When the feeding aversion causes poor growth
Feeding aversion begins to be a serious problem when kids are undernourished or eating so little that it severely limits their lives. We typically start seeing kids who struggle with picky eating when they are 1 or 2 years old. That's the age when parents begin realizing, 'He used to be a great eater but now he won't eat anything and it is affecting his quality of life,' or, 'We thought he'd grow out of it, but now we're realizing it's more than that.' When the growth of your child is compromised due to the feeding aversion, then we need to not only focus on feeding therapy but also on increasing the nutrient and calorie density of the foods they do eat.
Reaching optimal nutrition amidst feeding aversions
In order to reach optimal nutritional intake it is important to assess the current diet of your child to see where the nutritional deficiencies lie. This can be done by keeping a 7 day food diary and having your health professional analyze it. The next step is to fill the gaps by using food supplements like vitamins and milk supplements or adding extra dense foods that mix easily into the tolerated foods. Foods like egg, butters, nut butter, soft cheeses, hummus, Maas and yogurt are all examples of these. Smoothies, are also a great way, if your child enjoys milky drinks to combine some less tolerated ingredients like nuts, seeds and bland fruits.
Getting professional help
The first step to treating kids who seriously struggle with food aversions is to understand more about their preferences or fears.
A therapist, trained in dealing with sensory food aversions can be very helpful in guiding families as to what’s next?
The treatment should be fun and child-driven. Exposure therapy, which means kids start working with foods they've been avoiding in a carefully controlled, therapeutic way.
- It's about breaking down barriers. Sometimes exposure is just having the food on the table and being able to have a conversation in the same room. Other times it's touching the food, smelling it, just physically interacting with it. A helpful rule is that: You can only say you don't like something if you're tried it three times. It takes some time to adjust to new flavors, so unless something immediately makes you gag, it's important to give your taste buds a few good opportunities.
Practical home help to combat feeding aversions
•Repeated exposure within child’s level of tolerance. Find the point at which the child can tolerate interacting with the food. Is it looking at it from a distance? Is it accepting it on the table? Is it holding it with a spoon?
•Parents can model how to eat new foods and wait for the toddler to ask to try it.
•Peer modelling. If their buddies are eating it, a child may be more willing to try new foods.
•Scheduled meal and snack times (discourage grazing throughout the day). Come to the table hungry!
•Drink milk at meals. Water in between.
•Parents decide what to serve while the child decides how much to eat.
•Offer at least one preferred choice of the child’s along with what the family
Feeding aversions can be overcome, with some patience and perseverance. It is important to remember that feeding is a life long journey and not a destination. Along the way you may encounter obstacles and challenges, with some assistance and guidance these can be overcome and the feeding Journey can be exciting and rewarding.
Recipes that compliment this discussion:
Creamy quinoa breakfast
Squash and Courgette puree