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Tips to Help Picky Eaters Thrive During the Holiday Season

November 20, 2014

The holiday season is a joyous time filled with friends, family and vast amounts of food. From turkey dinners to candy canes to egg nog, the tastes and textures of the holiday “diet” can be overwhelming for anyone – especially finicky eaters.

It is important for children to maintain a healthy diet and proper nutrition, especially when options become overpowering (think peppermint and pumpkin spice). Below are tips to help picky eaters (and their parents) not just survive – but thrive – during the holiday season:

Offer Challenge Foods Sparingly
Take some stress out of the already stressful season by selecting only one meal or snack time per day to offer a new food item, or “challenge food.” It is overwhelming for all involved when new foods are presented each time you sit down at the table.

Involve Your Little Chef
Invite your picky eater to help with food preparation – whether it be a family dinner or cookies for Santa. This allows your child to interact with the food – touch, see, smell, etc. By becoming more aware of what is in the food he eats, he may be more willing to try new foods.

Serve “Family Style” Meals
Embrace family style meals where foods are served in large bowls and family members are empowered to serve themselves their preferred and non-preferred choices. This allows for some independence and control over what goes on a picky eater’s plate. It also encourages interaction with non-preferred foods.

Avoid the Power Struggle
Try not to ask “yes/no” questions when offering non-preferred foods. Questions like “Do you want mashed potatoes?” give your child the opportunity to say “No,” which may result in a stressful power struggle. Instead, offer choices between two non-preferred foods or make statements, such as “Do you want to scoop the mashed potatoes with a big spoon or a little spoon?”

Make Small Changes
Choose new foods based on already preferred foods. Simply change one small property, like color, shape or size. For example, if your child will eat chocolate chip cookies, try butterscotch chip cookies.

Avoid Seasonal Offerings
Some of the spices and seasonings in holiday favorites (like egg nog) may be too different for finicky eaters to overcome. Focus on everyday foods that you will serve year-round, like sweet potatoes and other vegetables.