“Just take a bite!” “Just try it!” “One bite and you can eat the rest of your food.”
Does this sound all too familiar to you? Do you recognize this battle during mealtime? Your child may have a food texture aversion.
Signs your child may have a texture aversion:
- Only accepting a narrow range of food choices
- Extreme preference for certain brands of food
- Anxiety when faced with a new food item
- Inability to eat any foods, including foods regularly chosen within the home, when not at home
- Preference toward avoiding food, often for an entire day, instead of trying something new
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Frequent gagging when served certain foods
- Facial grimacing or spitting out foods
- Vomiting when new food is introduced
- Refusal of food is not related to a food allergy
- Prolonged mealtimes
What you can do to help with a texture aversion:
- Keep a journal of the types of foods your child eats and his reactions to these specific foods. This list will be extremely helpful for the speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist when taking your child in for a feeding evaluation.
- Don’t push
- Don’t reinforce the food aversion. Many parents believe that withholding favorite foods as punishment will force the child to give in, but this will only worsen the problem. Also, promising rewards for trying disliked foods will also reinforce food aversions.
- Modeling and fun
- Model the behavior you want to instill in your child by eating a wide variety of foods. Children will often adopt the behaviors they are exposed to. With positive reinforcement your child will reduce stress around new foods. Also, get your child involved in meal preparation. Make playing with new types of food fun. Learn about foods and where they come from. Teach your child how foods help our bodies. Expose your child to new foods or averted foods in a fun, stress-free environment.
- Take your child for a feeding evaluation with a speech and language pathologist or occupational therapist. These professionals will help you determine if further therapy is necessary and can introduce the concept of food chaining to your child.
- Food chaining is the systematic process of slowly introducing averted or new foods to your child. This should be done with professional guidance.
If you believe your child may have a texture or food aversion consult with a professional feeding therapist. Remember, take the stress out of eating for your child and make eating foods a fun and exciting activity. The goal is to reduce stress for you and your child.