Beyond Picky Eaters: Spotlight on Aspies and New Foods
Every parent can probably attest to the fact that their children at one point or other had a limited diet. By adolescence most children begin to expand their food palette. Unfortunately, the same may not be true for children or individuals on the autism spectrum. Children with Asperger's may have a whole host of issues that impact their food choices. Issues with foods such as texture, size, color, or even the shape of the item can impact an Aspie's ability to try a new food. In some cases undiagnosed food allergies and sensitivities or digestive issues may also be the culprit. However, if food allergies and sensitivities or gastrointestinal problems have been ruled out, follow these ideas to get an Aspie to eat new foods.
5 Tips to Get An Aspie to Try New Foods
Tip # 1- Offer a new food every few days.
Good eating starts early in life. If your child is a toddler or younger than six, you need to continuously introduce new foods into your youngster's diet. The same holds true for older individuals. Offer the same new fruit, vegetable, or dish for a few days (one week). Gently encourage your child to try it. Don't try to force him or her to eat it the first day. They may need to see it, smell it, and touch it to become more familiar with the food. Offer one or two bites at first and give praise if they at least put the food in their mouth. If the food is chewed it, give a reward (a bite of a preferred food/ favorite toy/hug). If the food is swallowed offer more and give two bites of a preferred food or lots of praise. Every few days, offer another new food using these same steps.
Tip # 2- Stop all between meals snacks of preferred foods.
If you want your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, offer them as snacks. Don't offer any favorite foods as snacks. Offer the same fruit or veggie as a snack over several days. Don't give in and serve the snacks your child craves. Children have to learn that they must try new foods. Remember to be gentle but firm. Ignore crying, tantrumming, or pleading for favorite foods. In the end, you'll help your child learn that it's okay to try and like new things.
Tip # 3- Model good eating.
Children do what they see mom and dad doing. If you have poor eating habits, so will your kids. You need to eat the same foods you offer your kids. Be positive and look like you're enjoying them. Your child's attitudes towards food will most likely mimic yours. Model the healthy eating habits you want your kids to have.
Tip # 4- Let your child build an appetite.
A hungry child is far more likely to try new foods. Don't give your child between-meals snacks unless they are new foods you want him or her to try. Limit or eliminate all between-meal snacks. Let your child build up an appetite through play or only eating at mealtime. Then when you offer new foods, he or she will be more likely to try them because a hungry child will be more receptive to eating something.
Tip # 5 – Offer new foods in a pleasant environment.
Don't attempt to get your Asperger's child to try a new food while out at a restaurant or another not-so familiar place. If being in new places or around other people are over stimulating or stressful to your child, forcing him or her to try a new food prepared by someone they don't know or in an uncomfortable place, will make them more resistant. It can also be a major setback to any progress you've made. New foods should be offered at home first. Offer a few bites of a new food along with other favorite dishes. Make sure the bites or servings are small or few. As your child's tolerance of the new food grows, offer more. If you can, make trying the food a fun or interesting game. If you keep the experience positive you will probably have an easier time getting your child to eat new or non-preferred foods.
From Picky to Proper Eater
As with anything new being introduced or taught to an Asperger's individual, remember it'll take time. The amount of time varies with the Aspie individual and his or her ability to adapt to changes in their environment. The more consistent and dedicated you are when implementing a new food program will ultimately determine how successful you will be.
Raising Healthy Children: Introducing New Foods to Your Preschooler, Martinez, Juli M. and Karla P. Shellnut, eas.ufl.edudis.if