Seasonal Foods and ‘Picky’ Eaters.

Sometimes things happen in life to make our challenging eaters eat even less! Maybe they’ve been making great progress but since last year they’ve dropped all those seasonal foods they had started to eat (or at least taste!)  It can be so frustrating (especially when their list of healthy food they happily eat is already small) but Little Bites is here to help you understand why it happens and what you can do to help.

Here’s why that could be happening and how to deal with it.

Why does it happen?

They’ve not eaten or even seen the food for a long time, this especially has an impact on younger kids, those long months since it was in season is a huge portion of their life and a lot has happened since then!

What can you do about it?

  1. Freeze some while there’s a lot around! Obviously, this has to be something that freezes well. Just a little bit every so often will keep it in your child’s diet.
  2. Make sure they have it regularly when it is in season. They will be more likely to recognise it as something they liked if they remember eating it a lot.
  3. Show them photos or videos of them enjoying the food last season. Kids love to see photos of themselves and it will be proof they did actually like that food before.
  4. Use Little Bites strategies to get your child feeling comfortable tasting new food. If they loved it last year and happily try it again this year, that seasonal food will be back in their diet before you know it.

To book to get your child’s individual eating plan click here.

Rejecting food they ate before

attitude

This week you voted to find out more about why your child starts to reject those foods they’ve always eaten, or become more “picky”. Sometimes things happen in life to make our challenging eaters eat even less! Maybe they’ve been making great progress but suddenly stopped eating the food you’ve been working on, or maybe they’re dropping food that you rely on to give them some nutrients. It can be so frustrating (especially when their list of food they eat is already small) but Little Bites is here to help you understand why it happens and what you can do to help.

Here’s why that could be happening and how to deal with it.

They’re bored of the same food every day

This is a massive problem for those kids who struggle to try new food. They become bored of the same food every day but can’t replace it with anything else so they eat less variety. Eventually, parents are stuck with a couple of fruits, vegetables and meats or dinners they can serve up. Little Bites strategies are perfect for those kids who would love to have a sleepover and eat the same as their friends, go to school camp without any problems with food or just like to be able to eat like everyone else. Older children especially, start to get bored with the same food every day, but they are stuck in a rut when it comes to tasting food.

Always have new, healthy food available to them, Little Bites steps are slow, relaxed and give you the support to  introduce new foods into your child’s diet so they don’t become bored of the food they’re eating. Every child is different so if your child has stopped eating certain food groups or only has a handful of foods you feel give them the nutrition they need, get in touch to see how Little Bites can help.

Changes

Sometimes we’re super busy at work, we move house, we have a holiday, they get sick, change classes or schools… When something big comes up we often stop working on their diet or the child has a bit of a regression and stops eating as much due to these changes, that is normal. I tell many people that if there’s a day when you’re stressed and rushed, take a little break to make sure that trying new food doesn’t become a negative experience. It’s got to be something your child grows to enjoy and become motivated by. We’re all about changing attitudes towards food, not force feeding so trying new food needs to be fun and relaxed.

 

If you need a little break while you move house or write lots of reports at work or are away on holiday that’s absolutely fine, just remember to get back to it as soon as you can because consistency is key. The more you do it, the easier and quicker it will become. Soon your child will be eating a much bigger range of food!  Check out the testimonials to see what changes you can expect.

 

Clients tell me “you’ve made me feel so much better” when I tell them how Little Bites works. Little Bites uses small steps and little bites to gradually develop tastes for new food in a way that long-lasting changes to diets. It’s not an instant fix but many of my clients see those little changes happening very quickly. Get in touch to discuss your challenging eater and find out how Little Bites can help your family make meal times stress-free and happy.

Social situations: tips for challenging eaters

eating out

It’s November which means Christmas songs in the shops and a million family dinners, BBQs (in the southern hemisphere) and CHRISTMAS DINNER are coming!!

If you really want to get on top of your child’s eating aversions and challenging eating you can book a free initial consultation with me (via telephone for NZ or online worldwide).  If you’re not quite ready for that step, here are some tips.

