Book review (& giveaway): a nutritionist connects the dots between food & childhood ailments.

As the mom of an allergic child, I have long been frustrated with what seems to be a gaping hole in pediatric medical care: the connection of food to illness. While most any doctor will tell you a child needs to have a “balanced diet” to remain healthy, that’s where the causal relationship typically ends in conversations at the doctor’s office.

For instance, when my infant son had severe eczema, I had to repeatedly (even forcefully) ask for a referral to a pediatric allergist for testing. Our doctor just kept saying that it was “dry skin” — that we needed to find the right lotions, bathe him less often, bathe him more often, change laundry detergents. But in my gut I knew it was food.

And there are other illnesses and/or disorders that many parents find improve by a change in diet: everything from autism to chronic ear infections. But the unfortunate truth is that much of this dietary knowledge comes primarily from online communities, obsessive research, and independent observation — not from the traditional medical community. Which leaves many parents feeling like they are going rogue with their children’s healthcare.

I was cautiously optimistic when offered a review copy of a new book by licensed dietician Kelly Dorfman, What’s Eating Your Child? The Hidden Connections Between Food and Childhood Ailments. If a licensed nutrition specialist was writing a book about this, I wanted to read it. Could this finally be a mainstream publication addressing the connection between diet and sick children?

Indeed it is. This book is an important step in the right direction — if for no other reason than it’s written (and well-documented!) by a professional in a scientific field — with a forward by a pediatric allergy specialist. These MDs, LNDs, and MSs give credibility to a topic that often gets pidgeon-holed into a category of psychosomatics and granolas, ripe with pejoratives.

Medical credibility or no, the most important thing the book does is empower the parent. She encourages parents to become “nutrition detectives,” becoming keen observers, note-takers, scientists on behalf of their child. Many of her own clients end up in her office as a last-resort — they have seen every doctor, specialist, psychiatrist (yes, food can be a culprit in behavioral disorders) for their problem and have nowhere else to turn. They have been given Rxs for everything from reflux to ADHD, but their gut tells them to keep searching before handing their kids the drugs (or they’ve used the drugs, with no improvement).

It might seem like a large task — and sometimes it is. But the book goes a long way to get a parent started. Each chapter details a different case study, along with her thought process during treatment and the end result. Does your child have no appetite? It could be a zinc deficiency. Does your child have reflux? Dairy is often the culprit. Does your child have bumpy skin (otherwise known as “chicken skin”)? It could be a deficiency in EFAs (essential fatty acids).ย  From chronic ear infections to high anxiety to constipation, the cases are covered. The book addresses picky eaters, too — limited diet is often a sign of allergy (but even if no allergy is present, the book offers practical ways to broaden your child’s diet).

The book gets a little long, and many readers might choose to skip chapters that do not relate to their child. But there is information to be gained in each chapter — nutritional information is given in such a way that it is generally helpful — not just in feeding our children but in feeding ourselves. I was happy to read that the author addresses pesticides as potential allergens, admits that popping supplements is not always a magic pill solution, and paints a true and demonizing picture of HFCS and sugar.

My major criticism of the book is that, while full of the usual disclaimers, it can give the impression that finding solutions to some of these problems is easy — like the mystery flick where, once solved at the end, seemed to be obvious all along. But most of us don’t have 20 years experience in the field of nutrition, two decades of gathering clues. We are simply busy parents who are trying to help our children while keeping our heads above water — and elimination diets are not easy, especially with children who have been eating the same way for years. I also wish the solutions didn’t rely so heavily on supplements rather than dietary change — but I understand that that is often the fastest, easiest way to get necessary nutrients into deficient little bodies.

That being said, I would recommend the book (and have already, more than once!) to any parent who seemed concerned about his child’s health, and is looking for solutions beyond medications that simply treat symptoms. The book can get a parent into the right frame of mind, and give her a starting place on the road to solution. Which hopefully, in the very near future, will by default include a nutrition-detective pediatrician as well.



**UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Gina, of comment #27, who “hated squash and chinese food, and still doesnโ€™t like slimy foods.” Thanks to everyone who entered, followed, tweeted, updated, and shared their most-hated foods as a child.

If you are interested in winning a copy of What’s Eating Your Child, you have three ways to enter (each person can have a maximum of 3 entries):

  1. Leave a comment below, telling me the one food you most hated as a child.
  2. Tweet this giveaway. You might write “Hoping to win Kelly Dorfman’s *What’s Eating Your Child*– a book giveaway from @katyshecooks:”
    Leave a link to the tweet in a separate comment below.
  3. “Like” me on Facebook. If you already “like” me, you can post a link to this giveaway in a status update. Tell me which you did in a separate comment below.

You can enter anytime between now and Monday, July 11, at 8:59pm EST. A winner will be selected from the entries, using I will email the winner on Tuesday (make sure your email address is correct when leaving a comment) to get a shipping address — the winner has three days to respond, or the world might end (and another winner will be chosen).

Fine print: Other than the free review copy of the book, I received no compensation for hosting this giveaway.


