No pressure feeding is essential to helping young children overcome anxiety enough to pique their interest in trying new foods. Older kids, the tweens, teens and young adults can be a different matter. Having lived with a limited diet for a much longer time makes changing the short list of safe foods that much harder.
One adult picky eater recommends a slow, progressive and pressure free approach to trying new food and has allowed me to reprint and share his suggestions.
“The best way I have found to combat SED is like this:
- Change your mindset about trying food. If you try a piece of something and don’t like it, it isn’t a failure. It’s in fact a huge success, you’ve over come the anxiety which is the biggest problem.
- Little steps are key. First handle the food, see what it feels like in your fingers, smell the food, try and pick out different ingredients for example, then taste the food and I literally mean just lick it or put a teeny tiny bit on your tongue. Don’t jump in too deep just yet.
- Next, just cut a tiny piece of food, like the size of a blob of toothpaste, and put it on your tongue and close your mouth around it. Don’t swallow or chew it. Let your mind know it’s safe. If you feel uncomfortable just spit it out. Don’t feel bad about spitting it out, you just had a new food in your mouth! Be proud about it!
- Try and bite the food, see how it reacts to your teeth cutting it. Don’t chew it, unless you feel comfortable doing so. Again spit it out if you want, you’ve just made a huge improvement by biting into something new.
- Next bite into it and chew. By now, you should be fairly comfortable with whatever you’re trying and can swallow it. If you can do that, then well done! You’ve added a new safe food, now to keep eating it and incorporating it into your diet.
- A key thing to remember (and I find this helps immensely, yet I’ve seen people ignore this) is to try something you like the look or the smell of. If you can’t stand the smell of something (like fish or onions or whatever) chances are you might not like the taste. Better to start with something you think you’ll like, it makes the whole process a lot easier.
You might need to try each step several times in order to move on. I did this with apples. First I cut up an apple into slices and chunks then smelled it and I licked a bit to see what the flavour was like and to feel the texture on my tongue. Once I did that I moved onto cutting a little piece and placing it in my mouth. It took several attempts and several apples to get comfortable keeping it there.
If you feel your anxiety levels rising take some slow, deep breaths. If it’s really bad, then stop all together and try another time. Biting into an apple made me gag the first 2 or 3 times but now I can do it quite comfortably. You just need to get past the first few attempts to get rid of the anxiety. Once in your mind you know its safe to do, it becomes really easy. Swallowing it is still a bit of a problem but I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
If I didn’t use this method I wouldn’t have been able to try apples, bananas, grapes, raisins, blueberries, melon, raspberries, carrots, celery, lettuce, baked beans, tomato soup and loads more. If you struggle looking for foods you think you might like, try having a walk around supermarkets and look at pieces of fruit, veg, meats, cheeses, packages meals or ask someone close to recommend something they like. Look in recipe books which have pictures, or the Internet is full of pictures. I have a huge folder on my laptop full of beautiful pictures of all kinds of foods I want to eventually try.
I would love to hear your comments on your progress.