Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
Here are a few tips from our therapists for parents of picky eaters to help navigate the season of eating.
The holidays are quickly approaching and along with the cooler weather, bright colors and time with family and friends comes FOOD!! Lots and lots of food which is enjoyable to most of us, but for children and parents of children who have sensory or taste aversions, it may be an overwhelming time of year.
- The first thing you can do is try to understand why your child may be a picky eater. Take notice of the foods they avoid. Do they all have a similar taste, texture or temperature? Do they not like things that are of mixed textures or tastes? If you can identify why your child doesn’t eat certain foods it’s easier for them and you to explain to friends and family why your child might not partake in their new recipe. “No thank you, I don’t like super sweet food”. “No thank you, I don’t care for food that is creamy”. “Johnny doesn’t like food to be served hot. I think he would like just some crackers and cheese.”
- Be patient and keep mealtime relaxed with your picky eater. You may encourage them to explore the new food even if they don’t eat the food. It’s ok to take something and leave it on our plate because we decided we didn’t want to eat it. Getting used to new foods is a process and it is important to remember to remain patient with your child and their eating habits during the holidays when eating schedules are often interrupted.
- It’s ok to bring along food you know your child will like or pre-feed your child prior to an event where you may be unsure if your picky eater will eat what is being served. Our mood is often tied to our appetite and having a well fed child is always preferable to a hungry child who may become cranky and engage in power struggles.
- Introduce holiday foods early and have your child join in the preparation or cooking process when possible. Have stuffing, green bean casserole or sweet potatoes for dinner on Tuesday with a meal they like or put cranberry sauce on the table for dinner. Trying “new” foods at home and not at a family function reduces stress and helps you and your child know what foods they do and do not like prior to the family gathering. As a bonus children take pride in things they make and if they were involved in making the dish they may be more likely to eat the dish.
- Be prepared! Download fun activity sheets from the OPTC@Home Resource Page. You can download and print at home, entire booklets or individual activity sheets. Our OPTC@Home activity booklets are designed by our therapists with your child’s smiles in mind.
The holidays should be for family, friends, fun and good food, but there is no need to stress over mealtime with a picky eater if you remember these tips.