Picking foods

In response to picky eater’s post:

I am underweight and a very picky eater I don’t like meats or baked vegetables. Kids at school comment about me being so skinny. I can’t help it. Another problem I have is Low Muscle Tone basically because I am 12 years old and I am starting to grow quickly my knees swell twice their usual size when I run even though there isn’t any problem with them. Please help me.

Hi there, Picky eater. Oh, you are not alone, however, you must search very quickly to resolve these eating issues because you are at a very important time in terms of growth (as you mention). You do not say if you are male or female. If you were female, you would be entering the time of greatest growth since infancy, and therefore some of the greatest dietary requirements you have ever needed since infancy. If you are male, your greatest growth period is approaching in the next few years but there will still be periods of rapid growth now. Either way, if you are undernourished during any growth period, you cannot make up the growth. This means you cannot go back and add an inch to your height that you missed when you weren’t getting enough food. Also, your skeleton is still rapidly growing and in a few years you will reach something called peak bone mass. That means that if you have built a strong skeleton, your body will continue to maintain that strong skeleton provided you keep adequate calcium coming, and if you haven’t up until you reach 20, you will likely experience bone loss that could leave you very frail as you grow older.

So what to do?

If you can, I would have Mom or Dad speak to your pediatrician and see if you can get a referral to a dietitian, who could guide you in making sensible food choices until you are able to maintain your diet on your own. This person could serve as a valuable resource as you grow should you need him/her.

If that is not an option, or if you would like to see a good diet pattern, I would suggest visiting MyPyramid.gov and go to MyPyramidPlan to see how many calories you should be consuming, and the recommended eating pattern from all of the food groups (it will tell you how much should come from each food group based on your age/gender/height to achieve a balanced diet). Next, go to Inside MyPyramid and have a look at the food groups in depth. Click on “What is a serving”, and have a peek at the food galleries. Try to find foods from each food category that are acceptable to you.

It is absolutely crucial at this stage that you consume enough calories to maintain growth, and that you find good sources of protein, etc. If you do not like meats, how about beans? Nuts? Cheeses? Tofu? Eggs? Peanut butter? Try new things until you find a good source that you enjoy eating. Although it is not a good replacement for naturally occurring vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables (they contain other nutrients that really help your body), I would recommend you take a multivitamin pill — one that provides no more than 100% of each vitamin listed. Be sure the vitamin has iron, and be sure that your parent oversees your dosage. Additionally, you may need to take a separate calcium supplement if you are not getting enough calcium — and it is likely you are not.

You may want to record a day’s diet and enter it into MyPyramid’s MyPyramid Tracker to see where your diet is unbalanced.

Most of all, you need to consult with your parents and medical professionals, because I can suggest things for you to do, but the people around you are better suited to help you. Continue to try new foods, even if you reject many of them. Be sure to get enough calories for the day. Do NOT consume protein powders or too much protein, as it may hurt your kidneys. And try not to worry about what kids think — if you continue to eat and grow and be healthy, you will fill out soon enough.

I hope that helps!

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