Picky Eating

Make small changes to food

By March 2, 2020 No Comments
Picky eater refuses new food

How do I increase what my child eats?

One of the techniques we use to increase what children will eat is to make very small changes to what they currently eat. It’s a technique that we call ‘food chaining’. Take one of the foods that you child currently eats, and make very small changes to it – one at a time.

What is the reasoning behind this approach?

We know that picky eater get overwhelmed by changes in their food. As adults, we might think that the difference between plain boiled rice and fried rice is no big deal. Our picky eaters see it as a huge deal. Suddenly the food looks different, smells different, tastes different and feels different. That is too much for them to manage. When you introduce tiny changes, you are keep things ‘underwhelming’ for your child. This is more likely to lead to change.

How do I make small changes to my child’s food?

Look at what your child currently eats and select a food that you can change. The key factor is to make very small changes.

If your child eats white rice, then add a little bit of olive oil or butter. When I say small – I mean tiny. Add about 1/8 of a teaspoon to your child’s rice. Then, if the child doesn’t object, add a tiny bit more oil or butter the week after. Once your child has accepted this change, then make another change. For example, you could put a little bit of onion salt or garlic salt in the cooking water. Add a tiny amount, 1/8 of a teaspoon, to the cooking water until your child is used to the taste. Now your child is accepting butter and onion salt in his rice. The next step is to add a tiny amount of a vegetable or meat that you know they eat. If they eat corn or chicken, add a tiny amount to the rice. Now you have chained from plain rice and have the beginnings of Fried Rice’. Overtime, you keep increasing the amount of food and flavours that you add to the rice. Keep adding plain rice at times. The important thing is to add foods in slowly in very small amounts. If you serve your child fried rice when they only eat plain boiled rice, they are going to reject it. If you make small changes over time, they adapt to the new food. Now you have 2 foods – plain rice and fried rice.

What sort of food do I change?

You can change anything that your child currently eats. If they love strawberry yoghurt, then add 1/8 teaspoon of another flavour of yoghurt and gradually increase it until your child accepts two flavours of yoghurt. If your child always eats tomato sauce (as in Heinz Ketchup) on their sausages, add 1/8 of a teaspoon of fresh pasta sauce to the tomato ketchup until they can eat 100% fresh tomato sauce. If they enjoy rice bubbles, put 1 piece of another cereal in their bowl.

What if they don’t like the food with the new ingredient?

There are a few options:

  • Try it again a week later but use less of the ingredient you added
  • Incorporate a different ingredient a week later
  • Pick one of your child’s other foods and try adding another ingredient to that one

A key factor to feeding therapy for picky eaters is to make sure you don’t keep serving the same thing every day. If you keep serving the same thing, they have no opportunity to try new foods. The changes don’t have to be big, but your child needs to keep being exposed to tiny changes.

Isn’t that just sneaking food changes in?

Initially it looks like sneaking different foods in. You are actually building tolerance to tiny changes. Over time, you start to talk more about the changes. The goal is to make sure your child is proud of the fact that they can eat different foods and enjoys the experience.

Do I tell my child that I have added something different?

This varies with each child. Some children can cope when they know there are tiny changes in their food. Other children will refuse to try anything that has a change – often followed by a tantrum. It is our experience that children cope better if they don’t know when you initially start making changes. They tolerate a few of changes and then you can slowly talk about different foods.

Isn’t this going to take a long time?

In one word – yes! It takes time to turn a picky eater around. Some children respond quickly and add 20 new foods in 6 months. Other children take much longer. If your child currently eats 10 foods and in one year they learn to eat 5 new foods then that is really significant. They could learn to eat 5 new foods the year after – that means 10 new foods (and a total of 20 new foods). Hooray!

More picky eating tips

How do I get more help for my picky eater?

YukToYum is a feeding clinic in Bondi Junction. We are part of the early intervention clinic called OneOnOne Children’s Therapy. Our feeding therapists are Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapist. We are trained to make picky eaters become adventurous eaters. We turn the Yuk into Yum. You can contact us on 80657837 or email us here.