Restaurants

With a challenging eater, eating at a restaurant can be a total minefield! The hot chips are too fat/thin/a funny shape, there’s a speck of herb on the food, it “looks wrong” or something new and “yucky” is touching the food they do like, making it completely inedible! Any of these things (and a million others) can cause a complete meltdown or refusal to eat anything!  It’s not just unknown restaurants and cafes either – family dinners, old favourites who change their recipes or one missed instruction all can cause chaos, stress and ruin a family evening out.

Tips

  • Be organised. Check out the menu online before deciding where to go. Make sure there’s something on the menu they will eat.
  • Don’t be shy. Check with the staff what will actually be on the plate (do you want to risk a pile of coleslaw being piled half over the hot chips?) When you’re out in public you can ask if your child wants to try something new but don’t out too much pressure on them, it will just ruin everyone’s night.
  • Eat early: it’s much less stressful to eat when your child isn’t overtired and they’re much more likely to try new food. Also, when the restaurant is full is a lot more stressful than when it’s quiet and mostly just other families.
  • Give lots of praise for success. A few bites are better than none.

These parents are really loving being able to eat out without stress for the first time!!

“Watching him walk with his older siblings to get food and engaging in trying foods out.”

“We can now eat out at nice restaurants with the confidence there will be something she likes or is willing to try on the menu. We no longer stress and worry that she is not getting enough nutrients in her diet.”

Take-a-plate events, BBQs, camping or staying at a batch with family or friends.

They all come with unknown food and the potential for a meltdown. Maybe Auntie bringing the potato salad puts in eggs, there’s sauce on the chicken or there’s no oven to cook the nuggets! Here are some tips on surviving a social dinner at a relative’s, at the batch or camping.

Tips

  • Plan ahead: if you know your child likes a certain potato bake, vegetable dish, type of meat or salad bring that instead of a pudding to bring a plate events. Bring them a little lunchbox with some food you’re happy for them to eat. It’s not rude and you know they’ll be fed – you can always look at the food options together and ask if what they want to try too.
  • Keep opening doors: Always offer something new and give a couple of choices. If you assume they won’t try so don’t offer then they definitely won’t try it!
  • Eat early: it’s much less stressful to eat when your child isn’t overtired and they’re much more likely to try new food.
  • Give lots of praise for success. A few bites are better than none.
  • Whether you’re camping or visiting, make sure there’s going to be something they can eat. Small amounts of what they’re used to and small amounts of something new is perfect. They can always ask for more afterwards.

These parents are enjoying seeing their kids eating more at family gatherings

“enhanced his life and made meals times more pleasurable.”

“A while back he would not even consider eating eggs but at a recent family gathering he has a load of potato salad that was made with egg. You could clearly see the egg and he had several bowls.”

Overcoming food aversions can be so hard on your own! It’s tough on the kids and the parents: I get asked “why are they like this?”,  told “I think it’s my fault” but I also get told regularly “it’s been a concern since they were a baby”. At that age, babies aren’t “naughty” or “trying it on”, so if your baby acts as though they are terrified – they probably are! Most children and toddlers go through a “picky” or “fussy” stage, but 25% of them don’t come out of it without support. That’s a lot of children who need support to overcome their fears! If you want to see what Little Bites can do for your challenging eater get in touch here or on facebook.

 

We’re stuck in a rut!

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with challenging eaters.

You feed them what you know they’ll eat so that you get some food into them, (hoping they’ll grow out of it) then they don’t try other food, so you give up offering new food, give them what you know they’ll eat… eventually clients come to me absolutely sick of being stuck eating the same few foods day after day, cooking multiple meals or concerns about nutrition because their child has started to drop food from their diet that they used to eat reliably.

Don’t panic!! It is possible to break this eating cycle and turn around your child’s attitude towards trying and eating new food. Little Bites evaluates your child’s textural and taste preference and diet and gives you an individual eating plan designed for your child’s needs and aversions. If you want to find out how Little Bites could help your challenging eater you can book a free no-obligation consultation here.

If you’re not ready to take that step yet, here are some tips you can try.

