How to Navigate Picky Eating

By Christina M. Freise Pollitt, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CDP – Speech-Language Pathologist

How to Navigate Picky EatingDo you know a picky eater? ‘Picky’ eating is when a child (or adult) refuses foods often, or exhibits a restricted food repertoire, eating the same foods over and over. Picky eating usually peaks in the toddler and preschool years. Very temporary picky eating habits can be normal at these ages. As a general rule of thumb, your child should consume between 15-20 different foods by age three. Diversity of foods is crucial as well; it is critical that the child has at least 3 different foods in each food group (such as breads/grains, fruits, vegetables, meats) and these food selections not specific to brand or color.

In general, there are many techniques that a parent can utilize to lessen ‘picky’ eating. First, allow your child to accompany you to the grocery store to pick out produce and other food items. It is often empowering for little ones to choose their own food products, particularly fruits and vegetables. Next, allow your child to help you prepare meals (obviously within reason), perhaps allowing a child to stir a pot. Always attempt to link dinner with a positive experience, talking about fun and positive topics, rather than a time for a family argument. Also, model your willingness as an adult to try foods of differing colors, shapes, textures, and temperatures at meals.

Of note, a ‘picky eater’ differs from a ‘problem feeder’. A child or adult with choking during mealtime, diagnosed with failure to thrive, and/or other significant medical conditions is not a ‘picky eater.’ A speech-language pathologist who specializes in feeding and swallowing disorders can provide and design a specialized treatment plan for both child and adults who are ‘picky eaters’ and ‘problem feeders.’

Moreover, throwing food is a very common behavior amongst toddlers who are picky, often seeking attention from the table. It is critical to recognize why the child may be throwing food (perhaps portion size issues, texture/temperature aversion, attention-seeking, combination of these things, other reasons). There are many techniques to reduce food throwing in toddlers:

• Ignore the behavior. Difficult- YES, but any reaction will reinforce the throwing.
• Serve smaller portions. It is tempting to eat some food, and then throw some when the portion size is large, but when food is limited, there will be less food to throw.
• Provide a “Not right now” or a “No thank you” bowl. The child places the foods he/she is not interested in eating in this bowl. It keeps the food nearby (great exposure for picky eaters), gives the adult more control over the situation, and eliminates mess. Often, the child will even go back and eat things out of this bowl!

If you implement the strategies above, and the food throwing continues, end the meal: “Mealtime all done.” Do something different, unrelated for at least a half hour. Re-offer the meal later, making it feel like a new event.

Please contact a speech-language pathologist, such as Christina Freise at Speech By The Beach Consulting LLC, who specializes in feeding/swallowing, if these aforementioned techniques have not proved to improve the picky eating situation.

Christina Freise Pollitt is a speech-language pathologist, and owner of Speech By the Beach Consulting LLC, a family owned and operated private practice in Naples, Florida. She provides comprehensive speech-language pathology services to both pediatrics and adults. She is certified as a Brain Injury Specialist by the Brain Injury Association of America, and as a Certified Dementia Specialist by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners. This triple certification distinguishes her from other speech-language pathologists, and enables her to offer patients more comprehensive assessment and treatment options.

Mrs. Freise Pollitt holds a Masters of Science from Columbia University, New York, the only Ivy League training program in the United States in Speech-Language Pathology. Following graduation, she fulfilled

her Clinical Fellowship at The Brady Institute for Traumatic Brain Injury to receive her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Her diverse experiences include Level I acute care Trauma Center, LTACH, home care, and university clinical faculty member with supervisory and teaching roles in a pediatric clinic. As a clinical professor, Mrs. Freise Pollitt has trained hundreds of aspiring speech-language pathologists. Furthermore, she is the author of Cognitive Implications of Dementia: A Caregiver’s Guide to Improve Communication and Swallow Function.

Mrs. Freise Pollitt is the former vice president of Closet2Closet, an Illinois-based non-profit organization providing current trend apparel to teenagers living in foster care and/or disruptive situations. Locally, she is the former President of the Collier County Medical Society Alliance, and a former Director of the Florida Medical Association Alliance. She is an advisor to the Stroke Recovery Foundation and to the Alzheimer’s Support Network of Naples.

In regards to pediatrics, Mrs. Freise Pollitt offers a myriad of services at Speech By The Beach Consulting LLC. She offers comprehensive evaluation and treatment of articulation/phonology, receptive and expressive language, voice, feeding/swallowing, reading skills, cognitive communication, and social language. Mrs. Freise Pollitt is specialized in evidenced-based methods including Food Chaining, the Orton Gillingham Reading Approach, Baby Signs, and the Beckman Oral Motor Approach. The practice offers complimentary speech/language screenings for private daycare facilities and private schools. Speech By The Beach Consulting also offers telepractice as an option in these current times. The practice proudly participates in the Gardiner Scholarship Program of Florida, which allows children with special needs an opportunity to receive an education savings account (ESA) funded by the state to pay for speech therapy services.

Speech By The Beach Consulting LLC is accepting new clients. Please call 239-631-1988 to schedule your appointment.

2180 Immokalee Road, Suite 312
Naples, FL 34110

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