Sensory Friendly Diets are a little hard to explain. The reason being that these are diets that are catered to the individual needs of those that need more or less stimulation when eating. This kind of diet can change daily, and can alternate between things that change based on texture, color, smell, taste, temperature, sound, and many other items not mentioned. People that have sensory issues with food can lead a very limited diet and nutritional base. Very often parents of kids with sensory issues and loved ones are told to supplement foods that they will eat with nutritional supplements and they should get close to the nutrition that they need. However, with a little research and trial and error, it is possible to help people with sensory food issues to eat the foods that comfort them while maintaining their nutrition.
We have seen it before, people hiding vegetables in foods so kids don’t get grossed out and will eat some. There are many people who see this as laziness on parents for not encouraging or pushing their kids to eat healthy. Let’s face it, the typical diet these days does not call for a lot of veggies being pushed in the household(at least in America that is). However, I see it as a way that companies may be recognizing sensory struggles in people with food. Autism is rising over the decades and parents of autistic kids often get a lot of grief from other parents because all their children will eat are “chicken nuggets, french fries, and goldfish.” Well as a parent of several autistic kids, I would mostly agree with that statement. Those foods tend to hang in their comfort zone, but if you look at them closer you can start to see part of the reason why. They are relatively close on a color palette, most often they are slightly crunchy, and they tend to be eaten room temperature for most sensory people.
Why is that? Brown or brown toned foods are the most commonly sought out for kids on the sensory spectrum. They relate to pretty bland foods that are not visually exciting. When people get too much stimulation through their senses it can sometimes really overwhelm them. People who have sensory food related issues can have difficulty explaining how items taste or feel in their mouth. I have heard my kids call mint “spicy”, citrus drinks as “high pitched”, crumbled textures as “scratchy”, and many more. Are they wrong? No, of course not, they just have a hard time interpreting what their senses are trying to tell them. What does that mean for me? Well it means that I have to decode what they are trying to tell me and then figure out how to take their information and work with it.
So over the years I learned that it was easier to take foods that I knew they could eat comfortably and adapt them to include more nutritious elements. This way I was making certain that they were getting the most nutrition that I could give them, and they were happily eating along the way. Staying within their comfort zone and just testing and trying new things to do, I have managed to come up with a solid repertoire of foods that they enjoy. As they have become older, they help me to adapt recipes and come up with new ways to add even more nutrition to what they are eating. I am happy to say that they don’t have to take the nutritional supplements and they have great bloodwork every time, so I am very proud of that.
In my recipes, I will post recipes that I have created that are more nutritious versions of the foods they like. Like I mentioned, sensory diets are more of a individual need, however, I encourage you to explore the recipes that I post and see what may work for your family. Even if it is just to make sure you get more veggies in your diet, I am hoping that you find the recipes valuable.