During the month of March each year you might notice a push to bring awareness to Nutrition and healthy eating and lifestyle habits. Many people would likely agree that making informed decisions about food, healthy eating, and exercise are important. What if your child has a limited diet? How do you focus on nutrition if your child is a “picky eater?” If mealtimes are a stressful time in your household, you may find that serving something your child will actually eat outweighs the desire to serve something “healthy.”
Check out some of these tips below to help make mealtime less stressful for you and your child:
- Encourage mealtime and snacks at a scheduled time each day. Give a verbal or visual reminder 5-10 minutes before mealtime.
- Introduce a transition activity before mealtime. This could include washing your hands or setting the table.
- All members of the family should sit at the table together. Consult with your child’s occupational therapy for questions about proper positioning modifications, if needed.
- Family meals should be served to all members of the family sitting at the table.
- Offer 1 vegetable, 1 fruit, 1 protein, and 1 starch with every meal.
- Always include 1 preferred food, so that the child has something to eat.
- Model eating! Children learn to eat, how to eat, by watching others eat. Our hope is to make sure each child is learning to view eating as a pleasurable social experience.
- Comment on the food you are eating. You can talk about the food’s taste, texture, color, shape, and size.
- Eliminate distractions (e.g. TV, video game, music, etc). The main focus should be on eating during mealtime. Try to keep conversation also related to food.
- Use positive language. Avoid using “no” and “don’t do that” or other negative phrasing. Phrase language in a way that tells the child what to do rather than what not to do.
- Reduce the use of questions. Asking questions at mealtime can draw attention away from the eating process. Reframe questions into a statement, such as “ You can take a bite out of the broccoli” rather than “Can you eat the broccoli?”
- Remember and model all the steps of eating. Stop at the level that the child shows resistance, and move back to a level that is more comfortable. These levels include:
- Tolerates (allows food on plate in front of them, across the table, etc.)
- Interacts with (assists in set up, serves the food, pushes it around with a utensil)
- Touches (with finger, hand, arm, face, cheek, lips, and tongue)
These tips are based off of the SOS Approach to Feeding. You can learn more about the SOS Approach to Feeding by visiting their website: http://sosapproach-conferences.com or contact us to learn more about how some of our trained staff may be able to support you!