I came across the book Food Chaining Food: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet by Cheri Fraker, Mark Fishbein, Sybyl cox and Laura Walbert whilst I was looking for ways to support my own son to learn how to become a more effective and adventurous eater.
It’s a fantastic, easy to read, accessible book, which great for recommending to families. It outlines an easy to follow practical plan to guide families in choosing which new foods to introduce to a child with avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), or other sensory-based feeding and eating difficulties. It is written by medical professionals who have experience and expertise in the field.
Not a replacement for assessment and therapy
Food Chaining as a home-based approach which sits nicely alongside support from a qualified occupational therapist, and alongside Ayres’ Sensory Integration therapy. Once medical conditions interfering with eating have been ruled out, the therapist can assess for seating, sensory-motor difficulties, or modulation problems which may be interfering with eating and address these in therapy while the book will support the family to develop a greater understanding of their child difficulties and gives them a simple practical tool to use at home.
Foood Chaining encourages families to closely observe their child’s eating choices and to think about the sensory qualities of the foods, seeing the food through the child’s eyes rather than their own.
Some children may prefer colourful, spicy foods, crunchy foods others may only find circular beige foods acceptable. Rather than seeing this as a problem, the book encourages families to reframe this as the platform from which to start.
So how does it work in real life…
Understanding that some foods which may have been perceived as unhealthy are actually stepping stones towards more desirable foods is helpful. For example, rather than discouraging our child from eating fast food chicken nuggets we have learned to encourage them and use them as a stepping stone towards other breaded items, and other white meats.
Overall the book is very helpful. Some of the food chains suggested in the book were overly ambitious for my son, and many of the food suggestions were American brands. However, the principals of observing what he will accept and gently exposing him to new foods with similar qualities have given us a plan and a structure.
The book also reinforced that the difficulties our son experienced were due to his sensory processing and integration differences, rather than a medical or behavioural problem. I regularly recommend this book to other families who are experiencing sensory related feeding and eating difficulties.
Get some support
If you are a therapist working with children with sensory-based feeding and eating difficulties, or a parent of a child who struggles to eat you are welcome to join our facebook support and information groups