At Learn 2 Focus, I’ve met many children with sensory issues who happen to also have extremely limited diets, eating unhealthy, processed foods such as chicken nuggets, fries, chips and more. Even those children who have been placed on gluten-free or dairy-free diets still tend to eat “kid-friendly” meals that are pretty high on the carb scale and lacking in more a more nutritious, well balanced diet including fruits and vegetables.
We know kids can be picky eaters, and it’s important for us as parents and caregivers to address problematic feeding behaviors. But how? It’s all too easy to give up and say, “You don’t have to eat it,” when your child makes a fuss at the dinner table and you just want peace and quiet. We certainly can’t force our children to eat something they don’t like the taste, texture, or look of the food. For children with sensory issues, this can be particularly problematic. Sadly, this leads to poor diets lacking in veggies and fruits.
BUT! It is possible for us to teach children about food and help them to grow to love a variety of foods. How? We get creative! Teach them not only how food tastes, but help them explore how our teeth can crunch food, how food can be manipulated with our hands, explore how food smells and more. This is called a sensory approach to feeding, or feeding therapy, and is a great way to help kids with SPD to overcome any fears or dislikes they might have towards certain foods.
For example, let’s take apples. It’s a fruit full of Vitamin C and fiber, a perfect snack alternative to regular Doritos chips. But some children dislike apples because it’s too bland for their tastes, or they don’t like the texture. Explore options like eating apple chips or leaving the apple peel on for extra crunch (and fiber!). This changes the texture of the apple, and might encourage your child to learn to love the fruit. You can also try cutting up apples in non-wedge slices, like cubes or blocks, for children who don’t like the way it looks. Plus, they can have fun by playing with the blocks, stacking them up into shapes.
For kids who might not like chewing crunchy foods, incorporating apples into pies or baking them in the oven are great ways to soften the fruit up and bring out its natural sweetness. Apple sauce is usually the best way to introduce the flavor of the apple too, and helps younger children learn how to use a spoon.
For more tips, visit www.learntolovefood.com and let us know how you can get creative at the kitchen!