I worked with a lovely couple over the weekend. They have a 5 y.o. daughter Rose* who eats no fruit or veg aside from specific purees from a sachet.
We looked at a few strategies from the guide for picky eaters, Creating Confident Eaters, that may support Rose to gently expand what she was eating.
Sunday morning breakfast was such a lot of fun for the whole family. Rose's older brother loved the new approach and in turn Rose got caught up in the fun.
This is what we are looking for. Fun, relaxed meals. An approach to food that elicits delight rather than fear. A family meal that has everyone smiling.
Often when we have a selective eater all joy goes out the window - for everyone. My goal is to help all families get that pleasure back. The more we enjoy eating the more likely we are to tackle the challenging.
Rose's mum then organised to bake some muffins. They were going to use one of Rose's fruit sachets in the baking and were looking at videos that gave them recipe ideas.
Rose continued watching and saw that the next video mentioned grated beetroot in the muffin and asked could they try this next time.
Now you may be thinking that your child would NEVER volunteer to do this. Rose's parents would have bet the house on it too!
Our approach can have an enormous impact on how our child is able to operate around food. We often feel helpless, and yet we have so much positive power.
Rose may yet bottle out of adding the beetroot but starting the conversation is a big step in the right direction.
Small amounts. Tiny, teeny, itty microscopic little bits are what we would be adding too!
*(story told with permission, name changed for privacy)
We are very pleased to announce that Marsden Books in Karori is now stocking Creating Confident Eaters, the Guide for parents of picky eaters.
If you would like to go along and have a look at the guide and are based in the Wellington area, this is the perfect opportunity.
We are happy to speak to other retailers wishing to stock the guide.
Do you want to know:
- how to get your child trying new foods?
- how to support your child to add variety to their diet?
- tonnes of inspiration for changing up meals?
- how to approach new foods for best chance of success?
Then Creating Confident Eaters is for you.
We have dubbed it a guide rather than a book as it is specifically designed for time poor, often stressed out parents, and gives families the support they need to understand how to gently add new foods to a child's diet.
It's the strategies I have used in working with 100+ families per year who have fussy eaters (often with very extreme issues).
The guide is practical, easy to follow and provides parents with very simple steps to get from where they are now to a place where new foods are a reality.
Even the most selective of eaters respond positively to the strategies employed in the guide and it's perfect too for negotiating those toddler fussies.
The book is aimed at children 2 -12 and doesn't tell you what to feed your child but goes into the detail of how to support them to eat new foods.
At only $ 39.00 + $ 5.00 postage & handling anywhere in NZ ($ 50.00 delivered to Aus) it's a steal.
This limited edition first print is selling fast. To order: https://www.theconfidenteater.com/creating-confident-eaters…
Looking back I was horribly guilty of this at times - oops! But I always reckon you don't know what you don't know and so beating yourself up about it is not helpful!
When we feed our child - especially little ones - we sit opposite them and stare at them as they eat. We watch every bite and wait with baited breath to see them eat.
Our eyes follow every spoonful and we concentrate on their every move.
Let's change this around and think how this would feel if it was us. I cannot imagine feeling comfortable eating if my mother was sitting close by and staring as I chewed :)
Being there - tick
Engaging with our child - tick
A bettter option is for us to share some food with them as they eat. Modelling eating rather than just cheerleading will support better long-term results especially for fussy or picky eaters.
No we don't have to eat pureed pea-mush. But actually eating some real peas while they are enjoying their mush is great for showing next steps and giving them an interest in how we eat.
Are you inadvertently helicoptering?
I often feel like I am prevented from doing what I'd like to due to a lack of time/energy/money/knowledge. I have a big list of things that I'd like to achieve and seem to get stopped before I start.
This was a huge part of the reason I put together the guide - Creating Confident Eaters. Although I LOVE working indivdually with families of picky eaters, I realised that to be able to support more parents I would need to have more resources.
Writing the guide was the first step towards reaching more families, easily and effectively. Creating Confident Eaters was written with the time poor, stressed parent in mind and so is presented very simply, while still putting across messages that are powerful.
It lays out practical strategies that any parent can tackle. Giving step-by-step suggestions that are simple but often a little left of centre so not on the regular radar.
Woven throughout the guide are recommendations - based on my experience working with 100+ families per year - that really work to support children to gently extend the variety of foods they are comfortable eating.
