Food Textures & Yuck!

by Jodi Gilray-Szostak, PT, DPT, c/NDT, Jodi Gilray Pediatric Therapy

As a parent, seeing our kiddos struggle with food textures can be a worrisome and frustrating experience.

Eating food is very much a sensory experience considering that you can touch, taste, smell and see your food. As a result, sensitivities to certain foods can occur. 

Sensory processing disorder could be to blame if the dislike of certain food textures has become a big problem in the home. Also, consider that other issues could be to blame such as swallowing or dental concerns.

Understand that sensory processing disorder can be an incredibly overwhelming and uncomfortable experience for kids because this means that the brain has a hard time interpreting sensory information.

Squishy foods like mashed potatoes might even be painful for your child to eat, resulting in gagging, vomiting, or absolute refusal of the food.

Ease your worries

Parents face tremendous pressure to feed their little ones well. When your child tells you “no,” do you find yourself screaming inside “yes”?

Despite your worries, relax just a bit because there are so many ways to help get your child back on track. First and foremost, don’t force food textures on your kiddo; making this time a negative experience can make problems worse.

Instead, try keeping a record of foods your child will eat. This way, you can show your pediatrician or feeding therapist the next time you see them.

When food texture aversion is a problem

Every child is different, so reactions to food textures could be mild while others are severe. At what point should you get help? If mealtime is a dreaded time of the day, then that’s a big red flag.

A few other things to look out for are:

  • Frequent vomiting/gagging with certain food textures.
  • Mealtimes take longer than they should.
  • Anxiety around new foods.
  • Accepting fewer than 20 foods (problem feeder).
  • Significant preference for certain textures or food brands.
  • Problems with chewing and swallowing.

Keep in mind that your child isn’t going to enjoy every single food in the world, but they should be able to thrive with a variety that they truly love.