As parents we're the most important influence on our child and this extends to food as well. The way we behave around food and feeding can have a huge impact on how they eat.
There are several mistakes that it's easy to make and we don't know what we don't know!
1. Thinking that refusing a certain food, spitting it out or calling it yucky means our child doesn't like the food so not serving it again. We've all heard the stats about how many times a child has to try a food before deciding whether they'll like it or not. True!! It can be anything from the average for a competent eater of about 6 to 50+ (eek).
Just because our child doesn't like it once, twice or more times doesn't mean that they can't learn to like it.
2. Not serving what we want eaten. If we really want our child to eat vegetables they are not going to do that if we're only serving pasta and nuggets. I know that seems obvious but it's part of the picky eater paradox. We desperately want our child to eat more variety but we get too worried about their reaction to serve variety.
3. Thinking our child can do this on their own. Sometimes they can and sometimes they can't. However, having us working by their side supporting them is going to make a huge difference. We have to show our child how to eat widely and joyfully. The best way to do this is to model. We are their most important relationship so let's use that to our advantage!
For personalised plans and a way out of the stress of limited menu options get in touch for a no obligation initial appointment. Often making the change is way easier than you imagine. This is the perfect time of the year to do it. Long school holidays looming to bed down new habits
Anyone who has worked with me probably wants to beat me over the head with my constant reference to steps in regards to children and food.
I am all about enabling a child with picky eating to take a tiny step in a new direction and then another. In fact I am in the middle of a book which shows parents how to do this in pictures (look out for launch date at the beginning of next year).
Supporting our child to take a tiny step in a new direction with food is such a gentle way to enable them to start the journey towards adding variety. Even if that step is just having a new food happily on their plate, it's a tiny step closer to eating.
Knowing how to support our child so they are able to take that first little step and then another is key.
I'd love to explain it to you so please get in touch and let's organise a time to talk. The initial appointment comes with no charge.
This quote also talks to parents. Taking the first step, making the initial contact and setting up an appointment could give you a whole new world in the realm of food and feeding.
Thinking this is a bad time with Christmas coming. Actually, no. It's the best time to get armed with the information that will enable you to make changes during the school holidays. Children are less over-stimulated and it's the perfect time to implement gentle changes.
Begin 2019 resolved to take food worries off the table. Please get in contact and let's start giving you the tools so you can have one family meal, put the joy back into food and be able to add variety to the diet.
I read this this morning and it so resonated with me. I think many parents in this long, slow grind towards the end of the year can identify with feeling overtired and just over it all!
On top of all our normal stuff we have all the end of year celebrations and concerts and sporting finals and and ...
I also foolishly decided to have two boys born in December too so we have birthdays on top of all the general hoopla.
So it would seem to be the worst time to be looking to resolve eating habits for our children. But actually I think it's actually one of the best. Huh?
Yes, now is an excellent time to learn how to gently and lovingly make changes in your household that really will support better eating for your child.
Most parents are nervous coming into a workshop that changes will be negative, that they will have to do a lot more work and that it will be met with challenges from the children.
Actually it's the opposite. Most of what we implement will be positive and the children will be excited by many of the changes. Honestly :)
There are some places where you can put in extra effort to reap additional rewards but most of the strategies just slot into normal routines. I get it, I'm a working parent.
None of this is about making changes that are unpopular and challenging. It's about the opposite, selling a love of food and creating an atmosphere that supports better eating.
In fact often this makes life easier for you as the parent.
-Far less stress.
-No mealtime battles.
-One family meal (with no one going hungry)
-A plan to follow.
-Knowing you can resolve your child's problems makes for a much softer pillow.
Doing this in Dec/Jan will mean that you can pick the times when you have more time. When the children are less frantic. And you can start 2019 with eating worries off the table.
Why not book in to talk through the issues (no charge) and see what solutions we can recommend.
Following on from yesterday's blog:
A great predictor of whether a child is going to grow out of their picky eating is the age at which our child began struggling with variety.
