Over the past week and a half, I’ve been trying to get my picky eater and food allergic child, Superman, to eat. Some of you might know that Superman is underweight and he struggles to gain weight. We’ve met with a dietician and a GI specialist to try and figure out the reasons why he’s not growing properly, but in the meantime, I’m still on a mission to encourage him to eat well.
Last week in my Part 1 of my Managing Food Allergies & Eating Problems “series”, I tried changing up where my kids eat. I know this isn’t the solution for every meal, but it can sure break up the monotony that even we as adults suffer from. In our house, even turning a snack into a picnic alleviated some of the boredom from the day to day. I encourage you to give it a try and see if it can help get your child to “forget” that they’re a picky eater.
In the past few days I’ve learned something, and I want to share it with you. What I’ve realized is that our food allergic kids need to be involved in their eating. In the words of the dietician we met with, kids need to “own it”, and this is especially true of food allergy kids.
I really feel that Superman’s pickiness was his way of controlling his eating, more specifically, his food allergies. He may be feeling stress about his food allergies now that he’s older, realizing his different than his peers. Being picky and refusing to eat is his way of acting out against his food allergies, because he doesn’t know how to express his frustration.
What’s a food allergy mom to do? Give them control over their eating.
How? Involve them in the planning, preparing, and cooking.
Here are some things I/we did this week that will spur your inspiration:
1. Improved the presentation of their food. Just by adding toothpicks and cupcake liners, they were more excited about their lunch. I put it on plates we don’t typically use, and they loved it! I’ll be the first to admit, I had gotten in the habit of just plopping healthy food on a plate and expecting them to eat. Even I appreciate a plate of food that has been thoughtfully placed rather than plopped on a plate. Visually stimulating food will always seem more appealing.
2. Included them in the preparation of their food. I put out the ingredients, showed them what we were “building” to make pizza bites with leftover pizza…and put them to work! This was probably one of the best meals they ate all week.
3. Gave them choices. It’s as simple as, “Do you want blueberries or strawberries in your smoothie? Once you choose, you can help put them in the blender.” Don’t say, “What do you want for a snack?” because they’ll undoubtedly shout “COOKIES!”. Instead say, “Do you choose grapes or crackers with Sunbutter for a snack?”. This is the magical part and really helps them feel in control of what they’re eating-something that is perfect for food allergic kids that yearn for independence.
Here are a few more tips to including your child in the planning, preparing, and cooking:
-Ask them what they’d like on the weekly menu.
-Let them help cut soft fruits and veggies like bananas or mushrooms if they’re young.
-Set out ingredients and let them get creative!
-Encourage them to help pour and mix while baking.
-Buy a chef’s hat that they can wear while in the kitchen, or even an apron or chef’s coat.
What ideas would you add? Comment below!
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