This article shares how to prevent food loss in super picky eaters and also shares an organic way to add more safe foods to their diet.
Rigid and highly specific food preferences, little diet variety, and a tendency to eat foods on repeat leaves extremely picky eaters and kids with ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder) or other eating challenges at risk for food loss or food burn out. This means the number of foods they eat could get smaller and smaller and smaller – the exact opposite of what you want for them.
When I work with families, one of the first things we do is create a plan to prevent food loss and preserve their child’s preferred foods. That’s not only because I know how precious your child’s few safe foods are. It’s also because the strategies we use to prevent food loss can also reverse picky eating.
Yep, I said REVERSE picky eating (and I don’t say things like that often).
So what does this magical plan entail? It’s essentially changing things up and making sure kids aren’t seeing their preferred foods too often.
Here’s why this works: the more a super picky eater eats a preferred food prepared exactly as they like it, the more likely they are to 1) tire of it and 2) have a harder time feeling comfortable with any food that’s even a little different. Small changes and a varied menu keep your child’s preferred foods feeling fresh.
In terms of reversing picky eating, the more food variety your child encounters, the more okay they are with food variety (aka new foods). Incorporating variety into their diet is essentially paving the way for them to eat new foods (it’s similar to food chaining).
On the flip side, the more they encounter only their favorite foods prepared *exactly* as they like them, the LESS comfortable they are with new and different foods.
Moral of the story? Change, tweaks and variety are SO valuable for extremely picky eaters, especially if food flexibility is something they struggle with.
Here are five simple yet effective ways to begin introducing more variety in your child’s diet to prevent food loss.
Five Ways to Prevent Food Loss in Super Picky Eaters
Don’t serve it daily. This is one of the most important things you can do. Aim to rotate your child’s menu, ideally not serving the same food two days in a row and especially multiple times a day. If you do serve it back-to-back, use one of the strategies to change it up. Bonus – not only does changing up your child’s preferred foods preserve them, it also helps to make them a more flexible eater, leading to them accepting completely novel foods.
Change the food’s shape. This is a simple way to make a big impact without fundamentally changing the food. This could be a difficult change for your child, so let them see you make the change, let them help and/or, make it into a fun shape.
Add a topping or dip like sprinkles, ketchup, nutella, hot sauce, chocolate chips, chia seeds, chopped nuts, salt, spices, granola. Trust me on this one. I’m the first to tell you that picky eaters don’t like mixed food but there’s something special about sprinkles. Pro tip: let your child add the topping.
This is big! Vary the brand. If your child is very brand loyal, find the option that’s most similar to their preferred. If they can’t stand to see a different brand, work on taking their preferred food out of the packaging first.
Change the color by adding food coloring. This won’t change the flavor but will make the food look drastically different, which can be hard for kids. Start small. This is a great place to get them involved and bring a sense of fun into the process. Have them add the color tiny drop by tiny drop. Guess how many drops you’ll need or experiment making different color variations.
Subtly change something about how the food is prepared. Toast the waffle a little more or less. Serve the nuggets a little more or less warm than usual. Make the mac-n-cheese a little creamier or drier than your child’s used to.