Thanksgiving with a Picky Eater-5 Tips and Tricks
By: Megan Van Laar, M.A., CCC-SLP
Thanksgiving is a time that I always look forward to. The family gatherings, the shopping, the beginning of the Christmas season… But most of all, the FOOD! However, if you are the parent of a picky eater, Thanksgiving may be a time that you dread. Here are some tips to make the Thanksgiving meal a little more enjoyable for you and your kiddo.
Do a Trial Run
A couple of weeks before the big meal, help your child to prepare by offering one or two of the dishes so it is not brand new and scary on Thanksgiving. Of course, you don’t have to prepare a whole additional turkey, but offering mashed potatoes or green bean casserole might be a feasible task. Research tells us that children are significantly more likely to try a less preferred food after they have been exposed to it 10 times or more. So the more times your child sees and smells the food, even if he doesn’t eat it, the more familiar it will become and he may just surprise you someday!
Experiment with Texture
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, offer foods of many different textures to your child, including crunchy, mushy, pureed, cubed, etc. Talk about how different foods can be transformed into different forms and that it’s ok that some people like certain preparations more than others. This way, if the potatoes on the Thanksgiving table are mashed, cubed, or baked, your child will be more prepared. Teach him that he can also change the texture himself by manipulating the food on his plate (mash up chunks of potato, or cut squares from a baked potato).
Provide Something Familiar
Thanksgiving is meant to be an enjoyable holiday for everyone. In order to help your child feel comfortable and relaxed, provide some familiar elements to the meal. Offer dips/sauces that your child likes to put on foods (ketchup, ranch, hummus, etc.). Also, have at least one dish available that you know your child likes. This takes the pressure off of him and you because you know he will have something to eat and he won’t feel as overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of new foods.
Get Your Child Involved
Discuss the story behind the Thanksgiving holiday with your child. Talk to her about how the Pilgrims learned to grow their own food and let this lead into a discussion about where our food comes from (before the grocery store!) Involve your child in the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal. Let her assist with setting the table and making place cards. Encourage her to help with cooking the meal- she can combine and mix ingredients, wash vegetables, mash potatoes, or any other task depending on her age. This is another opportunity to expose her to these foods, making it more likely that she will try them. When dinner is served, play up the fact that your child was such a good helper in the kitchen and that she created these wonderful dishes. She may be so proud of herself, she will want to try the food she worked so hard to make.
Serve It Up Family Style
When it comes time to serve the meal, put all the food in serving dishes to be passed around and served at the table. Instead of asking, “Do you want some ____?”, ask your child if he wants a little spoonful or a big spoonful. If your child is able, encourage him to serve himself as much as possible, with a big spoon or a small spoon that he chooses. I know I sound like a broken record, but having your child serve himself is another form of interaction with the food. As he sees the food, smells the food, and scoops it up to put on his plate, he continues to be exposed, increasing the likelihood of a little taste.
Most importantly, enjoy your family and count your blessings!
Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs. At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.
740 Community Drive, Unit A
North Liberty, IA 52317
5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131