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How to Handle Picky Eating

I, Carolann Prescott, Co-Director and Occupational Therapist will be providing a workshop regarding picky eating on July 8,2020, free for the parents of our center, and for a small fee for parents of the community. But, I would still like to share some simple tips you could use in order to address picky eating with your child.

First and foremost, understand that we all have different definitions of "picky eating." For some parents they view their child as a picky eater because they won't eat 2-3 foods, others have picky eaters who won't eat entire food groups, or will only eat ONE food group. There is a spectrum of picky eating that is difficult to define which of course means research is hard to come by because it all defines picky eating differently.

But here is what I know... There are things that you can do that have been proven to be effective. All it takes is a little bit of reading, and a WHOLE LOT of patience.

Here are 5 things you can start trying right away to help increase your child's tolerance to new foods:

1. Find foods with hidden nutrients: Helping your picky eater can be a long process but we need to make sure that your child is getting the nutrients they need for their little developing brains and bodies! Here are some examples of foods that mimic some of children's faves:

2.Limiting High Calorie/Sugary Drinks: High calorie and sugary drinks such as flavored milks, and juices can make meal times difficult because they may be full from the liquid. You don't have to completely stop cold turkey. You can start to water down juices, limit milks to only certain parts of the day, and/or try to provide meals with water prior to offering the sugary drink so that the child can fulfill their hunger cues with food rather than sugary drinks. Try exploring with flavoring water with fruit and having your child choose which fruits to put in the water, talking about what it tastes like, what they might want to try next time, etc. Introduce your child to a new water bottle or let

them pick one out at the store that they'll be excited to use. You can even put little stickers on t

he ounce lines to give a visual cue of how much water they can set as a goal to drink!

3.Pay attention to distractions: You know your child best. Is your child watching tv while they're refusing to eat? Are they walking around with food, or sitting at the table? Are they watching you clean the house, or are you all sitting down as a family? Are they playing with a tablet? Listening to music? A lot of sources tend to recommend completely eliminating distractions, but my goal for you is to be aware of them and how your child responds to them. For example, does your child get completely entranced by the TV, but can't handle the silence if there's nothing on? Try music. Does your child not eat because their hands are busy with the tablet? Try no tablets at the dinner table. Does your child like pretending to feed their doll while they eat, but sneak bites in between? This could actually be useful, try it with a new food!

4.Play with food outside of meal times: Sometimes children have difficulty handling new textures if they are sensitive to them. A technique that is used to expose children to new foods without the stress of meal times is to add it to play! Make some chocolate pudding and drive cars through the "mud." Hide some toys inside of a big jello mold and let your child dig through it! Make some instant mashed potatoes and mix some food coloring in it and make it into "play dough." Playing with these textures can help desensitize them to these textures in a relaxing, playful environment so that they've at least been exposed to the texture before meal time, and hey, it's edible so if they try to eat it while playing its a plus!

5.No Stress Zones: This is the hardest part, but one of the most important. It's very easy to let our stress get the best of us when it comes to our child and their eating habits. We want the best for them, we want them to be healthy and to be getting the nutrients they need. We want them to be eating more of this, and less of that, and they sense our stress and react and then we react to the reactions and you know, you've been there before. Screaming, tears, and piles of food on the floor, smeared on the walls, and nowhere closer to your goals. Try your best to set the tone of a relaxing environment, and even when you want to just get them to put that new food in their mouth, be patient and let them lead the way.

I will be providing a workshop on Picky Eating that dives much deeper into the research, psychology and science behind picky eating in Toddlers and what you can do to prevent it, changes you can make right now, and long term commitments you can make in order to help your child eat more foods so that they can get the nutrient rich diet that they need for proper development.

Please email me at in order to secure your spot in the parent workshop which will be on July 8, 2020

If you have any questions or concerns about your picky eater right now please contact me on the Sensational OT Facebook Page

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