12 Feeding Goals for Picky Eaters

Many people struggle with feeding their picky eaters. Find out what the best hacks are for getting them to try new foods they might not otherwise like and make sure you’re doing everything possible to help your child grow up healthy.

The “sos feeding goal examples” is a list of 12 feeding goals for picky eaters. The list includes: “eat more fruits and vegetables,” “try new foods,” “eat breakfast every day,” and more.

12 Feeding Goals for Picky Eaters

Get motivated with this list of feeding objectives for finicky eaters, which is ideal for OTs and speech therapists working with children.


If you came here via a google search for feeding objectives for finicky eaters as an occupational therapist (OT) or speech-language pathologist (SLP), you’ll find a number of examples below.  

But this is also a parent-friendly piece, since I believe that knowing and understanding what your child’s feeding therapist is working on, as well as what sorts of objectives you can set in your own house, albeit maybe not as officially, is really beneficial.  

I’ve developed MANY feeding goals for finicky eaters or kids who struggled to eat more than a few items in my almost 18 years as an occupational therapist.


Is it necessary to set feeding goals for all picky eaters?

Picky eating is a broad word that refers to everything from a youngster who refuses to eat veggies to a child who gags at the sight of unfamiliar meals. 

Picky eaters who need feeding goals have very restricted diets, which are affecting their development and height and/or generating substantial stress in the child’s or family’s daily lives.  

Feeding issues are frequent in children with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, or sensory processing disorders. However, many children who are otherwise growing normally may have eating challenges.

If you’re a parent and aren’t sure where your kid fits on this spectrum, do our picky eating test to see which group your child belongs in.

PFD, ARFID, Problem Feeders, and Extreme Picky Eaters are all terms for those who have a hard time eating certain foods.

Fortunately, we now have a real feeding disorder diagnosis for kids who are difficult to consume a range of foods, which is Pediatric Feeding Disorder, which describes the problem much better than “picky eating” (PFD).  

Previously, therapists used labels like problem feeders and severe picky eaters to describe children who had a hard time eating due to sensory processing issues, oral motor skills issues, or physical ailments.

Those words are still used for kids who don’t have the diagnosis but have fewer than 20 items in their diet and show strong responses to new or different meals, or who consistently refuse to eat new or different foods.  

ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) is an eating disorder similar to anorexia and bulimia, however it is not a feeding disorder. This diagnosis describes children who have irrational fears about food, such as believing it is unsafe, and who do not have any underlying medical, oral motor, or sensory issues that impair their eating.  

Feeding Matters, a non-profit organization, offers excellent graphics that highlight the differences between ARFID and PFD.   


When Should You Set Feeding Objectives for Picky Eaters?

When a skilled therapist assesses a child’s feeding, the objectives should be established at or after the first feeding exam. In certain cases, a different therapist than the one who will be working on the objectives in the therapy session may establish the goal.


Changing Picky Eater Feeding Goals

If the treating feeding therapist does not believe the objective is appropriate, discuss it with the family at the 3-month review.

Parents, too, should have a voice in the objectives and believe that they are acceptable for their children. Parents may and should communicate their concerns to the feeding therapist who is working with their kid if the objective is too “easy” or “hard.” It’s critical that your objectives be achievable.

A pediatric feeding therapist is usually an occupational therapist or speech therapist, although it may also be a nutritionist or even a psychologist in rare situations. Whatever their experience, therapists should have specialized and advanced training in assisting children with fussy eating and feeding issues. 


How to Establish Feeding Objectives for Picky Eaters

There are several factors to consider when a therapist creates a new feeding goal for a picky eater:

1. What are the parent’s and/or child’s priorities?

  • When therapists notice a kid’s problem or struggle, they often see all of the things they can do to assist the child right now. That’s not a terrible thing, but if we go on without first determining the priorities of the family and the kid, we’ll be missing the purpose. Parents are also less likely to be involved in their children’s therapy and to continue it at home.

2. What is achievable or realistic? 

  • It’s vital that the objective be attainable with assistance; otherwise, everyone will be upset and disappointed as they attempt to accomplish a goal that is much too difficult. As previous objectives are achieved, new ones may be set. 

3. How can you tell whether something is measurable?

  • Feeding objectives must have a quantitative component so that therapists may determine whether or not a kid has succeeded. The aim should be objective rather than subjective.  

4. How long will you track your progress toward this goal?

  • Because intervention tactics involve time and consistency, most feeding objectives should be spread out over many months. However, depending on the feeding therapy environment and the circumstances of the family, you may have shorter or longer time periods and a greater number of trials as part of your aim. 

5. Apply your clinical expertise, education, and assessment findings to evaluate how much, if any, support a kid will need to achieve the objective.  

  • When using any of the above factors to create your objective, make sure it matches with what you noticed during the assessment or that it is supported by data and/or your clinical judgment, if applicable. This covers whether or whether they’ll need physical aid or verbal signals.

