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Preventing Picky Eating: Strategies to help your family get back on track

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1. Create the Right Environment

Make sure you have a regular-sized kitchen table and supportive chairs versus sitting at a breakfast bar, a tall top table, or on a bench. WHY? In the body’s list of priorities, not falling on your head (Postural Stability) is priority #2. In case you were curious, priority #1 is breathing. Eating is the body’s priority #3. Bar stools and benches do not provide children with good enough side and foot support. A supportive chair is one that puts your child’s hips, knees and ankles each at a 90 degree angle. To do this correctly, the chair should have:

Postural stability is what allows our trunk to be stable while other parts of our body move to do a motor task. Related to mealtimes, we need to be able to have enough endurance and strength to maintain a stable seated position for the entire duration of the meal.

2. Do Family-Style Serving at All Meals & Snacks

Make one big meal for the family that includes everyone’s foods, and serve everything family style. Family style serving means that everyone takes at least one piece of every food served at the meal, puts it on their plate, and passes the serving dish to the next person at the table.

For example, you may be having spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread as the main meal. However, your child will only eat the garlic bread. In order to give them good nutrition, you may also need to make chicken nuggets and offer thin carrot sticks (the rest of the carrots can be chopped up into the salad). All of the foods will be passed family-style, so there is no differentiation between the ‘kid’ food and the ‘adult’ food.

Your child may not eat some of the family’s foods at first, and that is okay. The goal is for your child to start learning about the other foods. Learning to eat new foods begins with being able to tolerate looking at and smelling the food in front of you. Then, the child needs to learn about how the food feels by touching it with a utensil or their fingers. It is only after being okay with looking at, smelling, and touching the food, that they will be able to learn about tasting the new food.

3. Avoid Food Jags

A food jag is when your child wants to eat the same exact food, prepared the same exact way, over and over again. The problem with food jags is that your child will eventually get sick and tired of that food. Once children start “burning out” on foods, their food range gets smaller and smaller. This is how children eventually end up with only 10 foods that they will eat.

To avoid food jags, a child is allowed to have their perfect version of a food only every other day. If you give them a food today, they can’t have it again today and not tomorrow either. They can only have it again the day after tomorrow. Milk and milk alternatives are the only exceptions to this rule. However, some children do burn out on milk, so we advise offering either water or juice at one meal a day.

If you are struggling with implementing any of these strategies, join us at the Picky Eater or Problem Feeder Membership Level for more support.


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