How to Introduce New Foods to Picky Eaters
With the Holiday season right around the corner, more gatherings are taking place- and if your child is a picky eater, you know all too well it can be a real challenge to introduce new foods. It is often the case that children on the Autism Spectrum are picky eaters. This can come from several underlying causes such as sensory processing disorders, gut health concerns, or a variety of muscle strength related obstacles. Working with children with rigid eating behaviors on accepting new foods and getting them to eat a healthy range of foods is key to helping a child develop and reach success in life. Here are our top tips for navigating the world of introducing new foods to your picky eater.
- Understand Sensory Profiles: Consider your child’s specific sensory needs when planning to introduce new foods. It is important to think of the foods your child does like eating, what kind of textures do those foods have in common, if any? Are they similar in other ways such as flavor, color, or the temperature at which they are served? Thinking of other foods that have similarities in some way to their favorites is a great place to start when considering what foods to try next.
- Environment/ Setting: Review your child’s environment where they like to eat their meals. Do they prefer eating at the table, eating in a certain chair, eating with specific utensils or specific place setting. Introducing a new food/s will be a change in the child’s environment. Introducing the food/s in a preferred environment may increase the likelihood of the child eating new foods.
- Set a Goal: It is important to set a realistic goal for your child. This will vary based on your child’s needs and preferences. If possible, include your child in setting a goal/s for them to try or introduce new foods. No goal is too little and all trials of presenting new foods should be reinforced. Some examples goals may be introducing foods visually, touching the food, smelling the food or even licking new foods. It is important for your child to be aware of the change and willing to try new foods.
- Introduce One New Food at a Time: Start by adding a small portion of the new food with food that they already enjoy eating. This can help motivate the child to try new food and could assist in reducing an overwhelming experience when trying new foods.
- Model Trying New Foods: You can model trying different foods for your child! They may be more likely to try a new food if they see you trying it and enjoying it. It is a good idea to talk with your child about the food they are trying, saying something like “this food is so crunchy!” or “this food is salty and yummy!” can help them be more willing to try new foods and create a baseline understanding for them.
Please note it is important to address any concerns with your child’s pediatrician to ensure they can receive as much support as medically necessary. It is also important to contact a feeding specialist for more severe food adversity. As behavior therapists and analysts, we can provide practical tips on addressing behaviors that can contribute to picky eating.
Little Spurs Autism Centers offers collaborative and compassionate ABA Therapy to children 0-21 years old. Offering both center-based and home-based care, LSAC is excited to empower families by providing them with the support they need. For more information, please email us at email@example.com