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Managing Your Picky Eater

Picky eating” is very difficult and very frustrating to manage as a parent.  Your child may gag on food or refuse food all together.  With so many sugary alternatives, it is easier to provide these snacks to your child so “at least they get something.”  There is so much information and research available about how sugar affects our brain and bodies, so it really is best to limit sugary snacks.

Motivation is important when negotiating with a picky eater.  Usually, your child is refusing food to feel in control of whatever anxiety based issue they face (sensory issues, OCD, etc.)  If you chose to take an authoritative stand with your child, with no reward in place, you may be fighting an uphill battle.  Try to give your child something to work for, maybe it is a bite of a sugary snack, a fun game to play or points to earn towards a special outing.  Once you have your child motivated, you can set limits with less of a battle.

Start small, do not expect your child to clear his plate.  Place one new or  non-preferred food on your child’s plate, with other choices.  Give your child a few minutes to explore their food, do not say anything or give any direction.  If they say “I don’t like it” simply say “we are eating this for dinner.”  After five minutes, your child will probably be asking to get up from the table, this is when you provide a manageable, small amount of food for them to eat; “If you want to get up, eat one bite of broccoli” or “If you want to play after dinner please try a bite of carrot.”  Do not push the issue, if they chose not to try the bite, that is their choice, but then they are not able to earn their motivator.

Also, do not provide them with a snack when they do come looking for food later.  Keep their dinner plate warm and offer the food to them,  “If you want to have a snack, you need to try a bite of ____.”  When you stand firm with this, your child will learn that meal times are when they are allowed to eat, and snacking is not an alternative.

The food battle can be exhausting, if you set clear limits and small goals your child will slowly learn that they need to try the foods you present.  They may always be selective with their food choices, but they will be more willing to try.

Let me know how you’re doing.  Contact me for a family consultation.

Katie Gately
Behaved Brain Wellness Center
Healthier Kids – Happier Parents