Picky Eating

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Anyone have a child that shudders when you offer them new food?
Like you can feel the absolute and utter disgust at the thought of being near a new food?

Apollo struggles with sensory processing disorder and is hyper-sensitive to majority of unfamiliar foods.

Apollo will not participate in:

  • Taste-testing new foods
  • Not “just take one bite” of any new foods
  • Smelling new foods
  • Sitting next to any new foods
  • NADA

How I get Apollo to try new foods?

People ask me all the time how I get Apollo to try new foods. To be blatantly honest – I don’t. 

While I offer Apollo a variety of foods to Apollo – actually trying said new foods has to be HIS idea.

We discovered early on in our autism journey that putting pressure on Apollo to do anything new – whether it be to speak (at all – answering basic questions, try to repeat new words, etc.), to eat unfamiliar foods, follow simple, single-step directions, etc. was too much for him to handle. Added pressure to a new situation (no matter the context) typically resulted in one of the following: regression, a complete shutdown, a severe meltdown or a combination of the previous. While Apollo has made progress since then, added pressure does still overwhelm him majority of the time.

Having a picky eater can be tough for parents of neuro-typical children, but having a child with severe sensory processing challenges and you reach a whole another level of stress when it comes to mealtime.

Has anyone else worried about their child being nutrient deficient because of their child’s inability to eat a variety of foods? It’s a hard reality in our household and something the us parents and our healthcare providers keep a close eye on.

We are blessed in the sense that Apollo will willingly consume superfood protein shakes (See my post about Orgain), gummy probiotics, and vitamins. Without these products, Apollo wouldn’t be nearly as healthy as he is.

“If he is hungry enough… he will eat…”

I’ve been told that Apollo will eat whatever I place in front of him if he’s hungry enough – and that’s simply not true. Apollo will starve himself before he eats something that sends him into sensory overload.

People that make these comments don’t truly understand the extent and severity that sensory processing disorder can limit a person’s ability to eat foods. I know this, because I used to be one of “those” people that believed that hungry kids will eat whatever is in front of them. Believed that parents that catered to their child’s preferences were spoiling them – rather than meeting their child’s needs.

What an eye-opening experience this has been.

What my kid eats in Public?

We always plan ahead. I always bring food/snacks that I know that Apollo will eat. Sometimes this means bringing a gallon ziplock bag full of various options, so that he can pick and choose.  Some will read this and call me an enabler, and I’m ok with it.  If I have to bring a few options for my child to pick and choose, and it means that we have a meltdown-free experience (wherever we are at), then it’s worth it to me.

I also pack snacks for all of us (myself and Justin included), because I don’t know about you, but when “Hanger” strikes (being so hungry that you actually become angry) it’s no joke.  Typically when I’m crabby, Justin asks when the last time I ate was – and it appears that both of our kids take after their Momma on this one.

Nobody wants to mess with a Hangry Momma and her cubs.

Thankfully, Apollo will eat Orgain bars and shakes (as previously stated). I know some of you are probably really tired of hearing about these products, but they are a major factor in our lives.

I’ve spent who knows how much money on various other products from granola bars, snacks, crackers, chips – you name it we likely tried it and for the most part all Apollo will eat is:

  • Some candy/sweets (artificial sweetener and dye free)
  • Orgain products (and superfoods I add to his shakes)
  • Chicken nuggets (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Tyson & Perdue)
  • Hotdogs (Hebrew)
  • Pepperoni pizza (Digiorno)
  • Apples (Gala or Pink Lady)

*above links are just to show visual examples of the exact brands we purchase *

The hard part isn’t just limited to diet preferences though — Apollo’s food must pass his sensory checks before he will eat it.

  • He looks at it
  • Touches it
  • Smells it
  • Touches the tip of his tongue to it (if it meets ALL of his expectations then he will eat it)

And if the food doesn’t meet his expectations, he won’t eat it.  Even if you have told him that it’s a familiar food item, if it doesn’t meet his expectations, he won’t even entertain it.

Apollo’s mealtime must look a lot like this (foods vary):

Thankfully, Apollo eats some foods that are easy to pack around or find out and about, and he doesn’t seem get tired of them (fingers crossed it stays this way, or we are soon able to get him to try a variety of foods in the future).  I know there are many other parents that have children that do not eat portable food items, and it makes it nearly impossible to go out in public and do activities without having to have access to a kitchen.

Meeting His Needs

I know there are a lot of people that comment and have opinions on Apollo’s lack of food items, but the important point is that he is healthy.  If he wasn’t healthy, then we would be more concerned, but he’s healthy, he takes his probiotics & vitamin supplements, so for now we are going to leave his picky-eating habits alone and focus our energy on the more pressing areas of his life.

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