15 tips for mothers to consider when it comes to their child’s diet
15 tips for mothers to consider when it comes to their child’s diet
As a mother, it is important to ensure that your child’s diet is well-balanced and nutritious to support their growth and development. Here are 15 tips for mothers to help you make informed decisions about your child’s diet:
1. Doctors should rule out any medical conditions that can affect your child’s nutrition and eating habits.
Children with autism have difficulty in communicating pain and uneasiness verbally and end up active aggressively during mealtimes. hence, Ruling out any medical condition that can affect your child’s eating and mealtime routines. The medical conditions include dental cavities, physical difficulties with chewing and painful acid reflux or any other GI issues.
2. Easing your child to meal times prepares your child to eat food and calm down while eating.
Autistic children experience anxiety during mealtimes due to sensory aversion or neophobia. Forcing the child to eat can worsen the anxiety and increase stress in the child directly worsening the child’s behavioral symptoms. Parents/ caretakers can use methods to calm the child before mealtimes and spend a few minutes helping your child to relax. You can use methods like deep breathing for 5 mins or alternatively blow bubbles/pinwheels/ harmonica.
3. Sitting together as a family during mealtimes helps your child eat healthy family meals, prevents neophobia and table manners.
When you eat together are a family your child understands the following
The purpose of sitting at a dinning table needs to be for eating just like a child’s bed is for sleeping
Children observe parents eat and learn through imitation since they are wired to copy. Hence, they are more curious to try new foods when they observe you enjoying the food.
You need to begin with undoing certain habits that can prevent them from exploring the texture, appearance, smell, taste and sound of food. These include reducing screen time while seated on parents lap. Initially eating isnt necessary, Since children automatically choose to try eating something they think might be appetizing.
Another suggestion would be to try to sit at the same table with family members sitting on the same chair for them to feel familiar with the activity.
4. When your child is seated to eat, make sure he or she is comfortable and calm before you place their plate on the table.
Your child’s posture matters when your child is eating, as many autistic children may have poor body awareness, weak stomach and back muscles. You can support your child at his/her waist by placing a rolled towel around the back and hips for additional support.
Neophobia is fear of trying new foods due to various reasons which various from one child to another. iIty is very common among children with ASD. These fears are similar to fearing wild animals or heights. It looks like this
- not trying food because it looks wet (shiny appearance)
- refusing foods of certain color
- not staying in the same room as an orange
- choosing crispy textures over soft or mushy foods.
- Simply choosing food products over home food since it has the same texture taste and appearance helps them trust the food is safe or just what they need to satisfy hunger.
6. How to overcome neophobia or fear of trying new foods?
You need to understand the level of comfort or reason for not trying new foods. Once you are sure about everything. You can begin with helping your child feel comfortable around the food before you serve that food to your child. by using play-based language and activities your child with try these foods in a few weeks. Although patience is the key.
7. Mealtime routines are important for children with autism.
Its important to eat at same times of the day. Make sure that there is enough gap between meals atleast 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a day. Having meals at the same time helps the child understand the time of the day since some cannot read time. They may depend on say breakfast to predict when they may be taken for therapy or school. Routines keep them comfortable and also keeps them calm during meals.
8. Diary milk allergies or intolerance
Alternatives to diary milk are rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk and coconut milk (while using for cooking special dishes). Soy milk is also an option of your child hasn’t been showing any symptoms.
9. Offer one food preffered by your child at every meal and snack.
Non preferred foods are best offered when your child is calm and alert (preferably early in the day).
10. Sensory food aversions in special needs children-
Sensory sensitivities requires great amount of work and energy from the parents to over come this sensation.
To overcome it one method is t serve a food by making ‘just noticeable’ differences to the shape, colour, texture, temperature or flavour each time . A two-day break is sufficient before serving the same food in the same way.
11. Small portions always work.
Are you unsure if your child would try something new when you serve it Foods that have never been offered or accepted before, should be introduced by offering tiny portions (e.g. the portion should be as small as a pea) along with foods that the child loves eating.
12. Avoid stressful situations and help them stay calm
Children in the spectrum get easily irritated or frustrated by overwhelming environments and creating a calm mealtime environment is one solution. To keep it less stressful make sure you prepare and cook one meal for the family rather than separate meals so that you can spend more time with your child during mealtimes.
13. Catering your child’s nutritional needs with a balanced enriching meal plan.
Make sure your child has meals that include energy and protein rich food , nut, seeds, eggs and lentils. You can provide liquid oral nutritional supplements when diet cannot provide complete nutrition.
14. Try to eat with your child as often as you can at the dinning table.
Eating together has show to improve your child’ eating skills and how he/ she is expected to eat and behave while seated at the dinning table. Heard of the phrase “monkey see, monkey do”, A has child natural curiosity to observe others eat which can increase intake of food.
15. Myth: Only a laxative can stop constipation.
Truth: Changes in you child’s did can give relief to you child and prevent repeat episodes of constipation. It doesn’t matter even if your child is a picky eater.
Download our webinar on Diet Tips for Speech Delay
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