  • Give them some control

Toddlers and children often start rejecting food as a way to gain control. If you have a slightly challenging eater, giving a choice of 2 vegetables, the colour of the plate, what activity to do after lunch is finished, small controlled choices is the way to go. Without choices your child will keep pushing in the way they know how – by refusing to eat what you’re offering.

  • Always have options available to try.

If you don’t ever offer new food they definitely won’t try it.  Sharing platters, wrap stations and compartment plates and bento style lunch boxes are great for this! A casual “do you want to try one?” can work wonders!

  • Consistency and fun are so important!

If you make trying new food and eating into a big deal your child will learn that trying new food is a stressful time, their anxiety will grow and they will become even more reluctant to eat anything new. Go slow, be consistent and don’t force it.

  • Go for textures they like

If you have a child who loves dinner then offer a hot lunch, if they love crackers and crunchy food, offer raw veggies and frozen blueberries and peas.  There’s no point making it harder for yourselves than you need to. Once they get started and used to trying and liking new food you can switch up the texture a bit.

  • Get those kids in the kitchen.

Kids often try food they have helped make, and even more likely to eat it as they’re preparing it (there’s less pressure then). Even if it’s not straight away, preparing food is great for

  • Start small

Some kids make huge leaps very quickly (a client sent me a message to say they started their individual eating plan this week and her daughter’s already eating carrot and kumera regulary and has eaten sausages now too) once they start their Little Bites programme, others develop slowly and steadily. The important thing to remember is that your child finds it difficult to eat new food; they have an aversion or even a fear of “different” food. Celebrate any success because every tiny step forward is better than none and it all builds up to big progress in the future. Even 2 peas a day is an extra 14 peas a week and from there you can build up and up!

Should I send my child to bed hungry?

Most of you voted for a blog about whether or not you should send your child to bed hungry if they don’t eat dinner. Dinner can seem really tough: they’re tired, they won’t eat, they get upset, you get upset – do you send them to bed hungry or make them toast, give them cookies, milk or nuggets? It’s a question I’m often asked.

 

If you send your child to bed hungry they will often feel angry and resentful and be LESS likely to try the new food next time. The reason for this is that you are reinforcing their anxiety about trying new food and their food aversions. A standoff between you and your challenging eater can become overwhelming for your child, they won’t sleep well and you’ll most likely sleep badly and feel guilty, wondering if there’s another way. (There is, book a free consultation with me and find out)

 

Little Bites individual eating plans introduce new food to your challenging eater in a relaxed, less stressful way THEN it can be introduced at dinner time.

If dinner time is stressful there are ways to turn it around. If it’s stressful for you there’s every chance it’s also stressful for your challenging eater too. Stress will make them more resistant to the foods that are being forced onto them. Here are some things to think about and some tips to get your child to eat dinner.

Does your child eat variety through the day?

If your child eats a fruit and veg filled smoothie for breakfast, carrot sticks and apple at afternoon tea and cucumber, grapes and an egg at lunch and some meat at some point through the day then you can be a little more lenient at dinner. Lots of younger children get very tired by dinner; when they start school this can get even worse.  At kindy and especially school, kids spend all day being well behaved and learning new things. Unfortunately, when they get home they are exhausted and by dinner time trying or learning something new is the last thing on their mind!

If their diet’s OK but through the day but could be better, you can squeeze some more fruits, veggies or high protein, high iron food in earlier in the day, before they burn out. If they struggle to eat healthy food at all you can book a free initial consultation with me to find out how Little Bites can help your child.

If your child eats better earlier in the day offer “dinner” at lunch and have something smaller at dinner. Or try offering the syle of food they like better – raw veggies with dip, hard boiled eggs, chicken wraps…

Does your child have an aversion to mixed food?

Stir fry, cottage pie, spaghetti bolognaise… Sometimes it’s much easier for challenging eaters to cope if you put the separate ingredients on their plate (not touching), and it’s not extra work for you! I actually have a client who came back to me and said that since starting our programme her son has learned how to try new food and will now try most things she offers him at dinner – as long as it’s on a separate plate. Check out what results other clients have had here.

Does your child have an aversion to certain textures?

