food — with the child’s knowledge — as baby steps to make the food more approachable,” Zucker notes.
Another important factor: ensuring that mealtime has a consistent structure. About 40% of those surveyed said that knowing what to expect at mealtimes was helpful in making them — as kids — feel that they were being asked or encouraged to eat something, rather than forced.
The survey results reflect the fact that “individuals are more likely to repeat things that they enjoy and to stop doing things that they find aversive,” Zucker says.
Her advice: Aim at slowly expanding a child’s food horizons through encouragement and support, rather than by mandating a quick fix.
“When a child has ARFID, not only does the child experience impairment, but parents can suffer tremendous emotional losses and grieve the absence of enjoying delicious food with their children,” Zucker acknowledges. “It is understandable that parents would wish that a switch would flip” from one day to the next.
But while “their consumption of, and attitude towards, a variety of foods can indeed change,” the process is more likely to unfold “as a journey, rather than a breakthrough,” she explains.
“Nobody likes being told what to do,” Lona Sandon, program director of the department of clinical nutrition at the school of health professions at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas says.
“That includes being told what to eat whether you are a kid or an adult,” Sandon stresses. “If you have aversions to certain tastes, textures, colors or smells of foods, feeling forced to eat something is just going to increase anxiety around eating and make things worse.”
Her advice: “Whether you have just a picky eater or a child with ARFID, it is important to not turn mealtimes into a power struggle. The key