Why is self isolation a concern for picky eaters?
In these challenging times, many families are spending long periods of time at home. Children aren’t attending school, preschool, day care or direct therapy sessions. The change of routine can have a negative effect on picky eaters. Picky eaters may reduce their food choices further during this time.
What can you do about your child’s picky eating now?
When families are at home for longer periods of time, it is an ideal time to work on feeding. Successful feeding therapy works best when families have a consistent routine that they follow. Successful feeding therapy works best when it becomes a priority for the family. The regular daily routine often interferes with feeding therapy. There are so many things to do and so many places to be that feeding schedules can be hard to maintain. That makes social distancing and more time in the home a perfect time to work on feeding. If we are at home for many weeks then it is a great time to bring about improvements in your child’s fussy eating.
How do you improve your child’s picky eating?
The first thing to do is to write down everything that your child might eat. It doesn’t matter how often they eat the food, just write them all down.
Keep a 3 day food diary
The food diary allows you therapist to create a customised feeding program for your child. Here are some guidelines for the food diary:
- Try to record what your child had to eat or drink immediately after the meal so that the record is as accurate as possible
- Include two weekdays and one weekend day. These days should be consecutive
- Include all drinks offered at meal and snack times
- Glasses of water and drinks outside of meals should be on the food diary.
- Specify the amount of food that is offered and the amount of food that is eaten. You can specify the amount of food in terms of:
- ½ slices
- Terms such as ‘glassful’ or ‘bowlful aren’t accurate enough.
- Don’t forget to add condiments such as sauce, mayonnaise, butter, sugar etc
- Be sure to include everything including drinks, lollies, etc
Establish a regular meal and snack schedule
Children tend to sip and nibble all day when there is no routine. Grazing sabotages hunger because the child never feels hunger or learns that the hunger sensation disappears in his stomach when he eats.
- Routine helps behaviour
- Routine helps anxiety
- Routine helps appetite
It is a mistake to miss a snack or meal with the hope that a child will have a bigger appetite by the next meal. Remember, snacks aren’t big. When a little child has a snack at 2.30pm, it is completely burned up by 5-5.30pm. When kids miss a meal, they often have less interest in the next meal. When kids regularly miss snacks and meals, they may miss the necessary vitamins, minerals and energy needed to get through the day.
How do you transition to sit down meals and snacks?
- Start on the weekend
- Treat meals and snacks equally
- Use natural breaks in the day to build in snacks
- Minimise distractions
- Manage transitions
This may take several weeks to transition to a regular schedule.
Understand eating zones
It is important to offer toddlers food often because they are growing quickly, and they have small appetites. However, neither toddlers or pre-schoolers should be allowed to graze on snacks or liquids (milk and juice are often given).
A firm schedule should be set for when young children eat snacks and meals.
They typical eating schedule for a toddler includes three meals and 2-3 snacks.
Meals and snacks should be spaced at least 2-2.5 hours apart for toddlers. For pre-schoolers, this should be closer to 3 hours.
How much food should my child eat in the schedule?
Portion sizes for toddlers should be small and should include three meals and 2-3 snacks. Pre-schoolers should have 3 meals, but a maximum of 2 snacks. Snacks for preschools should be small. They are not essential. Some pre-schoolers do better when they have a very early dinner rather than an after preschool snack.
Snacks should have lots of variety, but they shouldn’t always be favourite foods. There should at least one thing the child will eat.
There should be a break of 2-2.5 hours (for most children) between all meals and snacks.
What do I do next?
Watch for more posts over the next couple weeks. We will explain what to do next.
What if I want to start Telehealth now?
YukToYum is part of OneOnOne Children’s Therapy. We are an early intervention clinic in Sydney’s Bondi Junction.