Nutrition, health and wellness is a topic that can feel daunting to have to explain to your children. For one, it requires an understanding and self-awareness that many of us don’t develop until we’re much older. It can also require some hard-decisions, like telling our children that their favorite foods shouldn’t be eaten too often to stay healthy.
Fortunately, there are many resources available for parents and caregivers to educate their children on the decisions they can make to lead a healthy life. In this post, we’ll breakdown some tips on teaching your child on the spectrum about nutrition and how it relates to their health and wellness.
It’s no secret that children on the spectrum tend to be picky eaters. With heightened sensitivities to smell, taste and touch, once a child decides they don’t like the particular feeling or texture of a food item, they may never want to eat it again. Though we may not fully understand why it happens, we should be sure not to belittle or get angry with our children when this happens, instead you can take a few steps to ensure your child is receiving the proper nutrients including:
- Choosing a healthy food similar to your child’s preferred foods. When they have a craving for their preferred food, try to introduce a healthy alternative. For example, unsalted corn chips in lieu of potato chips. For some children, the similarities in texture will be enough for them to successfully adopt the new and healthy alternative.
- Taking baby-steps when introducing healthy foods and phasing out the unhealthy ones. You will likely find some resistance during this process, and as such we recommend taking small steps toward the right choice. For example, you can start with simply placing the ne food on to your child’s plate at mealtime. Even if they don’t eat it right away, this is a step in the right direction. Then, get them to touch it, smell it, bring it to their lips, taste it and eventually to eat it. Take as much time as necessary for a better chance at success.
- Avoid anger, fights, and power struggles. This means patience is of the utmost importance in these scenarios. As frustrating as it may feel, your child’s brain works a little differently and as such, they learn a bit different too, this extends to food and etiquette.
- Communicating the food’s value as a nutritious source of health and wellness. Yes, this can be difficult but like with the rest of these steps, we recommend gradually introducing concepts of health and wellness into your child’s learning. Chances are, they may already have a fundamental understanding from school. We recommend focusing on being healthy with the choices we make and focusing on safety, energy and longevity rather than weight or appearance when teaching your child about the subject. One such way is by examining the regular choices your child make that are healthy, and using those as examples to help them understand where to draw the line. Though they may not grasp these concepts right away, it’s never too early to start the conversation.
Start small and work your way up to larger and more permanent healthy choices while communicating to your child the methods and reasoning behind your decisions. Doing that can lead to some remarkable strides towards a healthier life for you and your family.