Enjoying the Holiday Season
So often when we have a selective eater in the house holidays become very stressful (usually mostly for mum!).
You have other guests arrive who have different approaches to food and feeding.
Or you're visiting relatives and they "want to fix" your child's eating (because obviously you haven't tried to do that :) ).
Or you are going away from home and need to drag along a sack of "safe" foods.
Whatever the scenario having a child who struggles to eat variety or to participate in the family meal creates additional pressure. And this at a time when you're desperate to relax and just enjoy the celebrations like everyone else.
And have your child enjoy the experience rather than be approaching it with dread or fear.
There are many children who are very nervous about eating away from home and this totally changes their view of holidays and celebrations.
If this is your house and you want a change we can help. We have solutions that can support you to get your child eating more widely. To help work to overcome food fears. To provide simple, gentle, practical steps for moving forward.
If you're hesitant to contact us as you feel your child is more challenging to feed than others or has more pronounced anxiety around food or is soooo "stubborn". That's OK, as most of the parents we work with feel exactly the same. We all feel that our situation is un-fixable. That's why we haven't done anything until now!
Please get in touch so you can book in a session and get things rolling before the holidays.
We can teach you to get your child eating variety.
We can teach you how to get them to try new food willingly.
We can support you to work with their food anxiety.
Contact us today as workshops fill quickly:
Ask any parent who has a selective eater and the dream is always for their child "to just try something new".
They're not asking for a plateful to be eaten. They'd be overjoyed with just a little nibble.
And yet that tiny bite doesn't happen.
But there are ways we can get that bite taken! Yes, even for the most selective of eaters we, as parents can support them to make brave steps. Just like we do at swimming lessons and when teaching them to read.
I'll send out some practical tips in this week's newsletter:
When we're working with families one of our cornerstones is finding foods that will be within the comfort zones of their selective eater's.
With veggies sometimes it's handy to think outside the box. Often veggies like broccoli are a challenge texturally, the funny feeling, bumpy floret is also wet. The stalks however, are crunchy and smooth which can be far easier to accept.
I thought I'd share some of my madness with you!
I started my obsession with food for children aside from my own because where we lived (in Melbourne, Aus) there was a tradition of celebrating students birthdays with cakes/donuts etc. As this didn't fit with my food philosophy I looked for creative but fruit based designs I could recreate instead so the boys could take in something "wow".
This was before the heyday of Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and all the sharing of photos of everything from the dog to the new front fence so there was little available. I grew a little business focused on food art and today thought I'd share some Halloween designs with you.
My food art grew into general food advocacy and from there into workshops for kids in schools and for parents. That's when I realised that parents did not, in general, struggle with "what" to feed their children. They knew what they were "supposed" to do but their kids just weren't coming to the eating party.
And that's how my focus changed and I began to work more and more exclusively with the families of selective eaters. In doing this I also discovered that cooking was a key element in overcoming food fears and that I could use that to gently support children with extreme eating issues to gradually gain confidence.
I continue to run The Art of Nutrition and frequently blog fun food art. I also share our meals and my boys lunchboxes as inspiration for other families. My motto is cook once and serve thrice - which I'm sure resonates with other busy parents. I also love food that is simple, fresh and economical to buy and prepare.
Anyone who works with me knows that I love food and love sharing ideas that can support parents to gently increase the variety of foods eaten by their children - with an emphasis on the fruit, veg, good quality protein and high fibre/low GI carbs.
If you'd like to follow what we do link in here .. https://www.facebook.com/TheArtofNutritionNZ/
Anyone who knows me well or has worked with me knows how important I think cooking is.
Just to prove that I totally practice what I preach my boys (12 and 9) have made every weekday meal for the last 2 weeks as it's been school holidays.
Now I am not going to pretend that this has been a quick and simple process. This is many, many years of teaching, cleaning up mega spills and crying in frustration as something has been ruined over a miscommunication .. But the glorious, sunny end is in sight for me. They both stepped up these last 2 weeks and even reorganised social events around their cooking responsibilities - YES - and I didn't have to cook once ...
I also realised how powerful cooking was as a tool in the fight against selective eating quite a few years ago. I had a mother approach me desperate for help with her 9 y.o. son (who has ASD) and was even frightened to touch foods that were not on the safe list. None of the normal strategies for working with selective eaters would have worked with him so I decided to cook with him. It was one of the most fun things to do and together we created a system that empowered him to overcome his food fears. It also taught him to cook and taught me how cooking can transform an approach to food. From this our cooking school for selective eaters emerged. We continue to learn from him and successive students what works and what does not!!
