Children with Sensory Food Aversions consistently refuse to eat certain foods related to the taste, texture, temperature, smell and/or appearance. This is different from children refusing to eat a particular food one day, but eating it the next.
Food aversions are common and believed to occur along a spectrum of severity, with some children refusing only a few specific foods and others refusing whole food groups (vegetables, fruits, meats). Reactions to the aversive foods can also range from grimacing to gagging, vomiting, or spitting out the food. Also, oftentimes parents report that these children are reluctant to try new foods.
After experiencing the initial aversive reaction, children with Sensory Food Aversions usually refuse to continue eating that particular food and become very distressed if forced to do so. In fact, after an aversive experience, some children tend to generalize and refuse foods that look and/or smell like the aversive food (e.g., aversion to peas may be generalized to all green foods).
Some children are so sensitive that they will refuse to eat any foods that have touched other foods on their plates, while others eat only foods of specific brand names or restaurants (e.g., will only eat McDonald’s chicken nuggets).
If these children refuse whole food groups, their diet may become deficient in vitamins, minerals (e.g., zinc, iron) or protein. Also, if these children reject foods that require significant chewing (e.g., meats, hard vegetables), they fall behind in their oral motor development due to lack of experience/practice with chewing and may develop some articulation problems.
Food sensitivities may extend to aversions in other sensory areas (e.g., touching certain foods or play-doh, walking on sand or grass, the feeling of clothing labels, having their hair washed, loud noises, bright lights).
Children with Sensory Food Aversions will eat well if given the foods they prefer. That said, parents should consult with their pediatrician whether the child's somewhat limited diet is adequate in providing all the important nutrients or whether professional help is needed to overcome some of these aversions.