When I discovered my son Will was faced with food allergies at less than a year old, I knew that this was only the beginning of a complicated journey for both of us around food. With his limitations in food choices due to his allergies, I was anxious that he would start to become picky and we’d be left with only a few food options that he would actually eat. How the heck was I going to get him to eat anything besides cheerios and yogurt?
I decided to try and tackle the issue before he knew what was coming – I wanted to try and be ahead of the game by introducing him to variety of foods before he decided he wasn’t interested. We felt most comfortable offering him portions of all of the meals Brad and I were having at home, knowing exactly what was in each meal.
We started with introducing his favourite foods paired with new foods. Will has loved chicken from an early age, so pairing things with it was quite simple, actually. Chicken and rice, chicken and tomato, chicken and broccoli, chicken and quinoa, the list goes on. As he started trying new things, we would pair those new favourites with other new foods.
When there is something new on his plate, he sometimes will scowl at it, talk to it, and play with it. But we let him! He’s exploring his food, and this is one positive step to being closer to his mouth. Sometimes, he’ll taste it and think about it, squish it in his fingers, and decide tonight is not the night for that particular food. Sometimes he enthusiastically offers it to the dog. We try not to give up on foods after only trying them once or twice, we just keep on offering.
We also try to be consistent with meal times. You might guess that toddlers love routine, and I find that by following a routine helps Will understand what is expected of him. Eating around the same time each day, sitting at the table, and serving food on a familiar plate are some examples of how we build that routine. We are big fans of the EZPZ mats – I won my first mat through an Instagram contest and I’m hooked! I’ve since converted all my toddler-ware over to the EZPZ line. Foreshadowing: don’t be afraid to enter those IG giveaways! You never know what you can win! These mats are fantastic because they stay suctioned to the table and help reduce some of the mess. Will knows when he sees the mats that it’s meal time, and he often heads over to his chair and asks “up”. It has helped us in establishing that beloved routine.
Deconstructing meals is a good way to introduce new food as well. When a meal is separated into it’s various ingredients, I find that Will is more willing to explore the foods he is offered. He can see each food and interact with it depending on what it is, and sample the flavours together or individually. I find this has really helped him recognize certain foods, especially his favourites, and he is more likely to try new foods this way. Our EZPZ mat makes this very easy, too.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with his eating – he continues to seem willing to try new things, and certainly has quite a variety of foods that he enjoys. There are still certain textures that he seems not to like (rice, quinoa, and mashed potatoes) but there are many things he does eat.
Do you have any tips for helping picky eaters?
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