Take the Headache Out of Holiday Meals, For You and Your Selective Eater

 Holidays can be hard for any number of reasons. But with the intense focus on food and meals, they can be especially challenging for parents of children with extreme picky eating. So let’s say… Timmy is a selective eater… You’ve hated cranberry sauce since your folks forced you to eat it as a child and they try to make your kids eat it every year… Marie is heading into puberty and has put on a little weight in preparation… Bobbie is smaller than cousin Cort who was born six months after him… Susie has been in feeding therapy for a month, and the family wants to see “progress”… Sam gets overwhelmed by all the noise and new people and tends to melt down… All will be fodder for the Thanksgiving and Holiday tables. Your feeding (thus parenting) may feel in question. “What are you feeding him!?” “Just make her eat it, she won’t let herself starve.” “Here Marie, have some more salad if you’re still hungry!” “If you add gravy to his potatoes, he won’t be so scrawny.” “Stop spoiling her, that’s not how I raised you!” Gramma Eve raised six kids and they’re all “fine,” so she is the expert, Uncle Steve just lost 30 pounds, winning his work’s Biggest Loser contest (which he also won two years ago and then gained it all back), Betty actually force-fed your three-year-old bacon and garlic smashed potatoes last year (then he threw up) because she’s convinced he’d “like potatoes if he just tried them!” What to do? Your family may intrude, say or do the opposite of what you are...

“But It’s Healthy!” The Lure of Nutrition Talk and How it Fails with Extreme Picky Eating

We had a little boy over for lunch recently. His mom asked what I do for work and when I told her, her eyes lit up. “He’s so picky! Maybe you can get him to eat something!” From the spread at lunch, he happily stuck with bread and butter, and we had a lovely time. (I won’t make your child eat vegetables, that’s not how it works.)  During the meal, this six year-old shared that he LOVED his grandmother’s “homemade chicken soup” that was “organic, from scratch and has no chemicals in it!” When I delivered him back to his RV (we are living/traveling/working in an RV across the US this year) I shared his story about how much he loves Grandma’s homemade soup. His mom rolled her eyes. “Campbell’s” she said, “…from a can.” Small Children Can’t Understand Complex Nutrition Messages We chuckled and it reminded me of a conversation I had with my then almost four year-old. “Mom, is lettuce protein?” When I asked why she wanted to know, she explained that every day at school, the children had to all share what “protein” they had in their lunch. The following year in kindergarten she was teased by two classmates for choosing 1% milk, “You’ll get fat! It has fat in it!” What do these stories have in common? They illustrate how small children pick up on nutrition messages and words, and while they may seem to understand, in general they don’t. It doesn’t help their eating to try to use nutrition messaging as a way to get them to eat more or different foods. It’s another form of...

Moving from GET to LET: Supporting the Child with Picky Eating

“I couldn’t get him to eat anything.” While reviewing the progress of the children in my feeding program with my graduate student clinicians, I hear this type of statement all the time. There is sometimes so much ‘get’ that I have to stop the discussion and tell the students to remove that word from their vocabulary during feeding therapy. Why? The words we say out loud, and even in our own heads, can make a huge difference in how we think and feel about others, ourselves, and our actions. How we behave is influenced by what we’re thinking . . . and words are a direct reflection of our thoughts. Words matter. They shape our thinking and other’s perceptions of our message. They can color a conversation, and can change someone’s mind. Words can drive a wedge between partners or support someone so they can go on to change the world.   Henry Ward Beecher said “All words are pegs to hang ideas on”. If we view words in that way, it can help us to see how our language can make a huge difference in not only how our children react to us, but how WE react to THEM. If you have an agenda and the child isn’t cooperating, your instinct is to do something to GET them to play along. So many parents I work with say the following types of things: “How do I GET her to eat more?” “I can’t figure out how to GET him to drink.” “His doctor said we need to GET 24 ounces in him.” “I just can’t GET him to...

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