Sensory Challenges in Children: Impact on Nutrition and Practical Solutions

Unveiling Sensory Challenges

Every child is unique, and so are their sensory experiences. For kids with sensory processing difficulties, mealtime can be a battlefield of sensations, affecting their food choices, eating habits, and overall nutrition. In this blog, we’ll explore the six key sensory issues that can make mealtime a challenge for these children. But fear not, for we’ll also share invaluable tips to help your child thrive at the table. Plus, join our mailing list for a steady stream of guidance and be the first to hear about our upcoming program with Grace from the Sensory Submarine!

1. Overwhelmed by Texture: Food’s First Impression

For many sensory-sensitive kids, the texture of food can be a deal-breaker. They might shy away from anything slimy, mushy, or gritty. Help them by introducing new textures gradually. Start with foods that align with their preferred textures and gradually transition to more challenging ones.

For example, offer crunchy carrot sticks or apple slices. As they become comfortable, gradually introduce foods with different textures, like smooth yogurt or add to cereal/porridge.

2. The Battle of Taste: Taste Buds on High Alert

Extreme sensitivity to taste can make kids reject certain flavours. Encourage exploration by offering a variety of flavours in small, manageable portions. Engage them in the cooking process to make it fun and educational.

For instance, create a “taste test” with different types of cheese, letting your child rate and describe each one.

3. Aroma Overload: The Power of Smell

Strong smells can overwhelm sensitive noses. Opt for milder-seasoned dishes and incorporate aromatic herbs and spices slowly. Create a pleasant dining atmosphere with calming scents.

For example, when cooking broccoli, steam it with a dash of lemon juice for a fresher scent. Create a pleasant dining atmosphere with calming scents like lavender or vanilla.

4. The Auditory Experience: Sounds of Distraction

Some kids are distracted or distressed by the sounds of eating. Use soft, non-distracting background music during meals. Offer utensils and plates with muted sounds. Make mealtimes a relaxed, enjoyable experience.

5. Visual Challenges: Appealing Presentation

Kids with sensory issues might have visual aversions to certain foods. Make meals visually appealing by arranging food creatively on the plate. Involve them in setting the table and garnishing their dishes.

For instance, create a colourful veggie rainbow with peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. Involve your child in setting the table and garnishing their dishes.

6. Temperature Sensitivity: Hot or Cold?

Temperature extremes can be off-putting. Serve foods at a temperature your child prefers. Gradually introduce foods at slightly different temperatures to broaden their acceptance, like offering a warm tortilla with cold meat slices.

Nurturing Nutritious Habits

Understanding and addressing sensory challenges is key to helping your child establish healthy eating habits. By being patient, providing support, and using the tips we’ve shared, you can empower your child to explore a broader range of foods. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey.

Join our mailing list for ongoing support and stay tuned for our upcoming program with Grace a children’s Occupational Therapist from the Sensory Submarine. Together, we can make mealtimes an enriching experience for your child!

Sign Up for Our Sensory Support Program!

Ready to embark on a sensory-friendly mealtime adventure with us and Grace a children’s Occupational Therapist from the Sensory Submarine?

Sign up for our waiting list today to be among the first to hear about this exciting program. Join our community, and let’s nurture nutritious habits together!

Written by Dr Kirsty Porter, Children’s Dieitian. 

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