Tag Archives: child eating tips

Holiday Help for Picky Kids

snacksPicky eating can be a huge stressor for parents and children alike throughout the year, but it may be particularly pronounced during the holiday season, especially when you’re around relatives who are overly zealous in their advice giving.

Here are 5 tips to get you through the next holiday party with minimal meltdown:

Model healthy eating. While you may not be able to control exactly what your kids are willing to eat, be open to trying new foods yourself! Remarking on your feelings as you scoop an unfamiliar vegetable dish onto your plate, then commenting on the different flavors, can help to reinforce your child’s openness to trying something new, without overtly targeting his or her behavior.

Tell stories. The holiday season is always a time for reflection, and food stories should be no exception. Kids love hearing about their parents’ and relatives’ childhood. Thinking back on stories of your own picky eating – with subsequent discovery of how delicious that food actually tastes – will help to encourage children to create their own narrative. Fun stories about cooking disasters or competitions in the past can also bring a light-hearted mood to food and mealtimes.

Maintain your routine. Parents will often prepare a separate meal for their picky eaters before attending a holiday meal to avoid the food struggle. This may be useful, but it can also backfire and throw your child off their usual eating schedule, leading them to be hungrier later at the party, loading up on the dessert table, and sugar crashing later in the evening. Encourage your child to survey the food options and seek out 1 or 2 items that he or she would be willing to eat. Gently remind them that this is dinner time, and if they don’t eat now they may feel hungry before bed. Even if your child only picks crackers and bread, these are healthier (and reinforce socially healthy behavior of eating with the group!) than skipping dinner and choosing 4 cookies with a slice of cake when the desserts roll out.

Avoid using dessert as a reward. Urging your child to take three bites of broccoli so that they can “earn” dessert sets the foundation for an unhealthy relationship with food. Offer a few choices to your child, particularly foods that they have accepted in the past, and then move on. Remember Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility – as the parent you are responsible for the “what” and “when,” children are responsible for “how much” and “whether” or not they will eat. Dessert may not always be an appropriate option to offer, and that’s okay too!

Mealtimes should not be a battlefield. Ultimately bargaining, cajoling and feeling frustrated with your child’s picky eating may take away from the spirit of the season. Remind your child (and yourself!) that family traditions and holiday parties are more about conversation and connecting with friends and relatives. Food and family meals are a vehicle to facilitate coming together, but shouldn’t overshadow holiday celebrations.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Bridget Murphy, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

Teaching Picky Eaters Positive Food Behaviors: Part 2

child wont eatIn the Part 1 of this series we covered the first 5 tips to help parents teach their children to have different attitudes towards food and subsequently, open their minds to an expanded variety.  I hope they were helpful!  In this post we’ll cover the next 5 tips to turn, what can be a frustrating experience, into a time that’s enjoyable for the whole family.

Just to review:  First things first, I’m not a doctor.  If you have concerns about your child’s nutritional intake, you should always check in with your pediatrician.  Make sure they are pleased with your child’s height and weight, and go from there.  Understand that young children have different nutritional needs than adults.  They are full of energy with little bellies.  What, how much, and when we feed them, should look different than what we feed ourselves.  Over the years I have found that multiple small meals works well for young children.  You can Google information regarding specific food suggestions and nutritional requirements to meet a young child’s needs.

Your next 5 tips:

6. Snack Wisely: Snacks during the day can be a part of the multiple, small meal setup for young children.  Offer fresh fruit or a ¼ of a sandwich.  It takes a little planning, but on-the-go snacks don’t have to be carb-only.  Try to be aware of frequently offering your child snacks during down time (rides in the stroller, waiting for a turn on the swings, etc.).  If you child is snacking all the time, they aren’t going to want to eat at meals.

7. Explain Your Pouches: If you’re using food in pouches (“Because it’s the only way they’ll eat a vegetable!”), talk about what’s in the pouch.  The same goes for sneaking spinach, or any other food, into sauce, pasta, nuggets, etc., it works for the moment, but it’s not taking advantage of the teachable moment.  We want children to be aware of the variety of things they eat and enjoy, and the foods that they may want to try going forward.

8. Acknowledge Preferences: We all have favorite flavors and textures, including our young children.  This is an opportunity to help your child think about what it is about particular foods that they like and feel attracted to.  Focus on the positives.  When adding new foods, use this information.  Start with something familiar, but different.  If you child likes strawberries, you might add strawberry jam.  Combine that with the cream cheese they already like, and you’ve got a new sandwich option.

9. Offer Variety: At each of the major meals, offer 2 familiar foods and 1 new one.  If doing this for 3 meals sounds overwhelming, start with one, but remember that consistency helps shape behavior.  Rotate through their familiar foods.  You don’t need to offer a large amount of the new food…just enough for a taste.  If they want more, they’ll let you know!  Now here’s the tricky part: don’t insist they eat it.  For some children leaving a new food on the plate, smelling it, touching it, licking it, and talking about it are huge successes themselves.  Remember, we are not trying to force them to eat new foods; we are trying to help them have positive behaviors around food.

10. Back Off: Once the plate is in front of them, let them eat.  In whichever order, foods in any shape of recognition, or lack there of.  If you hover or insist, your child is likely to become more resistant.  That type of behavior also sets them up to be stubborn right off the bat at the next meal, rather than keeping them open to the possibilities of trying and liking something different.  Children at this age like to feel a certain amount of autonomy.  Use this time to talk and connect! This is a good time for some of that conversation about how food benefits their body and recognition of flavors, colors, shapes and textures: salty, sweet, yellow like the sun, crunchy, etc.  But it’s also a great time to talk about things besides food: their day, their thoughts, and your plans for later or tomorrow.  Be social at the table but not a nag.  How would you like it if someone did that to you?

BONUS: (Because it bears repeating) Be Patient And Positive: Change takes time.  You are teaching your child to have a new attitude towards food.  This is exciting!  Once you’ve taken the battle out of it, made it seem intriguing, an opportunity to be grown up and make some choices, they will want to try new foods.

Remember having a young child who is a picky eater is not unusual.  But battling with a young child over food can lead to bigger issues.  So check in with the doctor to make sure your child is on his or her appropriate growth curve and whether a multivitamin would be beneficial.  Concentrate on new behaviors surrounding food rather than focusing on eating more in quantity and variety.  You can both do this!

Have more questions or want support with changing your child’s behaviors around food, get in touch! Dana@DanasKids.com

Dana Rosenbloom has a master’s degree in Infant and Parent Development and Early Intervention and has been working with children and families for over 10 years. Dana’s Kids provides 1:1 parent education, play and behavior therapy, special education services, parent workshops and support groups, and professional development. To learn more about Dana and Dana’s Kids please visit www.DanasKids.com.  You can also follow Dana on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DanasKids and Twitter: Danaskids

Dana’s Kids

empowered parents, happy families.