How can I handle going out for meals?

Going out for meals can be a source of anxiety for parents of picky eaters and for picky eaters themselves. Holidays away from home can be a particular concern because a child may not be able to access their most familiar foods for a week or two. Having a successful meal out with a picky eater may need to you to prioritise and decide what success would look like for you. 

Is your aim just for everyone to have a nice time and relax? That could be the priority with a child who has little experience of eating in different settings. To achieve this you might decide to take food with you from home that your child can eat. The downside might be though that your child will learn that this is possible on meals out in the future! Alternatively, you might feel the cafe has some the required ingredients to make something that your child would find acceptable, but its just not offered on the menu. The best thing is to plan ahead and find a solution by speaking to staff at the café in advance. 

We see examples of this already of cafes anticipating picky eating children with the provision of “Children’s menus”. These can be part of the solution but perhaps also part of the problem if your child is only a bit picky and could have successfully eaten from the regular menu!

Is your aim to broaden your child’s eating habits by having a meal out in a different setting? If so, you might want to study menus carefully in advance so that you feel there are options that might represent something new, but still be achievable in terms of idea, appearance, taste and texture. Their most familiar foods are likely to be in the cupboard, fridge or freezer at home, but possibly not in the café, depending on where you choose. Even for very picky eaters, a new setting like a café can be an opportunity for change.