13 tips to support children and young people with food aversions


When you have a picky eater it’s easy to feel on edge and that others are judging your parenting skills. It is astonishing how suddenly the world and its brother/sister are all experts on how to feed your child, even the lady in the corner shop is not shy to offer unsolicited tips and advice on your child’s nutrition intake. They will say “try this or that“, “how about these new crackers (only £1.99 special offer)” but…

The fact is often that you are very concerned about what your child is eating. And you desperately want to give them a healthy, nutritious packed lunch but you know that it will get left, unopened, and unfinished. So, instead, you stick to the same sad soft cheese sandwich on white bread as it is at least something you know they’ll eat.

Sensory needs can impact on eating with both individuals with and without other conditions. We need to consider all these elements:

  • taste (sweet vs. sour)
  • consistency (crunchy vs. soft)
  • temperature (hot vs. cold)
  • colour (beige vs. colourful)
  • and smell (pungent vs. mild)

Let’s take a blueberry as an example: it can be sweet or sharp; it can be firm or mushy; it can even differ in colour. Now let’s look at a piece of cereal: it’s crunchy all the time; it looks the same. It’s very predictable, and therefore less anxiety provoking.

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Find our top tips here:

  1. Check with a medical professional that there is nothing physically wrong (e.g. gastrointestinal, or anatomical structural difficulties).
  2. For swallowing difficulties, whether confirmed or suspected, please book an assessment with a certified swallowing/feeding Speech and Language Therapist or please contact me.
  3. Does your child have confirmed or suspected allergies? If so, please contact a dietician who has experience with allergies and can advise, for example: Dr Rosan Meyer.
  4. Talk to other family members about food and their experiences of food. Perhaps there is a family tendency to be picky with eating/food avoidant. This may be important information that you can share with your clinician during the case history taking.
  5. Be patient, though this is easier said than done/felt! Know that many children need repeated exposure to food(s) before liking them, up to 14 spoons! So, take it at your child’s pace and it’s vital we don’t force them to try new foods or use bribes.
  6. You can provide opportunities to engage with food, perhaps you could cook with your child, and allow them to choose what they want to cook. For younger children try Messy Food Play – there are tons of suggestions on Pinterest for ideas on how to incorporate foods into play activities or ask your feeding-Speech and Language Therapist.
  7. You may want to talk about pictures in books that introduce new foods (e.g. The Very Hungry Caterpillar for younger children or magazines if older).
  8. You can play with toy food in a toy kitchen for little ones, or comment on supermarket adverts for young people who are older.
  9. Offer opportunities to taste new foods. You could use a toothpick for bite-sized pieces.
  10. Be sure you eat together with your child as often as you can, modelling positive eating behaviour is most important and can be really effective over time.
  11. You could ask your child to sort foods by colour or stack them on a plate.
  12. We know that Autistic Spectrum Conditions often come with hypersensitivity to textures, so consider what your child prefers (e.g. they may not like slices of tomato but prefer the runnier texture of a tomato sauce).
  13. Reward and give praise following your child’s flexibility with foods and their attempts to try and not whether they like/dislike the food, for example “well done for touching the avocado!” Or “great you licked your fingers with the humous on, that’s excellent”.

We are always here to support you in whatever way we can. Contact me for support.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

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