Thanksgiving Feast and Selective Eaters


Feeding Selective Eaters at Thanksgiving!

If the thought of feeding your children during the Holiday season, brings a jolt of anxiety… you’re in the right place! (especially if they are selective or “picky” eaters)

The holidays can be such a beautiful time of year for some but for others, it is a season of stress. I, for one, LOVE the holiday season so I’m here to offer up a few ideas in hopes that you can enjoy them – at least not stress over the feasts!

Many of my clients love Thanksgiving (or other large family gathering) because there is so much food and they know that their kids will usually eat at least one or two items (commonly the pie, yum!)….but I certainly have some clients that….





For several reasons, really…but since I am a dietitian, I’ll focus on the food. 

WHAT?!??! You might be asking “But SARA! How could some people loath the Holidays because of the food!?!?!” 

If you feel that way, I’m happy for you!

It means that your kiddo will have at least one or two foods that they will eat and enjoy!

But what about some other kids?

Some kids will be filled with fear rather than pie?

And what can we do about them? 

I have a couple ideas to help you feel less stress and watch your child(ren) eat more food at family gatherings.

(and to be honest… these can go for pretty much anyone in the family, not just selective eaters):  

1. Prepare your child

Like seriously….TALK WITH THEM! No matter if they are 2 years or 12 years old. On your way to the dinner (or prior to hosting), talk with them about some of the foods, people, events, activities, etc to expect. 

Why?: We (humans) are more open to new experiences and exposures when we know what to expect. Think about the startle of running into your high school boyfriend at the farmer’s market – wearing zinc ox sunscreen on your face and a bike helmet…sweating in the summer heat. Suuuuper uncomfortable. Right? Fight or Flight or Freeze is in FULL effect. Don’t do that to your kid who is already hesitant around food and new things.     

2. Help Them Feel Brave

Make sure your child has something with them that makes them comfortable. This can be a stuffy animal, blanket….whatever. *Tech is a whole different story but if that is where they’re at right now – no judgment here.!

Why?: The point is to offer felt safety. Oftentimes, if they have that  “security blanket” like item, it helps them feel brave. Selective eaters aren’t trying to be picky… they might just need some additional support!

3. Offer  Preferred Food 

Ensure there will be at least ONE food they will eat. If you’re not hosting – it could be as easy as bringing the rolls or offering to bring an appetizer with a food they will eat.

Why?: they will want to be included and your child is surrounded by foods they don’t feel they can eat – they may feel further excluded. Not ideal.  

4. Remain calm.

Say it with me…”It is ONE meal”. 

Why?: I know this feels like a lot. Like a lot-a lot. And I know that even ONE meal can throw us all (especially for some of you who are working with me and know how important routine and structure can be). But truly – one meal is not going to make or break your hard work. And if they survive on rolls and pie – that is TOTALLY FINE! (now if they do that for more than a couple of days…call me!). 

5. Mind your words.

Keep as neutral as possible. Calling the pie “poison” or “fattening” and the veggies “healthy” doesn’t help anyone.

Why?: Kids don’t have the capacity to put any of that into context. And if that pie IS poison….then why the heck are you serving it to anyone? And all those veggies being “healthy” is so relative and your kids don’t understand any of it. It just villainizes some foods and virtues others.     

6. Protect your child from drama

Try to keep any tension/drama/violence at bay – or at least away from your child.

Why?: I think I could write a whole post about this but to sum it up…no matter what the drama (raised voices, arguments about politics, or drink too much…etc.), Keep in mind your child is associating ALL sorts of emotions and experiences with food. And the more tension, or other adverse experiences, the less will trust the rest of the process of eating.

Feeding kids and family at Thanksgiving or other celebrations
How you feed your family is more important then what you feed your family.

Hopefully this offers a good starting point for anyone challenged with a picky eater or a kiddo who doesn’t eat much.

Truth is, if you’re struggling with this… finding a professional who you trust might be lifechanging. And if you want to talk with ME, I’m accepting clients. Check out my 1:1 coaching or Compassionate Nutrition™ podcast style course.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts about these approaches! And maybe if you have tried them, practice them, or have others to add!

I’m so happy you’re here and hopefully you can cruise around my site to learn more about me and how I can help you!

I’m on most of the social platforms and you can get to know me and my family on Instagram and in my free Facebook group.

Join us!

Mommin’ ain’t easy. You’re doing awesome!

Be well,


Updated: 11/1/2023

Hi, I’m Sara Morrison! Pediatric & Family Dietitian and Mama of three.

I specialize in child & family nutrition, personalized anti-inflammatory eating patterns, and food parenting.