Does your child fuss about almost everything you cook or offer him to eat? Does he change his mind about what he likes to eat on a regular basis? Does it have to look a certain way?
If you find that you spend most of your meal planning crying in frustration and most of your meal time bribing your child to eat, then you may need to take a deeper look at the situation.
There are a few reasons why your child may be a picky eater. One reason could be a sensory issue. It could be a matter of texture, smell, or some other sensory concern. If you think sensory issues could play a role in your child's pickiness, call the doctor to talk about the options you have.
Another reason could be anxiety. Will your child only eat food made at home? Only food made by a certain person? Only certain foods? Anxiety could make your child feel nervous about new foods and new places to eat foods or any other food related activities that he is unsure about.
Children also become picky eaters for behavioral reasons. If it's not his favorite, he doesn't feel like eating it. Do you feel like a short order cook at times? Making five different meals for everyone at the table?
To deal with anxiety related pickiness, try charts, rewards, and baby steps. Sit down with your child and make a list of things that he will eat now. Make a goal together. It could be that he will eat one new food each week, or month, or quarter. Now, what reward will be get for trying the new food? Maybe his favorite supper the next day? A small edible treat after he tries it? Make sure you write down any foods on a chart that you make. Keep track of how many times he tries it. Have him rate the food on a 1-10 scale. It can take up to ten times of trying a food to know if you like it or now. And, when he likes a food, put it on his 'I eat these foods' chart. That way when you make it and he says bleh, you can point to the chart and say, "Well, too bad, because it says here you like it and you'll eat it." And, when something ranks a 7 or higher on the scale, to us, it means that it can be eaten, but it's certainly not a favorite. Maybe he could have less of that food on his plate than everybody else.
If restaurants are scary, you can ease into it. Talk about what's available at the restaurant, order it, and bring it home to eat. The next time, choose what you will order before you leave home. Let your child choose the restaurant (unless it's always McDonalds), but encourage him to choose a different one once in awhile. After your child gets comfortable with the first restaurant, choosing another one may still be hard. Start over with the new restaurant if you need to, by ordering out first and then eating in the next time. Take it slow. Don't be surprised if he orders the same thing every time. That's okay. After awhile, try to encourage him to try something different, even if it's a different drink or a different kind of fries.
Now, if pickiness is behavioral, you'll have to be firm and consistent. You can use the chart mentioned above for starters. Then, when you know your child likes what you've cooked, you can remind him that it's on the chart. Make sure the food is the only one you offer (if he likes it). If he declines the meal, say you'll save it for later when he's hungry. You aren't denying him food, just saving the same meal for later. He's not going to like it. He may tantrum and cry. But, stand strong. You know he likes it and there's no reason he can't eat it. Try having each person in the family choose a meal on a particular night of the week. This will give your child control over meal times on his day.
1. Look up recipes together.
2. Have your child help prepare or cook the meal.
3. Make small changes to meals you already cook: for example, choose shoe string fries over crinkle cut fries.
4. Have only one fallback meal for your child. If you do cook something you know your child doesn't like, have an alternative such as peanut butter toast or beans; something that offers nutrition but isn't a completely different meal that you have to cook.
5. Leftovers can also be an option.
6. Be patient. Sometimes kids are just picky eaters. It took me until I was nearly an adult to be able to try new foods and eat more of a variety.
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