Delicious Living Blog

Picky kids: Could it be a food intolerance or allergy?

Do you have a picky eater? I do—although a helpful new book, What's Eating Your Child?, has me asking whether a food intolerance might be a culprit.

It’s probably karma. Growing up, I was my family’s official picky kid. I lurked upstairs in my room dreading impending “fish for dinner.” I even melodramatically gagged when my parents "strongly encouraged" me to sample a despised food.

Raising my own family in uber-health-conscious Boulder, Colorado, and working as a health and wellness editor at Delicious Living, I was determined to feed my first baby, Jack, only the best: organic whole foods, no sugar, the whole deal.

Fast-forward ten years and Jack—although a sophisticated sushi aficionado—subsists mainly on eggs, cheese, pasta, and pizza, along with anything sugary he can get his hands on. Occasionally I get an apple or carrot into him. I watch my friends’ children happily scarf down beets and kale and shrug my shoulders: Jack’s picky.

Recently, though, I’ve been rethinking this pigeon-holing label we’ve put on my son—thanks to a review copy of What’s Eating Your Child? (Workman, 2011) that landed on my desk. Author Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND, offers insightful clues throughout the book that help parents connect the dots between seemingly random symptoms and behaviors (chronic ear infections, rashes, anxiety) and possible food-related disorders, including food intolerances, deficiencies, even ADHD.

For instance, I learned that picky eating can not only make kids tired and irritable, but can be a sign of an irritating food—which can lead to constipation or excess mucus production, both of which dampen appetite.

Here’s a list of more symptoms, along with possible culprits and solutions from the book. (As for me, Jack and I are off to the allergist for a few tests!)

Symptom                                         Possible cause                   Possible solution

GI distress (stomachache,            Gluten intolerance                 Gluten-free diet

diarrhea, gas) or extreme

anger, bipolar disorder


Chronic ear infections                   Immune reactions,                  Dairy-free diet

                                                         likely to casein                     


Failure to grow, poor                      Zinc deficiency                       Supplement w/zinc  



Constipation                                    Casein intolerance                      Dairy-free diet,

                                                                                                             add probiotics


Excessive anxiety                           Healthy-fats deficiency           Supplement with fish

                                                                                                         oil (esp. EPA) to

                                                                                                         balance nervous system


Inexplicable hives                      Allergic reaction to GMO            Eat only organic corn, 

                                                  corn or soy or high-pesticide       soy, and produce on

                                                  residue fruits like berries              EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.


Speech delays                             Low availability of nutrients       Supplement with fish

(dyspraxia)                                  important for learning                 oil, vitamin E complex,

                                                        & phosphatidylcholine


Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Jun 2, 2011

I love this article (and linked to it in my blog) b/c I can relate to every bit of it. It is a shame the testing for food allergies is so unreliable~ my oldest was tested 3 times (different ways) before his sensitivities were found. Now he eats so much more variety! I still have to figure out my youngest though. Please update us when you find out your son's results!

on Nov 23, 2011

Thanks for your nice comment, and apologies it took me so long to find it! I am still working with my son, but will keep you posted!

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