Most kids go through a picky eating phase, especially when they are toddlers. Yet some move from this stage into real food aversions, causing battles over food and nutrition. Many hypersensitive kids reject foods with certain textures -- too smooth, too crunchy, too thick, too thin. Trying to figure it all out can feel like a full-time job. Explore some simple strategies to help you add texture to food or find the texture that your child will accept.
Keep a Simple Food Log
Grab a notebook and jot down what your child eats. Make a star next to foods he liked and cross out those that were rejected. After a week or two, you'll be able to easily see accepted and refused foods and what they might have in common. Maybe sweet and smooth is better tolerated than sour and smooth. Perhaps he has an aversion to hard foods, like granola or nuts, or crusty foods, like pizza or loaf bread.
Food chaining is a helpful technique developed by pediatric specialists Fraker, Walberg and Cox, who found that texture-averse children could learn to like certain foods if they were gradually linked to foods they had already accepted. For example, if your child likes applesauce, give him chunky or flavored applesauce, then apple pie mashed with a fork, then apple pie with ice cream to introduce milk products, then a very thin slice of apple dipped in applesauce, and ending with a cut-up apple.
Try Different Temperatures
Sometimes children will eat the same food they find repulsive if it's served at a different temperature. For example, your kid may hate fresh fruit or yogurt but will drink a smoothie made colder by adding crushed ice. Sometimes kids who reject a hot chicken breast will accept a sliced, cold chicken breast folded into a tortilla with cheese and creamy dressing. Children who will not touch a cold piece of string cheese may prefer a grilled cheese sandwich.
Empower Your Child and Yourself
Power struggles over food can be incredibly stressful for both you and your kid. Such battles can later lead to maladaptive behaviors around food. Empower your child, giving creative options and asking her to choose. Make a game of it by asking your child to rate foods on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "yucky" and 10 being the most delicious. Negotiate with your child about trying a new food each week to find acceptable ones. When your child rejects a food, have him tell you what he dislikes. Pay attention to answers such as "too hard," "hurts my mouth," "too smooth" or "doesn't taste like anything." If your child's problem with a food is lack of taste, try seasoning it with a seasoning mix or providing a creamy dipping sauce.
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