Strategies for Picky Eaters
Building Stronger Kids: Episode 6
In this edition of Building Stronger Kids, Matt and Megin, Founders of KidStrong, talked with Chelsea Ford, OT, Occupational Therapist, about picky eaters, and strategies for overcoming this common childhood phase.
First, it’s important to know that picky eating is normal and incredibly common. Most kids go through a phase of picky eating at some point. But it can be incredibly frustrating for parents as we try to get our kids to eat the meals we prepare, and keep them healthy and well fed.
Here are Chelsea’s tips for navigating meals with a picky eater:
Introduce new foods slowly and regularly. Pick a schedule that works for your family - one meal per day, one food per meal - and introduce a new or non-preferred food at those times. The most important thing is to give kids the opportunity to explore and engage with foods they might not try on their own.
Don’t overwhelm them with new foods. Include something they like first, then slowly introduce small portions of something new or non-preferred. Filling your child’s plate with food they don’t like is overstimulating and likely to result in a tantrum or fight.
Make it fun. Kids learn through play, so give the the freedom to explore the new food and get comfortable with it. What does it smell like? What color is it? How does it feel in your mouth? What does it look like? Make it a game and let them learn about the new food before they eat it.
Pick your battles. Offer choices that are acceptable to you so your child feels some sense of control. Choose broccoli or green beans. Choose your color plate. Let them have some power to ease the stress and anxiety they might feel around meal time. The lower their level of stress, the more open they’ll be to engaging with new foods.
Remember, this is a long game. A picky eater doesn’t transform over the course of one meal. This can take weeks or months. Repetition and multiple exposures are necessary. Start small. Touch the new food. Smell the new food. Bring it close to their mouth. Taste it. Eat it. And celebrate the small victories along the way.
Set a healthy example for your picky eater. Kids look to their parents for guidance. They trust us, and watch our every move. So be aware of your own facial expressions and words about food. Eat the new foods with your kids and show them if mom and dad can do it, they can do it, too!
If you’d like to hear the full conversation with Chelsea, head over to KidStrong University and start your free trial today.