Here Is Why Children Only Eat One Food From Their Plate

Jul 25 2017 - 10:49am
children diet family health mono meals

Watching your child eat is sometimes an exercise in frustration and patience, since children don't usually eat everything that's on their plate. Preferring to eat only one food from their plate at meal time needn't worry you. Surprisingly, eating this way is natural for you child and has some welcome health benefits.

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Related: 3 Healthy Things Parents Can Learn From Their Children’s Eating Habits

If you’re worried about how much food your children are leaving on their dinner plate, you may want to know more about why they single out one food to eat and the positive effect it has on them.

Without being picky, your children are eating monotrophically, which means they prefer eating one food at a time. From a digestive prospective, this is an excellent practice.

Children Eat Instinctively When They’re Young

Children are excellent models of the “mono” way of eating. A child, given a choice of three foods, will likely eat one food and leave the rest on their plate. Children don’t think to eat their peas with their carrots and potatoes instinctively when they’re young – we teach them to do that. Rather, children left to their own instinct at a young age, will eat only one food at a time.

And it's not that your child is a picky eater, it’s more that your child is a natural eater with developing tastebuds -- and pretty spot-on in how he partakes in the daily ritual we know as eating. Think about a lion having two side dishes with his raw meat or a squirrel having a side dish of fruit with his nuts. This doesn’t happen because it is natural for the animal to eat monotrophically. In almost the same way, children eat instinctively but they only do this when they are young. Once their tastes change, they move on to try a variety of foods.

Interestingly, only humans can eat more than one food group at a time. Our digestive systems take up the load by releasing digestive enzymes for each type of food that we eat, but as we age and continue to poorly combine our food that gets harder for the body to do – around midlife. That’s when we begin to realize we can’t eat the way we used to, and go back to simple eating.

Related: If Your Children Are Prone To Strep Throat You Want to Stop Giving Them Eggs Immediately

Mono Eating Is A Temporary Way Of Eating

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Obviously, if your child decided to only eat meat, or eat only fruit or drink only milk, this would not be an ideal diet for them long term. Therefore, as their tastes mature, they will make the natural progression toward eating a variety of foods. Herbert Shelton MD, Father of Holistic Nutrition and author of the timeless book,The Hygienic Care Of Children puts it this way, “Mono diets have certain value in various conditions, but they are by no means an ideal diet for long, regular and continued use, not alone because they are monotonous, but, also, and more importantly, because they are very inadequate.”

While mono meals transition a young child to varied meals, they are also highly effective on a temporary basis for nutritional healing, when only one or two foods can be tolerated.

This is where teaching proper food combining comes in handy. When foods are combined properly and there are no dietary symptoms, kids begin to move on from mono meals to eat a varied diet.

How Not To Combine Foods

An example of improper food combining would be a sandwich. While sandwiches typically don't cause stomachaches in children they can tax a sensitive digestive system. This may be because a sandwich is a combination of bread, which is a starch, combined with meat --a protein, and perhaps a vegetable, if the sandwich was topped with lettuce. This means your child’s digestive system would have to put out three digestive enzymes – one for the starch, one for the protein and one for the vegetable. The rules of proper food combining avoid combining the protein with the starch and the vegetable, as these foods have different digestive times and would result in a slowing of food passing through the gut.

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What Is Food Combining?

Food combining was discovered by William Howard Hay then revived by Herbert Shelton, in the twentieth century. Shelton believed strongly that different foods were digested at different rates and that proper food combining had a positive impact on how humans digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients and manage weight.

Food combining makes digestion easier by putting “like-foods” that are easily digested together so as not to overwork and irritate the digestive tract. If you have a child with a sensitive stomach or digestive issues, this is an ideal way to feed them. An example of a properly combined meal would be steak, broccoli and salad, since protein combines well with vegetables during digestion.

Ultimately, Combining Food Properly Is About Efficiency

To put it briefly, how your children combine their food is essential to how well they will digest it. By combining food properly, your child is unknowningly creating digestive efficiency. While their mono eating may be of concern to you, this practice keeps your child’s digestion running smoothly, preventing symptoms of gastritis and indigestion. Mono eating is essentially a child’s way of practicing proper food combining. When the time is right your child will begin wanting a variety of foods, as this is their natural progression of eating. By serving your child foods that combine properly, it will yield the same digestive comfort as eating a mono meal and you have a better chance of watching them clear their plate.

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