-food rewards such as a favorite toy, set it just out of reach on the table like you would with a food treat.  If it’s a DVD, you might boot it up on the TV in sight of the table or have the DVD case in sight.

Prepare yourself to ignore tantrums, screaming, crying.  Don’t let him/her have the treat until one bite of carrots has been eaten – or at least tasted.  Don’t let your child leave the table until the bite of carrot is eaten/tasted.

 Step 4:  Give the desired food and heap on praise

When the carrot or other healing food is eaten (or at least tasted), give your child the treat and lavish praise.  (Keep the reward food to 1 or 2 bites or the non-food reward short, e.g. 5 minutes of favorite movie.)  If your child asks for more of the treat, explain that he/she will need to eat another bite of the healing food and you will happily provide another bite of the treat/5 minutes of the movie or toy.

 Step 5:  Repeat the process

Let your child run and play for a while.  Then come back to the table.  Offer another bite of new food in exchange for the treat.  If your child begs for the treat, give him/her another bite of carrot or other new food before giving more of the treat.

Step 6:  Increase healthy foods required for the treat

In time (an hour, a day, a week, or even more) your child will become willing to eat a bite of the new food for the treat.  Then, increase the carrots to two bites for the same size of treat.  Gradually, increase the mouthfuls until your child is eating a full serving of carrots for the same small bite of treat.

Stick to only 1 new food in this process.  Stick to that food until it’s accepted, then move to the next food.  Before you know it, you’ll be introducing more and more foods, and your child’s diet will be much improved.

Don’t be disheartened by tantrums.  Remember that probably every parent who ever conquered picky eating had to go through tantrums and meltdowns too.


5 Key Principles for Overcoming Picky Eating:

 Stay positive – Keep a positive attitude and tone throughout the process.  Set your expectations low to keep your frustration down.

 Lavish praise – Not only will you be giving a treat when your child eats or even tastes the goal food, lavish him/her with praise too.

 Ignore tantrums — Prepare yourself for tantrums, so you can remain calm and ready to ignore any tantrums that come your way.

 Put treats away – Be sure to never give the treat (whether it’s food or a favorite activity such as a video) outside of the context of eating the healthy food.  Otherwise, your child will just wait for the next opportunity to get that treat and skip the opportunity when it’s attached to food.

One food at a time — Stick to only 1 new food in this process.  Stick to that food until it’s accepted, then move to the next food.  Before you know it, you’ll be introducing more and more foods, and your child’s diet will be much improved.

Diets like SCD and GAPS rebalance the gut flora that is contributing to picky eating.  Give a diet like SCD or GAPS a try and you’ll be amazed at the healthy foods your child will be enjoying before you know it because these diets starve the pathogenic bacteria that contribute to picky eating.

The great news is that by using this process, you’ll start reducing picky eating, and opening your child up to the kind of diet that will lead to dramatic breakthroughs in autism symptoms.

The Myth You Must Know About Lab Testing: Why Negative Results You Receive May Slow or Halt Your Child’s Recovery

We all know that lab results can never be 100% accurate.   Have you ever thought about the implications of a test result that says a child is free of a condition, but the child is not?  This is called a “false negative.”  Many people suffer for years because a false negative diverts them away from the actual cause of their condition.  This is especially true in autism.  Here’s what you can do to make sure a false negative doesn’t subvert your child’s recovery.

Two of the most devastating but treatable conditions that impact as many as 80% (or more) of people living with autism are Lyme and parasites.  Why are these two very different types of infections found together in autism?  A hallmark of autism is a weakened immune system.  Lyme and parasites are able to gain hold on people whose immune system is not strong enough to keep them out.

Though I will focus on Lyme and parasites, this advice about false negatives applies to any condition you are testing for such as food sensitivities, heavy metals, and other types of infections.

Lyme and parasites are 2 of the most difficult conditions to diagnose.  Lyme is difficult because most Lyme tests are looking for Lyme antibodies.  Unfortunately, Lyme severely impairs a person’s immune system to the point that the body often cannot produce sufficient antibodies to be detected on a lab test.

Parasites are difficult to detect too.  Most doctors order a stool sample when testing for parasites.  Parasites or their eggs will not be present in every stool sample so multiple collections on separate days are necessary.  However, even multiple samples may miss parasites.  Many autism parents have reported that they have even sent large worms that are clearly parasites from their child’s BM to labs.  The lab results still came back negative!  Why?  One hypothesis is that many labs use mechanical testing.  Interestingly, autism parents have had much better luck diagnosing parasites with veterinarians perhaps because vets are more experienced in looking for parasites!

