Five Ways to Help My Picky Eater at Thanksgiving

Five ways to help your picky eater enjoy the Thanksgiving meal.

Olivia Sabol, OTS

11/23/20221 min read

Five Ways to Help My Picky Eater At Thanksgiving

Holiday meals are loaded with new and different sensory input such as the smell, texture, look, and taste of the food served. And that is just the sensory input from the food! There are also new, loud conversations, a much harder chair to sit on, or a different candle in the house to smell. Thanksgiving can be a difficult meal for your child with sensory processing challenges especially if they are a picky eater. Here are five tips to help prepare your picky eater for Thanksgiving dinner!

  1. Play with Food

    Make food fun! This is the time to play with your food! Having your child play with their thanksgiving food before the actual meal can be super helpful. Cooking together is a great way to let you child feel the texture of the flour and eggs on their hands or smell the pumpkin puree before it is time to eat the final dish. These sensory experiences while playing and having fun with food can help prepare your child for eating the final dish. Trying these foods before the actual meal with family can also help your child become more familiar with the foods and what to expect during the holiday celebration.

  2. Let Your Child be in Control.

    If your child’s favorite food is bread or ice cream, then let your child be in charge of what type of bread or what type ice cream will be served at Thanksgiving. This will allow your child to have some autonomy in what they eat, and you will know that there are at least one or two safe food items that your child will eat for the holiday meal. \

    Serving food buffet style can also help your child pick what they want to eat without any pressure to take what they do not want to eat. Thanksgiving dinner includes more sensory input than just the food. Let your child wear their favorite shirt or bring their favorite stuffed animal. There is no reason for them to wear the itchy holiday sweater if it will bother them the entire dinner and make it more difficult for them to tolerate the other sensory experiences. '

  3. Sensory Experiences before the Meal.

    Swinging on the swing at the park, jumping on the trampoline, or a massage before Thanksgiving dinner can help your child enter the event with a calm body. These calming sensory experiences before the big meal can help regulate and better prepare them for all the sensory input they are about to experience.

  4. Bring Back-ups.

    Have some “safe foods” that you know your child will be comfortable eating, if they are overwhelmed by the Thanksgiving meal. It is okay if the calories are from non-traditional Thanksgiving foods.

  5. Talk with Relatives Beforehand.

    Not everyone understands sensory processing challenges. Your Aunt may wonder why your child will not eat the dish they brought, why your child is covering their ears, or why your child does not like a tight hug. Let your relatives know beforehand that your child will make their own food choices and to not pressure them to try anything they do not want to try.

Written by Olivia Sabol, OTS

Stefanie Larsen, MS, OTR/L