Posting for the Parents Who Cannot Get Their Kids to Eat
When I was a kid, I spent many a night being forced to sit and stare at a plate of mashed potatoes that my parents said I had to take a bite of before I could leave the table. One of my most vivid memories from my early elementary school days was having my teacher practically force feed me cheese on bread because she thought I was stubborn. My family and family friends would always tease me because I only ate food that was orange and crunchy – think Goldfish, Cheez Its, Cheetos, etc. My parents were convinced that I hated vegetables, and any food that was not processed because they could never get me to eat what they made for dinner.
Now at 26, I am sitting in my kitchen meal prepping and all I can think of is I wish someone had told my parents how to feed me, so that I wasn’t still trying to figure it out.
So, to the parents who have kids with sensory problems, here is what I wish my parents knew.
Number one problem is I get genuinely scared trying new foods. Even at 26. It took me 20 minutes the other day to force myself to try a blackberry for the first time. The reason is because I have no idea what to expect. When I eat something that does not agree with my sensory processing, I will throw up. I shake, I cry, I am genuinely terrified of new foods. Texture aversion is a real thing. And the reaction my body has to new textures is very overwhelming. DO NOT force your kid to eat things they are not familiar with, let them try new things in their own time!
I need foods that are crunchy and crispy. Luckily that means that I like most vegetables, but I only like them raw (and most vegetables are perfectly good for you raw). Carrots, celery, spinach, asparagus, snap peas, peppers, etc. I love them all, but I never knew that until I was in college, and I realized that raw vegetables were crunchy. When you cook them, they lose their crisp texture and start to get more tender, or as I would describe mushier. My ex called me a rabbit because my entire fridge was full of veggies, but that’s mostly what I like eating other than junk food.
Skip the dressings, condiments, and sauces. The quickest way for salad to be ruined for me, is to pour dressing all over it. Sometimes I can handle dressing on the side, but I would much prefer a completely dry salad, maybe with some lemon juice sprinkled over it for taste. No one ever gave me plain celery without peanut butter or ranch until I was in high school. Turns out, I like it plain. Same goes for almost any type of food. Chicken, steak, etc. I eat chicken breast almost daily, but I cannot eat it if it is floating in dressing or a stew. Just marinade, and then drain most of the liquid from it.
Same goes for mixing a bunch of food together. I could never mix meat with salad or pasta. One texture at a time, please. With that, smaller bites are better. Turns out I can handle eating a blue berry, if it is sliced in two. I know that may sound ridiculous, but sometimes I get overwhelmed if I bite into a full berry. The more food I have in my mouth at one time, the more likely I am gag. There is no “one last big bite” in my world. I take as small of a bite as I need to be able to have the food in my mouth without feeling completely overwhelmed by my senses.
Learn fruit seasons and when the best time to buy certain fruits is. I can’t eat an apple out of season, because if I bite into a mushy apple the aversion can take months to overcome (even though I love apples). I don’t like a lot of fruit, because most fruit is mushy. All melons are mushy. But turns out frozen fruits are edible.
Be careful with food therapists, they may be forming bad habits. My food therapist when I was little would have me dip cheerios (my favorite food still to this day) in chocolate sauce and peanut better. I think the idea was if I could get myself used to three textures at once, I could start transferring that to other, more nutritious foods. Guess what? That never worked. Now I just have a weird love for chocolate chips and peanut butter in my cereal. And that’s not exactly nutritious.
Once I am comfortable with a certain type of food, I can start experimenting with ways to prepare it that push me out of my comfort zone, but it takes a long time to get comfortable. I have always loved French fries, and a couple years ago I learned that oven roasted gold potatoes, cut very small and slim tasted like French fries. For the past couple of years, I have been slowly cutting my potatoes into larger pieces, so I get used to having a mushy inside. Four years later, I can eat half of honey gold Potato (the really small round ones). I will never be able to eat a whole baked or mashed Potato but at least I can order something at a restaurant now or make a food that an adult friend would eat with me. The important thing here is once I am comfortable! It takes time.
Somethings have the perfect texture, but I will never like them, because I do not like the taste. Turns out, taste is still a factor for me. It is not as important as texture, but it is still a thing. If your kid is not reacting well to a particular food that fits their texture needs, they just don’t like that food. It’s okay for us food-sensies to not like a taste just because.
You cannot force a kid with food sensitivities to eat what everyone else in the family is eating. To this day, when my family gets together for dinner, I make my own meal. That doesn’t mean you should shove junk food and fast food at them and call it a day. It is possible to have a healthy, well-rounded diet when you eat “like a five-year-old.”
I work a 8-5 job in an office where we all eat together. All of my coworkers know that I will not eat like they do (even if none of them know fully why). They tease me about it, but I am comfortable enough with my habits now to not be bothered by it. I do not eat cheese. I don’t like sauce. I cannot eat a sub, a burrito, a taco, or a wrap. I do not like pasta dishes. I don’t use much seasoning. I don’t eat soup, even if I don’t feel well. You’ll never see me with a smoothie in hand.
With that, make acknowledging food sensitivities a normal part of life. Let your kid experiment within their comfort zones. Don’t let them think that they are wrong for not eating like everyone else. But make sure they know that it won’t ever go away and let them know ways that they can have normal diets which take into consideration THEIR needs. I wish my parents knew that I would grow up to be an adult who still cannot take a bite of mashed potatoes, but that is not a bad thing
Reprinted from: www.reddit.com