Helping Your Picky Eater

Have you ever asked your child to try something and without hesitation, your child has determined that he or she hates it despite the fact he or she has never tried it before? The reason that this occurs might be surprising but it’s very common. It has to do with food texture. Even adults find themselves enjoying the flavor or something but also can’t stand the texture of the food.

Where does this aversion to food texture come from and how can we use this knowledge to help your picky eater? Food texture issues stem from a delay or oral motor skills such as movement of the tongue to push the food to the sides of the mouth so one can easily chew. When a child suffers from delayed oral motor skills, it makes some things very difficult to chew. The child remembers this type of food caused distress and if they put something in the mouth that has a similar mouth feel they will automatically spit it out or begin to gag. Over time, they will refuse to eat foods that they think will be difficult to chew and therefore become a “picky eater”.

There are several ways to help encourage your child to try new textures and to eat new foods. The first method is to help them get used to the texture in general. For example, if your child doesn’t like eating mushy foods like mashed potatoes then have them play with mushy textures throughout the day like playdoh. This gets them used to the texture and it won’t seem as off-putting when it comes to mealtime. Another method is sort of like exposure therapy. Have a side of vegetables with every meal will get your child used to them on the plate. Do not force your child to eat them. Sooner or later they are more likely to at least try them. The key is to be patient and let your child discover the flavor on their own. We recommend having at least 2 to 3 different textures on the plate. For example “chewy” meat, “mushy” potatoes and “textured” vegetables.

One other important thing to know is to not reward your kids with food. Even if your kid eats all their vegetables it doesn’t mean that they should get a piece of cake. Conversely, don’t offer them cake if they eat all their vegetables. It’s important for kids to learn to eat without reward.

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