The million dollar question!
We have a range of programs for families. Generally, we can resolve issues with one intensive workshop for parents - that's all that's needed.
Check out the video ... https://www.facebook.com/theconfidenteater/videos/873127086195050/
This has got to be one of my favourite phrases for parents who struggle to get the children eating variety.
So many parents tell me that their kids don't eat veggies. And when I ask "which ones do you serve them?" They reply " oh, I don't give them any as they don't eat them".
And I get it, I do. It's so frustrating to serve food that you are pretty sure will get rejected.
It's demoralising to throw away yet more food.
It can be frightening when we offer something that may result in the rest of the meal being rejected. Or triggering a tanty or a meltdown.
It's always, always going to be easier to serve a favourite.
I think of offering food like offering a book. We give our children books well before they can actually read them. We never say "well they can't read so there's no point in giving them a book".
However, the earlier we offer the book and the more often we offer them the more chance we have of raising a child that loves reading.
We worked with a family two weeks ago with an older daughter. She was down to two mealtime options and not wanting to eat breakfast.
Terribly worrying as a parent and challenging for a child who is struggling more and more with food. Often children scared to eat new foods feel more and more out of control and isolated.
After an intensive session with us her mother told me: once I had a plan and was confident, my daughter wanted to change the way she was eating so started working with me.
There is still a long road ahead but having your child want to make changes and want to work with you is an almost magical outcome.
As parents we get less and less confident as our kids consistently refuse our food. Which means we often start giving them foods we know they will eat. This means that by default they are actually deciding what gets served.
Parents should always be in charge of what gets served. That's our role and our responsibility.
If this is a struggle in your house we can teach you how to gently put this power back in your hands. It's usually easier than you imagine.
Generally, when we think of picky eating we picture children. However, there are a surprising number of adults who struggle to eat variety too.
Unfortunately, it can prevent us getting the right balance of nutrients. Just as importantly it can become really difficult socially. This is especially true if our partner is a more adventurous eater or if we are often expected to be present for meals for work or functions.
Most adults who have a limited range of foods were also hesitant eaters as children.
It's a great reason for getting the kids eating well now!
We always tell the families we work with that we love happy endings. We should definitely share these more often but there are so many other things to say!
The weekend before last we worked with a family in Auckland who have a lovely 3 y.o. He was down to one dinner option (unless it was his favourite cereal or sandwich).
I know there are a lot of people who can identify with this!
At the weekend his parents got fish and chips with chicken nuggets and potato fritters. He has never eaten any of these things but tried all 4. Yippee ... huge win!
My theory is always if you can have a bite of a chip you can eat a plateful, it just takes time to get there.
So excited for the family.
A lot of therapies rely on repeat visits. We've developed a system that avoids this. For 95% of families all we require is one intensive 2 1/2 - 3 hour session.
We teach you how to teach your child to eat. Eating is a learned behaviour just like riding a bike or reading so you can learn to do it well. Our success is measured not by having you come back but by having you walk away and be able to rock this solo!
Please get in contact if you'd like to know more.
Sweets and fruits are lined up either side of the table, the judges are ready, one .. two .. three .. eat!
Which give us the biggest sweetness hit? The instant pleasure, the lack of challenging textures or "bits"?
When we compare commercially produced "fruit items" like fruit bars or purees to regular fruit it's usually a no-brainer as to which is the most appealing.
It also makes it more challenging to get the kids eating the fresh stuff when we offer say a fruit bar next to a mandarin.
I always work on the premise that my boys are smart, if they have limited stomach space and time they will go for the item that provides the most immediate pleasure.
When we're looking to change the way our kids eat it's always good to look at what the competition is. Choc bar v plate of broccoli ...hmmm, let me see ...
Max phoned me on the way home from his hockey game on Saturday totally delighted as they had drawn.
Now to put this into context:
His team are totally outclassed in their league, have lost every game this season and had (until Sat) only scored 2 goals. So when they pulled off a 1-1 draw it was a massive achievement and worth a big celebration.
This is why comparisons often fail. Looking at Max's team's scores should be cause for despair not celebration. But because I've been to every practice and pretty much every game I appreciate just how far they've come and how exciting this was.
Selective eating is identical. As parents we feed our children daily so what is a challenge for one is a breeze for another. Making comparisons is a zero sum game.
Similarly, most of us are not looking for "perfect" we're looking for progress.
A HUGE step in one family may be a pea on the plate - and that is cause for celebration.
Celebrate your child for all their steps forward even if those seem tiny and irrelevant to everyone else. Don't worry about what they can't eat. Celebrate what they can and support them to take the next baby step forward.
We are all about baby steps and supporting families to move forward gently and easily. Contact us to find out how we can work with you too.
This is an example of one of my boy's lunches. The corn/egg tortilla and the marinated chicken get heated and put into a thermos so they are warm for lunch.
I find that so many selective eaters are coming home ravenous as they are either not eating enough at lunch or are not having sustaining food.
Lots of selective eaters like protein (many don't too). If you do have a child that likes chicken or other meats have you thought of sending some for lunch?
Many meats are as nice cold as hot so you don't necessarily need a thermos. They are also sustaining as it takes the body longer to digest. Combine with a sandwich/wrap/potatoes/pasta and you have a lunch that will stop them getting as hungry.
Is your child a meat or a non-meat liker?
We always tell our parents that we don't work miracles. Instead we put into place long term, practical, family centred strategies that over time foster appropriate eating.
Do the families see progress? Absolutely. But not usually in the "miracle-esque" way.
At the weekend we worked with a lovely family based far, far away from the freezing wind and rain of Wellington. They had come to us concerned that their 5 y.o. had ARFID. And although not ticking those boxes he was indeed a very selective eater.
The more selective a child (and the older they are) the harder it is to achieve magic wand type results although this little boy had no underlying issues like ASD or sensory challenges which does make things simpler.
The first night the family implemented our strategies their son ate a food he hadn't touched for months. And he ate 3 new foods - one of them peas!! This in my book was a magical outcome and we can't wait to see what happens over the next few weeks.
Families who come to us with children who have limited but not super selective diets often do experience very quick and very dramatic turn-arounds though. It's not unusual to go from pasta to curries within 6 months ...
Whichever end of the feeding struggles spectrum you sit we can find a program to suit and to resolve those issues. Generally, all it takes is one intensive session to get things back on track. And if that's all it takes, why not?
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.