Sensory Food Aversions

Is your child a picky eater often avoiding new and different foods, if yes then they might have sensory food aversions. 

The term “picky eaters” is often used by parents of younger children who do not hesitate to throw a tantrum or two when introduced to different foods. 

During the early stages of development, the child is exposed to a wide range of sensory stimuli such as meeting new people, exploring new environments, touching different textures, and tasting new foods. 

During the transitional stages when the child is being introduced to new foods encompassing different textures, smells, tastes, flavors, and appearances, the child often becomes overwhelmed and begins to possess food aversion behaviors. 

Furthermore, most children who possess sensory food aversion behaviors often have Sensory processing disorders. 

If you have a tiny toddler or rebellious picky eater who faces difficulty eating certain foods, do not panic. 

Here is all you need to learn about Sensory Food Aversions and their causes, symptoms, and even treatments, to help your child overcome their selective eating habits.

What is Sensory Food Aversion Exactly?

Picky eating or selective eating behaviors are common in younger children as they progress to eating solid foods from pureed foods. 

While most parents disregard this “picky eating”  behavior to be mere inconveniences faced by the child during their transitional periods, this problem can be a result of several neurological disorders and sensory processing disorders. 

Sensory Food Aversion is a form of sensory processing disorder that is characterized by overreaction towards certain types of foods that carry different characteristics such as textures, smells, tastes, and textures of foods. 

In simpler terms, Sensory food Aversion is when a child feels repulsed or disgusted by foods and rejects to eat them. 

This cognitive or neurological condition can be caused by genetic factors, traumatic early childhood experiences, underlying medical conditions, and psychological factors. 

Most children with Sensory Food aversion reject certain foods by spitting them out, dry retching, gagging, or in severe cases vomiting after tasting and smelling foods. 

While there are no evident causes or research that proves what can be the cause of Sensory Food Aversion, most people consider suspecting an overload of sensory input to be among the culprits behind such heightened reactions.

What are the Symptoms of Sensory Food Aversion?

Symptoms of sensory food aversions can vary from one child to the other and range from mild to severe. 

For example, in some cases sensory food aversion is as mild as avoiding certain foods, other children can go as far as feeling completely repulsed by the sight, taste, or smell of certain foods which can ultimately lead to nausea. 

Here are some symptoms or tell-tale signs of sensory food aversions in children ranging from mild-moderate to severe in children:

Mild or Moderate symptoms of Sensory Food Aversion:

  • Displaying strong negative emotions when given foods they dislike (throwing a tantrum or crying)
  • Refusal to eat foods they dislike while eating other foods without hesitation
  • Taking a long time to eat meals with foods they dislike
  • Refusal to eat foods that resemble closely, taste like, or smell like the foods they dislike

Severe Symptoms of Sensory Food Aversion:

  • Nausea
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Feeling Faint or Fatigue

Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Food Aversion:

The brain relies heavily on the basic five senses to help children to make sense of the world that surrounds them during the early stages of development. 

Sensory Processing disorder is a neurological condition that affects the brain’s ability to process sensory input or sensory stimuli. 

Sensory food aversion can be a form of Sensory processing disorder that causes children to experience high amounts of sensory input when coming in contact with certain foods. 

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often display this hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli and often face difficulties eating certain foods. 

The reasons why a child might have sensory food aversion due to sensory processing disorder are mentioned below:

  • Doesn’t enjoy certain textures in foods
  • Inability to chew or swallow foods
  • Allergies that are undiagnosed
  • Foods that are too hot or too cold
  • Oral Problems
  • Unfamiliar foods that taste unlike any other foods they have tried
  • Not feeling hungry

What are the Consequences of Sensory Food Aversion?

Be aware, sensory food aversions might be more than just picky eating habits or throwing tantrums. 

Children with sensory food aversions often avoid a myriad of foods that can be rich in nutrients, minerals, proteins, and vitamins among other micronutrients that do more for your health than acting as a mode of sustenance. 

Nutrients like proteins, zinc, Vitamins, carbs, and minerals are essential to maintain a clean bill of health, especially during developing periods. 

If you are wondering how exactly Sensory food aversion can affect your child, look no further, here is a list of some consequences your child may face when diagnosed with sensory food aversion:

Limited Food Intake:

Children for the early stages of development require a nutritionally balanced diet to build a firm foundation to support growth and facilitate development as the child passes through different stages. 

Picky eating or sensory food aversion often leads the child to restrict their diet to certain selective foods, making it hard for parents to curate the perfect meal plan to support their development process and maintain a clean bill of health. 

Most children often limit their eating habits to carbohydrate-rich foods while avoiding whole foods like vegetables and fruits. 

Nutrient Deficiencies:

As mentioned earlier limited and restrictive eating practices caused by sensory food aversions can lead to severe health repercussions for younger children. 

Limited food intake often leads to nutrient deficiencies leading the child to have compromised immunity, fatigue, and dehydration, among other health conditions. 


Most children with sensory food aversion can often feel left out or isolated due to their condition as they are unable to fit in with their peers. 

Most children with sensory food aversion can feel hesitant to visit their peer’s homes, eat in the school cafeteria, or even attend parties due to their condition.

How to help a child with Sensory food Aversion?

Children with sensory food aversion often feel more agitated and frustrated than one may think. 

While this condition does not pose any direct harm or risk to the child’s health, it can lead to certain health-related repercussions due to a lack of nutrition. 

If you are a vigilant parent looking for ways to integrate healthy foods that your child avoids into their diet, follow the simple tips mentioned below:

  • Create new and unique food sensory bins and introduce them about 5 to 6 times a week
  • Add foods into smoothies, shakes, or other hidden forms to promote your child to meet their nutritional requirements
  • Work with a therapist to understand why your child dislikes certain foods 
  • Indulge in cooking activities with your child to help them enjoy their scrumptious creations
  • Slowly increase the exposure to foods that your child dislikes