Toolkit: How to Help Your Child Eat Textured Foods

*Consult your pediatrician or feeding specialist before introducing any food with a new texture.

Some children are very sensitive to new food textures and tastes and will only eat pureed or baby foods even though they have the skills necessary to safely eat table foods. You can encourage your child to try new foods and textures by having him help you prepare the new foods. Involving him in food preparation encourages him to touch, smell, and even taste the new foods.

To help a child gradually progress from eating purees to table foods:

  • Offer your child a pureed food that he likes and typically eats. After a few bites, offer the same food mixed well with a small amount (1/8 teaspoon or less per 4-6 ounces of food) of a crushed dry food (cracker, dry cereal, graham cracker, etc.). If he accepts this, continue to offer the mixed food providing extra time between bites and water if necessary.
  • After your child accepts several meals with the same amount of texture, you can gradually increase the amount of crushed dry food (1/4 teaspoon, then ½ teaspoon etc.) added to the puree.
  • If your child does not easily accept the new texture, alternate 1-2 bites of puree- only with 1-2 bites of puree mixed with cracker. You will gradually be able to reduce the amount of puree-only.
  • If you are making your own purees, you can modify the recipe to increase the texture by adding less water to the puree or adding some mashed food to the puree. For example, if you are pureeing bananas, mash a small amount of the banana with a fork and add that to the pureed banana.Each child will progress at his own pace, and parents should be patient and follow the child’s lead, adding texture when the child is ready.

Next steps toward table foods:

  • Once your child has started to accept the new texture in food, offer the crackers or dry cereal you have been mixing in the purees as a finger food. He may or may not try the finger food, but have it available.
  • Introduce a second new textured food when your child is comfortable with eating the first textured food well. Gradually include a textured food in each meal.
  • Use foods your child enjoys and is motivated to eat. Offer praise for trying new foods, but never force him to try something.
  • Remain calm if the child gags or even vomits when trying new textures. Decrease the amount of texture to the previous level that was well tolerated and continue at a slower pace.
  • Certain foods are especially difficult for children to manage and should only be offered once the child is accepting general table foods. The hardest foods to manage are mixed textures such as soup with solids (broth mixed with pieces of pasta/vegetables/meat) or slippery foods such as ripe fruits or canned fruits.

Resources:
Dunn Klein, M & Delaney, T (1994). Feeding and Nutrition for the Child with Special Needs: Handouts for Parents. Therapy Skill Builders

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