Picky Eaters and the New Normal of COVID-19

April 07, 2020

Solving the Dinner Dilemma, Feeding Clinic

In these uncertain times, many families are facing a shortage of some vital supply. But what if your child prefers certain foods? After some initial disappointment, most kids move onto another food or drink. But children who are true problem feeders will eat nothing in the absence of their preferred foods. Not being able to find the specific items your child will eat is stressful, to say the least.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use at home to make this time easier for you and your child.

Recognize that now might not be the time to introduce new foods to your child. Kids are stressed with the major change in routine. Know that feeling of uncertainty you feel? Your child is probably feeling it more than you are; they just don’t express it in the same way. Tantrums, asking to play together more, crying — sound familiar?

First, recognize that it’s a myth that your child will eat non-preferred foods when he/she is hungry. 

Keep a consistent mealtime routine of three main meals and two to three snacks per day. If you do not have a current routine, start small. Do not overwhelm your child by doing all meals and snacks at the table right away. Try eating breakfast or lunch together. Gradually add in another meal once your child is OK with the previous one. Ideally, try to eat your main meal together at the table.

Try grocery shopping early in the morning. While shelf-stable items are inconsistent right now, most perishable groceries (meats, fruits, vegetables, milk, etc.) are stocked overnight. If you see your child’s highly preferred food on the shelf, buy additional quantities if the store and your budget allow.

To minimize stress and potential COVID exposure, call the store’s customer service department to see if they have a specific item.

Speak to the store manager where you shop and explain that your child only eats a few select foods and without them, he/she may not eat. You may find a store manager who understands your circumstances and offers suggestions. If not, try another store, or enlist your feeding therapist to call on your behalf.

Consider joining Facebook pages or groups that focus on individuals with special needs. These digital communities have come together and helped parents find items. Local groups on Facebook include the Lehigh Valley Autism Guide, Autism Speaks Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley & Slate Belt PA Special Needs Parents Support, Autism Society of the Lehigh Valley, and Special Needs Parents of Montgomery/Bucks County. Search Facebook for additional groups and pages.

If you have concerns about your child’s limited food diet, or you want more information about Good Shepherd PediatricsFeeding Program, call 1-888-44-REHAB or contact us online

Jennifer B. Schueck, MS, OTR/L, is a clinical resource specialist with Good Shepherd Pediatrics.