Did you catch part 1 of “My Picky Eater”?
Got it? Ok great, let’s continue! We have now completed three sessions of the CHEO Feeding Clinic and it’s been such a great experience that I can’t wait to share with you.
(Just a note: you do need a doctor’s referral if you want eligibility for the program.)
The first two sessions are 2 hours long for parents only. On the third week, your picky eater joins you for a picnic where they share more tips and eating strategies. In about a month we will be called back for a follow up. The clinic is made of a wonderful team including an Occupational Therapist, Speech Language Therapist, Dietician, Psychologist, Rehabilitation Assistant and a consulting Pediatrician.
For my first visit, I gathered with other parents of picky and reluctant eaters to talk about our individual struggles as a group. There were many similarities and it was nice to talk with parents in similar situations. I should count myself lucky as there were situations far worse than mine, especially since Hudson is on track for growth and has no allergies.
We were given one task to start with from our list of challenges. Hudson and Jax are allowed juice throughout the day. Granted, I buy the half sugar kind and always make it half water, but I decided that was going to be my first task. Reduce the juice! I knew that I had to be held accountable for the task I chose, so we went cold turkey. From that day on, they were only allowed one cup of half juice/half water at breakfast and then only water throughout the day. Not only is this less sugar in their diet, but the juice was keeping them from feeling hungry.
Some of the major takeaways from session one were:
- Let them get messy! Spaghetti all over their face and floor, no problem! Give them the spoon even though it might not make it into their mouth. They are learning.
- Don’t react. If your child will only take vegetables in their mouths but then spit them out – don’t get mad. Instead praise them for trying the carrots! Even if they throw food (luckily Hudson doesn’t do this), don’t react as it will only entice him to repeat these unwanted behaviours.
- Keep trying! Always put one food on their plate that you know they will eat, one that they are so-so about and one that you know they won’t eat. In my case that’s a vegetable. Every lunch and dinner I put a vegetable on Hudson’s plate even though I know he’s not going to eat it. Even if he touches it that’s a step in the right direction.
- Have a routine, set schedule for meals and snacks, and sit with your kids.
It was nice that I only had to tackle one task that week and it went so well. It was actually really easy for us and now there is no more juice after breakfast unless it’s a treat like at a friend’s house or restaurant. And, they are ok with it… success!
In session two we all talked about our task and how the week went. We were given more information from the group of experts and lots of time for questions. One concept I learned about that day was “Food Chaining“, a way to help children enjoy eating while expanding their food choices.
You start with foods that your child likes, and change that food’s shape, colour or texture. Over time this helps them adjust to small differences in food. For example, if your child eats spaghetti in marinara sauce, try spaghetti in alfredo sauce. Or add some rotini in the spaghetti to see what happens. Small variations of the same thing. That night I picked up some rotini and alfredo sauce and tested it out. He loved the sauce and was excited about the rotini!
There are so many ways to do this, if your child likes meatballs, try chicken meatballs. Another example she suggested was one McDonald’s nugget on a plate with a cooked at home breaded nugget. It’s really quite smart!
I’m learning a lot and can’t wait to share more of my picky eating journey with you all. Tell me, what strategies have you used for your picky eaters? Looking forward to sharing more soon.