Supporting Oral Nutrition from 12 Months Onward
Here are some strategies to support oral nutrition:
- If oral nutrition support is needed to assist with growth for this age group, encourage a variety of food from all food groups, with particular emphasis on energy-dense foods (Carney, et al., 2010). Aim for a structured routine of three main meals and two to three high energy, protein snacks each day.
- Mix energy-dense ingredients into usual family foods, e.g. butter, nuts, seeds. Be mindful to not hide new foods in preferred foods while trying to enhance nutrition intake.
- Offer age and developmentally appropriate portion sizes to support self-awareness of hunger and fullness which may impact the variety of foods accepted at the meal and reduce stress associated with being offered too much food. Teaching older children to serve themselves from the foods being offered promotes self-regulation of appetite, and feelings of confidence and control which contribute to a positive eating experience thus increasing food intake (Alberta Health Services, 2017).
- Offer a small portion of new or non-preferred foods many different times even if the child does not eat them. For some children, it may take six to 15 repeat exposures to taste and accept a new food to contribute to intake. More exposures may be required for a child with significant sensory preferences (Alberta Health Services, 2017).
- Serving new or non-preferred foods with a liked condiment or sauce may help acceptance of these foods and increase energy and/or protein.
- Continue to offer foods in a texture that is suited to the child’s age and skill level to prevent choking and support efficient oral intake and adequacy.
- Consider commercial oral nutrition supplements for children who are not meeting macronutrient and micronutrient needs until nutrition needs can be met with food.