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Tips for Getting Your Picky Eater to Try Different Foods

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Many parents have experienced struggles with children who are “picky eaters”. Often, for children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, this can be intensified, with children only eating a select food type or food texture. There are many reasons that this can occur, and some could be linked to medical conditions. Consult your child’s pediatrician about any food concerns to make sure you have ruled those out.

Otherwise, while picky eating might be normal, it can make mealtimes frustrating for children and parents alike. Here are some simple tips and tricks you can use that might help make trying new foods less of a battle.

1) Establish a regular mealtime schedule. Predictability might, ironically, encourage your picky eater to be a bit more adventurous.

2) Attempt to provide choices so the child has control.

3) Try to stay calm and praise successes. Seeing your excitement when they try something new, might help your child to want to try more.

4) Avoid allowing the child to graze or snack excessively. A child who is hungry may be more interested in venturing outside of their comfort zone and trying something new.

5) Keep an eye on how much milk or juice your child is consuming. Both can make them feel full and uninterested in food. Water is always OK.

6) Provide incentives or positive reinforcement opportunities. This can be either by rewarding with preferred foods or treats, to earning points toward a reward, extra time on a device, or preferred activity for successful attempts with a new or novel food.

7) Limit the mealtime to 15 or 20 minutes and keep it from becoming a negative experience.

8) Offer like foods, for ex: if a certain pasta is a preferred food, try introducing different types of pasta initially and gradually increasing the repertoire of foods.

9) Alternating a preferred food with the non-preferred food. Think about offering their “safe” meals on one night, and trying new things the next so they don’t begin to feel that every mealtime will be a challenge.

10) Try exposure before eating. This could mean simply allowing a small portion of the food item to sit on the plate during the meal before the expectation of eating it. Use the same food item for several weeks.

11) You can model eating the food or have a sibling model eating the food.

12) Utilize a story or social story about the benefits of new foods, incorporate favorite characters or Superheroes into the narrative.

Hopefully some of these ideas help create adventurous eaters and more harmonious meal times in your house!

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