Encouraging New Foods to your Child

“Many parents of our children and adults on the Autism Spectrum would like to encourage their children to eat a diet that is healthier and has more variety.
“If this is you – here are some tips to help you:
“Out of sight is out of mind!
Our children will not have a reason to want to eat the new healthy foods we offer them, if they are filling themselves up with snacks, carbs, and sugar.
When we continue to have ‘snack-y, carb-y foods’ available for our kids, our children learn to hold out on eating the ‘new foods’ because they know they eventually get their preferred options. Some of our children would be happy to only eat these types of food for the rest of their lives (pizza, goldfish crackers, cupcakes, bread, cookies). They also have no reason to eat the healthy, real meals that we offer them because they fill up with the ‘snack-y, carb-y foods’. If you don’t want your child to eat any more gluten, dairy, sugar, processed food, refined carbohydrates, juices, desserts, etc. The best thing to do is to get them out of your house ;). When those foods are gone, your child will be hungry enough to eat the new foods, and will know that holding out is no longer an option! I know that helping your child is your top priority, getting rid of the ‘undesirable foods’ will make it easier for you and for your child to want to eat the real, healthy options that you will be offering him/her.
“Enjoy eating the healthy foods yourself!
Now that the ‘snack-y, carb-y foods’ are gone, it is time to start focusing on the new foods. Become a role model to your child by enjoying eating the new foods yourself when you are around your child. Have small bowls with samples of different healthy new foods available and at your child’s reach. Let him/her explore the new foods at their own pace and in their own time. Enjoy eating those new foods yourself when you are around your child, instead of trying to force or chasing them around to eat it.

“Give Control and Persist!
If by now you are getting a bit more anxious and *needing* your child to eat the healthy meals you are presenting, this is a time to relax and be OK with how long this takes. Giving control (while being patient) is the number one technique that can help our children decide to try a new food. This might feel counter-intuitive at first, but it works, so give it a try anyway.
So for today, focus on giving control (allow your child to eat when they are ready and on their own) – no force-feeding, even if your child does not eat much that day. Persist with enjoying eating the new foods yourself, while offering them to your child in playful ways. Stay relaxed, give control, and persist with your plan.

“Yes, it’s Ok to play with food!
Allow your child to explore and play with the food. It is OK if they want to spread it all over the table. Exploring is a part of them becoming familiar with that new food and later attempting to eat it. If your child looks at the new food, touches it, plays with it, feeds it to you – celebrate that!!! Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate! Those are all signs of progress. Have it clear in your mind what your goal is and stays persistent with it. Focus on the bigger goal that you are trying to achieve and don’t let anything else interfere with that.”

Written by Camila Titone, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher

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