I linked this post up to Simple Lives Thursday, at GNOWFGLINS — a great blog resource for natural solutions to myriad household challenges, in the kitchen and elsewhere.







47 thoughts on “Book review (& giveaway): a nutritionist connects the dots between food & childhood ailments.

  1. I posted the link in a status update! This will be a great addition to the little village library I work at!!

  2. I didn’t like anything that wasn’t brown or white (potatoes, bread, meat, peanutbutter, cheese) or scallops- still can’t eat scallops to this day!

  3. I wasn’t a picky eater as a child, and am even more adventurous now. I guess I always hated green peppers, and no I will sometimes tolerate them.

  4. I hated a lot of foods as a child. The one that came to mind first was liver.

    This book is on my “to read” list, so it was nice to read a review. Definitely going to have to pick it up if I don’t win!

  5. lets see, the food I hated most as a child was honestly milk. i know its a normal food for most people, but I still have a slight aversion to it. But it sure is nice to wash down a home made chocolate chip cookie with some fresh raw milk!

  6. I hated salad. We had it with EVERY dinner, and I dreaded dinner for that reason alone. I’m still not a huge fan, but I don’t kick and scream anymore! ;-D

  7. I hated tomatoes- would slather ketchup on EVERYTHING (including mac and cheese, pickles, and grilled cheese) but would not touch a tomato in its pure form. I’ve loosened up a little, but still isn’t my favorite.

  8. Hated brussel sprouts…although I’m sure this had everything to do with the fact that they were boiled in plain water and served mushy. Yuk!

  9. I would love to win this book. My son has autism and has many food allergies. I did not like eating liver. My mom would hide it other items but I alwys could pick it out.

  10. Hey Katy. Fruit pies. I hated fruit pies. I know, it’s crazy.
    I think I already “like” you, so I’m sharing this link on facebook (though I’m pretty sure I would even if you weren’t hosting a book giveaway.

  11. I hated eating the gross PB&Js my mom made for me and would then keep in the fridge for me if I didn’t finish them. Not sure what was so wrong with them, but I hated them!

  12. I liked you on facebook, surprised I had not done that already.
    I did not like tomatoes as a child or any condiments: plain everything. My version of a BLT: bread and bacon ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I love tomatoes and still don’t like condiments.

  13. I hated squash and chinese food. I still don’t like slimy foods. Some things don’t change.

  14. Liver. Probably not the worst food, but definitely caused the most anguish because my mom liked it.

  15. Cherry tomatoes. I was forced to eat them and hated, HATED, the way they burst in my mouth. Love them now as an adult, but have to cut them in half before eating ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I never liked milk as a child, and still don’t- at least not as a beverage. In cereal it’s tolerable. I think I liked just about everything else, though!

  17. I hated zucchini as a child because of the mushy texture. Now I love it as does my son. I liked a lot of other fruits and veggies.

  18. The food I hated the most as a child was bologna. I still dont like it and still dont eat it.

  19. Well, I hope I win! One of my kids had an anaphylactic reaction to eggs and it was a slam dunk to figure out. Another had chronic diahrea and rashes, including terrible diaper rash. I took a YEAR to figure out. If I don’t win, I’ll buy it anyway. And oh, the food I hated most as a child was my mom’s vegan carob cake. No one ever believed it was chocolate. She tried until the last child left home. It sucked rocks. I STILL hate it!

  20. It’s interesting to read that so many people disliked tomatoes, liver, and brussels sprouts as children. I’m a fan of “innards”! I’ve never been a picky eater, but there was something that I was forced to eat as a child that I hated (and I don’t use this word lightly). It’s a dish called “ensaladilla rusa,” which consists of cold diced boiled vegetables (usually potatoes, green beans, carrots, sweet peas), hard boiled egg, ham – everything covered in mayo. Later I also discovered that I hated another dish that was supposed to be delicious: cold boiled potatoes with mayo and some kind of canned clam (berberechos in Spanish) on top. I then figured out that it was the combo of cold boiled potato with mayo that was so disgusting to me.

  21. I was such a picky eater! Let’s see…beans of all kinds, milk, broccoli, spaghetti sauce, sweet potatoes, squash, ….. Now I like (or love) all of these!

  22. My dad loved canned veggies and that’s what we had. Of them, I HATED canned peas the most…YUCK!!!

  23. I’d have to say it was a tie. Blackeyed peas and lima beans. Both of which I adore now!!

  24. I honestly cannot recall hating anything! But I know that I only ate onion if I could not pick it from what I was eating, so I will go with onion. I do love them now!

  25. I’m going to have to agree with those who said liver – even thinking about it now as an adult it sounds disgusting!

  26. I never thought I was picky, but I could probably make a pretty long list! I had forgotten about lima beans, I haven’t eaten them in years, but I really hated them. I also didn’t like milk, bananas, nuts in general (that includes pb) and pork chops the way my mum made them (hard as a shoe sole with a spot of ketchup on top and a slice of lemon in the ketchup!). Now I’ll eat pretty much anything, but I’m not sure about those pork chops!

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