We all know people who are picky eaters. Maybe that person is you or someone you live with. If so, it likely impacts your day EVERYDAY. Maybe meal prep ideas are super challenging, or maybe mealtime is less enjoyable, or maybe there is anxiety around picking a restaurant, etc.
Occupational therapists work with clients of all ages to improve their client's experience with eating and mealtime. We help find strategies to decrease anxiety and frustration around the family table and work with families to improve communication and participation with eating...making it a healthy opportunity to connect and nourish.
Here are a few ideas to improve the whole "mealtime experience."
Include your whole family in meal prep and clean-up. This begins with grocery shopping and ends with a clean kitchen. Every family member who is eating solid foods can help, I promise. Even VERY young children can participate in the shopping process by picking out foods in all colors of the rainbow, setting the table safely, sharing the foods they see on the table, asking for what they want on their plate/tray, trying different foods, clearing the table, loading/unloading the dishwasher, wiping their tray/table, AND MORE.
As parents, we decide WHAT is served, maybe we offer 2 choices, and our kids get to decide HOW MUCH/WHERE the food goes on their plate.
Often if mealtime is a time of anxiety, parents will either watch every bite that their child eats or begs their child to eat. Both reactions create a wonderful opportunity for that child to exert CONTROL over the situation, and probably act in a way that is not "inline" with your expectations. It offers a great opportunity for the child to use their control to elicit a reaction from the parents. Instead, I encourage parents to SAY NOTHING AND DON'T STARE......This is hard work. But I ask, "Do you like to be stared at while you eat?" Probably not. I haven't met anyone who actually enjoys being watched, while they eat.
Initiate a ritual during mealtime. Maybe it is "roses, thorns, or buds" when each person shares something good, something bad, and something they are looking forward to about their day. This gives everyone something to look forward to, that is consistent and an opportunity for expression.
Make sure space "makes sense." Does your child have a properly positioned seat and a height that is appropriate at the table? Most tables and chairs are not made for kid-size bodies. And most plates/bowls are WAY too big for the quantity of food that a child needs to eat to feel satiated.
If you have questions or concerns about your child's mealtime success or living with a picky eater, feel free to reach out.