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When picky eating is not a pathological condition, or severe sensory issues, or extreme gut inflammation, what can you do to help your child eat more diverse, complex, and flavorful foods. That’s what Julia Markova talks about in this podcast.

 

Audio Transcription:

Vaish:

Hello and welcome back to functional nutrition and learning for kids. My guest today is my friend and colleague, Dr. Julia Mercola. The Julia is a global citizen and a busy Mama. she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two kids. In a private coaching practice, Julia specializes in brain nutrition and digestive health for women. She’s passionate about helping our clients. And in her words, this is reduce inflammation to induce gut brain peace.

In addition to holding talks for the community, and working with clients, one on one, Julia enjoys making delicious food, reading good books and riding the waves at the beautiful Oregon coast. Welcome Julia. And I’m so excited to have Julia here, because both of us are really passionate about this intersection of picky eating, and ancestral foods, and you know, just nutrient dense cooking in general. So I’m super excited about our conversation today, Julia.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Thanks for having me. Vaish. I’m really happy to be here.

Vaish:

I know that you originally I mean, you’re originally from Russia. But can you give us a little bit of detail about what role ancestral diets have played in your health, whether that be Russia or elsewhere?

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Well, my family moved around a lot. My father actually was in the diplomatic corps. So as a child, I spent my childhood between Russia and Greece, a little bit of Poland too. And we pretty much ate whatever the foods, you know, the people around us aid, of course, my parents both are Russian. So they already were familiar with that food, the foods that I got introduced, were literally, you know, just kind of anything that we would find, you know, either buy from grocery stores or farmer’s markets around. And it really was just variable, depending on where we lived in Russia at the time, there actually weren’t a ton of different choices. So sometimes food was, you know, like, you’d have to stand in multiple lines, literally, to get the food. In Greece, it was a very different situation, of course. But in both environments, we eat what’s really available, and usually actually cheapest, which means what was in season. And that’s kind of how my family rolled. Really,

Vaish:

This is where I’m coming to like I would call this the question of today’s session is, have you observed picky eaters in your childhood? And I’m asking this because I want to set the stage for this discussion. With my experience, I think more and more in-depth about picky eating. I don’t do they collected being a thing when I was a child? I mean, I think I actually was a little bit of a big eater, but that was to gravitate towards sweet things, eat a ton of sugar and all that I still had to eat what my mom made, mostly because there really wasn’t that much of a choice. I mean, we didn’t really have junk food available in India at the time. But why? I am I’m not aware of anybody around me being a picky eater, what’s your experience?

Dr. Julia Mercola:

It was very similar. And it’s interesting. What I think is actually really funny is I just remember that my mom cooked sometimes I made food with my mom, but we always ate what was cooked, you know, not what was available in terms of like, you open the fridge and you get something out, you know, our fridge really wasn’t like brimming with food. Usually, we would purchase food, you know, we’ll cook it, and then we would eat it. Or like in case of, for example, you know, like, there might be like sauerkraut sitting around, but like my mom and I would make it right, and then it would be sitting around for a few days to ferment. But otherwise, there wasn’t really food like sitting around. And so I don’t remember being I don’t know if that’s the word I would use picky or choosy. Because it’s not like, you know, I would starve if I didn’t eat, but they’re really weren’t, as many choices to pick through. Really. So. And it wasn’t like, you know, food scarcity, but it’s just like, it’s food. It’s delicious. It’s fresh. It’s warm.

Yes, smells really good. And you eat it. And, you know, like I had a sister still do. I remember the kind of like fighting over food on the table, but not because we were hungry, but because you know, like siblings always have to say like, I have the best of this, whatever. But that’s the only experience that I have in terms of like, choosing something over food, like, you know, her plate looks better, something like that. But it’s food. It’s really more just like that, that kind of thing. So that was pretty much my only experience of you know, like picky eating as a child. So it’s interesting. It’s interesting to watch my kids very differently. Yes, yes, yeah.

Vaish:

Um, exactly. And you know, everything that you mentioned about food as we have experienced it as a child, so not scarcity, but very limited in choice, right? There’s only that, and then food was fresh, warm, and limited choice. And I think I can safely say that none of those are generally true anymore.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

True. Yeah, I don’t even remember honestly, leftovers. We just, you know, we ate the food. Yeah. And usually, you cook just how much your family was going to eat.

