Picky Eating

Having a picky eater can be a challenging obstacle for families to overcome. It is sometimes difficult to have a family meal, when a child is only willing to eat a few different food groups. A child may not like a food for a variety of reasons such as the appearance, taste, smell, or texture of a food. Here are a few little known facts and a few simple suggestions to present new and/or non-preferred food to some of our picky eating friends!

  1. According to the SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) feeding approach developed by Kay Toomey, there are 32 steps to eating. This is broken down into 5 major categories: tolerate, interacts with, smells, touches, and tastes. Each of these individual steps is crucial in the successful introduction of a new food.
  2. While it may seem very counter intuitive, food play can be one of the best ways for a child to interact with and explore a new food. Engaging with a child and discussing the foods help them to learn more about it and they may feel more “safe” around that food. For example, if mashed potatoes are scary, play with them first! Make snowmen, or mice, or add some preferred foods into the mixture. This allows the child to smell, visualize, touch and manipulate the food before they eventually get the food to their mouth before licking, tasting or chewing the food.
  3. Food jagging is a very common occurrence with our picky eaters. This is when a child loves a food and requests it constantly. A few popular food groups are pizza, macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. During a food jag, a child will typically refuse this previously preferred food and will often become insistent on eating a different food. After some time has passed, the child will typically go back to eating and/or accepting the initial food. This can be very frustrating and confusing for families…but it is a normal occurrence!
  4. Food Chaining is a method that many therapists use to help with determining how to introduce new and non-preferred foods. The basic tenets of this principal are to take a preferred food and find very small ways to change it that help you to get to a non-preferred food. For example, a progression from eating yogurt to fresh fruit might look like this: Start with a preferred flavored smooth yogurt; progress to a yogurt with fruit chunks; then place whole food pieces into a bowl of yogurt; use the same bowl and place more fruit then yogurt; use the same bowl and place only the fruit with no yogurt. Each of the stages may take time, and that’s okay! Slow progression and introduction is best!

Discover more picky eating resources HERE.