Life is busy and it can be hard to make the time to help picky eaters learn like to new foods. Check out these 5 hacks to make progress with your picky eater do-able.
Picky eating is a big vague term that we use describe everything from a child that doesn’t like to eat broccoli, to a child that only eats the same 3 foods every single day.
But, not all picky eaters are created equal, and if you’ve taken the picky eating test, you know which of the 4 types of picky eater your child actually is.
If you found out that your child was in the “extreme picky eater” or “ultra picky eater” categories, and looked at what some of the first steps you can start to take are, well, you might be wondering how you have the time to help your child.
And, you’re not alone. Once we realize that picky eating is more than a phase, that it’s affecting our quality of life, and could affect the types of foods our kids eat throughout their whole life, then it gets a lot more real. With so many other balls that you’re already juggling, you want to fit in some of the simple strategies, but aren’t sure how.
Oh boy, have I been there! Several times actually, with my own kids.
I worked out a system for how to make a little bit of time so that my kids could learn to eat new foods and have a healthy relationship with food.
Why It’s Worth the Effort
During the moments or seasons when we feel like we don’t have enough time, it’s easy to hope for a secret picky eating recipe that will change everything. Or, hope for that magic trick or special phrase you can say to get your child to just try that bite of ham sandwich, you know they will like it.
Spoiler alert, none of that exists.
Of course, there are little tricks you can learn, heck I’ve got a bunch. But, they don’t amount to much real change in your kid’s eating if you aren’t addressing the big areas that cause picky eaters to be so picky.
So, you need a little bit, not much, of time. And, when you’ve figured out how to make that time, your stress will go down and your can feel confident that you’re taking steps, no matter how small, to move past picky eating so that your child gets the nutrition they need.
It’s worth any effort you put into it, but you don’t want to be spinning your wheels.
Keep Your Eye on Prize
I say that because I’ve spun my wheels a lot. Until I made the time to think through what I needed to do to keep my kids from slipping deeper into picky eating, I would just try strategies here and there, slightly making myself feel better because at least I had done something, but when I didn’t see any results, as in my kid actually eating a new food, I felt defeated again.
That’s how I learned to get laser focused and keep my eye on the prize.
The prize being that my child WOULD learn to eat new and different foods. That it was a journey, not a destination, and that we could even enjoy it along the way. I learned to look for progress at every meal, which doesn’t always come in the form of a new food eaten.
Sometimes progress is getting your child to sit at the table without an epic meltdown, or that they didn’t gag when they saw green beans on their plate.
When you focus on the goal of giving your child a lifelong healthy relationship with foods, it will motivate you to want to make the time despite all of the many other things you have to do.
Check out How to Believe in Yourself When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed, Tired, and Stressed with a Picky Eater. I have a quick exercise you can do to prioritize your priorities!
5 Ways to Make Time to Help Your Picky Eater
When I kept telling myself that I didn’t have time to do anything but pull out the frozen chicken nuggets for dinner, for us to eat dinner together, or use more advanced strategies like sensory bins or a Nuk brush, I knew I needed to do something to help my kids because it was important to me that they were the best eaters they could be.
Not only because of the nutrition they get from a variety of foods, but also because I wanted them to grow up to be curious of food and willing to try new foods, not afraid of it.
I knew that the older they got, the more challenges there would be in social situations when they had to eat. I was thinking about birthday parties and play dates.
This is how I made the time to help my picky eater:
1. I planned ahead. It was critical that I stopped waiting until the last minute to figure out what we were having for dinner or remembering that a sensory bin would be awesome to help my son get used to touching different textures. I needed to think when my kids weren’t distracting or interrupting me. That’s when I picked just 5-10 minutes when I was pretty sure I’d have some time to think.
Over the years, this has been after the kids are in bed, early in the morning, or even on a lazy Sunday afternoon when my husband is playing with the kids.
When doesn’t matter, it’s all about when is a good time for you to simply think through the steps you want to take. What those steps are depend on what you want to tackle first. (Remember the picky eating quiz is a good place to start)
Find that time and make it happen.
2. I used a calendar and planner. Yes, I’m a planner kind of person, so I would write down the days I was going to address picky eating for a few minutes. I would also use my calendar to have a menu plan of what we were eating. That way, I could thoughtfully plan meals I felt good about. Meals that had something my picky eater would eat, but prevented me from short order cooking.
Those are just some examples of the goals I was working on, yours could look very different. The point is that you write them down where you can see them.
Or, if paper and pencil isn’t your thing, then use reminders or the calendar on your phone. Check in on it daily for a few seconds to jog your memory of what you took the time to plan!
3. I asked for help. At one of my lowest moments, I asked my husband to not turn on the TV after the kids were in bed so that I could talk out with him what I thought we needed to do. The fact that we were in this together, although he didn’t have a lot of ideas to offer, just allowed me to make the time to do that planning.
But, I also enlisted his help at other times, so that I could have a few minutes to think and plan. And, I also asked for him to help use some strategies so that I wasn’t the only one carving out time. This literally gave me more time.
If you don’t have a spouse or partner to help you, then maybe a grandparent or daycare worker can get behind you to help too!
4. I watched less TV – sometimes. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when the kids are in bed, it’s something that can take up my time. I like the down time. And, there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes our phones, social media, or the TV can steal away a lot of our time throughout the day, sometimes without us realizing.
It could be 5 minutes here, 3 there, or 10 a little while later. When I started to pay attention to how I was spending my time, I realized I could find little pockets without sacrificing much of anything.
5. I set a time goal. If I ever feel overwhelmed with how long something is going to take, then I try to set a goal for how long I think it will take. 5 minutes? 30 minutes? Whatever it is I look at the clock and see if I can complete the task in that amount of time. This can be really helpful when you’re taking the time to plan (step 1), prepare a special food/recipe, or spend some time working on new foods.
For instance, 5 minutes to set up a simple bin is do-able. Once I’ve set a goal that doesn’t feel overwhelming, I’m able to get it out and set up, no big deal.
These are the little tips that nobody is talking about, but as parents, we’re all struggling with time. When our kid is facing picky eating, it’s so easy to tell ourselves, “I don’t have the time to deal with this!” and, then ignore, if it’s not too severe. But, it can get worse and that’s why it’s so important to address it head on.
Once you do, you’ll be so glad you did. You’ll likely even find that you have MORE time because you’re not stressed and worrying so much. Keep a look out in the coming weeks for more about an exciting and brand new resource for parents of picky eaters. It’s FREE. Mark your calendar for 9.17.19.
More details to come soon!
Want Some Tips for Picky Eaters?!? (Free Printable)
Throughout this post, you heard me reference some different picky eating strategies, and really that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Make sure you get the Picky Eating Essentials Printable along with our 9 Steps to Improve Eating Printable. They are one of our most popular and are a great supplement.
Watch the Lesson About Making More Time For Picky Eaters
More on Picky Eating
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.