This guide is totally different to anything that is on the market. It ticks the boxes that parents often struggle to check. It could be the solution to so many of your mealtime stresses and frustrations.
For your own copy: https://theconfidenteater.ecwid.com/
A picky eater by definition does not want to eat a range of foods. They have a selection of favourites and want to stay with those!
As a parent, our biggest hurdle is usually around adding a new food. How do we get them to try, never mind like a new food?
One strategy that can help is to use a favourite food to help us move a little step forwards.
For example, if we have a child that loves chocolate, can we dip a food that isn't scary but isn't accepted into some chocolate sauce (you can make a simple version with cocoa powder, milk or water and sweetener). Or just melt a little chocolate (which in itself may be a step for some children).
My advice is always to take the smallest manageable step. If we have a child that likes peanut butter, this may be dipping some peanut butter into the choc sauce first. If that works can we try a tiny piece of peanut?
It's always best to look for a win if we can so think small, think easy, think what may be something our child enjoys?
When it comes to eating I have a very clear philosophy.
As parents one of our principle roles is to make sure that there are multiple opportunities for our child to take a step forward. To try a new food, to eat something different to usual or to ask for a new choice.
This can be done on a few levels:
1. Having new foods in plain sight on a consistent basis. Our child (any child, never mind picky eaters) are less likely to eat something they haven't seen frequently and built a basic comfort level with.
2. Getting new foods onto the plate. If it's not on the plate it can't get eaten!
We would never of course force something onto the plate if it causes distress. There are some gentle strategies that we can use to get foods onto the plate which we'll look at in another blog.
3. Believing our child is able to eat something new. Our approach is critical. If we don't believe our child can eat something, how can they?
4. Not inadvertently stopping progress. There are many things we can say or do that prevent our child from moving forwards. For example, "don't bother giving her olives as she will never eat them". That is a self-fulfilling prophesy :)
5. Only providing favourites. If our child only sees their favourite foods they will struggle to eat anything new. There is also the risk that those favourites become boring or they have a bad experience with them and so drop the food.
If you do have a child with a very limited diet there are still ways to manage this.
If we can be aware of our actions and how they affect our fussy eaters we are better placed to provide those opportunities that over time create the "luck" we are looking for.
In fact, I have dozens and dozens of stories that support this
Having our child feel confident around food, especially new food, is a dream for many parents. I know first-hand how much easier it makes everything from dinners to travel to social occasions to have children who embrace the unknown.
I speak to many parents whose wishes are really, really small. They would like their picky child to have 4 evening meals that they will eat comfortably or that they could happily eat 3 vegetables.
Although these seem like really small goals they may also not be the first step for our child. Meeting them where they are at rather than where we want them to be often yields better results.
If our child loves beige carbs then our first step may be another beige carb. If they are comfortable with a few fruits then perhaps it’s a slightly different fruit. Building the confidence that our child is able to eat something new, over time gives them the ability to eat more variety.
When I work with parents the end goal is usually family dinners and vegetables. But, this is rarely where we start. I use a swimming analogy. If our child is really scared of the water, although we may want them to be able to swim a length comfortably, we don’t start by putting them in the deep end and expecting them to get to the end of the pool.
Small, sometimes infinitesimally small steps are the best start - especially if we have a really hesitant eater.
Our new book, Creating Confident Eaters, shows parents how to do this. Even for the most anxious of fussy children there are strategies that are supportive.
Many of the children who find food challenging are anxious in other areas of their lives.
Finding new things difficult, not liking change and being uncomfortable if routines are altered all go hand in hand with picky eating.
Often children seem to channel their anxieties into food. This is logical when we consider a few factors:
1. When children are young the only things that are totally within their control are eating, sleeping and toileting.
2. Eating is actually a very challenging process. It engages all the senses and we're putting stuff into a very vulnerable place.
3. If things are hard why not choose only the easy parts. Knowing we like crackers makes them a comfortable choice. Other foods are not known and less comforting. Better to say no.
If our child does have anxiety, finding strategies that give them the tools to better manage it can in turn lead to better eating. Conversely, supporting our child to add new foods can also help with their anxiety in other areas.
Creating Confident Eaters works through strategies that support adding variety in a way that even anxious picky eaters can manage.