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Fostering a Positive Mealtime Environment for Picky Eaters at Any Age

Updated: Mar 13

As I start the journey of solid food with my son, I've been reflecting on how we build positive food habits. First off, it’s hard. In today’s world, there is so much information readily available, but what is the “right” approach?


For the record, the “right” approach is whichever works best for your family. There are some guaranteed ways that you can help your child on their food journey, no matter their age. Let’s dive deeper:


Mealtime routines:

Yes, for those of you reading this and going “really, that’s it?” Yes, it is. Sit down at least 1x per day as a family, whether it’s snack time or mealtime. Food is not just nourishment, but connection, fun, and community. Let’s build that into your child's association of food.


Clear division of responsibilities:

Parents are responsible for what is provided and when it’s provided. Children are responsible for how much they eat. When deciding the “what” include at least one food you know your child will eat.


Fight the urge to say things like  “yum, it’s so good.”

Oh, this is a hard one. Sometimes I’m sitting in feeding therapy with another child or at a family meal and all of a sudden this sentence (or the comparable) flows out of my mouth before I can catch it. This creates perceived pressure, meaning even though you didn’t say “take a bite” you might as well have. Try out describing the food instead! What color, shape or texture is it?


Cut it out, literally.

Food play doesn’t have to result in food waste to have the desired effect of minimizing perceived pressure or allowing exploration. Try engaging your child in meal prep, using child-safe, age appropriate tools.


Offer a "yes" option

Offer at least 1 food that your child will eat at each mealtime. Bonus points if you offer enough of that food that you will feel comfortable if that is the only thing your child eats at a meal. Offering a “safe food” or “yes option” actually helps kids explore new foods, as they aren’t sitting at the table uncomfortably, and their brain is primed for eating.

When it comes to feeding your child, some of the best things you can do have more to do with the how than the what. If you are struggling with your child’s eating, feel free to reach out for support.







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