My long term dream is to set up a cooking school in every major city so children with food anxiety can come and learn to overcome fears in a fun, supportive and empowering environment.
If you have a super-selective eater and want a gentle approach to resolving issues we have a lot of experience doing this. Get in touch as we're happy to share knowledge and support your child to overcome food fears and anxiety over new menu items!
This is a really interesting question and one with many answers. Everyone you speak to will have a different opinion.
Doctors, health visitors, relatives and parents themselves often adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude to fussy eating and hope that kids will just grow out of it.
And of course often kids do. Everyone has an anecdotal story of the cousin/brother/friend who only ate x as a child and now eats widely.
My question though is always WHEN. When is the transformation going to happen? I know of people who were super selective right through until their late 20's before being able to eat variety. I also follow a "Picky-Eating" Facebook group for adults which proves that not everyone makes that leap.
For me it's simple. Food is such an important component in our health and wellbeing. I know that I feel a 1,000% better if I eat a balanced and nutrient dense diet. I have more energy, sleep better, can concentrate (mostly) and rarely get sick. I also feel as though I am doing my utmost to reduce my risk of serious health conditions (the W.H.O.5 a day .. etc.).
And, I ask you as a parent to imagine how you'd feel if you ate your child's diet.
If the response to that question is "not great" then it may just give you the answer you're looking for.
Now do I have a vested interest in parents intervening and getting help for their child's eating? Yes, that would be true. However, for me eating well is - for anyone - just a really important part of living life to the full. Supporting families to do this has been a burning passion for me since having kids and I'd just love for everyone to be able to experience that, should they wish to.
And because, of course, there is a big difference between choosing to eat certain foods and only being able to eat certain foods ..
Changing the way your child eats may be way easier than you imagine ...
However, when we have someone who is hesitant about eating there is no way they are going to be enthusiastic about coming to the table if it's always a battleground. They are not going to be looking forward to the main meal and they are certainly not going to be in the mood for trying something new (especially if it's something they deem "dodgy-looking") if they know an argument is brewing.
As parents we're in charge of atmosphere and behaviour. So it's all within our power to create a place of safety and relaxation and joy. And I get that sometimes that seems a far off dream but without it we're making our job more difficult.
How do you make your table a fun place to be at?
It's school holidays - yeah! So we all get a break from routine.
We have a deal and part of that is the boys cook dinner. It saves me from the grind of daily, family meals for 2 weeks and teaches them valuable life-skills.
If you have a selective eater cooking is a fabulous way to get them more comfortable around food. Repeatedly handling it, smelling it and preparing it builds a basic comfort level. The more often we see a food, touch a food, smell a food the more likely we are to be able to eat a food.
It's definitely not a magic bullet but all the studies show that having the kids involved in food prep does have an impact on how willing children are to try new things. We have used it super effectively to work with children who are very, very selective.
Go into the cooking with the expectation that it's about exposure rather than eating and it takes the pressure off you and your hesitant eater. If they are willing to try something they've cooked that's a bonus but not the most important part of the cooking experience.
For tips on how to make cooking an integral part of a program that enables your child to be comfortable testing new things and eating more variety sign up for the newsletter ..
We all know the kids copy us. How often have I heard my eldest admonishing my youngest and inwardly groan as I recognise my words and my tone!
Eating is no different. Our children learn best from watching us eat. Seeing us enjoy food, put variety on our plates and try new things pleasurably.
This is challenging when they are eating nuggets and we're scoffing chicken cacciatore. My advice is always to start with the food that you eat rather than picking "kids food". Despite propaganda to the contrary selective eaters are as likely to eat random foods with strong or unusual tastes as they are nuggets.
I've worked with very selective eaters who eat no fruit or veg except tinned beetroot or capsicum dip. I've also worked with ones who have 2 choices for dinner but eat blue cheese or olives.
If you have really young children my advice is start them on the family meal first. The nuggets/fish fingers/ hot dogs etc. will always creep into their lives as they begin to socialise anyway. But if you can have a few family favourites in the rotation that's so helpful.
If you are struggling with children who will only eat traditional "kids food" then get in touch and we can teach you how to gently introduce choices/variety and get them branching out from their favourites.
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.