When should I offer new foods to my fussy eater with autism?
It’s a question I hear a lot. My answer is so simple it’s hard to believe that it will change your life, but this one little adjustment is sure to have a monumental impact on your child’s eating and both of your lives. Ready for it?
All the time.
At every opportunity.
New Foods and Picky Eaters with Autism
I often see parents over think the simple act of offering new foods. I get why. Serving new foods to a particular eater with autism can result in meltdowns, messes, and miserable meals.
While all of these responses are unpleasant to say the least, they’re all behavioral response that your child is using to get what they want: no more new foods and more comfortable foods. When you give in an continue serving her favorite foods, that behavior is reinforced, which means your child is learning that the fuss works. What happens next? She’s going to repeat that response every time you offer a new food knowing that it will help her get what she wants - the same foods all of the time!
I know that serving new foods to your child can be a challenge. Having new foods on her plate will challenge your child’s sensory needs, mess with her routine, and push her outside of her comfort zone. Serving new foods will challenge your time, patience, and persistence.
You still have to serve new foods consistently. Your child cannot learn to eat new foods and expand her diet if she’s not regularly meeting new foods. Therefore, it is imperative to offer new foods to your child at every eating opportunity. Try these tips to expand your autistic child’s diet by consistently introducing new foods.
How To Serve New Foods to Autistic Picky Eaters
Offer at least one and up to two new foods at every meal and snack.
Keep portions and bite sizes of new foods very small.
Alongside new foods serve one to two favorite or frequently accepted foods.
Reduce the portion of the favorites just a little bit.
Continue to serve the same one to two new foods repeatedly. Once is not enough to develop a preference or willingness to try.
Limit eating between set meal and snack times, unless your child asks for a new food (in which case you should definitely serve it!).
Too many picky eaters don’t get the opportunity to experience new foods. Consistently serve a new food to your picky eater at every meal and snack to increase her exposure and comfort. Having new foods on her plate will challenge your child’s sensory needs, mess with her routine, and push her outside of her comfort zone, but that’s good.
Begin incorporating very small portions of new foods into your child’s meals. If it seems like too much work to prepare new food all of the time, look to leftovers, your meal, freezer foods, and odds and ends.