Trust Your Turtle: Patience with Picky Eating Progress

Here’s a story I read recently and shared with a client when she asked, “How can I get my daughter to accept new foods on her plate once she’s feeling good about her safe foods? Can’t I just put them on her plate?”   A woman was with her college geology class on a field trip by a river. She noticed a turtle up the river bank near a road and worried that the turtle would get hit by a car. So, she carried the turtle back down the hill and put it in the water. Afterwards, the professor came to her and said, “That turtle has probably spent weeks crawling up the hill to lay her eggs in the muddy slope and now she will have to start all over again.” The moral was, “Ask the turtle first.” (Gloria Steinem from her book, My Life on the Road) (See below our clarification of “ask”. Most children won’t want to be verbally queried along the way. Our moral is to be responsive to your turtle.)    What does this have to do with feeding? Well, many children with extreme picky eating have anxiety around foods, and often have struggled for years. As parents, and even professionals, we hope for and want improvements NOW, or in say,  six weeks. But progress is generally slow, slow, slow, and it might not look like what we think of as “progress” (eating new foods). Sometimes when we miss early signs of progress (less anxiety, eating more safe foods, curious about foods but not yet tasting or eating them...) it is easy to want to rush the process, to pick up our little turtles and carry...

Picky Eating Progress Reports: Spirited 3 1/2 year-old

Sharing one mom’s early successes (and tips) with her son with extreme picky eating. My 3.5 year old and I needed some help. I read your book, Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating and started the process this past Friday. While reading the book I realized how emotional I have been about our struggle with food. My husband was on board when I told him about it. My family said they’d be respectful and help. My son’s daycare already operates just as your book describes. While I teared up several times while reading the book, as it so closely related to my sense of failure, it gave me hope to try something new. He is developmentally fine, but is spirited and strong willed. The struggles seemed to be escalating and I was ready for help. Since starting last Friday (one week of trying) things have already gotten so much better!!! I started our dinners new with all glass serving dishes so he can see the food. Changed the placemats and put flowers on the table so I felt like it was a fresh start. Since starting STEPs+ he helped make blueberry pancakes (winced when the blueberries came out, but I wanted them so I stayed the course) and then at the table he put one on his plate!!!! He has watched me eat cherries (many times) acting as if he’s not watching. Today he asked if I eat the stem. When the dessert is on the table he eats a bit of it, but goes to his safe foods and eats them instead. His asking for crackers has almost...

When “It’s Not Working”: 10 Opportunities to Support Children with Extreme Picky Eating

Helping your child with picky eating, extreme or not, is a marathon, not a sprint… When we work with clients, or hear from parents at workshops or parents who’ve read our book, the STEPS “click” right away for some: their children are less anxious, enjoying meals, and tuning in to appetite and curiosity about new foods. But occasionally we hear, “It’s not working!” Sound familiar? Then this post is for you. Much of the time when families struggle or see no progress, they are still working on getting some (or all) of the steps in place. Perhaps there is unaddressed fear and worry, or families are afraid to go “all in.” We’ve compiled a list of the ten most common opportunities that we see. But first, a reminder in broad terms of the STEPS+ we outline in our book (with chapter numbers for reference) Step 1: Decrease stress, anxiety (yours and your child’s), and power struggles (chapter 4) Step 2: Establish a routine (chapter 5) Step 3: Enjoy pleasant family meals (chapter 6) Step 4: Build skills in “what” and “how” to feed (chapter 7) Step 5: Strengthen and support oral motor and sensory skills (chapter 8) Top Ten Opportunities to Get in STEP and Help Your Picky Eater 1: You and your partner aren’t on the same page. Let’s say Dad makes Timmy earn dessert by eating a bite of veggie, or requires milk with meals, while Mom is trying not to pressure. (A 2014 study found that dads tend to pressure more than moms.) Result: There is no consistent approach, which is confusing for Timmy, and this increases his anxiety! (STEP...

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...

The Art of the Pile-On: Family-Style at It’s Finest

I learned about the “pile-on” from friends at work many years ago—the modern version of a pot-luck, where everyone brings 1-2 ingredients to put together a meal. We usually enjoyed the Mexican Pile-On, with tortillas, chips, ground beef, shredded chicken, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, olives, etc. The “pile-on” is the fun part: everyone gets to choose from all the separate items to build their own taco, burrito, or nachos. With my own kids, the pile-on dinner has become an easy way for me to serve family-style in a manner that suits the very different feeding temperaments of my children. I have expanded this to the “Potato Pile-On”, “Pasta Pile-On”, and “Pancake Pile-On”. I get out lots of toppings and put them all on the table, and am continuously surprised at the “inventions” that my boys make from the offerings. The pasta night includes spaghetti, tortellini, or some other pasta, pesto and tomato sauce, cut up tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and avocados, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and diced chicken or ground turkey. Pancake pile-on is made up of sweet potato or apple pancakes (I add sweet potato puree or applesauce), various fruit cut up in bowls, yogurt, turkey bacon or apple-cinnamon sausage, gouda or goat cheese, and scrambled eggs. The other night, we had baked potatoes, and my oldest came up with this: My younger son went a completely different way (no surprise there) but ended up with quite the food sculpture! Mine was a more traditional stuffed baked potato with cheese, sour cream, broccoli, and turkey bacon, with the tomatoes and avocados on the side as a...

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