Picky Eaters and Parent Personal Chefs
Sometimes, kids can get stuck in what are called “food-jags.” A food-jag may look like a kid only wanting yogurt and waffles for breakfast, every morning. Or, refusing to eat anything but chicken nuggets and mac and cheese for dinner.
Food-jags set parents up to be personal chefs for their children and they set up children to have potential issues with nutritional intake and growth.
Parents: no shame here! This is common with kids these days. “Kid foods” are pushed on parents with some pretty amazing marketing and a lot of adults fall into this way of feeding their kids. If you haven’t heard of this term, “Kid Foods” are what I define as any food that has been altered to cater to children or altered to be marketable to children and their parents. Think Eggo Waffles, Puree Packets, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Kids Cereals, GoGurts — the “kid food” industry is massive!
Unfortunately, Kid Foods create narrow food varieties and most importantly to me as a feeding therapist — the nutritional content of these kid foods are minimal. My last complaint on these foods and the most inconvenient for the parents I work with — kid foods make parents personal chefs for their kids.
I have worked with parents who make a different meal for each human in their family, every meal. Holy cow.
FIRST, know you are not alone, and SECOND – please, know it does not have to be this way!
You know what’s easier?
- Kids eating whatever you put on their plate.
- Kids eating what you’ve already prepared for the rest of the family.
How do we get to this point?
Here is how I use Rotational Menus in my feeding therapy practice to combat food-jags and increase the items on kids’ accepted food lists.
Remember the end goal: they eat what you serve.
How-to use Rotational Menus for Picky Eaters
Be excited, make it fun, and disclose your intentions and plans fully.
- The name of the game with any picky eating recovery is to keep it fun, light, and stress-free.
- The first rule of Rotational Menus: we can’t eat the same thing two-days in a row.
- MOST IMPORTANT: COMMUNICATION! Children understand more than we give them credit for. To be respectful of our children, we need to tell them what is going to happen. This may look like:
“Hey ____, remember how mommy is always asking you to try new foods? I know you LOVE toast, I love it too! It’s so yummy. I want you to be able to go to friends’ houses and eat fun things with them, and I want you to go to fun places like (insert favorite place here) and eat their fun food. So we’re going to try something new. There will be a menu on the refrigerator for breakfast, you get to choose what you want to eat but you cannot eat the same thing two days in a row. I’m so excited for you to try this game! We’re going to start tomorrow. I can’t wait.”
Alright, Let’s be like Mike
Let’s pretend we’re using Rotational Menus with a kid named Mike. Mike is a “picky eater.” Mike eats plain toast for breakfast, every day. That’s what he asks for and it’s the only thing he is willing to eat. So, that’s what mama makes.
Per Rotational Menu rules: Mike CAN in fact eat plain toast, but he cannot eat it two days in a row.
Sometimes with kids like Mike, I start slow and introduce the concept of Rotational Menu’s where he’s already at.
Mike also likes cereal and butter on plain bread — so, per Rotational Menu rules he can choose toast with butter, cereal, or plain toast. BUT, if Monday morning’s choice was plain toast, Tuesday’s breakfast has got to have another choice. The fun part for Mike, he gets to choose his breakfast from these options.
NOW we’re expanding. Mike likes peanut butter and crackers. So we’re taking that preferred food (peanut butter) and adding it to another preferred food (toast) in order to expand variety.
Look at the AWESOME variety Mike has!! Let’s layer the variety! Mike loves bananas, so let’s put some of those on his peanut butter toast.
At this point, Mike has a Rotational Menu AND routine of variety with his preferred foods. Now that he is used to variety, introducing new foods into this line-up can begin. This is where we start bringing in more nutritious options like berries, eggs, avocado, etc. etc. etc.!
Communication and the way Rotational Menu’s are presented to children are the MOST IMPORTANT part of all of this. We need to be sure kids know what is happening during mealtimes so they are prepared and grounded, not surprised and stressed at change that is out of their control.
What questions do you have? Comment below or reach out for a Free Consultation if you feel this may work with your little one.
Featured Photo: by Hal Gatewood
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