The first thing most people think of when Thanksgiving approaches is the feast that awaits. However, if your child is a picky eater, you might be struggling to find Thanksgiving dinner ideas and fun ways to incorporate holiday traditions while ensuring your child gets enough to eat.
Here are a few tips from Northern Nevada Medical Center registered dieticians Nicole Bustamante, RDN, LD, Janine Gonzalez, RDN, LD, Chelsea Minifie, RDN, LD, Lauren Stephens, RDN, LD, Marissa Weaver, MS, RD, LD, and Kaitlyn Solomon for determining if your child might be a picky eater and Thanksgiving dinner ideas to encourage child involvement during the holidays.
While some children go through phases of only eating specific items, others experience unique eating habits for extended periods of time. This increased length in food preference may signify a picky eater.
A few signs a child might be a picky eater include:
Gagging or throwing up at the sight, smell, touch, or taste of certain foods.
Only eating specific food textures or avoiding certain textures, such as blended, crunchy, or smooth foods.
Has less than 20 foods they will eat.
Has a meltdown or major tantrums when they are asked to eat or interact with a new food.
Refusing to eat in social settings, like a birthday party or restaurant.
How to Help Your Picky Eater During the Holidays
It might be challenging to introduce new foods to your picky eater during the holidays. Here are a few Thanksgiving dinner ideas to make meal prep easier for your family.
Introduce A New Food Alongside A Safe Food
If your child likes dinner rolls, try offering one with a spread that introduces them to new flavors. Ideas include jam, Nutella, butter, or a flavored cream cheese. This can be less overwhelming when trying a new food since your child already has a positive experience with their safe food.
Encourage Your Child To Cook Alongside You
Allowing your child to participate in age-appropriate tasks, such as washing vegetables, stirring, or arranging food on the plate may help increase their interest in trying new foods and empower them to take ownership of their meals. Having more control over their food during prep and having a say in what to eat increases your child’s likelihood of trying and eating the new food.
Model Balanced Eating Habits
Instead of categorizing foods into good vs. bad, it is best to talk about food in other ways. This can include a food’s smell, texture, shape or color, which may decrease the chances of your child rejecting a food simply because it’s “healthier” for them.
Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas for Picky Eaters
Here are a few of our Thanksgiving dinner ideas to bring fun to the table during the holidays while respecting your child’s food preferences.
Play with different shapes, dips or sprinkles. Who says you cannot add sprinkles to mashed potatoes or a vegetable you are serving at Thanksgiving dinner? A simple technique like this brings color and creativity to a food item that may be unfamiliar to your child.
Switch it up
Test different cooking or prep methods when offering new foods. Offer carrots steamed or roasted with minimal toppings, keep them raw and add a dip, or cut into shapes.
Start with smaller portions of new foods. Big portions can be intimidating while small portions can help build your child’s confidence. At Thanksgiving, use a divided plate for children or allow them to use their favorite plate for added familiarity.
Keep offering foods. It can take up to 20 exposures, which include seeing, touching, watching someone else eat, or picking it up, before a child accepts the food.
Prioritize Time Together
The holidays can be a special time for families to spend together and it’s important to remember your child’s boundaries when curating your Thanksgiving dinner. Keep mealtimes fun and food neutral and use some of our Thanksgiving dinner ideas for a fun, unique, and healthful family meal.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.