When trying to improve extreme picky eating, I focus on three main areas: environment, exposure, and hands-on exploration. Each of these supports a picky eater differently and encourages them to build comfort with new foods in low-pressure way.
When I talk about environment, I’m referring to mealtimes and where a picky eater is eating. Sometimes you don’t have control over this, but whenever you do, there are simple ways that you can make meals more comfortable and conducive to improved eating habits.
Exposure simply means having the opportunity to meet new foods. So many picky eaters only encounter their same comfortable food every day. Kids can’t learn to like new foods if they never have the opportunity to even look at them.
Finally, hands-on exploration – the most fun and one of the most effective ways to improve extreme picky eating. If a child doesn’t like a new food on their hands, they won’t like it in their mouth! Hands-on exploration is key for building a child’s comfort with new foods.
This article will go into greater detail about how each of these three principles can improve picky eating.
3 Daily Habits to Improve Extreme Picky Eating
Extreme picky eaters are more sensitive to anything that has to do with food. Without the right environment, eating can be even harder for a child who struggles to eat. The environment is not only important for making a child comfortable, but it can also facilitate trying new foods and creates opportunity for exposure to new foods. I have tons of tips on how to create the optimal mealtime environment for picky eaters:
Research suggests that kids need to encounter new foods an average of 8-12 times before they readily eat it. Experience has shown us that extreme picky eaters can need 25+ exposures.
Guess what? The same research tells us that caregivers stop offering new foods after only 4 exposures! Essentially, we’re not giving kids the time they need to learn to like new foods.
Repeated exposure allow an extreme picky eater to build get comfortable enough with an unfamiliar food that they’re willing to eat it.
One of the easiest ways to ensure a picky eater is getting enough exposures to new foods is to serve one new food at every meal.
Exposures is so important, but it’s not the only way to improve extreme picky eating. In addition to needing multiple repeated exposures, most picky eaters will benefit from hands-on exploration. Hands-on contact with food is so important because it can teach a child what to expect when they are finally ready to eat. Plus, engaging with food can acclimate all of the senses so they, too, are ready when it’s time to eat.
Hands on exploration can occur at mealtimes or between eating. The benefit to playing and engaging with food outside of mealtimes is that your child will know that there is no expectation to eat. This complete lack of pressure to consume the food will make it easier for them to engage with it.
Environment, exposure, and hands-on exploration are key to improving extreme picky eating.
Identify where you can make improvements in how you feed your child and how they interact with new foods. What can you start today? Make a plan for the next three weeks, incorporating just one adjustment at a time.