|Emran Kassin on Flickr|
As children, most of us ate what we were given or we went without. Our mothers didn’t offer up alternatives if we were unhappy with the main meal. Some people suggest that parents should feed their families the way we were fed – eat what you are given or go without. Although this tactic may work for some children, those with special needs require a different approach.
If your child won’t try certain foods or has a very limited diet, make sure that he doesn’t have any food allergies or other gastrointestinal problems. Even if a child is verbal, trying to explain that eating a certain food makes him feel sick is difficult. Your doctor can rule out any food allergies or other medical issues.
Many children with special needs have sensory issues and this exacerbates food issues. They are completely turned off by the colour, texture or smell of some foods before they even taste them.
Here are some tips
|Dylan Parker on Flickr|
- Try dips. Some children will eat vegetables or fruits if they can put dip on them. For variety use vegetable dip, salad dressing, different types of hummus, tzatziki and any other dips your children like.
- Encourage your children to cook! You can even start by having your child plan a menu, shop for the ingredients with you and then start cooking. Kids need to learn how to cook and sometimes they are more inclined to eat things they helped to cook.
- Invite a good eater over. If your child has a friend or relative around the same age who isn’t a fussy eater, invite that child over. Don’t make a fuss over what the other child does, just let your own child make her own observations.
- Hide a healthy food in another food. For example, add pureed vegetables to a sauce your child typically enjoys. Becareful with this tip because if your child detects the “healthy” food, he may become suspicious of other foods you give him.
- Set a good example. Make sure your children see you eating healthy too.
Digihanger on Pixabay
- Educate your child. Take time to discuss the role of nutrition with your child. Get some books from the library that discuss what foods your body needs and review them with your child from time to time.
- Just a taste! Sometimes your child will be willing to try something new if they know they only have to eat a very small amount to taste it and that if they don’t like it they don’t have to eat it.
- Most of the “experts” agree that you need to handle the eating situation in a calm manner. Don’t add additional anxiety to your child if he or she won’t try a new food. Try it again in a few weeks.
Here are some other ideas I’ve come across for trying to expand your picky eater’s diet.
|Public Domain Pictures-14 on Pixabay|
This is the process of slowly introducing a new food. Essentially, you introduce your child to the color, texture and smell of a food very slowly.
For example, if you were trying to get your child to eat a grape, you would start by putting a grape on the table near your child when he is eating. You make it clear to your child that you don’t expect him to eat the grape if he doesn’t want to. You then gradually move the grape closer to your child at different meal times. This is done once or twice a day for two to three weeks at which point the child may taste the grape. If the child enjoys social stories, incorporate them incorporated into this process.
For more on this technique see the Indiana Center for Autism website.
Tips from Autism Speaks.
Psychologist Emily Kuschner suggests a similar technique to food desensitivation. Her approach recommends letting a “child explore a new food by looking at it, touching it and smelling it” and then licking or kissing it before tasting the food.
She suggests changing the textures of food because the texture may be the reason the child won’t eat a food. For example with a tomato – try chopping or blending it and see if that makes a difference.
Play with food – have your child work with you and use pasta sauce to paint or use vegetables
to make faces.
If you’ve had this problem with your child, please share any techniques or tricks that worked for you.
©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action