Enjoying the Holidays with a Picky Eater!

Posted by

Breanne Haeger, MOT, OTR/L

Time to read

3 minutes

With many holidays amongst us, we know this can be an incredibly fun time for families who are celebrating! It can also be difficult and stressful for little ones, because routines change so much around this time. For picky eaters these changes in routines, along with changes in foods and meals, can make eating even more of a struggle. 

We wanted to provide some insights about what we’ve seen to be helpful; and support you with strategies so picky eaters can move through this time of year with ease! Here are 5 tips for enjoying the holidays with a picky eater!

  1. Create as much predictability as possible. 
    1. Keep routines consistent where you are able and for those changes make sure to remind, remind, remind! 
    2. Tell your kids about changes in the routine–explain what is going to happen. Include details around what it will feel like, what expectations there will be, what to do if they need a break, etc.
    3. With food, try to discuss what they will be fed at a celebratory meal beforehand. If possible, offer something similar for meals prior to a holiday event. Familiarity can be so helpful in these situations!
  2. Offer holiday treats with the meal instead of after!
    1. This can feel counter-intuitive, but providing a small amount of a treat with the meal helps to take sweets off the “pedestal”. You can offer as small of an amount as you’d like, and it does not have to be at every meal. 
    2. This can help address constant requesting of just one more cookie. You are simply able to say, “Yes! You’ll have one with your dinner! Right now we have ____ available for snack.”
  3. When eating in a new environment, create familiarity!
    1. Offer at least one thing you know they will eat, and if needed, they can have extras and fill up on this one thing for the meal. If necessary, offer to bring this item for your child or to share at your festivities. 
    2. New environments are a great place to expose to new foods, but they are not a great place to focus on consuming new foods. If it happens naturally, great! Low pressure is key–there are enough other changes happening!
    3. Bring familiar bowls, spoons, cups, even their booster or high chair. Making as much as possible familiar and comfortable is extremely supportive in these new environments.
  4. Get on the same page!
    1. Families can well, umm, have great intentions but sometimes do things that aren’t aligned with your parenting choices. Especially surrounding food, it can be helpful to have a conversation with family members ahead of time and let them know things like: 
      1. It is ok if they don’t try many of the foods on their plate
      2. I’m not concerned with what they eat this meal
      3. Please refrain from telling them to “take a bite”
      4. (Whatever else is true for you)
    2. Having conversations ahead of time reduces tension and reactivity in the moment. That keeps the mealtime more joyful and peaceful for all!
  5. Take advantage of the opportunity for more sensory exploration.
    1. There are so many holiday-themed sensory and craft projects for little ones! These can be great ways to explore new non-food textures. 
    2. We especially love sensory activities that engage the senses of smell and touch!
    3. These types of sensory experiences that are the “just right challenge” help support your child in making progress, even when eating might be at a plateau. 

Let us know what helps you manage the holidays with a little picky eater!

As always, if you have concerns about your child’s eating, feel free to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our feeding specialists!