What’s the one your child likes? There’s no point offering a crunch lover something very wet or soft if your main aim is that they eat “something healthy” at dinner time. Match it to your child’s preferences if you can. Want them to eat a carrot? Offer it raw or lightly steamed, even grated! If they love wet, liquidy food offer soup at dinner. If you do that, it’s much more likely that you’ll get your child to eat dinner.

Does your child snack through the day?

Children who snack are much less likely to eat at dinner time. They also rarely get hungry enough to try the new food that you’d love to add to their diet. If they snack often, offer filling foods that are healthy like nuts, eggs, veggie sticks with hummus, greek yoghurt – but not too close to dinner!

Do not bribe with pudding!

Bribing with other food reinforces “yummy” and “yucky” food. The minute you stop bribing, they will usually stop trying or eating new food.

Set them up for success: Give small portions

I know you want them to eat more not less, but if you give really small portions, you’re setting your kids up for success. They can see it’s achievable so it’s not as intimidating. If they feel proud of themselves for finishing their 3 peas and you praise them for that it’s much better for their mindset than giving them more than they can finish and having them feel like they can never finish everything. If they finish a small amount of food and want more of something that’s fine. You can build up the amount and how often they have them once you’ve taken that first small step, and that first little bite. Platter style dinners, wraps etc are good for this, just make sure they have a small amount of something healthy that they like and a small amount of something new. They won’t be going to bed hungry but will have had something nutritious.

Give small choices

Will we have peas or corn?

Which colour plate do you want; red or green?

Do you want this on top or beside the rice?

Do you want dipping sauce?

If you give 2 options kids can cope, if you give them too much control or too many choices they can’t cope, you’ll waste a lot of time and food and nothing will get any better. Small choices make the child feel in control but not overwhelmed, that’s really important when it comes to getting your child to eat dinner.

Don’t say “finish what’s on your plate”

They can finish when they’re full (but they’re full so nothing else after that unless it’s some fruit/veggie sticks or a yoghurt a couple hours later)
Kids need to listen to their body and finishing what’s on their plate will set up bad habits. It’s better to give smaller amounts and then ask “do you need more of anything or are you full?”

PIZZA: priorities!

attitude

What’s important to your child? The first word my daughter could spell (after he name) was pizza… and one of her first words was M&Ms!

My daughter had a speech delay, because of this her first proper words were very important to me. “Mummy”, “Daddy” and “no” were the first 3 (what more do you need?!) Her next ones (after over a year of speech therapy) were “M&Ms” and “Barbie”. A relief flooded over me that she was finally starting to be able to express her needs (well, wants!) so I bought her a bag of M&Ms (once – while I wanted to encourage her thinking speaking is useful to communicate I didn’t want her to think she could eat M&Ms whenever she wanted).

It’s important to recognise your child’s motivation, mindset, fears and as well as supporting them through it in a way that will let them feel like they have some control and that you are there helping them but not pushing them too hard. You don’t want to put them off even more!

We need to foster the idea that food is fun, that healthy food is normal and to take away the overwhelm and anxiety that trying a new food can cause for challenging eaters. If you’d like to find out more about how Little Bites can help you with this book a full consultation here or a free initial consultation to find out how Little Bites can help your challenging eater.

6 things you should NEVER say to a challenging eater

not to say

There are some things that will just reinforce your child’s attitude that new food is the devil! After all, how we talk to kids about food becomes their inner voice. Here are some things you should never say to your challenging eater and why!

 

  • “EW!” or “really?!”

When your challenging eater asks to try something new you may be massively surprised but DON’T react with disgust or surprise; your reaction could change their expectaions (and make them think it won’t be nice) or make them feel under pressure (which will increase that mental block that we’re trying to overcome).

  • Just 1 cookie, dinner’s almost ready!

All kids are guilty of sneaking into the kitchen and trying to eat as much as possible before dinner. “Just a bit of fruit/cup of milk/one biscuit!” Yes, they’re hungry but that’s why you’re making dinner and if they eat now they won’t be hungry for whatever you’re busy slaving over. If they fill up on milk/juice/fruit or anything else the chance of them even tasting something new drops right down.

