Children on the spectrum experience many barriers to eating a nutritious diet. Sensory issues that limit the variety of foods a child is willing to eat is one that parents find most frustrating.
Parents come to me concerned that their child is not getting the nutrition they need. Protein is often at the top of that list. Protein is difficult to replicate in vitamin form and children with sensory food aversions tend to struggle with protein textures.
These soft protein and crunchy protein ideas can help optimize your child’s nutrition while you work to expand their sensory profile.
Soft food protein choices for kids with sensory food aversions
Hot cereal (especially fortified with milk or a nutrition supplement)
Milkshake or smoothie
Plant-based protein pasta
Black bean soup
Well mixed salmon or tuna salad
Crunchy food protein choices for kids with sensory food aversions
Apple sandwiches with crunchy nut butter
Sandwich with crunchy lettuce and apple slices
Celery with nut butter or cream cheese
Crispy salami chips
Tuna with veggie chunks and crackers
Meat or fish jerky
Deli roll ups in crunchy lettuce
Hard shelled taco
Baked cheese crisp
Baked macaroni bites made in mini muffin tin (with added meat, cheese)
Crispy quinoa coated chicken nuggets
Small portion of yogurt or milk with a lot of granola
Crunchy pickles wrapped in a slice of deli meat
Sensory-Friendly Snacks for Kids
Now that we’ve got protein squared away, it’s time for snacks. Check out the Sensory Snack Guides for tons of sensory-friendly snack ideas for kids with autism, SPD, and texture preferences.
The Sensory Snack Guide for picky eaters have kid-approved snacks for the 8 most common sensory food and texture preferences seen in kids with autism and SPD:
high sensory snacks (big texture or flavor for sensory seekers)
Due to sensory processing issues, some children with autism don’t consume many protein foods.
Review your child’s current food list to determine if he/she prefers soft, smooth, or crunchy foods. Use the list of sensory-friendly proteins above to select new proteins to incorporate into the autism meal plan.