Having two children that struggle with sensory issues leads to challenges during meal time, snack time, and . . . basically any time of the day. It seems as though the more nutritious and healthy a food is for you (I’m looking at you broccoli), the more unappealing it is to kids who struggle with sensory integration.
Think about it, if you think something is funky one of the last things you would ever want to do is put it in your mouth. Kids who struggle with sensory integration seem to be on the lookout for any and every possible offender that might want to find its way into a kid’s mouth. The reason for such an increased desire is basically a survival tactic, if you think an unknown food may be poisonous, naturally you would keep it far away from your mouth so you don’t poison yourself. Unfortunately for kids with extreme sensory processing challenges, they have a super strength ability to ‘sense’ food that may be offensive to them, which in turn leads to an increased awareness and challenge in eating nutritionally dense foods. In other words they don’t want to eat that broccoli because their brain thinks the broccoli is going to poison them.
It’s my goal to limit the long-term health effects of my own children’s picky eating by implementing a variety of strategies to combat their sensory processing. It has been a long battle and we still continue to work toward increasing preferred healthy foods in their diets.
I am going to share some of the tips and tricks we have picked up along our journey of picky eating that make meal time easier and less stressful on everyone in the house.
Today’s tip is to expose your picky eater to healthier food through books. If these selective connoisseurs are only seeing a certain food that they constantly refuse at the dinner table, it is time to rebrand the food. More specifically make that food fun and cool.
The least offensive way to expose a picky eater to food is for them to experience it visually without the smell, remember if a food smells bad to a picky eater the battle has already been lost and the food is a goner. Visit the library, bookstores or check out Amazon. Don’t limit yourself to books about healthy eating, only focus on books that have images of food your picky eater does not currently eat.
The goal of reading these books is to enjoy a story with your kids that introduces them to names of fruits and vegetables in an enjoyable and no-stress way. They happily talk about the silly stories and the veggies that are characters in them. When I grocery shop with my picky eaters, I notice them name and talk about the fruits and veggies from the story. The hatred towards these innocent foods lessens making the battle of the picky eaters slightly less challenging.
Here is a sampling of a few of my favorite books to read with the kids to make broccoli and its friends cool again. Oh who am I kidding, broccoli was never cool, but it is great for your health!
Vegetables in Underwear – The highlight of my 4-year-old son’s nighttime routine. The book is exactly what its name says, vegetables in their underwear. Each page is one or more veggies wearing a variety of serious, small or silly underwear. I love that the author, Jared Chapman, used a nice variety of vegetables to model the boy and girl undies. This variety in vegetables is a nice addition for the most picky eater to see and read about.
– Charlie and Lola return in Lauren Child’s series of books. Lola is a fussy eater and Charlie is given the task of getting her to eat dinner. Charlie does his very own rebranding of the foods Lola refuses to eat by convincing Lola mashed potatoes are not mashed potatoes but cloud fluff, fish sticks are mermaid niblets, and carrots are orange twiglets grown on Jupiter. This is another enjoyable story about food and the sometimes silliness that comes from dealing with a picky eater.
– This story is wonderful! Sophie goes to the farmers market with her parents to pick out a vegetable for dinner and chooses a squash. Instead of eating the squash for dinner, though, Sophie makes a new best friend and names the squash Bernice. This is a sweet story of a little girl with a great imagination and how her parent try to problem solve the fact that her new best friend is a slowly decaying squash. For picky eaters, I especially love how the story highlights a family that goes to the farmers market.
Hopefully these books are just the start for you rebranding the fruits and veggies in your house. What stories does your picky eater love? Happy reading and eating!