Children diagnosed with ASD are known to have feeding problems when compared to other children. In regard to diet for autistic children, studies suggest that children not only have additional feeding issues but also eat a narrower range of given foods. This pickiness may further become restrictive and carry on well beyond early childhood timeframes. Several parents with children on the Autistic Spectrum tend to struggle with their child’s food intake and have little or no professional help. This article attempts to present foods that are safe for such children and also helps parents understand what to avoid if they have a sensitive eater at home.
Children with ASD have narrow and obsessive interests with repetitive behaviour that, when shown towards food, could lead to some health concerns:
The care given to a child with ASD has to be exceptional with regard to their food intake. It can be challenging when their options are limited. Making your child try new options can be difficult, and some workarounds need to be incorporated:
Data suggest that children with ASD have a ‘leaky’ gut where their intestines are more porous than other people. This can lead to difficulty in digesting casein or gluten leaking into the intestines, thereby causing cognitive and behavioural challenges. Some diet tips to help autistic children are:
This is a popular dietary intervention because a leaky gut mainly leaks undigested gluten and casein. The gluten-free diet for children with autism involves avoiding wheat products, dairy products and any processed food that contains either casein or gluten.
It is theorized that certain children with autism or ASD may have impaired levels of certain enzymes that are essential to breaking down phenolic compounds and salicylates. Salicylates cannot, however, be completely avoided as vegetables are rich in this compound, and completely cutting down on fruits and vegetables can reduce fibre content and micronutrients, leading to malnourishment and constipation. However, you could consider a diet plan for an autistic child that limits the intake of phenolic compounds and salicylates.
Non-dairy yoghurt, enzyme supplements, cod-liver oil, etc., are said to help the gut digest foods better and improve behavioural patterns. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for neurological and cognitive functions, and taking these supplements may be beneficial for children with autism.
It is believed that excessive yeast in the intestines could be the cause of a ‘leaky’ gut. It is suggested that a reduction in yeast-related products can reduce symptoms of ASD and reduce susceptibility to allergies too.
Creating a diet chart for an autistic child is key to reducing some of the aggressive refusal of foods by your child. Certain foods that need to be avoided can be replaced as follows:
Milk contains casein and should be avoided if you intend to follow the GFCF diet. It can be substituted with-
There are several flours that are available in local supermarkets today, specifically to meet the rising requirements of gluten-free food. You can try the following flour to make your rotis, naans, and homemade bread-
Cheese is a food that is most liked by almost all children. If you need to give your child cheese, find the following substitutes which are made from soy or nuts:
There are plenty of foods that your child can eat if he has autism. Here is a list of foods that are safe for consumption:
There is an extensive list of foods that an autistic child should avoid:
Several other ingredients may contain gluten, and it is wise to exercise caution by reading all ingredients listed before you buy a product for your autistic child.
Having to raise a child with special needs is always a task that requires patience and an abundance of love. Do as much reading as possible and speak to your child’s medical professional before you embark on a new diet for your child. Let the love show through the effort you make for your little one.
1. Wasilewska. J, Klukowski. M; Gastrointestinal symptoms and autism spectrum disorder: links and risks – a possible new overlap syndrome; Pediatric Health Med Ther.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683266/; September 2015
2. Diet for Autism; Food for the Brain Foundation; https://foodforthebrain.org/autism/
3. Ansel. K; Nutrition for your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; https://www.eatright.org/health/health-conditions/intellectual-disabilities/nutrition-for-your-child-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd; April 2022
4. Implementing Special Diets; Autism Research Institute; https://autism.org/implementing-special-diets-autism/
5. Zauderer. S; Optimal Food List For Autism + What Foods To Avoid; Cross River Therapy; https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/autism-food-list-and-diet; April 2023
6. GLUTEN-FREE, CASEIN-FREE DIET FOR AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER; Children’s Minnesota; https://www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials/childrensmn/article/15864/gluten-free-casein-free-diet-for-autism-spectrum-disorder/
7. Cermak. SA, Curtin. C, Bandini. LG; Food selectivity and sensory sensitivity in children with autism spectrum disorders; J Am Diet Assoc; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601920/; February 2010
This post was last modified on May 8, 2023 11:17 am
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