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Tips when using nutritional supplements with picky eaters.

Photo Copyright: luckyraccoon

Many parents ask, Should I give my picky eater supplements such as PediaSure or high caloric formulas like Duocal? Here are a few tips to help you decide.

Ask your child's pediatrician. They can give you good insight as to whether your child would benefit from supplements to gain weight, such as (pediasure, high calorie formula, duocal). If kids are consistently gaining weight and growing they may not need it, Inform your child's pediatrician of any changes or struggles with your child's diet.

Average or over weight picky eater? If your child is at average weight or overweight they don't necessarily need supplements or meal replacements. These high calorie shakes or formulas may keep their weight up and relieve parents when their kids don't eat well. But it won't help them become a better or less picky eater.

Is your child a drooler, not able to chew well or unable to drink from a straw? They may have oral motor weakness. Feeding your child solids helps increase oral motor skills needed for feeding and speech purposes. During meals your child may increase lip strength by sealing lips onto a spoon, spit foods he doesn't like out and strengthen their chewing skills. Solid food feedings and straw or cup drinking will help give them the necessary skills.

Does your child have sensory issues? If your child doesn't like their face or mouth touched, doesn't eat certain textures, consistencies, or temperatures they may have sensory issues. Although they have this it is important to slowly desensitize them and to continue to provide feedings with solid foods. We need to make feeding a wonderful experience where they can explore, play and chew on different foods.

Is it replacing a meal? Supplements should not replace solid feedings. Supplements should not be used as meal replacements unless otherwise specified by your child's doctor. Many supplements are given in liquid form so they don't require chewing and effort to consume. A solid meal gives picky eaters practice with eating foods of different flavors, textures and consistencies. There are many ways of adding extra calories to foods Picky eaters need to consistently keep trying new foods and get used to feeling a variety of textures, consistencies, temperatures and flavors in their mouth. Three to four solid feedings a day is the usual recommendation.

Have you looked at the nutrition label? Take a look at the sugar content. They may be high in calories but are also loaded with sugar. While you're at it take a look at the ingredients. Try not to give sugary drinks In a bottle. If you have to because your child can't drink from a cup just make sure you brush their teeth afterwards in order to prevent tooth decay.

Does your child drink meals? If your child is of age and can safely eat solid foods don't give in to liquid meals. Drinking two to three cups of milk is more than enough when they are eating solids. Many times these supplements are given because their child usually refuses foods. Drinking a meal is easier and faster to consume than eating solids. They get a larger amount of calories at a faster rate and if these supplements are given before their meals they will decline solid foods altogether because they don't feel the hunger.

I hope these tips will be useful when making an informed decision on the use of supplements with your picky eater. If you have any questions I may be contacted at

By Carmen Fantauzzi MS CCC-SLP

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