Textures, Tastes, or Tantrums?

If you’ve never had a child that didn’t like a food you presented you might find this post irrelevant or even confusing. However, if you have had a child that struggled with every bite you presented, I hope you’ll find it a great resource and comfort!

On Monday, I discussed a few tips to avoid the “food fight” at the table. As a mother who is currently helping a child through FTT (Failure to Thrive) I thought it would be helpful to post just a few key points.

Most of the time food issues for your child will never reach the issue of FTT. As with our sweet Daniel’s situation other factors, such as DMD (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy) play a leading role in the struggle to put on weight. It is very common for a child to resist new foods as a toddler and outgrow those texture/taste sensitivities. However, a child’s resistance to textures and tastes can lead to devastating results if ignored. I guess it would be important to know the balance of what is within the sphere of “normal” child behavior and what is a concern. I encourage you to be proactive in this issue no matter what level of struggle you are having. I strongly encourage you to discuss any concerns that make you uncomfortable with your doctor as soon as possible. Getting help from feeding specialists, a nutritionist, and OT/PT can prevent other complications. I would much rather a doctor tell me I was over reacting than ask me why I didn’t seek help sooner.

My thoughts on textures: I don’t believe we should force a child to swallow something that is repulsive to them. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made my children at least try something. In fact, when my children were little they would never eat oatmeal no matter what I did to doctor it up. After several attempts over the course of a few years, I asked them to eat one more bowl and if they would honor me and do this I would never make oatmeal for them again. The two children that disliked oatmeal did just that. They honored me and got it down. I honored their obedience and to this day have never made them oatmeal again. As my children grew I would ask them what don’t you like about oatmeal and it always came back the same answer, “It’s texture is just yuck to me. It has nothing to do with the taste.”

My thoughts on tastes: There are times that children don’t mind the texture but it’s the taste that is bothering them. You can tell the difference because they will like foods of the same texture but different tastes. For example, your child likes banana’s but not avocados. While you can present that same food randomly through your diet, over a long period of time, remember that not everyone likes the same foods.

My thoughts on tantrums: Other times, children don’t mind the taste or the texture of a food, it’s simply a tantrum. So how do you know the difference? First of all, I really… REALLY… REALLY, want to stress the importance of addressing tantrums quickly and consistently. Hopefully, you can avoid dealing with a tantrum at the table because; you have been consistent throughout the day. If I have a child challenge my authority, refusing to obey I believe it must be addressed no matter where I am. How I address my child’s defiance will vary. Again, I will check myself to make sure I took into consideration, portion size, personal likes/dislikes, special needs and such. I will not insist my child has to eat a food carelessly without consideration to all the “whys”. With that said, I mentioned this in the last post, I believe the family table should be a happy place to be. A place with good communication, laughter, and relationships built on trust. Therefore, I really, REALLY, REALLY, encourage you to deal with the tantrums away from the table to limit or prevent them from taking place at the table.

Healthy children might not like the way a food feels or tastes. That’s natural; there are foods I don’t like too! I have always felt I should respect my children likes and dislikes, while I provide good, healthy, food that doesn’t bother them. If they don’t like any texture, we have a problem; there is a greater need to get some professional help. If you have noticed your child seems hypersensitive to certain textures there are many areas you can work with your child to help them limit their sensitivity as much as possible. Notice, I didn’t say their texture resistance would vanish but, you can help them greatly. OT/PT can prove incredibly helpful with ideas for you to implement at home. I found this article that could prove helpful for those of you that have eating challenges with your child diagnosed with Autism, PDD-NOS, or Aspersers. Click HERE

My Top Ten Tips for Overcoming Textures and Tastes:

1. When introducing food, place the food on the side of the mouth instead of in the center of the mouth where there is much more sensitivity.

2. Introduce your child to a variety of foods from soft, mushy, sour, salty, hard, crunchy, frozen, and warm (remember age appropriate) just for exploration.

3. Try to avoid mixing textures until you know your children like both. For example, don’t put granola or fruit in yogurt until you know your child likes both. KEEP in mind they can like both separate and have resistance to it once it’s combined.

4. If a child doesn’t like yogurt but does like granola, combine them and see if they are received cheerfully.

5. Introduce foods they dislike randomly and in very small portions over a long period of time. Be patient and don’t require them to just eat it all right away. I tried introducing oatmeal over the period of several years… probably 5-7.

6. Keep it simple. Too many options can create picky eaters.

7. Stay away from using too much spice unless you know that it’s something they like.

8. Experiment with different cultures of food. Have fun with this and learn about people different than yourself.

9. Develop an eating routine so that you limit the “grazing” or snacking. I’ve been told by our OT that children with FTT shouldn’t graze because it actually burns more calories.

10. Create a smorgasbord and watch your child’s natural tendencies. Do they go for the crunchy foods, soft food, sour foods or sweet foods. For example do they go for a crisp apple or a soft peach. If a child doesn’t like cooked carrots he might love raw carrots.

Take some time to find creative ways to develop healthy eating habits.

With much love,

Mrs. Joseph Wood