Four Diagnostic Options 

Standard lab tests are not the only way to diagnose Lyme, parasites and other issues.  Here are four options to help you rule out a false negative.

Diagnostic Option 1: Look at Symptoms – Until recently, doctors didn’t have modern laboratories to test for diseases.  They had to diagnose and treat disease based on symptoms.  Lyme and parasites cause a wide range of symptoms that are also common in autism.  I have listed some of the symptoms of each here.

Symptoms of Parasite Infection:

o   Abdominal pain

o   Chronic constipation and/or diarrhea

o   Cravings for foods high in carbs and sugar

o   Distended belly

o   Eating more than normal and not feeling hungry

o   Nausea

o   IBS symptoms

o   Malabsorption

o   Inability to gain weight

o   Anger/irritability

o   Anxiety/depression

o   Brain fog/disorientation

o   Poor coordination

o   Obsessions

o   Joint pain

o   Seizures

o   Teeth grinding

o   Flapping

o   Slow growth

o   Headaches

o   Itching/burning/picking of the anus

o   Nasal itching

o   Candida

o   Bedwetting

o   Increase in symptoms around the time of the full moon

Symptoms of a Lyme Infection

o   Persistent malaise

o   Brain fog

o   Brain block when trying to focus.

o   Difficulty thinking, processing information, planning, organizing, problem-solving

o   Difficulty taking in the “whole picture”

o   Difficulty with judgment – inability to think things and their consequences through

o   Difficulty tracking objects in motion

o   Difficulty with focus or concentration – easily distracted (ADD/ADHD)

o   Racing Thoughts (OCD)

o   Difficulty with basics, social, and day to day functioning.

o   Dental problems; chronic gingivitis, receding gums, thinning enamel.

o   Painful/stiff jaw, mimics TMJ or jaw joint arthritis.

o   IBS-type symptoms

o   Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking.

o   Stomach pain

o   Bloated belly.

o   Constipation

o   Diarrhea

o   Sound sensitivity

o   Body temperature slightly below 98.6

As you can see, most, maybe all children with autism have symptoms of both Lyme and parasite infections.  I have heard some of the most effective practitioners say that their first line of diagnosis is symptoms, and a negative test result should never trump symptoms.

Many children see significant reductions in autism symptoms when they are treated for these two infections.

Diagnostic Option 2:  Treat and Retest

There are natural treatments for both Lyme and parasites.  For example, parasites can be treated with herbs.  Since these conditions can be treated, work with your natural medicine practitioner to start a treatment plan.  Once your child’s immune system is able to catch up, it will start expelling more parasites and create more antibodies for Lyme.  Thus, upon retest, you may get that positive lab to reinforce you are on the right track.  However, if the lab still comes back negative, but the treatment is helping, seriously consider continuing the treatment.

Diagnostic Option 3:  Muscle Testing

According to Dr. Dietrick Klinghardt, muscle testing is generally about 90% accurate.  He uses muscle testing in his practice and finds it very reliable.  I have taken my son to 7 practitioners on our healing journey, and the two who have been by far the most helpful both use muscle testing.

If you suspect something like Lyme or parasites and get a false negative, find a practitioner who is skilled in muscle testing.  Muscle testing isn’t 100% accurate, but it is likely much more accurate than lab tests for difficult to detect infections such as Lyme and parasites.

A couple of years ago my son had chronic nausea.  We saw many doctors and ran expensive (out-of-pocket) tests and found nothing particularly helpful.  Finally, I turned to a chiropractic internist and our acupuncturist.  Interestingly, both practitioners diagnosed the cause of the nausea as parasites.  As soon as we put him on herbs for parasites, his nausea began to fade.

By the way, muscle testing is a fraction of the cost of traditional lab testing.  Even if you are skeptical about muscle testing, it might be worth a try if it could save you hundreds of dollars in lab fees and multiple blood draws.

Diagnostic Option 4:  Conduct Multiple Tests

You can also opt to test and retest periodically in hopes of catching these guys eventually.  However, this testing option is likely to be time consuming and expensive.  In addition, your child won’t be happy to get frequent blood work!

Stay the Path!

If your child has autism, ADD/ADHD or another related conditions, don’t check off a negative lab test as something that doesn’t need to be addressed.  In my experience, the most effective practitioners diagnose first by looking at symptoms and use lab tests as a backup rather than the reverse.  Don’t let a false negative lab test divert your attention from what your child needs for recovery.  If you child has multiple symptoms of parasites, Lyme or other issues, continue on the path and consider gentle, natural remedies with no side effects.  Consider finding a practitioner who specializes in diagnosing parasites, Lyme, and other conditions.