Turn “I Don’t Want That!” into “More Please!”: How to Help Your Picky Eater
As a parent, it is probably not difficult to know when you have a picky eater on your hands. Meal time should be a pleasurable experience for everyone and an opportunity to spend quality time with family. Read the tips below to alleviate stress during meals with a picky eater.
Tips to Make a Better Mealtime for Your Picky Eater:
Make a routine, and stick to it. Make a routine out of meal time. Set expectations such as setting the table, turning off the TV, and sitting at the table as a family.
Stay relaxed and calm. The more relaxed and calm you are during mealtime, the more likely your child will be relaxed and calm too. Model the behaviors you want your child to display.
Remove Pressure. Don’t place pressure on your child to eat certain foods. Delete the “you have to” and “if you don’t eat this…” sayings from your vocabulary. This fosters negative feelings and experiences with feeding. We want positive and happy feelings associated with meals in order to support healthy eating habits!
Eliminate distractions, grazing, and long mealtimes. Turn off the TV and put away the toys and electronics! Additionally, keep meal time to 30 minutes or less. The longer a mealtime becomes, the less pleasant mealtime may be. Consume solids first and liquids last, since liquids are more filling. Discourage snacking and grazing throughout the day, because this can lead to decreased appetite at meal times.
Serve a variety of food consistencies and tastes. This ensures that your child has exposure to multiple tastes, textures, and temperatures of food. Involve your child in grocery shopping and in meal preparation. The more a child understands about food and is an active participant in making food and mealtime happenings, the less surprising a new food is likely to be.
Explore new foods and make it fun. This may help decrease anxiety caused by unfamiliar or nonpreferred foods. Play with food, and don’t worry about making a mess! Smell, touch, lick, and bite foods to explore them and increase your child’s exposure. Talk about the food and describe it. How does it feel, what does it look like?
Don’t feel discouraged if you feel like nothing is changing. Your child may not be requesting a well-rounded meal tomorrow, but these tips will help you get there!
Seek the guidance of an occupational therapist or speech language pathologist if your child is particularly resistant and consumes a limited diet, as these may be signs of being a problem feeder.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!
Reference: North Shore Pediatric Therapy (2011). Picky eating: when to be concerned and how you can help. [PowerPoint slides].