Broccoli Boot Camp
Post by Laura Seiverling
A Ball State University special education professor has co-authored a comprehensive guide for parents who want their picky children to diversify their diets.
Broccoli Boot Camp: Basic Training for Parents of Selective Eaters presents commonsense methods to successfully expand children’s diet and preferences for healthy foods.
The materials were developed by Laura Seiverling, a special education professor in Ball State’s Teachers College, in partnership with Keith Williams, a pediatrics professor at the Penn State College of Medicine.
Why is selective eating a problem?
Research has shown that it’s not that children reject what their parents serve, but instead, parents tend to serve the foods that they know their children will eat. And, research has shown that preparing “special meals,” or meals that are separate from the family meals, are associated with limited diets in children.
In particular, children tend to show most resistance to eating fruits and vegetables. The key to developing a preference for any new food is repeated taste exposure. In general, a food must be tasted between 10-15 times in order for someone to develop a preference to that food. Most parents often give up after three or fewer exposures if their children did not appear to like the particular food.
Why did you write Broccoli Boot Camp?
A recent study showed 1 in 5 children never eat vegetables (except for potato products like fries and chips). We know selective eating is a significant problem and one parents often want to address. We also know that while there are plenty of general suggestions out there on addressing food selectivity, picky eating, or selective eating, there are few resources for families and/or caregivers which provide interventions that are comprehensive, structured, and systematic. That is why we wrote Broccoli Boot Camp. This book was originally designed as a parent resource for patients seen in our clinical practices. We have made it more widely available so families can help their children learn to eat a range of healthy foods in the home setting hopefully without the need of additional clinical intervention.
A few easy steps for parents to get their children to try new foods!
- Repeated taste exposure is key. All of the interventions in Broccoli Boot Camp are designed to increase the likelihood that children will repeatedly taste new foods.
- Introducing small bites of new foods is a good way to start. Initially bite sizes can be as small as a grain of rice. Only after a child starts tasting small tastes without difficulty, gradually increase bite sizes (e.g., grain of rice pea-size biteshalf spoonful)
- Positive reinforcement can be a helpful tool. Many selective eaters are not intrinsically motivated to eat new foods. The use of positive reinforcement such as verbal praise or brief access to preferred activities for tasting new foods, will often provide the motivation needed for a child to initially taste new foods. After a child tastes a new food on multiple occasions, he or she will likely develop a preference for that food and begin to eat it as part of his or her regular diet.
- What parents say and do during mealtimes matters. Focus on reinforcing the behaviors you want to see improve during mealtimes and avoid getting into “mealtime battles” with your child at the dinner table. If your child exhibits behaviors such as screaming and crying during mealtimes, you do not need to respond in kind.
More information can be found at www.broccolibootcamp.com
Ordering information can be found here:
A 6-hour “on-demand” webinar about the interventions in Broccoli Boot Camp given by Dr. Williams and Dr. Seiverling is available until the end of March. Information about this workshop and purchasing information can be found here: