What To Do When You’re Struggling with Picky Eating

If meal time is a nighttime battle in your home, this article is for you! When your child is a picky eater it is easy to feel frustrated, but there can be underlying causes. It is important to know how to deal with these issues and when to seek further help.

What to do when you struggle with picky food

help picky eaters

We asked pediatric speech pathologist and feeding specialist Heidi Miller about some steps parents can take when their little ones are struggling with picky food. Read on for what she had to say!

What are the first steps a parent should take with a picky eater?

One of the first steps parents should take with a picky eater is to allow their child to interact with new foods at the level they are most comfortable with. You can involve your child in the process of preparing and cooking food instead of starting straight away. For example, let your little ones help cut or mix the new food.

Child helps with cooking

What are some methods to take the stress off meals?

Take the stress out of eating. Instead, encourage the child to stay at the table as this is a social experience. You can tell them that meal time is family time and that you will all talk about what you did that day. Remind them that they will not be forced to eat the new food.

You said you want the parents to know it’s not their fault. Can you explain why this is so and how to get rid of this guilt?

It is definitely not the parents’ fault. When I am struggling with feelings of guilt, I often ask the parents if there is another sibling. If the answer is yes, most likely this child is a good eater.

Often times, a child becomes a picky eater because of an underlying physical problem that went undetected and caused them to feel unsafe while eating. This is not something the parents did. As therapists, we know how to help these children, so take the blame away! Guilt doesn’t help you or your child.

Questions directly from Mamas Like You

help picky eaters

When should I consider getting help with picky food / worrying there is something more?

There are a few key factors that distinguish a picky eater from someone in need of feeding intervention:

  • The child does not eat a whole group of foods
  • The child deletes a food and does not replace it with something else
  • Children gag and cough while eating (this is medical and you need to call your doctor!)
  • The child eats less than 20 foods
  • Meal time is always a stressful time for the family as the child exhibits negative behaviors such as Refusing to stay at the table, tantrums, throwing food / utensils, etc.

Is there something I can do to prevent picky eating disorders before they start?

Baby eating solid foods

Parents should offer a variety of foods and TURN it. Don’t try to get used to your child eating the same meal or snack every day.

Let your child come into contact with food in a playful way! Things like preparing food can help reduce anxiety about food.

My baby prefers BLW, but I prefer to start with purees! Can you recommend a good meal in between?

This question is very age and development related. Sure we want
Exposing babies to purees and meltable solid foods. There is a critical one
Window for the introduction of solid foods and we don’t want to miss that.

If your child is a picky eater, you know that you are not alone and that this is not your fault. Celebrate the small wins and seek help if necessary. Remember you have that!

Expert bio

Heidi is a pediatric speech pathologist, feeding specialist and certified orofacial myologist. She has a sub-specialty in feeding that specifically treats the “picky eater” and children diagnosed with ARFID.

Heidi Miller MS CCC SLP COMĀ®
Language pathologist
Feed specialist
Certified orofacial myologist
Advanced Childhood Apraxia of Speech CAS
Director of HMS & Associates
973-358-5665 office phone

* This post is for information and entertainment purposes only. If you need medical help, please contact your own doctor.

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