Providing nutrition for a child on the spectrum can be a daunting task, beginning with sensory issues which are vast and highly individual. Isaac's main sensory issue is: soft and squishy like yogurt, pudding and ice cream,...those all get an immediate 'Uh, Uh," from our little guy, while other 'suspect' foods are put to the finger-tip test,...very rigorous little fingertip as it is rare for a new food to get past Isaac's inspection.
So what to feed your child? In our case, we offer everything and anything with an emphasis upon healthy or really healthy snacks since multi-vitamins - in any form - do not pass Isaac's sensory guard - not liquid, not gummies, not chewable,...really not chewables! The one time I tried a chewable, I got the 'You've got to be kidding me" - look from Isaac, before he handed it back.
But hope is not lost,....here is Isaac eating EGGPLANT!!!
All is fair in love and nutrition,...so Mama has no qualms about marinating sliced eggplant in a
sweetened, hickory smoke brine,...and frying the Faux-Bacon,...like it was bacon,
'cause if you slice eggplant very thin, marinate it, drain it, coat it in potato starch, and then fry.
It tastes pretty durn close to: BACON!!!
Or at least close enough,...Isaac's begging for more,....
However eggplant's nutritional profile is not really that spectacular,...so this treat would only qualify as somewhat healthy. Fried squash and fried okra are equally acceptable to Isaac, and do have more nutrients but I am not crazy about feeding my little guy or big guys lots of fried foods.
Veggies like dairy remain a challenge for us,...as Isaac will only consume milk on occasion in a bowl of cereal,...which is NOT allowed to get soggy. Cheese is also a no go, but fortunately Isaac has no nut allergies to deal with and will consume cashews and almonds,...both fairly acceptable sources for calcium.
Oatmeal is our best friend, and my best ally for sneaking in more nutrients such as a throughly mashed banana which disappears into the cereal. Score one for Mama, because if you offer Isaac a banana, he'll happily peel it for you, and hand it back, but he's not eating that 'squishy' fruit.
Hilariously Isaac prefers über-expensive organic strawberries to plain ol' strawberries, trust me, we've tested him on this, and perhaps they do taste better. Our test show that plain ol' strawberries are a hit or miss, while Isaac will readily eat the organic,...when we can afford them. The irony is killing!
Grapes and apples are within Isaac's sensory scope, although grapes are more a hit and miss with Isaac than apples, which he adores. I purchase little 'snack' size apples and keep them in a bin in the fridge that Isaac can easily reach, he thinks it's a 'big deal' to help himself to an apple, and I play along.
Dried fruits are a no brainer for hunting down acceptable sources of vitamins, or would be,...if Isaac would eat them. He'll eat raisins, but not dried anything else,...especially bananas!!! Hand Isaac a dried banana chip and he'll hand it back with a 'Nice Try' - expression. But this Mama keeps trying and I can sneak a few dried blueberries or dates in Isaac's oatmeal or into oatmeal cookies.
Lately Isaac has shown interest in eating stews and chili,...which is a boon for our quest for more veggies as it is super easy to sneak greens like kale and iron-rich veggies like okra, which I regularly put in chili and slow cook until the pods break down into unrecognizable bits,...and are thus consumed by my unsuspecting five year old.
In the past week or so I've just learned about Celtic salt, which is a sea salt that has a high profile of minerals, helpful information and a helpful seasoning, as I've been using it exclusively to season, and while it's not much, every tiny bit counts.
Also legumes are a huge source of protein, calcium and iron for my little guy,...he LOVES them, and I've recently learned that soaking and sprouting legumes, like kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils, activates the available nutrients absorbed by the body in considerable amounts, so the extra steps are worth my time and effort, especially since I usually cook from scratch.
Protein for Isaac is never a problem from sea food to tofu,...if it is not soft or squishy,...he'll consume it with gusto!
A typical daily menu for Isaac would be:
Breakfast: oatmeal with sunflower seeds, banana and raisins - school days - add scrambled egg on days he stays home;
Lunch: corn dog/or other protein, mandarin orange slices, noodles, trail mix
Snack: popcorn, apple, sunflower seeds, nuts, or oatmeal cookie.
Supper: ground turkey patty, rice, noodles or potatoes, purple hull peas, grapes or strawberries.
Snack: bowl of cereal with milk, eaten with Daddy, trail mix, or popcorn,...have I mentioned on this blog before that Isaac really, really, really likes popcorn?
Interestingly although Isaac likes bread, peanut butter sandwiches are not a biggie, although he will eat them, but he'd rather have garbanzo beans or purple hull peas.
If Isaac has a love of his life for food, aside from popcorn, it would be RICE,...as he takes his love of this grain to alarming levels,...like eating his generous portion and YOURS too! White rice though? Pretty much devoid of nutrients, oh dear, but I've learned that brown rice, soaked overnight and cooked in the rice cooker - is perfectly acceptable to Isaac,...and rice-bowls are a great way to sneak in more veggies,...like broccoli very finely minced,...and every bit of vitamins is essential.
When offering a new food to Isaac,...like that eggplant,...reverse psychology is a helpful tool. I NEVER say, "Here Isaac try this!" or at least haven't said it since my Rookie Days. No, I am very nonchalant about making the food available. It's on his plate, on the table, if he wants to try it, go for it, if not, we tried.
9 times out of 10,...curiosity gets the better of Isaac and he will TRY a new food, if it is unacceptable he'll bring it to me, "No tank you." - Very polite, it's when I attempt to push new items, I get the "Don't insult my intelligence" - look.
Truthfully, I usually strike out when introducing new foods, which is why I am so willing to experiment with soaking grains and legumes, and nuts too, to up the nutritional profile of the foods that Isaac will eat.
For my birthday, my guys gifted me, a nine tray dehydrator, which is super cool, and super useful in making nice - dry an crunchy - snacks. At this point, I am still on a learning curve with the dehydrator, although dehydrator cookies are a HUGE hit, and highly nutritious little nuggets. Savory crackers with hidden veggies are on my to-do list for my little guy, because it seems like a feasible concept to create a highly nutritious cracker that my little guy will consume with gusto!
Hey the Eggplant Faux-Bacon got gone quick,...so some ideas do work! Like anything with autism, nutrition is a puzzle, but Isaac likes to eat and he likes to help in the kitchen so can we all say: Therapy Potential? Is there anything more social than preparing food for loved ones? Or what better speech practice to verbally say, "I want more eggplant!
Until I post again,...may God bless and keep you!