It’s no secret. Kids LOVE carbs.
Many of the children I meet and work with (especially the ‘picky’ ones) are guaranteed to have at least one of the following foods on their list of favourites:
- [insert other carbohydrate food here]
I want to share why, but before I start throwing the word “carbohydrate” around in this post, I should say this…
Not all carbs are created equal.
Vegetables and fruits are carbohydrates as well, which many kids do love. However, the carbs we are really talking about here are the refined and over-processed ones that spike blood sugar quickly, lack fiber and other nutrients found in whole foods. The carbs that are often favourites for picky eaters and as a result, a concern for their parents.
You might be frustrated because your little one always seems to gravitate to these nutrient-lacking refined carbohydrate or high sugar foods (including candy). But there may a reason to their madness.
Three reasons to be exact. I’ll get there in a sec…
First, let me demonstrate!
Assume we offer a child two options:
Some kids will happily choose broccoli (including my Naomi – for now!), but most little ones would opt for a bite of those pancakes.
If the choice was parsnips vs. pasta. Or cauliflower vs. crackers. The latter option would likely win out as well.
Kids prefer carbohydrate foods for 3 reasons:
To gain energy.
Looking at our example, eating one ounce of pancake offers 67 calories versus only 13 calories in the same amount of broccoli. So ounce for ounce, they get a more concentrated energy with carby and bready foods like waffles, pasta and pancakes. To get the same amount of calories, it would require our little guy or gal to eat almost 5x the amount of broccoli. So when given the choice, they choose the pancake which means less time eating and more time playing.
To save energy.
Most refined carbohydrate foods are simple to eat. Pancakes for instance are soft making them easy to chew and breakdown quickly unlike a piece of broccoli. Again, efficiency plays a role in their decision. They can get what they need much faster by eating the high carbohydrate/calorie foods.
And now let’s state the obvious. Kids (and the average adult) would rather have pancakes, cookies, chips, crackers, or something sweet over beautiful green bowl of broccoli because it just tastes better. Especially when our taste buds are accustomed to sweeter foods, it becomes much harder to turn them down over broccoli or other vegetables (which are pretty tasty as well).
How to help your child try other new foods?
While our kids seem happy to sustain themselves on pancakes and pasta every day NOW, they will not be pancake obsessed forever.
That’s if we continue to present a balance of healthy foods (and periodically ‘unhealthier’ ones too). Remember when I told you why I give my child desserts for dinner? Well, the same logic applies here. Include these foods at meals once in a while so that they don’t become “forbidden”.
Also, our kids will choose the path of least resistance when offered to them. So, it’s our job to keep providing a variety of foods – making sure to include nutrient-dense foods like these:
- Bean-based pastas (like Chickapea pasta)
- Protein-packed pancakes (made with 2 eggs, 1 banana, and nut/seed butter)
- Seed-based crackers (like Mary’s Crackers or make your own crackers)
Of course, there are many others which I’ll save for another post. But these should give you some early inspiration.
Ideally, we don’t want to be eating the same food(s) continuously. If they love pancakes, offer them, but not every day. That said, if your child is on the extreme end of picky eating and pancakes are one of the only foods they will eat, a different approach is required (which I won’t get into here).
Just know that our kids are not out to get us! Or intentionally frustrate us with their food choices. I swear! These carbohydrate-rich foods provide quick energy with little work or time invested to eat them.
Or if you are so frustrated, feeling stuck, and would just love someone to show you how to achieve stress-free meals (and create a healthier eating for the long-run), check out the Picky Eater Protocol. I am there with you every step of the way.