For a lot of kiddos who I work with the decision to eat or not to eat a food is often just as much about the food’s appearance and texture as it is about its taste.
That means that the way a food is cut or cooked can make or break the decision to eat for a child with sensory challenges.
Here are a few things you can do to work with instead of against your child’s texture preferences.
If your kiddo loves crunch, try offering:
Fresh veggie sticks like carrots, celery or whole veggies like sugar snap peas and cauliflower florets
Foods that are toasted or baked until crispy
Thinly sliced veggies baked in the oven
A crunchy topping with new foods
Croutons in salad
Crunchy taco shells with favorite fillings
If your child likes soft textures, try offering:
Steamed well cooked veggies including untraditional options like broccoli stems
Well pureed smoothies loaded with fruits and vegetables
Ground meat (loose like taco meat, or cooked together like meatballs or meatloaf)
Soft pasta bakes with sauce like lasagna
Diced veggies cooked in sauce
Soft cooked scrambled eggs
If your child prefers smooth textures, offer:
Well-cooked pureed veggies
Softly cooked veggies with a uniform texture like carrots and potatoes
Soft fruits with a uniform texture like bananas and mango or canned fruit like peaches
Hummus with pita dippers
Sweet potato fries cooked in a low oven
If you find yourself doing a lot of pureeing at home I highly suggest you invest in an immersion blender which has been a life-changing tool for me and one I recommend to everyone. It saves you the messy step of transferring liquids and is much easier to use than a large blender. I have used this one for years and it was some of the best money I have spent.
If your child prefers high sensory feedback, offer:
Frozen fruits and veggies like peas and berries (keep them frozen!)
Texturally diverse foods like raw broccoli
Loaded yogurt parfaits with nuts, granola, and fruit
Nut butter filled celery topped with dried fruit (ants on a log)
Edamame in the shell
To recap, texture and appearance can be just as important as if not more so than taste for children on the spectrum when they consider whether to eat a food.
Ask your child what characteristics he likes about the foods he chooses to eat (or use your own sleuthing skills if your child is non or not yet verbal). Then offer new foods that share your child’s favorite characteristics.
Check out this post if you want more snack ideas for kids with sensory food aversions.
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