Vaish:

And as we are trying to connect the dots between this you know, the all-pervasive phenomenon of picky eating. And, and honestly, I need to, you know, put in a disclaimer that picky eating is a huge spectrum. There are children that are just simply choosy. And just like no, I don’t want to eat this. I just want to eat mac and cheese and their children for whom this is a pathological condition. And by no means am I trivializing any of these, in fact, one of my earlier podcasts with, with new nutritionist and dietitian Katherine Jeff coach is also based in Portland, she talks about our fed, which was a diagnosis that I hadn’t heard before, which is when picky eating is pathological when children will actually starve and not eat because it’s so difficult for them to eat. But not actually, you know, it’s going to be very hard for us to connect all the dots simply because we don’t even know all the variables involved. But this is just a casual discussion to see the things that have changed. So some of the dots that we can talk about already are the abundant choices available, and perhaps the nature of the processing. And I actually wanted to discuss children’s menus with you in restaurants. Let me be very specific. Okay, sure. What do you think about kids menus,

Dr. Julia Mercola:

The idea that somehow our children don’t want to, or perhaps are not ready to enjoy the same type of food that adults do? is confusing to me? Because how do we

Vaish:

Yeah, it’s insulting, right?

Dr. Julia Mercola:

It is condescending a little bit. But I think also more like we, we all want our kids to enjoy. Beautiful, you know, good tasting food now, how can we help them do it if we’re not actually letting them experience that if they’re expecting to come to the restaurant and see children’s menus that are just different from the food of the adults, and sometimes in the restaurants? Like, you know, we’re very lucky in Portland, right? We have amazing restaurants, and we have so many amazing food choices. But sometimes you would go to a fantastic restaurant where you would have, amazing farm-to-table food for adults. And then the children’s menu still have this like very processed food substitutes. And I don’t understand that.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Yeah, generally, it’s generally mac and cheese and chicken nuggets from that, like, yeah, yeah, yeah, very low in texture, very, very low in flavor. One of the things that occur to me is that it’s a vicious cycle, the more you buy into the concept of a kid’s menu, the harder it is for a kid to transition out of it because now, the change is too big.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s huge. And I, you know, also, I don’t know, if you want to delve into kind of the whole idea of distractions, but you know, these days, children are very distracted. We have a lot of digital distractions, which, you know, we struggle a lot in our family. One rule that we do have in our family is, there are no devices allowed around the dinner table, or in restaurants when we’re eating. But I think that when you know, there are kids looking at screens, you know, any food you put in front of them, they’ll just kind of like mindlessly eat it right? It’s really hard to even care sometimes. Right? They’re busy. So it’s, it’s a little bit, it’s, it’s a complex issue, I think we’ve both the distractions of the children’s menu, but you know, they’re already really distracted. And then on top of that, they have a different menu that’s in front of them, and they will be like, okay, yeah, I just want to play this game, like, whatever. A lot of the kid’s menu, right? So it’s, it’s, we’re training our kids, we’re training them to, you know, both expect different choices, and then also just not actually even care as much about how food tastes because they’re just not even paying attention to the food. But you know, it’s also hard to pay attention to the food when it’s flavorless, right? Yes.

Vaish:

Oh, absolutely. Yes. When it’s not joyful and fun. Yeah, not this, this complex, beautiful thing.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Exactly.

Vaish:

You know what? So as we were talking about, you know, earlier, you and I were talking about how people will often make different meals for kids, even when friends meet up, right. And I, as a matter of principle, I’ve never done that. So as I like, I’m not going to cook Something else for kids? And because the one thing that I always thought was that mac and cheese used to be cooked for kids to date? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t think I should be proud of this. But to date, I really don’t know how to make mac and cheese. But anyway, that’s why

Dr. Julia Mercola:

I don’t either that is so I don’t know how to make it. I just, there are probably other things that you know,I don’t know anything

Vaish:

. And it’s this is by no means the only thing I don’t know. But definitely, I remain proud of not making mac and cheese.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

No, I just think why would taste so bad? Yeah, nobody.

Vaish:

If you had to suggest two or three things that somebody could do, that somebody could make a change in, I think it’s always easier to make a change when your child is younger than when they’re older. But regardless of the age, what would they be, and I’m also putting in that disclaimer, again, is that this is for the picky eater where it’s where you can make changes, where you can buy things, can be done, and we’re not talking about somebody who’s pathologically picky or somebody who might need oral motor therapy. And we’ve talked about that in a previous podcast. But generally, what are your suggestions for somebody who’s dealing with a child that prefers bland texture, less food?