If we have a baby that noticed if there was a formula change. Or struggled with purees, or just didn't take to solids, or even at that tender age was not interested in many foods then they are probably "pre-destined" to be more fussy than the average child.
Studies show that babies as young as 2 weeks old can exhibit different sucking patterns.
If however, we have a child that ate all the lovingly prepared purees and transitioned pretty happily to solids. They are more likely to grow out of their fussiness.
If and how long this takes will depend on a whole range of factors and we, as parents, are probably the most important of those. The way we behave and communicate around food and feeding will have the biggest impact on what happens to our child's eating over time.
YES! We can make a difference.
This is the million dollar question for most families where a selective eater is present! It's also where there are so many different answers depending on where you look for information.
No one has a crystal ball so it's impossible to know what will happen to a particular child.
Feeding specialists around the world seem to be settling on a common figure though when it comes to the extreme end of picky eating. This would apply to approx 10% of children (1 in 10!!). These children are unlikely to grow out of their eating patterns without intervention.
I know from my work and speaking to parents on a daily basis just how many families have children who have very, very narrow diets and often disordered approaches to food.
Many well-meaning friends and relatives will advise you to leave things and believe children will grow out of it on their own (remember Uncle Mike as a child blah blah). And this may be the case. However, a) how many years does a child eat a really restrictive diet until this occurs b) how stressful is it for both them and you c) how socially isolating is it for the child and the rest of the family d) how does it affect siblings (who often eat more widely and yet have a disordered approach to food) e) what happens if they don't?
GP's will normally not be concerned as long as a child is traveling along their expected growth lines in terms of height and weight. And our bodies are indeed amazing machines and until we hit puberty can survive on minimal amounts of food and a limited range. But is this ideal in terms of concentration and overall development?
I follow a site for adult picky eaters that proves there are 1,000's of adults who just didn't get the grow out of it memo ...
I believe it's a very personal choice and one that parents are charged with making on their own. If I could give any advice it would be to look at not only what a child eats but also their approach to food and eating. Remember that eating is something we do 3-5 times per day every day. Any habits (good or bad) become very entrenched and the longer we do them, the harder to change them.
I was speaking to a colleague with a partner who is very selective (and over the half century in age). He loads his fork with exactly the same foods in exactly the same order at every dinner ...
If our child hasn't added a food in months this is a concern. Why would they suddenly start adding?
If our child is dropping foods this is a major concern. Often children get bored or have a bad experience with a food and so stop eating something.
If our child is becoming more fussy with the look, feel and/or smell of foods this is often the precursor to dropping foods.
If food is becoming a flash point, stressful, guilt-inducing or miserable it's time to look for support. The less fun food is the less likely we are to eat widely.
If you're at the point where waiting for a child to grow out of selective habits is not an option then please get in contact. We can tell you simply (and at no cost) whether it's a "phase" or whether intervention can bring about a change.
Let us give you the strategies that will support better eating in your house. Gain the skills that will enable you to gently encourage trying new foods. Learn how to serve one meal and have your child participate. And most importantly put the joy back into food for the whole family.
For all parents of school-age boys Fortnite is probably a never-ending feature of home life. I know I have 2 addicts myself :)
I was running a workshop with a lovely couple last night and was using an analogy to help explain why children have to try foods many times before they develop a liking for them (figures on how many varies from expert to expert).
The Dad said "it's just like Fortnite". My ears pricked up as aren't we all looking for something that will support better eating and that our child might be remotely interested in listening to us about?
I discussed it with my boys this morning and they agreed that a great analogy for repeatedly trying a new food is like having a new gun in Fortnite. There is no way you'll be great with the gun initially so you probably won't like using it as much as your old guns. But if you try again and again it could become your favourite.
OK, I admit, Fornite is probably not going to be directly helpful in getting the kids eating but I did like the explanation! We do need to repeatedly try foods to build up a liking for them and having our child understand this can be very helpful.
If your child is not able to try any new foods then keep an eye out for our "7 Days of Eating". We'll be looking at ways that you can gently support your child to do just that.
