Words of hope for parents of older, extreme picky eaters
Ruby* ate pasta, one type of crackers, butter, tomato sauce, sausages and one specific type of bread roll from one bakery and nothing else much a year ago. She would not even try lollies or chocolate, for example.
What her mum Andrea* has to say may surprise you!
Andrea bought Creating Confident Eaters about eleven months ago and has been using it to support Ruby around her eating. The dedication, tenacity and hope she has brought to the challenge makes me tear up. I also feel as though mum was able to reach inside of my head, suck all the advice out and pour it into helping Ruby
If you do have a super picky eater, please read this. For parents of older children, it shows you can and will make a difference with time, patience and effort.
For parents of younger children Andrea wants you to know that you should trust your gut.
This is what she had to say:
I wish I had listened to my gut when she was little, I knew from the get go she was unlike my first child around weaning and only accepted certain foods from the very outset. I think if I had been given an inkling of her future challenges around food by anyone at the time it would have drastically changed my approach and her chances of accepting variety in her diet. I absolutely think if she were underweight, small or even less robust looking there would have been much more support for intervention.
Andrea’s words of hope for parents of an extremely picky eater
I have been using your book as a guide for my extremely picky/control freak 12yo for about 11 months. I wanted to give you some wonderful feedback and also some hope for parents of older children who are very set in their ideas around food. She is medium height for her age and looks the picture of health so has never really garnered much attention or concern about her eating as everyone hoped she would gradually grow out of her picky eating. In fact, she got worse as she got older.
The key points I was able to take from the book and apply right away were to keep putting the desired food on the plate/table and that any change in mindset or acceptance of a new form of a food was progress. Also recognising that for new foods even touching, selecting from afar, holding inside a plastic bag was progress.
What seemed like no progress at all when broken down like this meant she was actually taking minuscule steps forward and this gave me the impetus to keep trying with her.
I continued to cook with her but have mostly allowed her to choose what she cooks, this has still resulted in her trying new things she will eat as dough but not when cooked.
I insisted she feed her pet rabbit vegetables every day. For years she would not touch them, but use tongs to put them in a bowl then tip them into her rabbit’s cage. Over the past 12 months she shifted to picking them up in paper towel and then eventually holding kale, broccoli in her bare hands but not carrots. These are tiny steps I would not have viewed as progress without your encouragement.
A year down the track, she does not eat fruit or vegetables but leaves them on her plate instead of pushing them off with her cutlery, can hold them, sometimes cut them up, taste them with encouragement and occasionally, when starving eat them when paired with a food she likes (for example, onions sitting on steak).
She has tried many more foods in the last 12 months than the 5 years prior to that. These are not always foods I value highly but it has really enabled her to gain confidence in her ability to eat something she has not tried before. So, if she asks for a doughnut with icing instead of plain, I just let her try it. Also, to know some new things taste good, so less anxiety about new foods. My mantra has been ‘you have not tried that before so you can’t be sure you don’t like it yet’ as there is still a lot of ‘no way, I don’t like this’.
As a point of reference she ate pasta, 1 type of crackers, butter, tomato sauce and sausages and 1 specific type of bread roll from 1 bakery and nothing else much a year ago. Would not even try lollies or chocolate for example.
Today while shopping she asked to buy tuna sushi (has never eaten tuna, rice or seaweed) and prawns to see how they changed colour when cooked. She actually tried the sushi but didn’t like the fishy taste (yet, I said!). She picked up a prawn and put it on her plate. She cut it up to see what the texture was like but didn’t want to try it ‘yet’.
It may not look like progress to parents of regular eaters but for me it was a huge relief to know that with support, one day she will eat a range of foods. It will take years and will only ever be on her own terms, but your book enabled me to see how to make a path forward for her.
My wish is for her to feel relaxed around a variety of foods, enjoy and be able to join in social occasions around food easily and to be able to experience new places and cultures through food. I think she is ever so slowly on her way.
With deep gratitude for your advice and simple, practical approach.
What we can learn from Andrea’s story
1. Having an extremely picky eater is HARD, Andrea admits that it challenges her on a daily basis. But, she has made progress – her daughter has eaten onions!! – and continues to do so. Andrea knows it’s still a long road, but she also believes that the effort is so worth it.
2. Looking in from outside what strikes me as the most important message that we can take away from this is in helping a super picky eater is that understanding what progress is can make all the difference. Winner Winner I Eat Dinner is all about the seven, simple, steps to success with eating: https://theconfidenteater.com/winner-winner-i-eat-dinner/
Step 1 is on the table and Step 7 is eating. There are many steps in between and understanding that is critical. Andrea got this and it enabled her to keep going. It wasn’t about Ruby eating, it was about a change in her comfort level, reducing the anxiety and being able to do new things, like handle the greens for the rabbit.
The change in approach, over time lead to eating.
3. If you have a child who is obviously really challenged around food (and you will know if this is the case), do think about looking for support early. Andrea regrets not intervening earlier – perfect hindsight is a wonderful thing! In my experience, it is also really common for children’s eating to get more, rather than less challenged over time, just as Ruby’s did.
*Andrea was really happy for me to share her story and wants it to give hope to parents of older children with food challenges. She is also conscious of protecting her daughter’s privacy, so names have been changed.
Judith is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.
Judith is also mum to two boys and is the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner.
Learn more about Judith here: https://theconfidenteater.com/about/