Eating Resources For Those With Developmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities are a group of chronic conditions related to either mental or physical impairments. They are called “developmental” disabilities because they usually manifest themselves while a child is young, in their early stages of development. A recent study showed that 1 in 6 kids between the ages of 3-17 had a developmental disability, and that diagnosis rates are increasing with time.

Developmental Disabilities can have serious implications throughout one’s lifetime, especially when it comes to “language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living” . Although every developmental disability is different, and every individual’s situation is unique, one thing they all have in common is an increased potential for eating difficulties. These eating difficulties have many sources, a few of which are: decreased muscle control, the inability to self feed, sensory issues, and not being able to communicate food preferences or feelings of hunger

Soft, nutritious, and appealing looking foods can be key to helping those with developmental disabilities enjoy mealtime and, in turn, improve their nutrition and quality of life.

A laughing handicapped down syndrome child with his mother indoors baking.
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Eating Difficulties Are Common Among All Developmental Disabilities:

Your Goals When Preparing Meals For Those With Developmental Disabilities:

  • Cook three meals a day and provide healthy snacks in between meals
  • Try to have a variety of foods at each meal. Being able to choose which foods to eat is an opportunity to develop feeding independence and can give you some ideas of their food preferences.
  • Try to provide a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein as dietary restrictions allow. 
  • is a great resource for creating a balanced diet!
  • Talk with your physician and dietitian about the specific nutritional needs of the individual you are caring for.
  • Eat together as a family whenever possible. Meal times are a great opportunity to strengthen social and family relationships. Eating with others is generally a more positive experience than eating by yourself.
  • Try to make meals stress free and positive. Pressuring, yelling, or forcing individuals to eat could potentially lead to negative associations with meal time, and in turn eating. One study showed that the less pressure children received to eat, the more they enjoyed their food.
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Easy-To-Chew is a food blog created by a dentist, a public health professional, and a registered dietitian. Their mission? To cook up delicious recipes  dedicated to those who are in need of foods which are easy to chew, easy to swallow, and easy to love!

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Helpful Cooking Appliances When Cooking For Those With Developmental Disabilities

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A crock pot is a simple way to prepare meals in advance. Cooking foods, especially meats, at controlled temperatures for long periods of time makes them easy to chew and delicious!

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There is no finer way to puree foods than a Vitamix Blender. It can turn any food into a single, smooth texture which is easy to swallow.

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A food processor is a must have for finely chopping, slicing, and pureeing foods. It does all the work for you, which is especially helpful if your age or health status limits your ability to chop and slice foods by hand.

A laughing handicapped down syndrome child with his mother indoors baking.
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