It was one of the tiniest details that I learnt / heard in the Managing Advanced Paediatric Feeding Difficulties course that I attended last week. A teensy, tiny remark but it really struck a chord with me. Its not significant in the big scheme of things but it’s a start point to help me clarify even further the difference between feeding problems and fussy eating behaviours. Whilst delivering feeding therapy the researchers in the HELP (Healthier Eating Learning Program) study did not mix any textures – EXCEPT for creamed cheese on crackers. Like I said, this was only one tid-bit of information across an amazing 3 days of professional development. Yet here it is – getting it’s own blog post!
The reason why this was the only mixed texture (ie. a soft spread and a crunchy cracker) that they presented in a feeding therapy session is that this was something that children come across in everyday life. Yes, a crunchy texture and a soft texture can often go hand in hand. It’s not the only texture combination that features very regularly, however, it’s a great first step. During feeding therapy the foods are offered mostly on an individual basis (especailly at the beginning). Why? This is conducive to learning about the food. The more the food is altered away from a recognisable form, the more difficult it is for a child to recognise (AKA learn about). As our competence grows in eating we travel further along the developmental continuum. We move from softer textures to harder textures and THEN to mixed textures. (read more about the developmental continuum here).
If you are finding that your child is getting really stuck in a rut, you may need to consider if these feeding red flags apply to your situation.
One way to approach a food aversion to mixed textures using creamed cheese:
- Place a small teaspoon with cream cheese on it on the side of a plate holding preferred crunchy texture foods (pappadams, tortilla strips, celery sticks, carrot sticks etc).
- Model scraping the top of the cream cheese with the crunchy foods for your child to copy.
- Lick or kiss the scraped cheese.
- Encourage your child to copy your actions to a point where they are comfortable.
- Model eating the combination of the mixed textures and explain what it feels like in your mouth.
- See if your child is comfortable to try both textures together.
Other uses for creamed cheese as a mixed texture with other food types:
- With soft cubes – bread without crust or muffins
- With soft mechanicals – pasta, rice noodles, zuchinni noodles, steamed vegies like potato or pumpkin cubes
- With purees – little dollops with pumpkin or mushroom soup
What to do with the rest of the block or tub of creamed cheese?
This activity alone may not result in your child trying a large range of mixed texture foods. Remember that your child’s sensory systems may prefer the new textures to be reasonably plain/bland to start with. So, don’t be hard on yourself when they don’t love your pie of slow cooked lamb and vegetable ragu. The sensory inputs of these sorts of mixed texture dishes is very complicated.
These vegetable baked wontons by Kidgredients make a fantastic mid-week dinner when teamed with a salad. They are crunchy and yet have the same cream cheese flavour burst that your child may have started to enjoy. We made ours together and it was one of those special dinner recipes where the girls could play and enjoy making them with me without me worrying about the raw egg / raw meat!
These creamed cheese chicken roll-ups by Musings of the misguided look like a yummy mid-week meal too.
If you kids are green machines (there are some kids who love green!) – This herby dip log looks awesome from Honey, You Baked. You could get really fancy and shape the dip “log” into a dinosaur before coating it in the parsley and chive mix.
If you like cheesecake, how can you go past something delish like this Mango Cheesecake Slice by Melinda from Table for Five?
As creamed cheese is a learning food in our house, you can bet you’ll see more “trying it” out here and these recipes will come in handy for me as I hate wasted foods. Do you have some learning foods that you have been put off trying with the kids because you don’t know how to avoid the waste?