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How to Help your Picky Eater?

Family with young children at table enjoying meal together

Tips to Help your Picky Eater

When my children were younger, family dinners often turned into a power struggle about what they would or wouldn’t eat.

I pleaded them to try all of the healthy foods on their plates even if they didn’t like the taste or texture of them. In the years since, I’ve learned some incredible strategies from the TherapyWorks feeding team.

Here are some of their simple tips to motivate your child to eat a variety of foods and to make mealtime a positive experience for your family.

Take the Focus off the Picky Eater

Often, kids with food aversions become stressed by focus and attention during mealtimes. Family dinners provide the opportunity to share the focus (much to the relief of our picky eaters). A recent study indicated that the more prompts caregivers gave their child (i.e. eat your vegetables) the less they ate. Try to initiate conversation or interactions that will change the focus. 



Involve your Child in the Prep Work

Picky eaters are more likely to accept new foods if they are able to explore and learn about it in a non-threatening, fun way. Comment on the shape, smell, colors and texture of the foods while cooking. Talk about where foods originated and how they got to your kitchen. Get them excited about cooking or baking projects. 

Consider Presentation and Portion Sizes

Presentation and portion sizes are very important in creating an enjoyable environment for kids with food aversions. The TherapyWorks feeding team loves Sage Spoonfuls’: Sili Elephant plate and their Happy Foodie Stainless Steel Divided Plate. The separate compartments allow us to manage portion sizes as well as keeping foods separate from one another; very important for our picky eaters! And the suction on the bottom of the plate will keep young children from throwing it on the floor; and added bonus! 

Piggy Back on Foods your Child Likes

Children are more willing to eat foods they like; see if you can build on the foods in their repertoire.

Identify the similarities between the foods your child will eat (texture, shape, taste, color). If your child likes chicken nuggets (a favorite of our picky eaters) try presenting a slightly different shape or a new brand. If your child likes yogurt, try presenting them with a new flavor that is the same color and texture as the one they like.

Slowly introducing subtle changes to build on accepted foods is an effective strategy. Research tells us that it may take up to 10 presentations of a new food before a child begins to eat it regularly. Be persistent with the presentation of new foods, even if your child doesn’t accept it the first few times. 

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s eating habits, reach out to us! The TherapyWorks feeding team is happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and make recommendations. 

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