I can't count the number of times my 7 year old says, "I'm hungry." And I say, "What do you want to eat?" And he says "What do we have?" We, of course, repeat this dialogue several times a day.
Recently I decided to create him a menu. I typed up about 20-25 of his most common snacks and meals including several protein based foods, snacks, fruit, smoothies, etc.
I printed out the menu on our home computer. I then used my Scotch Thermal Laminator to seal it into a more durable menu for little hands.
Now, he knows where his menu is located in the house. I use a dry erase marker to cross off foods I don't have that day (e.g., if I run out of apples) or I add foods that I know we have that aren't on the list (e.g., at Thanksgiving we may have left over turkey). Then he can tell me specifically what he wants, even though I control what is on the list (offering healthy foods with a good mix of protein and healthy options).
Who would this help at home?
In the case of young children who can't read, try using a picture menu. You can either make a book of food in picture form (like a trifold menu) or you can print off various foods in picture form, laminate them separately, and use velcro to affix them onto the "menu for the day." So for one meal, you might affix options of cereal, eggs, toast, etc. For the next meal, you can affix different foods in picture form.
2. Individuals with Dementia
Many individuals with dementia have trouble knowing when they are hungry, what they are hungry for, and may even fail to initiate eating during the day. Some dementias produce specific difficulty with words, expression, or reading. In these cases, you can use a similar option where you list options for food in words or pictures to give them some control and option, but still assisting them in generating ideas.
3. Adults Trying To Eat Healthy
If you made a New Year's resolution to eat healthier, you may find yourself thinking, what is there to eat? You might want to use your cookbooks, websites, and Dr's advice to list some ideas on a menu for yourself. For example, you might make a "snacks" menu that gives you ideas for healthy options.
4. Adults with Learning Disabilities
I recently met a few adults who had language disabilities from birth. They have difficulty generating verbal words and ideas. They also have difficulty reading. A picture menu would be a great option in this case as well.