Sensory Food Needs

  • 2 mins

Many people have food they like and food they don’t, but for neurodivergent children and adults, this can extend into sensory needs that make some foods safe and others stressful to eat.

Sensory needs relating to food can include how food tastes, feels and smells, as well as the temperature it is served at or how it looks on the plate. Every individual is different. For example, some people may only be able to tolerate foods that are dry, hard and crunchy, while others may only tolerate foods which are smooth, soft and creamy.

Specific sensory needs can mean that only a small number of foods are able to be eaten safely and this can make it challenging to meet nutrition requirements. For example, it can be hard to make iron-rich meats dry and crunchy, so there may be a risk of iron deficiency for people who prefers those textures.

As Dietitian’s it is our role to support people to understand their food-related sensory needs, and any patterns to the foods they are/aren’t able to tolerate. We can also help to identify what about those foods makes them stressful, and whether there are ways of preparing those foods which may be more appropriate. We can also ensure that any missing nutrients are added through alternative food sources, or through dietary supplements.

The most important things to remember with food-related sensory needs, is that they are not preferences, and pressuring people to eat foods they do not feel safe with is unhelpful. Over time, with creation of safe and supportive food environments, accommodations to family meals, and gentle opportunities to engage with food, people may be able to expand their range of safe foods, but they also may not and that is ok.

Our job is to make sure that food is not a source of stress, and that their bodies get all the nutrients they need, even if that looks different to what we might expect.

If you or a loved one are interested in Dietetics with HenderCare, please call our team on 1300 764 433.

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