is is something I hear all the time. Parents are concerned/ or are told that they have just "given in" to their children's food requests and have created the problem of a limited diet.
General gossip and other parents explaining how their 4 children all eat so well as they "just make them eat what is on the plate" is usually unhelpful and can actually be poor advice.
If you have a toddler then making sure they get a wide range of food experiences (even if they are refusing many foods) is important. Continually offering the foods you'd like them to eat is key in getting them comfortable with a wide variety of foods.
This is one of my favourite phrases.
If we don't have books we don't learn to read. Similarly, not being served foods prevents us from learning to eat them.
And I appreciate that many picky eaters find new foods on their plate distressing. But, therein lies the paradox. If they are not able to even contemplate a food on their plate, they are certainly not going to be considering putting it in their mouth.
If we're gently able to have our child come into frequent contact with new foods, they are one step closer to eventually being able to eat it.
Often contact with food in a non-threatening arena is easier. So, handling foods when it's not about eating eg. at the supermarket may be a great start.
you have a picky eater that freaks out when presented with a new food but then happily accepts a different sweet?
This is really common and baffles and frustrates parents in equal measure. How come they can eat a new lolly without even checking how it's going to taste but need to know whether an onion has been waved over the sausage?
It's all about comfort levels. If our child has had previous good experiences when branching out within the sweets/ cookie/ cake categories then it builds their confidence. It give them a positive feedback loop where their expectations are set to good. They anticipate the new food tasting great and are therefore comfortably able to take the risk.
his is a big part of what we do at The Confident Eater.
When it comes to advice on issues like eating and sleeping there are a million different opinions. It can get overwhelming and confusing.
What we do is provide a very easy to understand list of practical strategies that will work with your child in your family. We'll also suggest what could be counter productive.
We'll look at every meal and give you a plan that will support eating more widely, learning to tackle new foods willingly and how to put the joy back into food for your child with their specific dietary needs.
I was in a meeting today and a business coach said this. It really resonated with me as I believe it's an important part of why picky eaters get stuck in limiting patterns.
The habits are habitual, as in they are things that we just do without thinking. Brushing teeth, getting dressed in a particular order, cooking peas a certain way etc.
This is one of the huge hurdles we face as parents when we have a picky eater. They have habits on habits in regards to food. So many of their decisions become automatic rather than being the result of conscious thought.
If I had a dollar for every parent that said to me "I know they'd like x if they just tried it". But their child just says an automatic no without even considering the try. This is the power of habit.
Unfortunately, this is compounded by us, the parents. We too have our habits and we approach meals in the same way every day, we serve things a particular way and we use the same language and responses over and over again.
When I work with parents I always ask them to look at their side of the dance. If we are repeating the same steps every day it's very easy for our child to repeat theirs.
For us to expect a change in our child it's important that we too expect to make changes.
Are there words or phrases that you find yourself repeating? Is there a pattern to the way that you serve meals and snacks? Have you spent time thinking about this or trying a change?
What is one thing that you often say in regards to food? If you don't think there is one ask the family. I sometimes (foolishly) do this and get a barrage of answers ...
I'd love to hear some favourites and will give some suggestions on how to change the conversation, where I can.
It always amuses me when parents talk about sausages and picky eaters.
They tell me sheepishly, or resignedly or with total amazement that their child will eat them but they have to be peeled.
I'm amused, not because it's funny but because it is sooooo common. In fact I reckon non-peelers are in the minority. Please let me know in the comments whether you have a peeler or a non-peeler!
But, like many things that surround fussy eating this is rarely advertised or discussed which means that parents are left concerned that their child is different/odd/challenged.
If your child is a peeler sleep easier knowing that a) it's very common and b) it is something that they usually grow out of - especially once they start building confidence around food in general.
