Recipe for success!

Cooking and following a recipe is a fantastic way of increasing independence and esteem. Here are some useful sites I've found: Your Special Chef and The Cbeebies I Can Cook also provides good simple healthy recipes in an accessible format.

Pre-sliced bagels

I buy pre-sliced bagels so Toby can spread jam, cream cheese or his spread of choice all by himself without the worry of letting him near a knife! It pleases him to make his own lunch.

One cup kettle

To aid independence and safety in the kitchen try using a 'One Cup' kettle. Press the button and the kettle heats one cup of water and fills the cup. No lifting hot heavy kettles. Do remember to also get the right size cup!

Fish oils

We give all our children "Eye Q" (fish oils) every day as this helps with joints and is renowned for helping children with memory and concentration problems.

Spice is right

Add turmeric powder to meals to help bones and digestion.

Melt in your mouth

Wafer biscuits are good snacks for children who have sensory issues around their mouth. Wafers melt in the mouth.

Fatten up

Add butter, coconut oil or olive oil to each meal to increase the fat content.

Extra calories

My son is very skinny, I give him an Ensure drink (you can get them over the counter from any chemists) to boost his calories. They come in lots of flavours.

Bite sized

Make cakes with the mini cake cases, the smaller sizes can be eaten in one mouthful and are easy to hold, making less mess. Best to use low GI flour such as spelt or quinoa to avoid sugar rush you can sweeten them using stevia.

Stop throwing the food about

Henry is always throwing his food around. We found a pot (Snack Catcher) which allows fingers to push through and grab the food, but when he throws the pot the food stays inside. It was a really useful little pot to put snacks in. It’s hard to find but you can make one out of a Tupperware container, cut a piece of exercise band place it over the top, hold it in place with an elastic band and cut a small cross in the centre.

Thicken it up

Jojo needs her food pureed. We use instant mash (the powdery type) to get the consistency just right. Be careful though as it thickens more once you have stirred it. For sweet meals we use baby rice or baby breakfasts (up to 4 months on the packet). For the healthy alternative you can use chia seeds or tapioca.

Hide the treats

Toby loves ice lollies, given half the chance he would eat a whole box up in one go. I had a brain wave one day and washed an empty frozen vegetable bag out and put the lollies in there and there hasn't been a problem since. You can apply the idea to other foods eg hide sweets in a muesli box.

Encouraging swallowing

Our daughter has a chromosome disorder and has developed a habit of holding food in her mouth for long periods before swallowing. If you gently massage each cheek in small circles it encourages her to swallow the food. This technique is used by many speech and language therapists too.

Healthy treats

Make healthy snacks a 'treat'. Make smoothies together. Melt chocolate and dip strawberries and grapes in. Put fruit in jellies.

Turn it into a game

We found it really hard to get Magdalena to eat lunch, so we came up with this game: to close your eyes and guess what food she's eating.

Bottle feeding

As our daughter, who has Down's syndrome, was bottle fed from the beginning, I tried to use lots of different shaped teats to exercise more muscles and give her more sensations.

Fussy eater

My son ate next to nothing for 5 years. No meat, fish, eggs, cheese, fruit or veg. To get him eating, his teacher started with crisps and added a tiny bit of baked bean sauce. Once he was eating that he would put one baked bean between 2 pieces of crisp. Once that was accepted a bit of mashed potato went on. It took about a year but once he was able to tolerate the different textures, my son began to eat more or less everything.

Substitute jelly for water

For children and adults who don't like drinking or find it difficult, give sugar-free jelly instead. Particularly useful in the summer when fluid intake needs to be increased.

The Eating Game

If your child has eating challenges and will only eat a limited number of preferred foods (a list that does change over time) then have a look at the Eating Game.

Snack choices

We have snack choices on the fridge to help control how much and what our kids eat. When a choice is gone, it is gone and they have to eventually eat the healthy snacks. It helps remind them of the rules as well as encouraging independence.

Squeezy fruit

For people who aren't keen on fruit, baby food squeezy pouches of fruit puree are brilliant. They provide brilliant oral feedback too. Have saved many things being chewed in this house!

Fight the calories

My son overeats constantly and it is a constant fight to keep him out of the fridge so I drew up a board and velcro'd onto it pictures of the treats he is allowed each day along with pictures of eating meal times. I made up plastic ticks and each time he has something off the list he adds a tick and is getting the idea that when all the ticks are used up eating is finished. We try very hard not to budge when all the ticks are used.

Get them involved

Get your child involved at mealtimes by getting them to write what to put on first on the table, for example: plates, cups, what the menu is today, and also draw pictures and stick them near to the item. I think sitting together at the table is important.

Summertime eating therapy

Meal times were always an oppositional nightmare, and became a source of friction every day, so I put a tent up in the garden and suggested we eat in the tent. For some reason the change of scene distracts from what the food is and it gets eaten and I get to lie down whilst he eats!

Start the day on an egg

I find that eggs do not cause constipation, but actually provide very good mood stabilising food for children with autism. My daughter has eggs every day now and is more robust as a result.

Try a heated bowl

If your child is slow at eating, to stop food getting cold and not very tasty or easy to eat, then use a heated bowl. The kind that you can add hot water to the base. Cold gloopy food makes it even more challenging for a child who has difficulties with chewing and swallowing.

Bean bag tray

My son likes deep pressure and has issues eating certain foods. To help calm him for eating I bought a tray on a bean bag and that puts pressure on his legs. He calls it his special tray and loves it!

 

Disguising vegetables

For fussy eaters, grating carrots, courgettes or any other vegetable and making sugar free savoury muffins are a great way of disguising vegetables. I like to add chorizo sausage or cheese for flavour.

Food cuttings

We love to cut out food pictures from magazines. It's a great shared activity and fab for creating visual menus. We stick our food pics up on the fridge and use to aid choice making. Also works to reinforce messages about healthy eating.

Delightful thickener!

A great tip for dysphagia: If you run out of prescription thickener, Angel Delight is good in an emergency.

Explore different foods

We find 'all you can eat' buffet restaurants a fab way of introducing the children in our care to new foods. We have a few fussy eaters who eat a very limited range of food - this has been a good, relaxed way of exposing them to more possibilities.

Encouraging eating

My daughter would mostly refuse to eat. Our breakthrough was letting her choose a DVD for mealtimes. If she didn't eat, I would turn the movie off.

Ditch the bib

As your child gets older, if they still need protective clothing when eating, replace a bib with an apron. It's less 'babyish' and demoralising for them and may help eliminate any negative feelings they have about mealtimes.

Dysphagia-friendly lollies

You can use thickened drinks to make ice lollies and keep safe dysphagia-wise. Just make up some juice that you like the taste of to the correct consistency (stage 1, 2 or 3) and freeze them in lolly moulds. Even when they melt, they will melt to the correct consistency.

Nice lollies

Ice lollies can get very messy, so slip the stick through a cupcake case to catch drips and keep hands from getting sticky.

Recipes for PediaSure milk

If your child has PediaSure milk as a supplement, you can use it to make things like porridge and pancakes - the recipes are on the PediaSure website.

Meal tickets

I've made up 6 cards, one each for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 3 snacks, one of which is a fruit snack. I give my son these 'meal tickets' each morning and he decides what he wants and when. He understands that when the tickets are used, they will not be returned till the next day.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.