OK, so I actually suggest to clients that when their child is climbing the cupboards before dinner was a good time to try out their strategies but he’s not going to overload on his new healthy food… and if he does I don’t think his mum will be complaining!

  • “Finish what’s on your plate”

This sounds perfectly reasonable but often parents put portions that are too big for kids little tummies. How often have you been in a restaurant and had a massive portion and you finish it even though you’re forcing it down by the end? That’s because a lot of us still listen to that little voice saying “finish what’s on your plate.”

It’s better for kids to listen to their stomachs about when to stop eating and then sit at the table until everyone else is full up too. It’s better to avoid a battle of wills at dinner time and get them to help serve up their own portion, making sure that they have a little bit of what you want them to eat. That way they get to finish more often due to smaller portion sizes and you can always ask if they want more of anything. They’ll feel a bigger sense of achievement and you will be happier too.

  • “You’ll like it”

You can’t guanrantee that – a child needs to try new food over 10 times before their taste buds decide whether or not they like something. If you promise them they’ll like it straight away you’re setting yourselves up to fail. Also it’s important to keep them trying little tiny tastes until they get used to the tastes and textures instead of giving up at the first nibble. If you’d like to find out more about how Little Bites does this book a free initial consultation here.

  • “No pudding until you’ve finished your vegetables”

I prefer “if you’re still hungry you still have food there, if you’re full you won’t be needing pudding”.  If you bribe them with lollies and ice cream you’re effectively teaching that they need to eat the “yuck” food before they get the “yum” food. That reinforces the expectations they have (that it’s going to be disgusting) and they won’t grow to like it. As soon as you run out of ice cream they’ll stop eating the balanced diet. Just make sure you’re giving them a manageable amount  – not too much to start!

  • “Just eat it”

I often get clients who tell me that their children are really enthusiatic cooking dinner togethehr, promising they’ll try something new… then dinner time rolls around and it all changes! This is because while a lot of children would like to be able to eat new food they have to change their mindset first. They just need that bit of help to overcome it and that’s one of the things that Little Bites can help with! Making a child feel forced will increase anxiety and that will not let them enjoy the food. It will give them negative associations with trying food and they could become even more determined not to try it next time! Relax, follow your Little Bites steps and meal times will automatically become more fun and stress-free! Check out these testimonials to see how other families have overcome their food battles.

Kids in the kitchen

food aversions

A lot of children struggle with food aversions. “Fussy” or challenging eating is very common in younger toddlers but a quarter of children struggle to grow out of it.

 

In today’s busy society we often hurry to get food on the table, pouches or jars of baby food are easier and kids eat earlier than their parents. They aren’t getting as much exposure to food and cooking as we used to. Exposure to food is so important. If children don’t get a chance to explore food, they are less likely to eat it and more likely to develop food aversions.

 

One way to get kids comfortable around food and eventually eating more is by getting them cooking, it helps them to overcome textural issues, food aversions and sensory overload when it comes to actually eat the food. Start small, give them a spoon and get them to mix, then get them to do a bit of touching the food: push it off the chopping board into the pan etc. Work your way up to peeling food and supervised grating and chopping with a child-safe knife.

 

Cooking with you gives your child control – it gives them the chance to choose what shape the vegetables are (sticks, slices or even grated), whether they’re eaten raw and crunchy or cooked and soft. Giving these options and exposure to different foods and the way they are cooked and prepared can make a massive difference to your challenging eater, it gives them a chance to explore and try food textures that otherwise they might not have had. Never assume your child won’t eat something: have something new available to try as often as possible because consistency is key and this is a fantastic opportunity to offer new food in new ways in a positive and low-key way. I love hearing back from clients who tell me their child is starting to ask to try new food. You can read some of the testimonials here.

 

Cooking can also be fun, a big adventure of littlies – who doesn’t love being trusted enough to cut food or use one of the appliances like a chopper, blender or anything else with a button!  During my time both working with children, and as a parent of two young children, I have seen the biggest changes in those who start helping prepare food. I noticed that the children began to really enjoy preparing food, grating carrots and cheese, peeling potatoes and carrots, opening cans, stirring and chopping food… What a fantastic first step! Soon they felt more comfortable around the food and ready to start tasting it.