So let's do the poll ... a "yes" for peeler and a "no" for intact :)
Actually thinking about this a bit more deeply and I'm sure there have been times when my boys peeled some sausages that seemed to have a particularly thick casing. I'm a no with a hint of yes
My husband is home this week. Yeah! It's a very rare occurrence so I'm loving that he's in charge of laundry, shopping and boy annoying. Even optician's appointments and finding new shoes (that please the teen but don't cost the price of a small car).
He's also a great cook (I definitely lucked out there) so has commandeered the kitchen.
Yesterday he was making zucchini fritters for lunch. Now to give this context neither of my boys are big zucchini lovers. They will generally eat a small bit but they are not enthused. Unless I do zucchini with pizza toppings and then I get a much better strike rate but still ...
I think Roy was working on the same theory so he made a basic fritter with just zucchini, egg and some seasoning (he adds spelt flour to bind I add ground linseeds) but then put it under the grill covered with melted cheese.
A little gratuitous but I have to say it worked on a few different levels and it fascinated me watching it in action. More on that shortly. He also cut it into pizza shaped wedges and although it's mad it really did make a difference. The boys were totally psyched to try it as it did look 1) appealing 2) pizza like 3) cheese drenched.
They had a piece as did I. My first thought was "uh, a little undercooked and wet with the zucchini really being the overwhelming taste and texture". Then the cheese kicked in and the overall experience was OK.
The boys both remarked on the prominence of the zucchini but both had seconds and even fought over the last slice.
Although I am not suggesting that this is a winner for picky eaters there were a few interesting points that came out of this.
1. Presenting a food in a new way can help
2. Marrying a winner food with something not so readily accepted can smooth transitions (cheese/zucchini)
3. Visuals. The fritter looked like a pizza and therefore the initial impression was good
4. Marketing. The zucchini was presented as a new, liked, sought after thing and that's what it became
We all eat for a whole host of reasons and it is a really psychological thing. Using that to our advantage every now and again is not a bad thing!
Have you ever inadvertently discovered a winner?
There is a lot of noise on the web about picky eating and lots of potential ideas about how to resolve it. Some are helpful and some can be detrimental.
All families and all children are different so what works for one person is not necessarily going to be a success for another. It also depends on how old our child is, how long the problem has been evident and why our child struggles to eat.
This is one of the key things we do:
- Cut through the chatter and give you some pretty black and white answers as to which strategies are relevant and which to avoid.
- We also show you how to gently apply these strategies in your house with your child.
- We talk you through meal by meal ways to approach food and feeding.
- We look at how we can increase nutrients within a child's limited diet.
- We suggest ways to put the joy and relaxation back into food and meals for everyone.
Anyone who works with us will go away having a very clear idea as to what will work and where to expend energy. They will also understand what to avoid and why. This means that as a parent you are confident you are doing the best you can to support your child's eating (and that of any siblings following).
If you're not sure whether your child would be a fit please get in touch. We work with families who have "failed" food school, who haven't seen progress after referrals from the GP or who have a very limited diet.
We also work with a lot of families where there is just something "not quite right" about the way a child approaches food and the parents can see this but are unsure as to what to do.
We're always happy to have an initial chat to see what the issues are. Please get in touch if you'd like to make 2019 the year when you tackle the big eating challenge!
Usually it's not as difficult or as overwhelming as you're expecting. Much of what we implement is a positive for the children too (honestly!!).
People often hire a personal trainer that can encourage, motivate and give us all the best tips for hitting goals. I feel very much like that but in the eating sphere.
I can give you all the information you need to make changes in the family eating dynamics to support your child to take steps forward.
I can gift you the confidence that you're able to make a difference - because you can.
I will give you a plan that is specifically tailored to your picky child and your family.
I will be there to support you whilst implementing your plan and then be there in the background on call in case you need more help.
Just like personal trainers can help you have better success when it comes to fitness, I can support you to have the best chance at progress when it comes to eating and your child.
Unlike a personal trainer I only charge you once though :)
Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss how I'm able to help you. No charge and no obligation. Change how 2019 goes for you and your child.
Judith is passionate about good food and is even more passionate about enabling other people to enjoy the wide variety of fresh food available today.