PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Our relationship with food can start before we’re even able to say what we’re eating.
A local expert says how you present new foods to your kids can make the difference with them being picky eaters or not.
Alisha Grogan is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in getting picky eaters out of their food rut.
She says it takes kids 12 to 15 times of trying one specific food before the child even knows if they like it or not.
The Jefferson Hills mother of three has years of hands-on experience.
“My kids don’t eat everything I put in front of them and I don’t expect them to. They’re people with their own little preferences too. I’m just giving them the opportunities,” she said.
Her advice has helped many, like Marisa McFeaters whose son, Reed, started working with Grogan around age 1.
“He’s come so far where he’s asking to try new foods,” McFeaters said.
Reed’s case was so severe that he received early intervention through Achieva.
In the beginning, he was only eating finely pureed baby food and would have anxiety when a new food was put in front of him.
“You could see it in his face. A little bit of a stress came over him and you’d have to put something in front of him like okay, well here’s something you do eat, it’s okay,” McFeaters said.
It took months of structure and repeatedly introducing new foods in the ways Grogan suggested, but the advice did work.
Grogan says the solution to your picky eater is likely in your refrigerator already.
She says it doesn’t take anything special to get your kids to try new foods, but that it’s more of a shift in thinking by parents.
Grogan spells out a step by step guide for parents on her blog yourkidstable.com. It’s a website she started four years ago after family and friends kept asking for her advice.
“You get into this mindset of just anything to get them to eat. I just need to get them to eat and we feel like it’s our primary job as parents,” Grogan said.
If you find yourself relating, you’re not alone.
“Children go through a normal phase of picky eating between 1 and 2 years old and it lasts between – for really a couple of years,” Grogan said.
But, there are things you can do to help them through the process.
When kids are under 1 year of age, let them explore with food. Let them get messy. When they get a little older, you can try presenting crunchy things like granola.
Other tricks include using dips to mask flavors or textures or cut food into different shapes to promote interest
Also, use seasonings on veggies. They, along with butter and oil, can reduce the bitter taste that smaller kids taste more than adults.
Grogan suggests getting kids to sit at the table for each meal and to stick to a strict schedule.
Have children eat every 2 1/2 to 3 hours with nothing but water in between.
Present a variety of new foods in small amounts. You can even use a separate plate if need be.
Grogan says the worst thing is to actually make your child eat the food you’re trying to give them, or think that if your child doesn’t like it once or twice they never will.
“It will take some time. You’re not going to see changes overnight, but they will get there and you’re going to teach them lifelong habits that are gonna really affect how they think about food for the rest of their life,” Grogan said.