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Navigating Food Sensory Sensitivities: A Guide for Picky Eaters





Food is not just about sustenance; it's a sensory symphony that engages all our senses. From the vibrant colour of a ripe strawberry to the crunch of a favourite snack, whether it's the texture, smell, taste, or appearance, navigating the world of food can be overwhelming for some kids. In this blog, we'll explore strategies for overcoming food sensory sensitivities, helping picky eaters broaden their culinary horizons and enjoy a more varied diet.



Understanding Food Sensory Sensitivities:

Food sensory sensitivities encompass a range of reactions to certain aspects of food. These sensitivities can manifest in different ways:


Sight: The saying "we eat with our eyes first" rings true as sight often influences our initial impressions of food. Bright colours can evoke freshness and vitality, while well-presented dishes appeal to our aesthetic sensibilities. The visual presentation of food can influence whether someone is willing to try it. Certain colours or combinations may be unappealing to picky eaters.


Smell: Our sense of smell is intricately linked to taste, with scent molecules wafting through the air and triggering memories and cravings. From the comforting aroma of freshly baked bread to the complex bouquet of spices in a curry, smells can evoke powerful emotions and anticipation. However for some kids strong food odours can be off-putting for some kids, making it difficult for them to even consider trying certain foods.


Taste: While taste is undeniably central to our enjoyment of food, it's far from a solo act. Our taste buds detect five primary tastes—sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami—and work in concert with our sense of smell to create flavour sensations. The interplay of these elements determines our perception of taste, making each bite a nuanced experience. Sensitivities to taste can make certain flavours overwhelming or unpleasant for kids.


Texture: Adds another dimension to the sensory journey of food. Whether it's the crispness of a potato chip, the velvety smoothness of chocolate mousse, or the chewiness of a bagel, the tactile qualities of food can greatly influence our enjoyment, with some kids struggling with certain textures, finding them too slimy, crunchy, or mushy.


Sound: While often overlooked, sound can enhance the dining experience in subtle ways. The satisfying crunch of a freshly picked apple or the sizzle of meat on a grill can evoke a sense of anticipation and pleasure. Ambient sounds in a dining environment also contribute to the overall atmosphere, shaping our perceptions of the meal.



Strategies for Overcoming Food Sensory Sensitivities:


Gradual Exposure: Introduce new foods gradually, starting with small portions or incorporating them into familiar dishes. This approach allows picky eaters to become accustomed to new flavours and textures over time.


Food Play: Encourage exploration and experimentation with food outside of mealtime. Engage picky eaters in activities like cooking, food-themed games, or sensory bins, making the experience fun and less intimidating.


Respect Preferences: While encouraging openness to new foods, respect individual preferences and avoid forcing or pressuring picky eaters to eat something they dislike. Try exploring different ways to cook the food in ways they can tolerate.


Offer Choices: Provide a variety of options and allow picky eaters to have some control over their food choices. This empowers them to explore new foods at their own pace.


Food Desensitisation Techniques: Incorporate desensitisation techniques, such as gradually increasing exposure to disliked foods or pairing them with preferred foods to lessen aversions.


Seek Professional Guidance: If food sensory sensitivities significantly impact daily life or nutrition, consider consulting with a healthcare professional such as an Occupational Therapist or Feeding Therapist for personalized guidance and support.




Food sensory sensitivities can pose significant challenges for picky eaters, impacting their dietary choices and overall well-being. However, with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, it's possible to overcome these sensitivities and broaden one's culinary horizons. By gradually introducing new foods, respecting preferences, and providing opportunities for exploration, picky eaters can develop a more varied and enjoyable relationship with food. Remember, every small step towards expanding food preferences is a victory worth celebrating.






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