What about teens, is it too late for them?
They’re mostly done growing, but they have their whole lives ahead of them. Where being picky is somewhat acceptable as children in our culture, teens often find themselves embarrassed as they transition onto adulthood and find that they still have an elementary school palate.
Company lunches, business dinners, wedding receptions, dinner parties, and backyard barbecues… Socializing as an adult means eating what other people serve, with gratitude. And it certainly doesn’t mean bringing a box of Ritz Crackers and a milkshake from Starbucks because that’s what you prefer to eat.
As food allergy awareness arises, many people are accustomed to choosing allergy-friendly restaurants or a dairy-free menu for a dinner party. But that still doesn’t work for the picky teen or young adult that only eats fast food, bagel bites, Starbucks Frappachinos, and chocolate.
Does this hit too close to home? It’s because I see this exact thing over and over, and I may or may not have been the teen who lived on Diet Pepsi and Snickers bars from the gas station
As we start our careers and adult lives, we want to focus on the topic at hand- whether that’s the business meeting, networking event, or getting to know our peers at a neighborhood potluck. This is hard to do if we’re starving and distracted because we can’t even swallow the bare minimum serving of pot roast, sausage and asparagus from the grill, or fancy appetizers at the swanky wine bar.
See, where having a picky child is an inconvenience and has some health benefits, a picky teen or young adult will find this sensory issue to be socially isolating.
In addition to the social and career repercussions, the long-term nutrient deficiencies have most likely caught up with your teen as they just went through their big growing years with not enough protein, vitamins, minerals, or healthy fats.
Health issues that can come from picky eating
(click the links to learn more)
- Eczema and skin issues
- Self harm (which relates usually to anxiety or depression)
- Attention Deficit
- Low blood sugar/lightheadedness and need to eat every hour or two
Low Blood Sugar
Start with this: Eat an egg. Just one egg, in addition to whatever you normally have in the morning. If you like eggs, scramble 3 eggs and add a little salt, cheese, or whatever else you like on your eggs (hot sauce is great too!) and eat this before you get out the door in the morning. More often than not, just giving your body a little protein and fat will stop the blood sugar roller coaster and allow you to go until you get a break for lunch without passing out.
I used to be this kid, and I’ve seen many other just like me- I had to eat first thing (usually processed cereal with nonfat milk, sometimes a Nutra Grain bar- both of these are nearly all carbohydrates) even before I showered or I would pass out in the shower. Once I started working as a nurse’s aid in a group home I couldn’t take a break all morning or the kids wouldn’t be ready when the bus came to pick them up, and I would cause a lot more work for everyone else at the group home.
I learned the egg trick then. And I’ve seen it work for at least 3 other teens personally.
It usually comes up for teens who are too shy to eat in class, too busy doing sports, or who start a summer job where they first go more than 2 hours betweens snacks.
Don’t be fooled, your body isn’t special- you absolutely can function more than 2 hours between eating sessions. You just need to give your body the food it needs- not the food it craves.
The Mental Health Link
Your brain needs good food. Without it, you can’t process your emotions, stay on task, or have the good mood needed to engage socially.
You may even feel so bad that you start cutting, restricting eating, binging or purging, or other self harm behaviors.
Unfortunately, the mental health aspect of picky eating requires more strict adherence. Start with the first part of the Picky Eating Protocol and progress all the way through the Step 3 Option 1, the GAPS Diet (read more about GAPS here). I recommend you stay on GAPS for 30 days, then try transitioning off and see how you feel.
If the roar of anxiety, slump of depression, or other mood issue comes back, you need to heal more.
This will give you the baseline to see what *normal* is for your body and brain, though. And you’ll soon see that having a calm clear mind is better than any junk food could ever be.
Eating for Clear Skin
It is thought that the skin breaking out is our first indicator of an imbalance in our body, whether it’s a temporary one caused by an environmental allergen (changing laundry soap, etc), or a bigger issue that starts within the gut.
These 5 power foods are easy to include in your diet will get you on your way to clear, clean, itch-free skin in no time.
Chicken Stock contains easy-to-digest proteins, vitamins, and minerals that are healing to the gut- and it’s thought that our skin reflects exactly how good of shape our gut is in. (find chicken stock here or make your own)
Collagen, like chicken stock, is made of animal protein that is easy to consume because it is tasteless. I stir a scoop into my tea in the evening, and watch my skin smooth out an nails and hair grow like crazy in just a week. (find collagen here)
Gelatin, similar to collagen but it doesn’t dissolve as easily into hot liquids, makes awesome gummy treats (think: healthy gummy bears!) while providing easy-to-digest protein and trace nutrients needed for healthy skin. (find gelatin here)
Sauerkraut provides probiotics, vitamin c, and enzymes to keep your microbiome in shape. Did you know there is a whole ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and yeasts all over your body? Helping this jungle of microorganisms to thrive, and encouraging the good ones to grow creates harmony within your gut for digestion, and even on your skin. If your skin has breakouts or gets frequent rashes, it could be that the particular ecosystem that is residing in, and on, you just isn’t working for you. Switch it up and watch your skin glow in new health. (find sauerkraut recipe here)
Coconut Oil is a healthy, easily-digestable fat that contains the essential fatty acids that every single cell in your body needs to repair and replace itself. Considering the wear and tear that skin cells get from every day use, exposure to the elements, and environmental toxins, these cells are going to need excellent nutrition to be able to repair and regenerate as needed. Coconut oil can replace any cooking oil. (find coconut oil here)
Food That Causes Breakouts
Hydrogenated oils: When we looked at coconut oil up above, we realized how essential fats are in our diet for skin repair and replacement. When we’re consuming hydroginated oils, we’re providing our body with Ditch: Margarine, shortening (Crisco), and any butter replacements.
Allergens Wheat, Dairy, and Eggs: Not every person who has skin issues will need to remove these foods from their diet, but if you are struggling with constant eczema, acne, or other bothersome breakouts, doing an elimination diet can get to the root of the problem. Thankfully, all the foods we included above can actually heal food sensitivities caused by leaky gut, so it’s likely that you’ll only need to remove these foods (or one of them) for a couple weeks, not long term- but you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of healthy skin from then on out.
And chocolate is responsible for skin issues in many women, but I won’t insist you pull it out, just keep in in mind… perhaps avoid it the week before you get family portraits taken :)
What we put on our skin matters a ton too. I use mineral and clay-based makeup (brand name Tarte) that is actually GOOD for my skin and won’t cause breakouts after I wear it. I love their foundation powder, mascara, eye liner, and contour palette.
Picky Eating in Teens and Young Adults
Picky eating can both be a behavioral issue (this one usually gets outgrown as peer pressure to enjoy real food comes into play) and a sensory issue. The above tips will help gently nudge a picky teen into eating food that agrees with them, and set them up for a lifetime of health, and social and emotional success.