Your Picky Eater during the Holidays

As the holidays rapidly approach us, beyond the stress of the hustle and bustle some of our kids and parents may find that preparing meals and eating meals just adds to the stress. Here are some tips that can assist our families with making the preparation and eating or trying new foods a positive experience.

Tip #1 – Inclusion
Including the child in the decision about what to serve. Allow there to be a taste or texture that the child prefers and that they have been given a choice to possibly help make.

Tip #2- Simplicity
Keep it simple. We all have items that we love when we think of the holidays and some recipes are more complicated then others, however most of our children that are picky eaters have simple tastes and do not need many mixed textures.

Tip#3 – Assistance
Allow them to assist in the meal and/or holiday prep. They might assist with setting the table (you can even draw a place setting on a piece of paper to help them with where all utensils are place or how your table to look). Your child may like small jobs like sitting at the table and stirring or assist with pouring or rolling dough. It may sound like work but it may just give some investment in to the holiday planning. Include verbal praise and hugs for a job well done!

Tip#4 – Contribute
Allow them to contribute to the meal so they have an investment in the food. You may have a simple recipe or find a simple recipe for a food item that they have requested. Print or write out the recipe and have them look in the cupboards for the ingredients that you already have and then take them with you to the grocery pick out the items you need to make their said item. Allow them to see your excitement in them being able to contribute to the meal.
Recipes can be simple

2 years- pudding or jello (their favorite flavor)- basically 2 steps

3-4 years – maybe helping with stuffing or green bean casserole/ or a vegetable dish

5- 7 years make a dessert

7+ making mac and cheese or maybe a family recipe which requires more than 5 ingredients

Tip #5- Asking for help
Allow the child to ask for help. Allow them time to create without having to do exactly the way you might do it (supervision only). Again, we want them to feel ownership without feeling failure. Asking for help on their terms is a positive way for growth and development.

Tip #6- Be Creative
Be creative with table decorations and how their final product is served. Have them make their place setting THEIR own, to encourage joining everyone at the table or in the same room. Have them pick the dish or plate and utensils they want people to use to put their food on their plate. The child will own it and feel proud.
Tip #7- Limit the trials

Have them put a teaspoon to tablespoon size bite on their plate of every dish to be tried. Let them try to serve themselves. I typically use a 3 Win Rule ( meaning they must try the food 3 times to get a win) with children who have difficulty trying new or non-preferred foods, however at during a holiday meal getting the food from the main dish via spoon is one win, taking it to their lips is win number two and a small taste would be your third win. I would encourage parents to try this same strategy with leftovers. Let the child lead in this during the holidays and tell you what they tried, and give that positive praise. Always praising them and the yummy food (even if it is not something you care for).

Tip #8- No Pressure
Enough pressures over the holidays, this is not a pressure situation. Helping, sharing, and contributing should be FUN! That is FUN with food! That is the goal of these tips!

Tip #9-Positive Talk
All food is yummy! Taste and textures vary greatly human to human, but presenting opportunities to try a vary is our mission.

Tip#10- Time
What they do and how they contribute (despite all these tips) is a short period of time but can have such an impact on a child’s relationship to food, growth, development and communication skills in a positive direction.


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