- Ensuring a Preferred Food- Meal planning gives you the organization to make sure you have those comforting and familiar foods ready at each meal for your picky eater. As I already mentioned, this is key for the whole meal not going down the drain- literally. I would strongly suggest that you sit down and make a list of all the foods your kid eats at least 50% of the time. Put these foods into three categories- starch/carbs, fruits/veggies, and proteins. Most people are surprised at how many foods are actually on the list. Now make sure at least 1 of these is present at each meal.
- Calculated Exposure to New or Non preferred foods- Look at the foods on that list you made of all the foods they eat, do you notice any patterns? Are they eating only crunchy, soft, or white foods? If so, try to plan some meals that gradually take them a little out of their comfort zone. With each meal that you plan, slowly make small changes to some of the foods they eat. For example, if you noticed that your kid seems to be avoiding anything with a mushy texture, but they love crunchy foods, then try to plan for some meals with foods that have crunchy outsides and soft insides. It all may be in how you prepare the food.
- Keep a Record- Make some small notes on how your kid did at meal time. It is important to see success in interactions with food, too. Some kids won’t even look at new foods, if yours touched a green bean for the first time that is success! Having your meal plan as a visual will let you see the progress you have made and remind you to go back and try some foods that you had some progress with. Often times. without this visual reminder, we get stuck in the same old rut and go back to cooking the same things.
The organization and stress factor that meal planning brings is even more important for the picky eater because parents of picky eaters are more likely to be more stressed and disorganized at meals. Meal planning probably won’t take away all of the stress because now you have to work on getting your kid to eat some of these non preferred foods, but it will help a lot. And, the less stressed we are as parents during meal time, the better our kids will eat. If you are looking for more strategies to help with your picky eater click here, here, and here.
Alisha Grogan, MOTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist that specializes in feeding difficulties and sensory integration in the Pittsburgh area. Also, the mom of two wonderful boys under three and blogger at Your Kid’s Table, which combines all her feeding and sensory knowledge as a mom and OT. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.