Is it possible that your kid only eats one brand of chicken nuggets or tries anything other than a specific type of yogurt? Do you prepare the same lunch for your child, day in and day out, oh-so-tiring and monotonous day after tedious day?
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With the school year now underway, it’s time to look at your child’s feeding habits to figure out what you can do to make mealtime enjoyable. While picky eating is a typical issue for everyone, children on the autism spectrum may be more susceptible due to their unique social needs.
Here are some solutions I’ve discovered. However, if your youngster’s eating habits prevent them from getting enough calories or nutrients, you should contact your doctor right away.
Create a goal.
As a family, figure out what your picky eating goal is. What’s one thing you want to focus on?
Do you want them to eat less food? Do you want your youngster to try new things? Do you wish to explore more meals and recipes that everyone in the family can enjoy? Make a clear objective for yourself. You can then figure out what strategies and actions you’ll need to take in order to accomplish it.
Take a moment to consider your options.
Take the time to plan and think analytically about your objective. If you want to reduce your child’s snacking, for example, take a step back to consider what it is about snacking that alarms you.
Is it that they won’t eat supper? Or do they just scarf down anything?) Consider what might be served as a snack if your child doesn’t finish the meal. Is there a food you offer at dinner all the time that could be offered as a snack? This way, if your kid eats too much of the snack, it’s fine.
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When evaluating your concerns regarding behavior, look at the overall picture rather than just one meal or even one day. Allow adequate time to get a deeper understanding of their calorie requirements and nutritional preferences.
Consider Your Environment
When we consider picky eating, we usually concentrate on the times when food is in front of the child. But many elements that influence behavior begin much earlier than this.
Before a meal, preparation and activity have a significant impact on the likelihood of consumption, especially the amount and kind of food they consume. Consider your home’s dining and snack environment carefully. Variables include where your child sits, how you serve the meals, how much food you offer, and more.
Have your youngster sit at a table where they can focus on eating as the main activity. Is there anything else that could divert their attention?
Screen time, on the other hand, can detract from a child’s attention to eating and their own internal signals. These signals are critical for your youngster to notice as they try new meals and determine how much food to consume..
Make an effort to keep your focus away from external factors. This will assist you in seeing which situations result in more success at mealtime.
Give Your Child Choices
Do you want your youngster to help with the cooking or choose something in the meal? Allowing your kid to contribute to and make decisions about the snack or dinner may encourage them to eat the entire thing.
Allow your youngster to get the supplies for the supper or hold the bowl while you stir. Allow your kid to make little decisions along the path that encourage buy-in without jeopardizing the meal’s limits that you’ve set.
You may have determined, for example, that the dinner meal will include fruit (a type of food that is frequently consumed with picky eating).
Allow your youngster some control over reaching this conclusion by saying, “We’ll have chicken drumsticks with a little bit of fruit. Do you want blueberries or watermelon as the fruit?”
The chart allows your child to make decisions while still offering boundaries. It’s highly probable that selecting blueberries, for example, will result in a higher chance of consuming them.
Let Them Serve Themselves
Another method to promote choice and control is to let your youngster serve themselves. Although your kid may not be able to make a complete meal from start to finish, they may be able to add toppings or assist with the squirting of dipping sauce on their plate.
By allowing your youngster to make modest decisions throughout the meal’s preparation, you’re deciding what is served (such as tacos), with space for your child’s input and preferences..
Identify Sensory Issues
Food preparation and presentation can tell us more about food selectivity and picky eating, as well as provide us with additional data for the future.
In some cases, you may discover that your youngster completely refuses particular meals or entire food groups.
Take a closer look at which foods are eliminated from the table or pushed away.
Examine the texture and taste of particular food items that are frequently rejected, such as squishy or hard foods.
As we get older, we tend to forget that particular meals, particularly fruits and vegetables, don’t all taste the same every time.
A ripe tomato purchased in-season may taste considerably different from a similarly-shaped tomato after it has gone past its peak flavor..
This may result in refusal by children, usually without a clear reason. This might cause future refusal.
There’s not much we can do to reduce produce variety, but understanding some of the changes in preference is useful.
And, just as our children’s taste preferences change over time, so do ours. We may never understand why hot dogs fell from favor to avoidable.
A strategic approach to food objectives, on the other hand, that involves pausing and watching for some time while restricting distractions and incorporating choice into your child’s eating routine can make a real difference—and over time, help family dinners become more pleasurable for everyone.