 

It’s also a great way to introduce single food to children who become anxious about “mixed” food as they can see exactly what’s in it and can try the different foods one at a time. If they try and like one food, keep a bit seperate for them until they’re happier to eat mixed up food.

Kids like the strangest things

kids like the strangest things

Kids often like things we least expect them to. My daughter thinks rock-solid frozen raw cauliflower is delicious and my son is desperate to eat a lollipop with a giant ant inside (thanks Bug Lab!) Some kids like the strangest things.

 

Strong and spicy food

Often my clients come back to me surprised that their challenging eater really likes olives, strong cheese or other spicy or strong tasting food, but it’s so common for kids with sensory issues to respond better to really strong flavours than more bland food for new food.

Don’t say eww!

If they decide to try an unusual combination don’t be negative, don’t assume they won’t like it just because it’s not to your taste (and have you tried it? 🙂 )

Don’t tell them they’re fussy

Don’t reinforce to them that they are “fussy”. Saying things like “Oh he won’t eat anything like that”, “she’ll eat it as long as it’s brown” and other statements that reinforce to them that they don’t like food they haven’t tried makes them think they CAN’T try anything new or that they really won’t like anything new. Always keep doors open and offering different tastes and textures because if you don’t offer, they definitely won’t try.

Always keep the door open to new food

Recently we went to the crab shack and I offered my kids a taste of mussels. They both tried them, my son wasn’t too keen, my daughter asked for a bit more. It takes 10-16 tries of a new food for a child’s taste buds to decide if they like a food so if they don’t like it straight away, you can try again another time but every opportunity should be embraced but not forced!

 

If you’re stuck about what’s best to try for your challenging eater book a free initial consultation here.

Force feeding and other strategies that don’t work

severely restricted diet

Most children have stopped being so “fussy” by age 5 – however a quarter of children need support to overcome their food aversions and they can survive on a severely restricted diet until their teens or even through adulthood.

Everyone has a few foods they avoid for different reasons – the texture, smell, taste or associations from childhood. Things that can affect challenging eaters can be sickness or reflux in childhood – putting them off textures, certain foods, or even the thought of eating. The fear of eating can develop into a phobia which can be made worse by well-meaning parents and carers who attempt to force feed or starve their child into eating a food rather than making the food accessible and mealtimes relaxed. Introducing new food gradually, consistently and gently is much more effective and that’s why Little Bites strategies are so effective.

Strategies that can affect challenging eaters negatively:

 

  • Eat it or starve

A lot of my clients tell me they’ve tried eat it or starve and all that happened was that the child lost a lot of weight. This is common with children with food aversions and a severely restricted diet as the fear of trying a new food seems worse to them than the hunger. The feelings ‘eat it or starve’ can bring up can actually put the child off trying more food in the future.

 

  • Sit there until you’ve finished what’s on your plate

This standoff usually happens around dinner time, although I’ve heard of childcare staff using this strategy. Usually, all that happens is that the child becomes overwhelmed and upset and resents trying new food, learning that new food is something stressful and to be feared. When this is carried out at dinner, kids either go to bed hungry, upset and resentful and the parents go to bed wracked with guilt!

 

  • bargain with/bribe them: get kids eating vegetables, dinner and healthy food and loving it!

If you bribe them with lollies and ice cream you’re effectively teaching that they need to eat the “yuck” food before they get the “yum” food. For kids with a severely restricted diet, that reinforces the expectations they have (that it’s going to be disgusting) and they won’t grow to like it. As soon as you run out of ice cream they’ll stop eating the balanced diet. Little Bites helps to form good healthy eating habits in a fun and motivating way so your child gets exposure to healthy food and can learn to love it!

 

  • Force-feeding or yelling (or even sobbing on the kitchen floor)

Anxiety will not let them enjoy the food, it will give them negative associations with it and they could become even more determined not to try it next time! Relax, follow your Little Bites steps and meal times will automatically become more fun and stress-free! Check out these testimonials to see how other families have overcome their food battles.