food chaining

Food chaining is a therapeutic approach to help children with a feeding disorder (such as sensory processing disorder) to expand their repertoire of accepted foods.

The idea is to repeatedly feed a child food he already likes, but gradually modify it along the way until he is eating an entirely new food. The changes are always very slight. Here’s an example of a food chain:

  • McDonald’s French Fries
  • McCain shoestring French Fries (pan-fried)
  • McCain Fries (oven)
  • Oven fries
  • Baked potato wedges
  • Baked potato
  • Mashed potato

Each step would be served repeatedly until the child has adopted it. So the process really might take months to go from start to finish! This is especially true for a child with sensory processing disorder.

For more detailed information on this process take a look at this book:



The same principle can be used on children going through a normal stage of pickiness. Start with an accepted food and serve a similar food alongside it. Serve the old and the new food at the same time.




Here are some ideas to try chaining new foods to old foods:


White potatoes – Sweet potatoes


Green peas –Edamame beans


Baby carrots –Carrot sticks


Cooked carrots –Cooked parsnips


Iceberg lettuce –Leaf lettuce –Romaine lettuce –Fresh spinach


Cooked ground beef –Cooked ground turkey


Pizza pops –Pizza buns


Kraft Dinner –Homemade Macaroni and Cheese


Hot dog wieners –Ham –Pork chops