How is food packaging related to feeding concerns?
Children can become attached to the look of food packaging. Children who have feeding sensitivities may try to create “rules” to make sense of what foods are “safe” for them to eat (whether or not these rules seem logical to parents). For example, some children will only eat a certain food (i.e. chicken nuggets) that come from the “red” package rather than the ones that come from the “blue” package. This can lead to parents searching for a particular brand or type of food to ensure their child eats, which can be very limiting when the packaging changes or the food is discontinued. The child is often likely to stop eating that food if the familiar packaging needs cannot be met.
Why should parents avoid serving a child food in the original packaging?
Oftentimes, a child will refuse to engage with familiar foods, not because of the food itself, but because it does not match their preferred package. This can be a manifestation of rigidity surrounding foods, as the child knows the food in the preferred packaging is predictable, and assumes that the food in the non-preferred package may be unpredictable.
How should parents serve foods to reduce the likelihood of developing rigidity around food packaging?
- Avoid offering any food in its original packaging.
- Instead, show the child the food in the package, then place it into a different container.
- The goal is to move to where the child does not see any original packaging, and is able to accept different foods from the beginning.
What are different ways I can present the food?
- Pour puree pouches into a bowl
- Serve chips or crackers on a napkin
- Place foods into a bowl, bag, or plate for serving
- Present the foods in a smiley face or fun picture
- Present foods in different shapes using cookie cutters
- Serve foods in small muffin tins or cupcake liners