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September 18, 2018

7 Tips to Make Mealtime Easier for Picky Eaters

Mother holding fork with vegetable for young girl

Meals are a time for catching up on the day's events and regrouping as a family.  For some, however, meals can be stressful periods of time filled with rejection of foods, screaming, and negotiating in an attempt to satisfy hunger and nutrition.  

Feeding issues in children can develop from many factors, including limited exposure to foods, a highly scheduled day, imitation of another person's behaviors to foods (like copying a sibling who says that cauliflower makes them sick), muscle control problems, medical conditions, or even stress.

The emotions brought about in these situations can result in limitations that affect social skills (not being able to eat out in the community), nutrition (only eating "junk food"), and behavior (crying, screaming, throwing up).

There is hope!  Sensory-based feeding intervention can re-establish a calm meal setting and return meals to a time when family can build relationships and learn from each other. 

Here are seven simple changes that can help make mealtimes easier for the whole family:

  1. Go grocery shopping together to increase exposure to different foods
  2. Let children help with preparing the meal
  3. Change the presentation of familiar foods - cut them differently or place them in contact with other preferred foods
  4. Use similar colors and shapes of food to introduce new foods
  5. Like most things, feeding is a social process, so eat together at the table to let everyone see each other interacting with foods
  6. Allow your child to play with and feel safe with new foods - do not force feed!
  7. Never set expectations for the meal that cannot be met in that one sitting​

Bonus tip: Turn off electronic devices during meals (parents - this means you too!)


We're Here to Help!

If your child is experiencing challenges during meals, please contact our Curative New Berlin Therapies team by calling 262-782-9015 or request an appointment. We have caring, certified therapists who are experts in the latest feeding interventions and would love to help your child and family thrive. A physician referral is required for an occupational therapy evaluation.

Learn more about Curative New Berlin Therapies

Mary, Occupational Therapist

Mary, OTR, is a practicing pediatric occupational therapist with Curative New Berlin Therapies. She graduated from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and has over 20 years of experience working with children.

For many years, she ran the equipment and seating clinic at Texas Children's Hospital and spent 15 years as the primary outpatient feeding expert with special focus on transitioning children from G-tube feedings to oral feeding. Mary also has extensive training in sensory-based feeding issues.


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