Pickles, avocados, watermelons, bananas. What do all of these foods have in common? They all have a weird texture to them! Of course, there are many other foods that also do, those are just a few common ones you might have noticed that your child doesn’t like. The question many parents have is how to know if their child is just a picky eater or if it is a problem and if they would benefit from pediatric feeding therapy. There are a handful of signs to look for to see if your child needs feeding therapy. Every child is different, so the need and approach for feeding therapy will vary from case to case.
Signs to Look For
As we mentioned above, these are just signs that you can look for in your child. These do not necessarily mean your child needs feeding therapy, but you should continue to monitor their progress and ask your pediatrician or therapist if you have concerns. Some common concerns that we see are:
- Refusal to try new foods
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
- Avoidance to certain food textures
- Gagging, choking, or vomiting
- Tantrums at mealtime
- Selective diet (ex. only wants Chick-Fil-A nuggets and refuses McDonald’s)
- Sudden and permanent rejection of previously accepted foods
- Weight gain/loss inconsistent with their age
- Will usually eat fewer than 20 foods
There are many reasons why children have food sensitivities or are resistant to trying new foods. Check out some commons reasons why your child might be resistant to new foods:
- Food allergies
- Palate defects
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Delayed exposure to different foods
- Digestive disorders
- Autism spectrum disorder
Tips for Sensory Friendly Eaters
At PediaPlex, we are very familiar with kiddos who have a limited diet, so we have come up with some great ways to help them when it comes to eating and trying new foods. These are great ideas to try at home with your child!
- Be creative – There are many ways to add those tricky foods into your child’s diet. If your child doesn’t like their veggies, try making a smoothie with their favorite fruits and a handful of spinach; you don’t even taste it! You can also make homemade breads and muffins with healthy ingredients added in.
- Create a mealtime environment – Routine is key for children so establish a routine that works for your family and one that will help to encourage your child and ease any anxiety about eating. Make this comfortable for them and encourage them to have fun with their food!
- Encourage, don’t pressure – Your children are smarter than you might think. If you pressure them into trying new foods, it’s not going to go over as well. Encourage them and let them try at their own pace.
- Play with the food (AKA “food exploration”) This is a great way for your child to venture out and try new foods. Let them play with it, smell it, and get used to the textures before you have them try eating it.
- Switch it up – There are so many new ways to try the same types of food! You can make baked potatoes instead of mashed or even make oatmeal bars instead of having them eat regular oatmeal. This also works for temperatures of food! Some children don’t like certain temperatures so try adjusting this for your child.
- Use condiments – Let your child pick their favorite condiment to add to their new foods! This can help to calm down smells or weird textures. This will also allow your child to feel in control because you let them have a choice.
- Cook with them- Bring your child into the kitchen with you! Let them grab different foods from the pantry or refrigerator, measure ingredients for a recipe, stir and pour in ingredients, spoon a certain amount onto everyone’s plate, etc. Your child is experiencing various foods without the pressure that can come when they’re asked to eat it.
It’s important to remember that every child is different. So what works for some children might not work for others. Symptoms and signs will look different in every child as well. If you have questions or concerns, please give us a call!
If you think your child might benefit from feeding therapy, visit our website today to fill out an intake form! Our Frisco, Fort Worth, and Southlake clinics offer pediatric feeding therapy!
-The PediaPlex Family
All photos were obtained with informed consent.