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10 Tips to Help Picky Eaters Accept New Foods: Part 2

Jun 24, 2020

In last week’s blog (Part 1), I shared the sensory steps that kids often go through when learning to accept a new food. Your child may not be ready to chew and swallow a new food; however, he/she may be comfortable looking, squishing, smelling, or kissing the food. In time, he/she will work toward food acceptance, at his/her own pace.

Parents and kids both have jobs at mealtimes:

Ellyn Satter is a renowned Registered Dietician who termed the “Division of Responsibility” or Golden Rule in feeding: Adults decide what food is served, when it is served, and where. The child decides how much to eat, and whether to eat at all.  I highly recommend her website (link in references below) and resources. I often share Ellyn’s golden rule as a handout with the families I work with and I ask them to post-in on their fridge as a daily reminder: 

10 Tips to Help Parents with their Feeding Job:

1. Family Meals
  • Family meals offer social and communication time
  • Learning opportunities about family foods and positive role-modeling
2. Regular Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack-Meal Schedule
  • Allow 3-4 hours between meals for appetite development
  • Avoid grazing throughout the day will help with growth 
  • Monitor the length of meals (20-30 minutes for meals and 10-15 minutes for snacks)
3. Liquid Intake
  • Limit juice intake to 4-6 ounces per day to allow appetite for food
  • For children over age 1, limit milk to 2-cups (approximately 16 ounces) per day.
  • Offer milk after meals vs. before meals.
4. Food exploration/play and repeated exposure to new foods
  • Play with food! Have fun with food!
  • Present new foods for learning during mealtimes once the food has become more familiar. New foods could be presented on a separate or divided plate at mealtimes until your child is comfortable with the foods on his/her plate
  • Follow the 75-25 rule (75% of the plate familiar foods: 25% of the plate new foods)
5. Food chaining = making very small (teeny tiny) changes to existing food preferences
  • Start small (the changes should not be noticed by your child)
  • Hold any changes for 1-2 weeks then gradually increase
  • Make one change at a time
6. Respect your child’s feeding and hunger cues
  • It's normal for your child’s caloric intake to vary from meal to meal.
  • It’s important to let children learn to follow their own hunger/satiety cues.
  • As adults, we don’t eat the same amount every day and every meal. This applies to children too.
7. Feeling Safe and Building Trust
  • Ongoing mealtime power struggles can actually contribute to picky eating and food refusal. Pressuring kids to eat is often unintentional, but it can lead to reducing a child’s likelihood to eat
  • Successful mealtimes are built on trust
  • Avoid tricking, pushing, or forcing at mealtimes
  • Allow your child to get the food out of her mouth or off of her plate (e.g., using an “all-done bowl”)
8. Involvement in mealtime process
  • Encourage your child to help set the table or serve foods to others
  • Cook together or ask you child to help with food preparation (e.g., stirring, sprinkling, chopping, serving food to others)
  • Allow your child to have some control by offering a choice between 2 acceptable foods
9. Novelty
  • Offer foods in courses to maintain interest in the meal vs all foods at once
  • Look for fun feeding utensils/plates
  • Fun food presentation on the plate (e.g., clown face, train, etc.)
10. Use of appropriate distractions
  • Try to incorporate food or mealtime-related distractions (e.g., their own bowl and spoon)
  • YOU can be a fun distraction! Talk about something at mealtimes other than the food and eating (e.g., going to the park, Peppa Pig, a friend from school).

If you’re feeling too stressed, try to walk away and take a break. Research shows that pressuring, forcing, and bribing kids to eat does not work. Seek help from a professional if you are facing feeding challenges. Things can significantly improve with intervention.


The Ellyn Satter Institute:





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