How to Feed a Picky Eater?
Meal Schedules FTW
Isabel Reckson, RD, CDN, CDE
Are you feeling stumped with how to feed your picky eater? And you want an approach that actually works? One of our favorite strategies to take on picky eating is setting meal schedules. Routine times for meals, snacks, and naps is really beneficial for your child, especially for our more selective eaters.
How does a schedule help with picky eating?
A meal, snack, nap, life schedule is what you want. Why? Predictability! Predictable and structured routines are proven to help most children learn when things are coming. This includes sleep and meal times. Research shows that a regular routine promotes stability, helping kids to better build trust and learn healthier habits.
For our more selective eaters, we know that we often have to continuously introduce new foods, exposing them over and over. If we stay persistent in our routine, predictability can help children become familiar with a variety of foods.
A schedule helps with peace of mind
Lastly, having a schedule will help you feel better if your child decides to skip a meal or doesn’t like what is served. Another snack or meal is just around the corner.
How to pull off a meal schedule for my child?
Start with a pen and paper. Include three meals per day (and yes this means breakfast!). Add structured snacks (somewhere between 1-2 snacks for our older children and 3-4 for our little ones). Space meals out adequately to allow kids to become hungry-at least two hours apart between eating times. You can talk to a Fooblie coach about the specifics of your situation and get help making a schedule for your kid.
Schedules do not mean your kids have to eat exactly at 8:00 AM every day, but it means that around the same time of day and at regular intervals they should expect food. Try thinking about it as meal and snack zones. A zone can be a 1 or 2 hour window when you’ll eat. You can have flexibility and a schedule!
Change is hard. You might want to try scheduling just one meal a day to get started and gradually add more meals and snacks to you plan after a couple days.
Grazing is bad
Watch out for grazing. This is snacking continuously throughout the day. It will make it more difficult for kids to be hungry at meal times-and therefore less likely to try new foods. This includes limiting beverages (besides water of course!) between eating times.
Include others and try to eat as a family
Eat together! I know this one can be difficult but there is a ton of research showing the benefits of family meals. We truly are models of behavior and if our children see us trying new foods, they may be more likely to do so too! Eating as a family is a great time to be a mealtime model.
We’ve got a full library of picky eating resources. And! If you’re in a talking mood…some days it’s just easier to talk to an expert. You can connect with a Fooblie coach for help in setting up an appropriate schedule for your kid!
And most important! Remember, you’ve got this!