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How to Help Your Picky Eater

Turtle Creek Learning Academy  |  September 22, 2014  |  ~ Juli Mondschein

When I named him Rebel I thought he might one day change the world, not refuse to eat his peas! But he did and like many parents we entered the world of picky eating. I have been working with Rebel to try new foods (with the help of a therapist) so Mrs. Weiss asked me to write down a few ideas that might help you as well.

1. Food Chaining: It's a concept to get kids move from one food to another by linking similar foods starting with one that they like to get to ones they haven't tried or even don't like.

When Rebel was 2 he was only eating Cheerios and 4 other foods. We used the concept of “Food chaining” to match similar items as a way to introduce new foods. At first we started the chain with Cheerios and moved to apple chips (same color, and crunch) and eventually moved to apple slices. We also moved him from Cheerios to Fruit Loops (same shape and crunch) which although not so healthy, it opened to door to new colors which eventually got us to more new foods.

Here are some other ideas to chain--
Chicken nuggets to chicken cutlets/patties/or fingers to grilled chicken. Or chicken nuggets to other breaded items like fish sticks or shrimp. French fries to sweet potato fries to sweet potatoes. Or start with a basic like chicken nuggets and add new sauces, to get new tastes….chicken nuggets with ketchup, then with BBQ sauce, and then try chili sauce.

2. Shapes: This can be fun and easy. Buy different shaped cookie cutters and cut everything out into a shape. Use it on pancakes, French toast, and sandwiches. Select different shapes for pasta, pretzels and chicken nuggets so they learn that a different shape may still be the same food. Or make the whole meal into a shape. Try pita boats, use a pita for the boat filled with turkey, cheese and avocado. Use a mast made from a tube of yogurt and a sail made of triangle shaped tortilla chips. Have the kids color a placemat of the sea for their “boat”.

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3. Make up a story! Green food can turn you into the hulk! Or watch out for peas--they are actually kryptonite. Practice taking animal bites, “What kind of animal are you?” “What does your bite look like?” “Can you take a little fish bite or a big shark bite?” Hopefully by the time they take a bite they realize that whatever they are eating is yummy and will want to eat it again.

Most of all be patient. Keep trying and stay positive. We have been working on this a long time but seeing our son go from eating only snacks to some actual meals has been a great accomplishment.

So does Rebel eat peas? He does! (And I think he knows that it's not actually kryptonite.)

Good luck and Happy Eating!
Juli Mondschein

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