Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Practical Help for Picky Eaters: Part VIII

When my son was first diagnosed with a medically-related feeding problem one of the first things we did for him was start going to various Farmer's Markets in our area. I can't say we went every Saturday, but for one or two Saturdays a month we would take our entire family for a Farmer's Market Adventure. I personally enjoyed the entire experience and can't tell you enough how much the process helped our picky eater.

Farmer's Markets are the perfect atmosphere for non-threatening food interaction. We headed to the market with no specific agenda other than to let our son have as much exposure to as many foods as possible with absolutely no pressure to eat a thing. We would stop at various booths and allow him to bag some vegetables for us.

It was the most eye-opening experience to watch him throughout the process. Although he did not complain or object, he would grimace as he picked up a single green bean with the very tip of two fingers. We would hold the bag open for him, smile, and encourage him to gather more. The process was difficult for me to watch, but one-by-one, he gathered a pound of green beans for our family. I had no idea that just touching a single green bean would be so arduous for him. I would never have expected that, but watching him struggle helped my husband and me make sense out of his difficulty eating. If he experienced that much hardship in just touching various vegetables, then actually eating them would be so much more invasive to him.

As the summer progressed and as we frequented the Farmer's Markets more, our little guy's progress was obvious. Where he once was handling one green bean at a time, he now would grab a small handful. Where he once was grimacing and contorting his face, he now would smile. Where he once would have awkwardly approached a vegetable bin, he now would walk directly to one, closely inspect the contents, smell the vegetables, and ask questions about them.

The change was slow and it was not always obvious from one visit to the next. A large part of his change was from our attitudes. We never talked about the Farmer's Market as just his experience; it was a family adventure and we enjoyed ourselves while we were there. My husband would gather some vegetables that he would enjoy.

I would purchase some flowers that I would enjoy.

We donated a small amount to the balloon man and watched the balloon creations he made for the kids to enjoy.

We enjoyed the whole process, whether that meant watching Kettle Korn being made, purchasing snacks to eat as we walked from vendor to vendor, or allowing the kids to run and play at the adjacent park and/or water feature.

What you do there is not as important as making the experience your own family fun. What does it do for your picky eater? It provides opportunities for your picky eater to positively interact with food. Most food experiences for picky eaters and children with medically-related feeding problems are negative. To change their actual eating behavior, they must have positive interactions with food to draw upon. They must like food, associate good things with food, and have enough positive experiences with food to surpass the negative ones. Most food therapy happens away from the dinner table. If you are expecting change at the dinner table, learning and changing needs to happen other places, like the Farmer's Market.

For the best positive experience, go early when the crowds are not as thick and the selection is at its best. Bring a bag for carrying your purchases. Wear comfortable shoes. Pack sunscreen and water/drinks. Allow your picky eater to interact with food without pressure and persuasion. Ask your picky eater to help you bag fruits and vegetables. Naturally talk about the food, its colors and its smells. Talk about things you like as you see them. Have fun. Try to say "yes" as much as possible when your picky eater asks for something. Use reason and judgement, of course, but allow as much adventure as you and your family can create.

Whether you spend the entire morning/afternoon there or just an hour, the benefits will pay off for your picky eater. Plus, you have the opportunity to come home with some fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for your family and a day full of memories from some quality time spent together.

1 comment:

Jenn Scott said...

Hello : ) Sorry, I am new to your blog. I feel a little odd about posting some random tip until I have been a regular for a while, but life is short and I have time right now and perhaps not later. (Refer to 4 1/2 year old twin girls and almost 6 year old son.)

A good friend of mine posted a link to my Facebook account about the Cucumber-Honeydew-White Chocolate Icebox Portland Pie Off contest winner, she loves pie and obviously wanted me to make it for her lol. I strolled over to your blog and I have been reading your posts about "Picky Eaters". I have a child with Autism and some SID thrown in for a fun lol. : ) He is fairly self limited in food choice, gotta agree with you, the mixing food together does NOT go over well.

That being said, some of my son's food stuff is because he is intolerant of them. Have you ever had an IGG/IGE for food sensitivities run for your son? I just thought I would drop you a note and check. A lot of regular doctors don't know about it or question the validity of the results, although with all your specialist visits perhaps you do know about it. Simple blood draw, and not horridly expensive. It is how I found out I have celiac's disease personally.(Gluten intolerance is the short and sweet explanation but read up on it, quite fascinating.)

Just thought I would mention it in case it would be of help to you and your family. My Gabriel is actually horridly sensitive to eggs, wheat and dairy. Which is over the top, but not uncommon for folk on the spectrum.

My personal experience with my own diet, that of my children & several friends have had their tests done and consequent health issues linked to their diets have made me a believer in the general accuracy of these tests. Certainly with acid reflux it would be worth it to check, perhaps aggravating a condition with something you are unaware of.

I only mention this, not to get you worked up or worried, only because I wish someone had mentioned it to me sooner personally. We run a Gluten free, Dairy free, egg free household now. My husband can easily eat these things and not be bothered while the rest of us truly benefit. Most folks certainly don't have this laundry list of things to avoid but it has been a good thing for us. Because of Gabriel's autism we also don't do any food preservatives, artificial colorings or flavors, Nitrates/nitrites or MSG.

Sounds like you cook from scratch most of the time, brava! I understand what a challenge that is and how much fun as well. : ) I have enjoyed reading your blog, sorry I cannot eat that pie though, looks way yummy. Perhaps I will just make us some cucumber/honeydew sorbet though. Lovely combination! Although now that I think about it, I might be able to swing a coconut milk custard and a nut crust for the pie... hmmm

Have a delicious day!
~Jenn Scott o' Forest Grove