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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Food for Thought: The Holidays with a Picky Eater

Published December 23, 2011 9:00 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling

Are you stressed because the holidays are upon us and your child is a picky eater? Is every meal a struggle and is it even worse when you are sitting with your in-laws and family friends and can feel the tension thicken in the air? Well, hang on! Here are some tips to help you prepare yourself and your child for mealtime challenges that lie ahead for the next week!

Planning Tips for Getting Through the Holidays with a Picky Eater!

  • Plan Ahead! This is especially true if you will be dining in the homes of friends and family. Make sure to pack your child's favorite cup, plate, spoon, bib, etc. If they have circumstances where they to tend to eat best (e.g., with her princess plate and cupcake bib), recreate the scenario for the holidays!
  • Plan Alternatives! Not that Aunt Millie's fruit cake isn't appetizing, but if you know that your picky eater is not going to eat the meatloaf and green beans being served for Christmas dinner, bring some alternates! If a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is all your little one will eat these days, bring one! Now, you may also want to give them a sample of whatever foods are being served. The holidays are a great time to expose your child to new foods. Maybe if their favorite cousin is eating meatloaf, they will try it too, but to keep your stress level down and peace at the table, having a back-up plan is also a really good idea!
  • Plan Your Battles! Sometimes the fight is worth it and sometimes it isn't. My personal opinion is the holiday dinner table with 15 people gathered, candles lit and Nat King Cole serenading in the background probably is not the time to battle with your picky eating preschooler. You want the dining experience to be enjoyable for everyone -- you, your child, the other guests and whomever cooked the meal.
  • Plan a Full Belly! As mentioned above, alternative food options are helpful when dining out with a picky eater. I also believe that a child who has a nice full belly is more pleasant to be around as your visit progresses to dessert, gift opening and chatting by the fire, so really try to bring some foods they like so they can tolerate the entire visit. 
  • Plan your Response! If you often receive negative looks and comments from disapproving family members and "friends" about how your child eats, just know that it may happen at the holidays. Be strong and be open to constructive feedback, but also be realistic that "it is what it is" for now. You are doing the best you can and so is your little one and that is all anyone who loves you can really expect.  

Here are some previous posts that I wrote in Decembers past that you may also find helpful:

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the hardworking SLPs and parents out there who read this blog! Enjoy some much deserved rest and time with your little ones and those you love!



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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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