Parents of young children commonly commiserate about their kids’ eating habits. Complaints often relate to a child’s exceedingly limited “kid food” diet, rejection of anything green, refusal to try anything new or the explosive mealtime battles that make dinnertime stressful for everyone. I frequently encounter exasperated parents who – convinced they’ve tried everything – come to the conclusion that their child is constitutionally a “picky eater” who is incapable of expanding his horizons.
So I decided to roast-test this hypothesis with two experts in the field of feeding challenging eaters: Jessica Piatak, a pioneering occupational therapist, and Kristina Carraccia, an innovative speech therapist, both at The Center for Discovery, based in New York. Piatak and Carraccia specialize in working with children with severe developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and medical frailties and have developed an approach dubbed “Food Exploration and Discovery,” or “FED” for short. This approach has been used to successfully transition children with severe sensory and behavioral disorders from extremely limited diets comprised of two or three processed foods to varied, nutritious, whole foods-based diets. While some children take longer to transition than others, the duo has yet to meet a “picky eater” whose diet couldn’t be broadened with their gradual, personalized and flexible approach.