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Well, a couple of things. One is, I would say, always assume that your child actually wants better for themselves, right? Don’t assume that that is what they really want. Maybe this is something that they’ve been trained to accept. But yeah, but children are, you know, humans are incredibly intelligent, right. So if you give them really good things, they’ll probably eventually switch them. But probably just, if you truly, I’m going to say a couple of things, just like the first scenario, if you already have a child who is preferring bland foods, or something that you would like for them to diversify, is just maybe start slow, and really don’t force them to accept something that they may not even know, you know, exists. So in that case, maybe serve something alongside and that just lead them maybe take small bites little by little in, but then the other scenario where you know, you just in general want the kids to experience different flavors, even if they are not necessarily You know, every meal, they’re going to eat everything you want them to eat.

You know, in my house, I, I’m not saying that my children are always very ready to eat one. cooking for everything here. Yeah, yeah. And sometimes, you know, it can bum me out, especially when I’m really excited about something. And so what I usually do is, when I think about family dinner, we always the dinner, at least, of course, you know, during the day, it’s a lot more complicated, because we have different schedules, but the dinner we try to eat together. And I know that if I’m making something for dinner, not everybody is going to enjoy it. So I like to put little side dishes here and there so that a person thinks that, you know, there’s still an option for him or her, you know, do something like eat this and that. And, you know, I also don’t have any requirement of like, you know, you must have this and this and that on their plates. I may explain to them how, you know, for example, if you’re eating something, and then if you have some salad, the salad will actually help you digest what you’re eating because there are some, you know, enzymes and it will really be really helpful for your tummy, then you might sleep better because you know, the food will not be sitting in your stomach. All night long. Put a couple at least choices just make it easy for people to try things. Don’t put them in the corner where you know, this is it, we’re just switching it, you know, all of a sudden, everything is flavorless and you must love it. Because that’s not how the brain works, right? The brain, it’s kind of a way out to just breathe and you know, see the choices. And then again, maybe it works for other families, maybe it doesn’t families. In our house, it is a rule that there are absolutely no devices, or digital distractions around

the family dinner table or weekends we eat more meals together because we’re all home. And so that’s important because at least we’re all together. You know, sometimes maybe we’re having a conversation that may be distracting, but at least we’re all looking at each other and we’re looking at the food right we’re not looking at some other world somewhere else. And often it really does that, you know need reminding your kids Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I remember kind of like, in the beginning, getting really excited by taking pictures of restaurant meals together and you know, posting them on Instagram or something and then I was Yeah. Oh my god.

What am I doing? This is crazy like, No, no, the rule is the same for adults and children. It’s, you know, plus also, as we know, the human brain actually does not multitask all that well. So all of those things will be done more productively when you’re not eating right, you can get them done faster.

Vaish:

Absolutely. Those were, those were very, it was very compassionate, very respectful. I loved the basis of all of the three suggestions is that you assume competence in the child and that B, you respect the child, and you come from a place of respect, even while offering complexity and nutrition. So this is so great. Thank you. Thank you for your time, Julia, I loved our conversation, I always come away from talking to learning something new.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Thank you.

Vaish:

Yeah. Would you like to share where people can reach you?

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Yeah, the easiest way to find me, it’s probably just my website, which is, this address, remember is www.gutbrainCoach.com. And then I do have a link to my Instagram where I do actually post some ideas for some foods and something that I may be playing with at the moment. And I also actually like to feature some of the local stores where people can find a variety of different foods as I shop with different ethnic markets as well around Portland, which might be fun for people to discover if they may not know that already. So yeah, that braincoach.com is the easiest place,

Vaish:

and the handle is also got brain coach, correct.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

Yeah, it is. You’re right.

Vaish:

Okay. Follow Julia on Instagram, and I do love her posts, and she has, she takes the most fantastic pictures of, of, of, you know, unique foods and restaurants and so on. So I highly recommend following her.

Dr. Julia Mercola:

you are so kind Vaish thank you so much.

Vaish:

Thank you so much for listening to function, nutrition, and learning for kids. today. You also heard music composed and played by my daughter, Maitri Gosh. Now, I am very grateful that you continue to tune in to this podcast but I also love to hear from you about questions that you have. And the way to do this is to go to facebook.com/functionalnutritionforkids. And post a comment there. You can also email me vaish@functionalnutritionforkids. That’s the vaish@functionalnutritionforkids. See you next Thursday for another exciting episode. Bye