how to raise a happy healthy eater
If you are like a lot of families out there, you have probably screamed out, "Help! My child only eats chicken nuggets? What can I do?!"
This is such a common question I hear quite often. The dreaded chicken nugget food jag. You tried making your own chicken nuggets, different brands of chicken nuggets, making chicken nuggets into fun shapes, pretending the store ran out of chicken nuggets, tricking your kids with a vegetable version of the chicken nuggets, punishing them for not eating foods other than chicken nuggets.....Usually, it doesn't work.
So what's so darn special about chicken nuggets that kids won't eat anything else??
The answer is kind of complex actually!
You first have to really understand the chicken nugget. Now when people say chicken nuggets, that is pretty broad. They usually mean : A Tyson chicken nugget from the brown box with the dinosaur shapes in the 2nd aisle into the frozen food section, baked at exactly 350 degrees for exactly 15 minutes. Kind of specific, right?
They are referring to something fairly uniform in shape, easy to fit in the hand of a child, very soft, and usually found in the frozen food aisle. This is different than to say a small piece of chicken from a restaurant, or a home cooked chicken nugget.
Kids can spot the imposter nugget a mile away!
A chicken nugget from McDonald's, or in the frozen food aisle, those squishy things with a little crunch on the outside, that is basically predigested food.
No, I don't mean someone ate them - ew!
I mean the consistency is that of predigested food. It is already mostly broken down. Your child barely has to do any work at all to get those things down. It's also comforting because the shapes and size is consistent. It is 'safe' in their eyes. Their body can handle it, they don't have to think too much- it's a winner.
The reason this type of nugget is special to your child has to do with your child's sensory and oral motor needs and abilities. Children with poor oral motor skills that have difficulty properly chewing food and moving it around in their mouth will gravitate towards these softer, easier foods to eat because it requires less work.
That's why it is so important that when you see a child who's diet is mainly soft predigested foods like chicken nuggets, or hard but meltable foods like puffs and veggie sticks, or soft pureed foods, you get them into feeding therapy STAT! These are all red flags that the child's body is struggling to properly chew and manipulate food in their mouth. To find a provider near you, check out the SOS feeding therapist provider search! SOS therapists are trained specifically in techniques to tap into your child's sensory system to desensitize them while also targeting the oral motor skills needed to advance the child onto more complex foods and textures.
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We teach you how to move your child from being 'picky' to exploring and enjoying all types of foods. Contact us to work with us directly, or you can also learn how to work with your child yourself using our proven strategies in our self-paced parent course.
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Christine Miroddi Yoder is a parent and feeding expert. She is the author of the book Mealtime Mindset and the Podcast How to Un Picky Your Picky Eater and owner of the feeding clinic Foodology Feeding Therapy.