Selective Eaters Series
By Colene Stoernell MS, RD, LDN
The practice of being mindful has been a hot topic as of late especially around mindful eating. If you are not familiar with this concept or how it can be helpful for a selective eater, keep reading.
Mindful eating has been used the most with diet culture.
It is the process of allowing oneself to focus on the present moment while paying attention to the food that is nourishing your body. But how does this apply to a selective eater?
Mindful eating involves slowing down and exploring the food, which is what we want a selective eater to do. Using this technique encourages exploration and can help to lessen the fear of new foods, provide children with an arsenal of words to describe food, and encourage proper “steps to eating”.
First, let us explore the fear.
Children like routine and consistency. When something new and different is offered to them, they are thrown out of their comfort zone. This includes trying new foods, as it can be scary to a child.
Some children may have had a bad experience with trying new food in the past and think all new foods are “YUCKY”!
Bringing out a new food to explore with a mindful approach makes trying new foods fun. This exploration may start with play, and then lead to an exploration of the way it feels, looks, smells, and eventually tastes.
This leads us to descriptive language.
Children seem to learn the word “YUCK” fast from their peers. Providing your child with actual words to describe the food is another benefit of mindful eating practices plus it helps build vocabulary.
This is crucial to minimizing the “YUCK” word to describe what the food tastes like. For example, take a lemon, they could be described as “yucky”, or you could describe it as tart, astringent, or to some spicy.
The point is to get creative with it. Coming up with new words to describe foods can be a fun game to start playing with your child and we all know kids love games.
Lastly, mindful eating allows a child to follow the “steps to eating”.
Some children are sensitive to the way foods look, smell, and feel. Mindful practices allow these types of children the ability to explore foods at a slower pace.
A child may need to start with the new food on the other side of the table and gradually work their way to on the plate. Eventually, the child will progress to having an interaction with the food such as stirring or cutting it up with utensils. Even the littlest of ones can do this step with the teal meal mini utensils.
The next steps to eating would be smelling and describing the smell of the food. This will inevitably move on to physically touching the food, again with descriptive words about how it feels, leading towards the final step which is tasting the food. This may start with a lick or a bite, again using descriptive words as to how the food tastes.
All of these steps pave the way to accepting a new food and eventually eating it. Keep in mind, not all foods may be accepted at first, but keep bringing them back as the food may be accepted later on down the road.
Colene Stoernell MS, RD, LDN
Colene Stoernell is a registered dietitian/nutritionist currently residing in Oregon who works with individuals and families with nutritional struggles. Throughout her career, she has had the pleasure of helping people in many areas of life. Her current areas of specialty are feeding-related disorders, IBD/IBS, Celiac disease, and intuitive eating. She is also the mother of a child with selective eating habits and oral sensitivities and therefore has a personal understanding of the challenges families face with children with feeding concerns. In her spare time, she enjoys being very active with her family in any outdoor activity.