Valentine’s Day Strategies for Picky Eaters
What makes holidays so difficult for the Picky Eater (or Problem Feeder)?
- Holidays are about eating specific, traditional foods (some of which our children may not see at any other times of the year)
- Holidays are about sweets (which suppress appetite faster than any other food)
- Holidays are about lots of people (who our children may or may not know)
- Holidays are about family members who have certain expectations about how our children should behave (and what they should be eating at meals)
- Holiday Food = LOVE (if you don’t eat grandma’s special cranberry sauce, you are being unloving, disrespectful, rude, etc.)
- Holidays are about fun, excitement, anticipation, and noise. All of which may be disorganizing for a child
- Holidays are about being allowed off the normal schedule (plans change frequently, and not knowing what to expect can be disorganizing)
- Holidays frequently include traveling and not being in the child’s usual, safe environment (Picky eaters may not travel well, and problem feeders usually don’t travel well)
Tips for Valentine’s Day
Minimize and limit changes. Limit the number of Valentine’s Day parties and events that they will attend, based on your child’s age.
- Preschoolers – one event on Valentine’s Day
- Kindergarten – 2nd graders – They will likely have a school event. This is enough in addition to one thing that the family might do.
Prepare your child in advance
- At least 2-4 weeks before Valentine’s Day, discuss what the plans are going to be (discuss cards, events, etc.)
Feed your child BEFORE the event
- Offer them a simple meal or snack of preferred foods before the event (try to make sure their school snack or lunch is given BEFORE the Valentine’s Day Party, and make sure you send easy to eat foods)
- Make sure this meal/snack is heavy on the proteins. However, still offer a balanced meal/snack that includes 1-2 proteins, 1 starch, and 1 fruit or vegetable, plus their drink.
- Trying to make kids eat challenging foods may spark power struggles in a child who may already be over-excited and not able to handle increased eating demands
- Don’t make participating in the Valentine’s day event contingent on what they eat
Limit the Sweets
- Allowing free access to sweets suppresses the appetite for more nutritious foods and can lead to craving more sugary foods
- One small “sweet treat” a day for no more than one week after Valentine’s Day is sufficient to celebrate this Holiday
- Tie how many days in a row they will get a “sweet treat” to their age. For example, if they are 3, they will get to pick one “sweet treat” once a day for 3 days in a row.
- Have your child pick out which treats they want for their number of days and put those in a special place.
- Do NOT make whether they get their “sweet treat” contingent on their eating. Pick a meal, after which, they automatically get their treat.
- The rest of the candy goes up and out of their reach for “later” (and thrown out after a few weeks)
- Make sure kids know that they need to ask first before taking their “sweet treat”
- If they eat all of their “sweet treats” early, they get no more as a consequence.
We hope you have a great Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend!
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