As you may have seen on my I've Been There page, my daughter (who has a sensory processing disorder) would absolutely be considered a "picky eater"!
Major anxiety sets in for this little girl every time she is offered a new food. She will also squirm if certain foods are placed near her on the table (if they are, she will definitely make a quick exit when she is done eating). Oh, and forget about trying new restaurants, uggh. (But, we are starting to be able to now without as much resistance)
If she IS going to try a new food it has to have any, or all, of the following "ingredients"...
By Jason Katzenback
What is in a name?
The answer is everything!
Jo J. of Victoria, Texas said that her son was a very picky eater between the ages of four and six and refused to eat many of the dishes she made, until she discovered the art of renaming recipes.
“One evening I discovered that he would eat ANYTHING he thought might be on the diet of the characters of his favorite TV show at the time, ‘The Young Riders.’ Oh, yeah,” Jo says, “The Kid's Beans, Teaspoon's Favorite Casserole, Young Riders' Skillet, and many others became sudden favorites of my persnickety son. To this day, he still enjoys dishes that were once refused simply because of inventive renaming!”
While most adults and some children look forward to new food experiences, understand and accept that your picky eater will look forward to eating the same foods over and over again. This often gives them a sense of comfort and security, which is generally not hazardous to their health unless it is sugar or sodium laden.
Studies have shown that repeated exposure to foods greatly increases the likelihood a child will eat it. Some experts feel that new food has to be offered anywhere from 8 to 18 times before it is acceptable. You can prepare the food in different ways, but offer it on a consistent basis, especially when your child will be the hungriest. Offering food as part of a nutrition activity or snack may make it more interesting. Also seeing other children sample foods may encourage a picky eater to become more adventurous.
If you know in advance that one or more of the food choices will be met with howls of disgust, have something else available that your fussy eater will find pleasing to his or her palate. Encourage your child to taste one of the “repulsive” foods before chowing down on one of the more desirable ones, but do not be offended if he or she refuses.
Sherry P. from Miami, Oklahoma is a daycare provider and has been working with children for almost 40 years. One of the ways she encourages her young charges to eat more vegetables is to let each child take turns at picking one each day. “Of course I limit the choices to two or three – say corn, peas, or green beans,” she advises. “That way they feel like they have some control over what they eat. I also give them some choices that they can say ‘no’ to such as pickles or salads.
Being able to have a say in what they eat seems to help.” Sherry also adds more fruit to their diet by adding it to Jell-O, which they really seem to like. “Another thing that I do is to use meal times as a time to talk with each other. I ask the kids about things that are going on in their lives and they do not even notice what they are eating,” she says.
Often, parents worry that if they do not prepare the specific foods that their children like to eat, they will wither away. However, Dr. Karen Sadler, a pediatrician in Boston, MA, and panel expert at the Baby Zone (www.babyzone.com), says that hunger is a powerful drive and young children will not starve themselves to the point of danger. To help promote a lifetime of better eating habits, she makes the following
Offer your child a few nutritious food choices at the dinner table. What is not eaten in 20 minutes can be wrapped up and offered as a later snack. Give your child the power to choose, but from among healthy choices, berries or orange wedges, for example.
Do not allow him or her fill up on juice or milk before a meal, (a common trick to take the edge off hunger) or to drink so much that the daily calories are met with liquid.
Keep meals pleasant and stress-free, even if it means you leave the room because you are frustrated. If needed, let someone else supervise the meal.
Most importantly, do not give in and offer him or her junk food, no matter how long he or she seems to go without eating or begs.
Look for interesting ways to combine preferred food with new food. If you are preparing a Chinese dinner and your child likes spaghetti, he or she may be more accepting of it if you serve the new dish with lo mien noodles instead of rice.
Try to limit beverages such as milk, soda, juice, and punch just prior to meals. However, offer as much water as he or she wants to drink but only if thirsty. You can always let your child have the preferred beverage after something is eaten, at which time there is no risk of his or her tummy filling up on liquids.
Dawn W. of Bowling Green, Kentucky says that her son really likes dinosaurs and knows the difference between plant eaters and meat eaters.
“He likes to pretend to be various dinosaurs all the time so I will fix him something to eat sometimes in accordance to whatever type of dinosaur he is at the time and he will eat the ‘leaves off the trees’ (broccoli) just like Little Foot from the Land Before Time,” she says. “Sometimes he is a zoo animal and will eat a banana like the monkeys do.”
Some parents implement the “one bite rule” which can be effective for many kids. In this scenario, children are asked to try at least one bite of everything offered. Then, if they do not like it, they do not have to eat anymore. However, if you anticipate this will create a battle of wills and will nots – pass on it.
One mother in Denver, Colorado had a four-year-old who hated to eat. No matter what type of food was made and set before her, she would take one, possible two bites and refuse to eat more. Since her daughter was thin, she took her to the doctor who agreed she needed to gain weight although she was no in any immediate danger. Desperate for a solution, the mother came up with the idea of having her daughter help cook dinner with her. The following evening, the mother told her daughter that she would be making hamburger patties for dinner and said she needed help.
Surprisingly, the daughter jumped up, very excited to help mommy with dinner. Together, they made hamburgers, a salad, some veggies, and French fries. Still skeptical, the mother placed dinner on the table and the daughter quickly added a hamburger to her plate along with some potatoes.
Holding her breath, the mother watched as the daughter took a big bite.
Her father stated, “Wow Kelly is that burger good?” Beaming, Kelly responded, “Yes because I made it.” From that day forward, Kelly spent time “cooking” with mom in the kitchen and her appetite, which had been nil, became ferocious. If your child has little to no interest in food, you might try including him or her in the preparation process to see if it works for you.
The best approach is to consistently, offer a particular food so that it becomes familiar and is not viewed as something new. Always invite the child to try some, but do not pressure him or her if met with decline.
Eventually, your child will become curious about why you find it so enjoyable and since it has not killed you, he or she may decide to investigate the taste.
Here are a few extra tips that may help to encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables:
- Have a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table for a quick, easy snack
- Always have freshly cut vegetable sticks in the refrigerator
- Add raisins, bananas, and other fresh or dried fruits to hot or cold cereals
- Top broiled or grilled meats with a homemade salsa made with tomatoes, mangoes, avocados, red onions, cilantro and limejuice
- Add bananas or berries to pancakes
- Provide dried fruit instead of candy
- Keep a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer that can be added to stews, casseroles, and stir-fried dishes
- Freeze fruits such as bananas or grapes for a frozen treat
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