This year I have worked with 8 mother's called Kate.
Does this mean that if you're named Kate you're destined to have a selective eater? I would say that's a definite no :)
However, there are so many myths and false assumptions surrounding challenges with eating I wouldn't be surprised if being called Kate suddenly appeared on the list!
I spoke to a client on Fri and she was telling me how excited she was that her son ate a ham sandwich. She had to share the news with her hairdresser (who also has a super selective eater) as she was the only one who would understand what a huge achievement this was.
Children who are super selective will often not eat when put under pressure or rewarded. This means that bribing with rewards often doesn't work nor does saying eat or starve.
There are children who are so scared to eat something out of their comfort zone they would literally starve themselves rather than eat a new food (it's like someone offering you a plate of spiders).
Taking one bite is often insurmountably challenging.
So following advice that is designed for the average fussy eater is not necessarily going to support a very selective eater. In fact, some of the strategies may even make things worse.
For all children struggling to eat variety the important component is making them feel comfortable around food. Creating an atmosphere that returns the joy to mealtimes for everyone.
Some things you can do today that support better eating are:
- Having relaxed meals that everyone looks forward to
- Not pressuring our child to eat
- Serving variety even if they only eat the nuggets
- Modeling eating as often as possible
- Giving our child the opportunity to interact with new foods
- Being confident we are able to support our child to eat
Implementing these effectively in a specific household with a specific child is what we specialise in. Please get in contact if you'd like support. Over the long holidays is the best time to tackle eating issues. Children are less likely to be overtired and over-stimulated.
No cost initial appointments available to find out more about how we can help you: https://www.theconfidenteater.com/contact.html
Hear what Kate has to say after attending a workshop last month.
"There has been a seismic shift in our family dynamic post our consultation with you! It has been an incredibly positive experience for us.
We are pretty religiously eating breakfast and dinner together which has been a really positive for everyone.
The power shift has been hard for Oli*, 8 but we've definitely made some positive steps - he's eating tinned peaches (his idea) on his cereal (after your amazing Jelly trick that you taught us) and has tried some banana.
He's tolerating yoghurt again in his lunchbox which is coming back pretty clean. He loved the chocolate muffins.
We understand this is a marathon and not a sprint so have realistic expectations. Our youngest daughter Charlotte* has astounded us - she's eating pretty much everything we present to her (so much so, she asked where the lettuce and carrots were at breakfast!)
We can't thank you enough for the help you have given us so far.
(*names changed for privacy)
We know our child better than anyone on the planet.
When something is wrong we know.
If they are sick and it's not a normal illness we just know that they are not behaving the same way as usual or that something "isn't right".
Similarly if our child's eating is cause for concern we know. Even if it's our first child there comes a point where we just know.
Trust your gut despite what you hear from others. No one is going through what you are every time you offer food.
- If you feel your child's approach to food is odd, it probably is.
- If you think your child's diet is too limited, it probably is.
- If you're worried that your child is unable to function socially due to their food issues you will see this occurring more and more (or watch them employ evasive tactics).
Don't get fobbed off. Eating challenges are a LOT more common than you think. Experts around the world agree on a figure of about 10% of children who have extreme eating issues with another 25% really struggling around food.
You know your child. Trust your instincts and ignore those who don't have an understanding of what you see clearly every day.
Picky eating IS a problem if it's more than just preferring one thing over another!
This is a fascinating excerpt from a Ted Talk and totally resonated with me. I know the way we talk about and around food and feeding is super important.
From the simple marketing: I would much prefer to eat a steak than a "bit of cow". Or tuck into a yoghurt rather than some milk mixed with bacteria.
To the emotive: "That is disgusting" or "Ewww yuck" is not going to make me enthusiastic about eating.
Or the atmosphere: "Eat up, come on have another bite, why are you not eating. How come you're so fussy?".
The good news is that as parents we are totally in control of the language that gets used. We can teach our children how we want them to talk in regards to food.
Have you thought about how language impacts approach?
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.