Tips for Dealing with Food Aversion and Texture Sensitivities

Practical Tips for Dealing with Food Aversion and Texture Sensitivities

Practical Tips for Dealing with Food Aversion and Texture Sensitivities

Food is not just a source of nourishment; it’s often deeply intertwined with our cultural, social, and emotional lives. However, for autistic children, the experience of eating can be challenging due to food aversions and texture sensitivities. These sensitivities can lead to a limited diet, nutritional deficiencies, and even social isolation. However, with some practical tips and strategies, it’s possible to navigate these challenges and enjoy a more diverse and satisfying culinary experience.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what food aversion and texture sensitivities are, and their potential causes, and provide you with some valuable tips, illustrated with examples, on how to manage and overcome them.

Understanding Food Aversion and Texture Sensitivities

Food aversion and texture sensitivities are often used interchangeably, but they can manifest differently and have distinct causes.

Food Aversion: Food aversion is a strong dislike or avoidance of certain foods, often due to negative past experiences. It can be triggered by taste, smell, appearance, or even cultural factors. For example, a child might develop an aversion to seafood after a bout of food poisoning from spoiled shrimp.

Texture Sensitivities: Texture sensitivities, on the other hand, are specific discomfort or aversion to certain textures of food in the mouth. These sensitivities can range from being sensitive to slimy textures like okra to avoiding crunchy textures like celery.

Tips for Dealing with Food Aversion and Texture Sensitivities

1. Gradual Exposure and Sensory Desensitization:

One effective strategy for overcoming food aversion is gradual exposure. This technique involves introducing new or disliked foods slowly and in small quantities. For instance, if you have an aversion to vegetables, start by adding a tiny amount to a familiar dish like spaghetti sauce. Gradually increase the quantity as you become more comfortable with the taste and texture.

Engage in sensory desensitization exercises to gradually become more accustomed to different textures. This can include touching, smelling, or even playing with the problem food before attempting to eat it. Over time, these activities can reduce the anxiety associated with certain textures.

Example: If your child has a texture aversion to mushy foods like mashed potatoes, start by incorporating them into your meals in small amounts and gradually increasing the quantity over time. This gradual exposure can help desensitize your palate.

2. Experiment with cooking techniques:

Experiment with various cooking techniques to alter the texture of foods. Roasting, grilling, or sautéing vegetables can enhance their flavour and change their texture compared to steaming or boiling. Try different methods to discover what works best for you or your loved one.

Example: If your child dislikes the slimy texture of cooked eggplant, try roasting or grilling it. Changing the preparation method can alter the texture and make it more palatable.

3. Combine with Familiar Foods or food pairing:

Pairing disliked foods with favourites can help improve overall acceptance. If your child has an aversion to whole grains, mix them with your favourite sauce or protein to make the texture more appealing. Over time, you may find that your aversion lessens as your taste buds adjust.

Example: If your child tries a new food that you’re apprehensive about, pair it with something you already enjoy. For instance, if your child tries to fish for the first time and is wary of the smell of the fish market, have it alongside familiar items like salad or rice and dal.

4. Texture Blending:

If specific textures are problematic, consider blending or pureeing foods to make them more palatable. For example, if you struggle with mixed textures like a salad with crunchy vegetables and creamy dressing or peas, blend them into a creamy soup or incorporate them into a smoothie. This can help mask the texture, making it less distinct and overwhelming while still enjoying the nutritional benefits.

5. Food temperature:

Temperature can significantly affect the perception of texture. Some people may find certain foods more palatable when they are served at a different temperature.

For example, if you dislike the sliminess of okra when it’s served warm, try it chilled in a salad.

6. Mindful Eating

Example: Guide your child to pay attention to the sensory experience of eating. Ensure that they take small bites, savour the flavours, and concentrate on the positive aspects of the meal rather than fixating on the aversive textures.

7. Cook and Experiment with Others:

Example: Being a part of the cooking process when friends or relatives are around can make the process more enjoyable. They can provide support, share their own experiences, and introduce your child to new foods or textures in a comfortable environment.

8. Seek Professional Help or support:

Dealing with food aversion and texture sensitivities can be emotionally challenging. Don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist who specializes in eating disorders or sensory issues. Sharing your experiences and feelings can be therapeutic and provide much-needed encouragement.

Seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be invaluable in developing a personalized eating plan. They can assess your child’s specific sensitivities and dietary requirements, providing tailored recommendations and meal plans that address your child’s needs while ensuring proper nutrition.

9. Keep a Food Journal:

Maintaining a food diary can help identify patterns in food aversions and texture sensitivities. Track what you eat, how it makes you feel, and any physical or emotional reactions. Over time, you may notice trends that can inform your child’s dietary choices.

Example: Document your child’s experiences with different foods, noting what you liked and disliked about them. Over time, this can help you identify patterns and gradually expand your palate.

10. Set Realistic Goals

Example: Understand that progress may be slow and that it’s okay to have setbacks. Setting small, achievable goals can provide a sense of accomplishment along the way.

Celebrate Your Successes: When your child tries a new food or successfully incorporates a previously aversive texture into your diet, celebrate your child’s achievement. This positive reinforcement can motivate further exploration.


Dealing with food aversion and texture sensitivities can be a challenging journey, but it can lead to a more varied and enjoyable culinary experience. Remember that it’s okay to take your time and seek support when needed. By using these practical tips and real-life examples, you can embark on a path towards a more adventurous and satisfying relationship with food.

Suhana Shriyan
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