6 critical phases that will make mealtimes with ‘picky eaters’ better

My girls and I were just having lunch. Yet while watching Sienna (my eldest daughter) eat without a fuss, I had a flashback to those days when meals were…miserable. Before I implemented these 6 phases to fix her picky eating, Sienna would spit out food, resist coming to the table, and even gag (or vomit) after a taste of yogurt. I seem to have blocked those memories out of my mind. Until today.

I remember finding “kid-friendly’ (and seemingly Sienna-friendly) recipes I was SURE she would love.  Smiling in the kitchen while preparing this guaranteed recipe, only to bring it to the table and hear “yuck” or watch Sienna push the plate away.  So frustrating, but that was an average meal for us.

I never heard her say “I’m hungry“.

I often heard the word “yuck“.

She wasn’t gaining weight, nor was she really eating.

I was a foodie, yet I sadly dreaded meals with daughter.

But I was a Nutritionist and a mom who couldn’t accept this as our fate.

So I took the bull by the horns and dove into the literature and research on children’s eating.  I wanted to find out WHY my daughter was so picky and HOW to turn things around.  Of course, I was fearful she would be one of 30% of children whose “picky eating” persists into adult years.

At the time, I couldn’t see our life any other way: this was just the hand we were dealt. Yet all of the studying and Certifications eventually paid off and were used to create a structured mealtime plan for my daughter.  It was the protocol I implemented to transform mealtimes and Sienna’s eating who went from being an extremely picky eater to one of the most adventurous eaters.

phases to fix picky eating

Those feelings of failure at meals are long gone, along with the worries around whether she was getting ‘enough’ protein and nutrients to thrive.  As others heard our story they asked how we did it, and so I started to share our plan with families I work with.  Today that plan is known as the “Picky Eater Protocol” (or the PEP).

I watched Sienna happily eating her lunch of veggie scrambled eggs alongside hummus and red peppers (foods she would NEVER touch in the past). I wanted to smile and cry knowing how far she had come.  It helped her tremendously, but these 6 phases gave me confidence when the picky eating habits started to surface with my youngest daughter.  I knew EXACTLY what we needed to do. We did it and we got her eating back in control.

Then it dawned on me – I needed to share this protocol with parents who follow me.  So here I am, sharing the 6 critical phases to fix picky eating, that I use daily.

phases to fix picky eating

Before I dive in, let me just say this..

When working with kids, it’s best not to overwhelm them with change. Nor do we want to overwhelm parents.  If I give you a long list of mealtime tweaks, it’s tough to commit to them.  That’s why I created (and use) this 6-phased proven approach to transform mealtimes. Ultimately building a healthy relationship with food for your child.

I’m going to quickly summarize them here (and you’ll learn much more about them in this upcoming Free Webinar).

6 critical phases to fix picky eating

First we have to find out where your little one falls on the picky eating spectrum.  Are they going through a developmental phase or are there underlying challenges contributing to their food preferences?   If weight is a concern for your child, it’s important to pay attention to our mealtime approach.  Are you pushing your small child to eat more than they need (as I once did)?  Or a larger child to eat less?  How we treat food today sets the foundation for your child’s future eating habits too.

In Phase 2 we ensure you have a solid daytime routine with appropriate gaps between eating opportunities. Amazing things can also happen when you start meals with the right words and actions.  And when you end meals in the right way, it prompts children to try new/more food and speeds up eating.  If appetite is lacking, we need to look at possible nutrient deficiencies andother factors possibly suppressing their hunger.

In Phase 3, we become aware of any forms of (completely innocent) pressure or nudging to eat at meals can profoundly change the way our kids approach new foods.  When they know mom or dad is discontent with their eating, it suppresses appetite and fuels the power struggle.  So this is where we look at what we should and shouldn’t say to encourage better eating.  Ultimately, I give you confidence that you are doing all the right things to help your child have a healthy relationship with food.  For today and as an adult.

In Phase 4, we focus on creating a positive mealtime experience with the help of my favourite (and mostly free) tools.  This involves removing tools that serve as distractions.  We all want our children to eat in response to their hunger (and not overeat when full).   In this phase, you will know how to make mealtimes fun, and ultimately make it easier for your child to come and stay at the table.

In Phase 5 we get into the nitty gritty of what makes a balanced meal and how to improve their variety.  Do you know if you little one’s blood sugars are affecting their appetite (or regular tantrums)?  Are you offering the right new foods at the right times?  We answer these questions by taking your child’s eating preferences into account. My goal is to help them feel successful at meals.  Without this success (or when our child fears failure) it’s VERY unlikely that they will go near anything new.

Ultimately, we all want our child to get “enough” of the critical nutrients for growth and health. Be it protein, fat, fibre, iron, zinc, calcium, and the list goes on.  So this is what I tackle in the final phase with parents. Knowing the signs of common deficiencies is helpful; however, even if your little one has a selective diet there’s always a way to amplify nutrition through food or supplementation.

What’s the next step to ‘fix’ picky eating?

Well, within each of these 6 phases are specific steps for parents.  Steps to help your child establish healthier eating habits AND reduce your mealtime anxiety and frustration (to the point where meals are actually enjoyable…seriously!).  I’m going to give you a taste of these phases in my upcoming FREE Webinar {10 proven ways to improve your child’s eating}.

If this worked so well for my extremely selective eater…imagine what it can do for you and your little one.