Parents of picky eaters are always looking for ideas of fruits, vegetables, and proteins that their kids will actually eat. Sometimes it’s not the taste of these foods that keep kids away. Instead, it can be the texture. Many proteins are dry or require a lot of chewing. Fruits and veggies have peels, complex textures, and also require a lot of skill to chew. All of these also change texture as they’re chewed. It’s a lot for a little mouth to handle! Especially if that mouth belongs to a child with sensory symptoms or oral motor deficits.
Proteins for Picky Eaters
Protein is a vital nutrient for kids - one they should be eating at every meal. Protein promotes growth. In the body it functions as hormones, enzymes, and transporters of other nutrients. Protein foods also help form new blood cells and body tissues, and they help the nervous system do its job.
I’ve shared some soft and crunchy proteins for specific sensory preferences before. This list is a little bit different. It straddles the two and is a happy medium of proteins that kids with low oral motor skills can easily handle.
Easy Protein Ideas for Kids with Oral Motor Delay or Sensory Symptoms
Hard boiled, chopped or sliced
Hard aged cheese (like Parmesan)
Sliced cheese – rolled, cut in strips or cookie cutter shapes
Yogurt (no fruit added)
Flaky white fish
Crab meat – fresh or canned
Hot dogs – chopped, cut in coins, cut in long strips
Deli meats – thin slices, rolled, cut in strips or cookie cutter shapes
Breakfast sausage - chopped, cut into coins, cut in long strips
Bacon cooked crispy
Alternative (vegetarian, vegan)
Yogurt (no added fruit; such as coconut, soy)
Bean pasta (chickpea, lentil, black bean)
Macaroni and cheese
Pasta and sticky sauce like Alfredo
Fortified pancakes or waffles
Hungry for more? Check out the Sensory Protein Guide, a complete list of healthy sensory-friendly proteins that picky eaters, problem feeders and kids with oral-motor delays, autism, and sensory processing disorder can actually eat.
The Sensory Protein Guide contains:
100 healthy protein ideas
Protein suggestions for kids’ 4 most preferred food textures: crunchy, soft, smooth and creamy, and high sensory (big taste or texture)
Vegetarian and vegan options
Serving size guide
Ways to maximize nutrition so kids stay full and energized
Expert tips for adapting foods to fit a child’s sensory food preferences
Protein foods can be challenging for kids with sensory symptoms or oral motor deficits to eat. Options that don’t require much chewing skill - that are either very crunchy or smooth - are good alternatives to more traditional options.
AND! Personalized Support
My signature nutrition program is perfectly designed for kids with autism who have limited diets, struggle to add new foods, and may not be eating the nutrients they need. You can sign up for a free call to learn more about how it works and how I can help change your child’s diet for good .