Expanding Food Options for the PICKY EATER
Expanding food options for the picky eater
Javier eats a couple of bites of his chicken nuggets, pushes his pasta around on his plate, turns up his nose at his vegetables, and leaves the table. An hour later, he is asking for chips and ice cream. Worried about his food intake, his parents eventually give him a snack. This pattern repeats itself almost every meal. The range of foods Javier finds acceptable is continually shrinking, while junk food consumption is increasing. What can his parents do?
Picky eating is a common frustration for parents, but even more prevalent for those with children with special needs. Many children refuse vegetables, fruits, and other healthy options in favor of empty carbohydrates and sweets. As a result, parents worry about the children’s nutrition and feel frustrated at the power struggles that seem always to ensue around mealtimes. Children may “grow out of” these patterns, but there are strategies that can help expand food choices.
First, rule out medical problems (e.g., difficulty chewing or swallowing, gastro-intestinal problems) that could be contributing to the problem. If your child is experiencing these types of problems, get help to address them prior to or in combination with using behavioral approaches.
Second, model healthy eating habits. Stock the pantry with good food and to talk to your child about why you make particular choices. Encourage all family members to eat well-balanced meals, making it easier for picky eater to follow suit.
Third, restrict access to junk foods. If you decide to make sweets and less-healthy snacks available to your picky eater, do so only after he or she has consumed something healthy. It may be helpful to put these items out of sight (e.g., in a high cabinet) between meals.
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