For example, the family may express a strong desire for their kid to consume more protein sources, but the examination reveals that their oral motor skills are lacking. This will allow you to customize the objective to include “soft or pureed proteins.” 


Feeding Goals for Picky Eaters in Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy

As you strive to set your feeding objectives for finicky eaters, remember to follow the five stages listed above. They may be modified to fit a number of situations. Age, skill level, underlying reason, and time span all influence feeding goals:


1. Ava will accept (1/2/3) new items on her plate without tossing them away while eating her favorite dish during meals in 1/3 trials with (25/50/75%) physical support and (25/50/75%) verbal signals so she may get used to being around various foods.

2. Logan will touch two new foods in four out of five trials without direct physical or verbal prodding, which might be construed as pressure, but with 25/50/75 percent modeling via play and culinary activities so that he can develop familiar with the textures of a larger range of foods. 

3. At 3/4 trials, Sam will sit at the table for meals in his (classroom/home/café) without getting up more than once, with (25/50/75%) physical support and (25/50/75%) verbal instructions, so he can participate in the mealtime experience with his family and consume his food. 

4. With (25/50/75%) physical support and (25/50/75%) verbal signals, Leah would chew (soft cooked cubed meals/hard crunchy foods/mixed texture foods) without gagging and securely swallowing in 4/5 trials, enabling her to consume a larger range of foods and improve her nutrition. 

5. Chase will seal his lips and swallow pureed foods/stage 1 baby food without spitting out or gagging in 2/3 trials when provided (25/50/75%) physical help and (25/50/75%) verbal signals, allowing him to wean himself off his feeding tube. 

6. Savannah will consume diced foods with a fork in 3/4 trials with (25/50/75%) physical support and (25/50/75%) verbal signals, allowing her to eat independently during meals. 

7. Given 0% physical help and 0% verbal signals (both of which would be a pressure method), James will independently consume 1 new protein as part of his meal in 2/3 trials so that he may broaden his choice of meals and acquire more nourishment.  

8. When at least one preferred food is provided in 4/5 trials with 0% physical assistance and 25/50/75 percent verbal cues, Maddie will sit down and eat the same meal as the rest of the family without yelling, allowing her to learn to tolerate a wider range of foods rather than just specific meals that are different from the rest of the family.

9. Given 25/50/75 percent physical help and 25/50/75 percent verbal signals, Conner will drink 1 oz of milk from a straw cup without coughing in 3/4 trials, allowing him to wean from his bottle and begin to eat milk with his meals. 

Melanie will use her hands to feed herself finger foods in 4/5 trials if she is provided (25/50/75%) physical support and (25/50/75%) verbal signals, allowing her to feed herself independently and accept additional food textures. 

11. Jake will willingly touch a new meal to his lips in 2/3 trials without any verbal encouragement or physical aid (since this would be pressure) in order to endure the sensory input from the food and ultimately be able to consume it. 

12. With (15/50/75%) verbal cues and (25/50/75%) physical support, Ella will take two tiny bits of a new meal, chew it well, and swallow it so that she may work on handling greater amounts of food as her oral motor skills grow.

Do you have any ideas for your own feeding objectives for fussy eaters? Let us know what you come up with and if you have any queries in the comments! 


What I Mean When I Say “No Pressure” When It Comes to Feeding Picky Eaters

I follow Ellyn Satter’s research, and my treatment techniques are based on the Responsive Feeding movement and the SOS approach to feeding, which is why “not pressing” is included in numerous of the feeding objectives for finicky eaters.  

While some OTs and speech language pathologists still employ classic feeding therapy behavioral tactics, I believe that those who desire to utilize a positive child-directed strategy for treatment may be inclined to push during data collection of these objectives.  

If I say the aim is to contact lips, take a little bite, or even lick a meal, I want to make clear that I’m not sitting across from a kid and urging them to do it all the time, and I’m not praising them when they do. Instead, I’m working on kids discovering food on their own via food play, cooking, sensory bins, and other methods.  

Find out more about this finicky eating strategy.

If a youngster lacks the motor skills to feed themselves, seal their lips, or chew, you may need to provide physical assistance and verbal signals to help them finish the activity at hand.  


Take advantage of the Feeding Therapy Ideas Printable.

If you’re a feeding therapist, print out this unique feeding therapy printable: Ideas for Feeding Therapy (with Printable Oral Motor Exercises)

If you’re a parent, this version of the printable will be beneficial to you as well. The parent version is available here! 


Detailed information on Feeding Therapy for Picky Eaters may be found here.

For babies and toddlers, there are eight major feeding red flags to be aware of.

3 Ways to Tell whether Your Feeding Therapist Is Good

How to Transition Your Child From Tube Feeding to Oral Feeding

The Complete Guide to Self-Feeding for Babies and Toddlers



Overstuffing your baby or toddler can be dangerous. Here are 12 feeding goals for picky eaters you should set. Reference: feeding goals for overstuffing.

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