For Your Thanksgiving Picky Eater
Thanksgiving can undoubtedly be a stressful time for a picky eater and his/her family. A regular mealtime with familiar family foods can be difficult to get through. However, when you have a whole day centered around foods you may only serve once per year (plus the potential activity of seeing lots of family members and friends), this can cause the picky eater AND family to experience a whole different level of stress. Here are some tips to keep in mind from “All the Moms” and “Parents“ to help you get through the holiday weekend!
- Involve your child in getting the meal ready, such as setting the table and preparing some of the foods (to the best of their ability level). This could even be putting napkins on the plates or mashing up some of the potatoes. If they can have experiences around the foods without actually eating them, this can help to decrease some of the anxiety.
- As much as possible, stick to your usual meal routine. For example, if at your regular dinner time your child is only expected to try one bite of each food on their plate, keep this consistent. It would likely add stress if they are suddenly asked to completely clean their plate when it has not been the usual expectation.
- If there are some stand-by foods that help get your child through a meal (ketchup or ranch are my favorites!), then considering having those available. It might not be your idea of a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, but if your child will dip just about anything in ketchup, then they just might be willing to give that turkey or sweet potato a taste.
- As much as possible, limit pre-meal snacks. A child is far more likely to sit and eat some food at the table if they are hungry! If they are filling up on crackers, pretzels, or sweets before the meal starts, it will probably be much more difficult to keep them at the table for a meal full of foods they may not usually eat.
- Try making up fun names for the foods! “Cornell University researchers found that when 4-year-olds were served ‘X-Ray Vision Carrots,’ they ate nearly twice as much as when the food was simply labeled ‘Carrots.’” — Parents
- Keep servings small! Especially with so many foods that are typically served at a Thanksgiving feast, you may only offer a tablespoon or less of each food that you would want your child to try. It is much less overwhelming for your child to look at a plate of small portions than a heaping plate of food. Plus, they can always ask for seconds if they find something they like!
- Overall, just try to be as relaxed as possible. This is not the time to put too many expectations on one meal. If your child does not like one of the foods on their plate, give them praise for the other foods that they did try. The important part of the day is to enjoy the company around you and not to stress over finishing every last bite of food.
Kristina Burnham, MS, CCC-SLP-Language Pathology Director