Surviving Holiday Meals with Picky Eaters (Part One): Preparation - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Surviving Holiday Meals with Picky Eaters (Part One): Preparation

Published on November 22, 2016

Surviving Holiday Meals with Picky Eaters (Part One): Preparation 

By: Justine Dombroski, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

The holidays can be a stressful time for families, especially those with picky eaters.  Most holiday traditions center around food and, unfortunately, many of these foods are not high on the “preferred food lists” of picky eaters (e.g., green bean casseroles, Brussels sprouts, etc). 

Here are some tips to help turn the period of time leading up to holiday meals into opportunities for positive experiences with new foods. Pick and choose which may work for your child! 

Before the Big Meal

  1. If spending Thanksgiving outside of your home, communicate with your host about any dietary restrictions or severe food aversions your child has. Don’t expect the host to accommodate these restrictions, but rather explain why your child may not be eating what is served. The notice will be appreciated! 
  2. Encourage your child to be part of food preparation as appropriate, depending on age, motor skills, and food tolerance. For example, invite him/her to stir, mash, and/or chop food. 
  3.  If your child can tolerate it, give him/her the honor of being the “taster” of the meal. Encourage him/her to describe the different properties of the food and compare them (shape, flavor, texture, etc.). 
  4. If possible, practice trying new food at home. Model positive interactions and discourage negative language (e.g., “Ew gross!”). 
  5. When practicing at home, try serving the new foods in fun, enticing ways. For example, cut food into playful shapes using a knife or cookie cutter. 
  6. Ensure your child eats a good breakfast and lunch in case he/she doesn’t eat much at dinner. Have a preferred snack/meal prepared in case your child’s food intake is limited. 
  7. If necessary, bring preferred utensils/bowls that may encourage your child to eat. 
  8. Pack a change of clothes if your child has a history of gagging/vomiting, and a quiet activity in case the meal is too much for your child to participate in. 

If you have any questions on how to make meals more manageable, please contact us!