So, I wondered, "If Giada has a kid in her family with ADHD, autism or sensory disorders that impact their appetite and their food preferences, what would she recommend?" Oh, wait a minute! Hold the phone! The folks at Food Network are the "Google of Food", the "Wizard of Oz of Edibles". Let's have a "throwdown" of sorts, shall we, Bobby Flay?
Food Network! Listen up! Accept my challenge! Here's what we need...
Give us parents of kids with special needs ideas about nutrition-charged meals, dishes and treats that we can make without rushing about to specialty/boutique stores all over town. And, avoid asking us to use exotic tools because we are busy driving kids to speech/language therapy, occupational therapy and specialists of all kinds, getting the homework done, the laundry, the chores, on and on and on. We don't have time for a visit to the ER because we didn't know how to operate the mandolin (the slicing tool, silly, not the fancy "guitar".
Our kids eat the same things over and over and over again year after year. Don't tell me to make my kid eat broccoli. If I tried that, a child abuse charge is a sure thing. "But, your honor, I was trying to get him to eat broccoli." Yeah, right. This isn't gonna happen. I don't know how to "disguise" nutritious food.
I am worried that he is not getting enough "growth" nutrients from cheese pizza. He won't eat Papa John's cheese pizza, only DiGiorno's. He can tell you the differences! My head will explode if I put another one in my oven! Somebody help!!
We need you to give us some guidance with:
Autistic kids and teens who have "gut issues" including digestive problems, gluten sensitivities and sensory issues that make it very difficult for them to want to eat "crunchy" foods. Kids on the autistic spectrum are vulnerable to hypotonia which is a fancy name for "global, flaccid (floppy/soft) muscle tone". They may not have the jaw strength to chomp on a carrot even if they could tolerate the texture. I've sent kids to UCLA for jaw strength tests. I just knew that they could not clench their jaws with enough strength to get the job done and UCLA proved it. Momma, this observation is not your imagination!
Kids and teens with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and who are on stimulant medications have "timing" issues. They take their meds in the morning so they can learn and it squelches their appetites. They've gotta eat and they've gotta have their meds. What to do? We need to hear about how to handle breakfast. What kind of complex cards and protein foods can we give them to "hold them" through the major instructional periods of the day?
For years, I've recommended that parents re-think the concept of breakfast...think outside the box, the cereal box, that is. Don't think about traditional breakfast foods because they typically don't have the "staying" power of protein. Beef and cheese or bean and cheese burritos and leftover meat loaf and mashies might be options.
Nausea after taking the morning dose of medication might be an issue. What foods can help quell this side effect?
What "super snacks" can we pack up for kids during the school day when their appetite kicks in and they need to eat quickly in order to stay in step with the demands of the classroom.
Kids and teens who are taking anti-depressants and anti-psychotics oftentimes gain weight on these powerful medications. What can we feed kids that is satisfying, nutritious and doesn't pack on the pounds? What foods can help to suppress their appetite?
Just plain picky-eater kids. I've got a typical kid...no big problems to speak of. It's just that she won't eat anything other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. Don't even try to think about sneaking in wheat bread!!! Is this safe? The pediatrician says she'll grow out of it and not to worry as long as she is growing at an appropriate rate. As a good parent, I feel that there is more I should be doing.
I just can't make two sets of meals every day...one for my special needs kid and one for the family, so there has to be some "overlap". Help me to blend everyone's needs together.
I have confidence in you, Food Network and especially you, Giada! You are brilliant and exquisitely trained at Le Cordon Bleu and you are a Momma so you understand our devotion to giving our children our best effort. We call on Food Network to gather up their stars and gives us your best effort.
Moms and Dads, if you've got strategies or recipes that work for you, I'll add a place to the website for them. I've got a few of my own to share. Help the effort. E-mail the foodies at Food Network and tell them we need their support!