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Solutions for food aversions

April 7, 2014
David Brewer , MOV Parent

Did you know that children with special needs are at a greater risk for becoming overweight or obese? They're also likely to depend on you to supply and prepare the food they eat. This makes it vital that you do your best to ensure that your child eats a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups and develops healthy habits. As you know, this is easier said than done when a child has food aversions. Food aversions are a barrier that can disrupt your efforts to raise a healthy eater. However, you can do something about it! It's possible to assist your child in completely overcoming their aversion or at least finding ways to provide them the nutritional benefits of foods they insist on avoiding.

Take the First Step: Observe and Ask Your Child!

As a parent, the first step is toward conquering a food aversion is to identify why your child refuses to eat the food. The best place to start is to connect with the child around the aversion. Ask your child why he or she won't eat the food or observe your little one at meal time for patterns in their behavior like refusing certain textures, tastes, colors, temperatures, or smells. Once you know the why, then you can determine the best approach!

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Solutions to Get You Started

Take a Gradual Approach!

Depending on the strength of your child's aversion, you may have to try a variety of different strategies. For example, if your child throws a tantrum when he sees broccoli on his plate, then you will have to start slow. The first step may for you to take your children to the store to point out where you get the broccoli. Then, you can be a good role model and eat the broccoli in front of your children multiple times without pressuring them to eat it.

Eventually, you could move on by setting a serving bowl of broccoli next to your children. Then, ask if it's ok to put some on their plate even if the don't want to eat it. Even if they don't eat it, it's a step in the right direction. Finally, ask them if they would touch, smell, or lick the broccoli and eventually they may be willing to even take a bite or two as they get more comfortable. Just be patient and don't give up!

Try it Another Way!

Instead of just accepting that your children don't like a food, let them try it another way. If your child won't eat green beans, then try them canned, frozen, fresh, raw, cooked different ways with different seasonings, or with different dips to provide a variety of different flavors, textures, colors, temperatures, and smells. You can also sneak healthy foods into your child's favorite food. You can put beans and vegetables in chili, hide squash or pumpkin in macaroni and cheese, put spinach in lasagna, make a cauliflower crust pizza topped with pineapple and onions. You can also try making foods into fun shapes playing with your food isn't always a bad thing!

Make Substitutions!

A good strategy to make sure your children get all of the nutrients they need is to substitute foods with other food containing similar nutrients. If your child refuses to eat carrots, try offering other red or orange vegetables or fruits like pumpkin, sweet potato, tomatoes, cantaloupe, grapefruit, and peaches to make sure they get enough vitamin A. A child that refuses to drink milk could get his calcium fix from other low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt, regular low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, other cheeses, fortified soy milk or fortified orange juice. As you can see, there are many ways to get your children the nutrients they need!

Talk to Your Doctor or a Registered Dietitian!

It can be difficult to overcome a food aversion, but it's worth it to see your child grow up enjoying food and being healthy! You don't have to do it alone either Ask your doctor and dietitian for ideas to help fill nutritional gaps caused by food aversions and develop a custom solution for your child!

David Brewer is a Children's Hunger Alliance dietetic intern and blogger at



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