How to Prepare for Thanksgiving with a Child who has Food Aversions

By AASLNovember 16, 2018

The holidays are upon us. Holidays mean travel, family, fun and best of all, lots of special foods and meals! If your child experiences aversions to foods, holidays can be a bit tricky…especially if you’re spending them with friends or relatives who don’t understand food aversions. Here are a few tips to help!

  1. Let your Child Make Decisions
    Holiday menus can be overwhelming for children with food aversions because they often contain many foods your child won’t eat. Find opportunities for your child to have ownership over the foods he or she does tolerate. If your child loves bread, consider allowing him or her to choose what type of bread you serve (or bring to) Thanksgiving dinner. Allow your child to decide on other foods, too. For instance, if you’re needing to choose which type of pie to make, give him or her three choices, let your child choose one, and allow him or her to help you make it. Even if your child may not eat what is created, he or she will likely feel more comfortable with the food on the table if they helped to select and make it.
  2. Experiment with Foods
    Definitely involve your child in the prepping and cooking of foods he or she won’t necessarily eat. Include him or her in the grocery shopping, and when it comes time to begin cooking, help him or her become familiar with the sight, smell, and feel of these foods. This exposure will expand horizons and allow your child to get more comfortable with these less familiar or nonpreferred foods. These desensitizing experiences lay the foundation for foods your child may be more willing to eventually try or eat, even if not on Thanksgiving.
  3. Have a Practice Thanksgiving Meal
    By having a practice Thanksgiving meal with your child before the big day, you can begin to get your child comfortable with how the day will go in a safe and non-threatening setting. While it’s unrealistic to cook a whole pre-Thanksgiving meal, choose a couple of your child’s preferred food items that will be served and 1-2 nonpreferred items so they can get used to the sights and smells of these items being present. Rehearse serving and eating behaviors before others are present. This dress rehearsal ahead of time will help to reduce anxieties or fear of the unknown that your child may experience.
  4. Think about the Day-of Delivery
    Remember, in the menu design process, to be sure to include multiple items you know your child will tolerate eating. On Thanksgiving day, serve food buffet style. That way, your child doesn’t have to eat out of a pre-served plate that contains non preferred foods and doesn’t even have to interact with foods he or she isn’t comfortable with. Let your child just choose what he or she likes with the expectation that he or she eat a meal. If your child does serve him or herself something new, be sure to reward them for tolerating or trying these new items!
  5. Make Expectations Clear
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