Common mistakes parents often make with their picky eater and tips to help remedy the situation!
Ask any parent – they will likely tell you they have gone through the “picky eating” stage with their child. It’s a part of typical development! Although for some children, picky eating persists as they get older. From only wanting white or bland foods, to thinking eggs are too slimy, to loving potatoes one day and throwing them on the floor the next, it can be simply draining. Add in work, other siblings, cleaning, and school, etc. and attempting to go out to eat or even mealtimes at home can become one exhausting crazy disaster. As a parent, you’re always trying to do your best but some days, it can feel impossible. Here are a few common mistakes parents of picky eaters make and some tips for remedying or avoiding the situation altogether in the future with your little one.
Only offering the same foods (their “safe foods”) you know they will not fuss about – This limits your child’s exposure to other foods and it does not encourage your little one to be adventurous. We recommend serving your child’s safe foods alongside other foods on their plate (even better if you offer foods that you and your family are also eating!). Putting foods on their plate they’re not used to, while still including safe foods so they always have something to eat, can work wonders! Expose! Expose! Expose!
Giving up on a food after only 1 or 2 trials – Did you know it can take up to 15 opportunities for a person to decide if they “like” a food? And the person in this instance is a toddler, which makes it even harder! Remember, your child is new to this. Foods feel new and different. Tastes and sensations are also new. Just because something is spit out once or twice should not be a reason to stop. Continued exposure is key!
Expecting your small human to eat large portions – Your little one is small! They do not need a ton of food. Putting too much on their plate can actually be overwhelming for them, resulting in them not wanting to try foods on their plate. Trying and tasting should be celebrated, even if it is a small amount.
Giving large bites of new foods – Like we mentioned earlier, eating introduces a ton of new tastes and sensations and your toddler is small. If you are trying an avocado, for example, I would expect them to spit out a large bite! Work on dipping your spoon in this new food, get your little one to eat a small bite for several nights in a row, and then progressively increase the size of the bite as your little one gets used to the taste, texture, and flavor. Don’t forget to provide praise and a positive environment as they continue to taste food. Even tiny amounts! Here’s an example of something you could say: “I love how you tasted that avocado! I can’t wait to see you do it again tomorrow.” Here are a few others comments you can use when supporting your little one: “Is it sweet or salty? Crunchy or soft? Is there something we can do to make this taste better for you? Dip it in something? Add some seasoning? Let’s see what happens when we poke it with our fork!”
Getting frustrated or impatient – It happens to the best of us! We go in with a plan, then the plan goes out the window when you get stressed. Having a picky eater can be one of the most anxiety producing family stressors. It’s important to remember though, your little one will be able to feel your stress and will feed off of it, making mealtimes worse and creating problems in the future. Take a break, take a breath, and never let anxiety rule at the dinner table. Keep things positive and reassuring. Try to think of things you can respond with ahead of time, or think of things you could say differently next time. You can even write yourself some notes to glance at if needed!
Not looking for a medical cause for the picky eating – Sure, picky eating is developmental and all kids go through it. But if it seems like it is something harder to deal with and they are not outgrowing it, look to have a conversation with your doctor to rule anything out. All the tips and therapy in the world will not help if there is an underlying medical issue at hand. For example, is your child constipated? If food is not coming out it will not go in! Does your child have reflux? Pain and eating do not mix well. Does your toddler have undiagnosed allergies? Allergies (some that we cannot even see) are common causes of feeding issues. Ruling out a medical cause when it comes to more severe picky eating is very important and cannot be overlooked.
Not seeking professional help when it is needed – Sometimes, picky eating cannot be dealt with by mom and dad at home. When your child has significant picky eating concerns that limits his social interactions, health, weight, growth, and/or development, it is time to reach out to a professional for either parental coaching or therapy for your child. This DOES NOT mean that you’re doing anything wrong or that you’re causing the picky eating. Parental coaching or therapy for your child will help you support your child in expanding their food repertoire.
Kelly is an SLP and a feeding specialist in Orlando, Florida who also specializes in using hypnosis to support feeding difficulties, weight management, and anxiety. If you have questions, please reach out to Kelly at Infinity Hypnosis. Kelly can answer your questions over a free phone consultation where she can further discuss feeding therapy and/or how hypnosis works and how hypnosis could help you or your loved one’s specific needs. Contact Kelly and Infinity Hypnosis at [email protected] or check out her website at https://infinityhypnosis.com/ to book a free consultation.