Big Kid

Diet for Autistic Children – Dietary Tips and Foods

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.


Common Diet Concerns of Autistic Kids

Children with ASD have narrow and obsessive interests with repetitive behaviour that, when shown towards food, could lead to some health concerns:

  • Strong Dislikes and Limited Preferences of Foods: Children with ASD could be very sensitive to textures, colours, smells, and tastes of food. This makes them reject several foods and food groups. They take special offence to soft, slimy foods, fruits, and certain vegetables.
  • Constipation: A common problem with children having ASD is that their limited food choices do not provide sufficient dietary fibre. This causes mild to severe constipation in autistic children.
  • Not Consuming a Sufficient Quantity of Food: Children with ASD end up having a very small intake of food because of their inability to focus on the same task for long time periods. Also, their dislike of several foods leaves very little that they want to eat.
  • The Medication Caused Appetite Loss: Certain drugs used for autistic intervention may cause a loss of appetite and impact growth. Others may impact the absorption of micronutrients or increase the appetite. Consult a physician or dietician to understand the side effects of medication that your child might be taking.

Tips to Deal With Selective Eating in Children With Autism

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:

  • Maintain a food diary by keeping notes on everything your child eats, along with the symptoms he is displaying and the behaviour that he is exhibiting. You will see an emerging pattern after he eats certain foods like bread, milk, or cheese.
  • Make sure that meals are given in the same place and at the same time on all days. Sensory additions can be tried away from the dining table. For example, take your child to the market and allow them to choose colours, textures, and fragrances that appeal to them before presenting them with the food at the table.
  • Reduce their anxiety by providing visual charts about what will be eaten, when it is to be eaten, and what behaviour is acceptable at mealtimes.
  • Remember that if you are making your child try out new foods, be patient and caring, not controlling.
  • Ensure comfort and safety in the eating environment to encourage sitting through the meal.
  • Playing videos, music, or television works for some children, while it is a deterrent for other kids. Understand your child’s psyche and work accordingly.
  • Never assume things about your child (that he will surely fuss in a new environment, he will certainly refuse new foods, or he will automatically reject certain textures. Trying at every level is important if you want to expand the foods your child includes in his ‘will eat’ list.
  • Introduce foods that can be adapted to your child’s liking in terms of texture and taste.

Diet Tips for Autism

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:

1. GFCF or Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet

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.


2. Excluding Phenolic Compounds

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.


3. Supplement With Omega-3 and Probiotics/Enzymes

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.


4. Yeast Free Food

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.

Food Options for Children With Autism

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:


1. Milk Substitutes

Milk contains casein and should be avoided if you intend to follow the GFCF diet. It can be substituted with-

  • Rice milk
  • Almond milk
  • Soy Milk
  • Potato Milk is available as Vance’s Dari-Free™.
  • Hemp Milk

2. Gluten-Free Flour

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-


  • Amaranth flour
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Corn meal flour
  • Garbanzo beans flour
  • Rice flour from white rice and brown rice
  • Sorghum (Jowar) flour
  • Sweet potato flour
  • Millet flour
  • Lentil flour
  • Potato starch flour
  • Cassava flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Quinoa flour

3. Cheese Substitutes

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:

  • Vegan mozzarella
  • Non-GMO, Gluten-free cheese

4. Other Foods That an Autistic Child Can Eat

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:


  • Potato
  • Rice
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats like chicken, fish, and mutton that are fresh and not processed meat
  • Gluten-free bread
  • Any foods that are specifically labelled as GF/CF

Foods That Kids With Autism Should Avoid

There is an extensive list of foods that an autistic child should avoid:

  • Processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, and chorizos.
  • Dairy-based products like sour cream, puddings, whey, yoghurt, butter, certain oils, cottage cheese, lactose, rennet casein, cheese, and milk solids.
  • Gluten-based products, like alcoholic beverages, bouillon cubes, soups, edible starch, gravy cubes or mixes, oats, barley, teriyaki sauce, udon noodles, etc.
  • Certain other additives or cooking ingredients, such as baking powder and soda, ground spices, rice malt, monosodium-glutamate, caramel colouring, etc.

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;; September 2015

2. Diet for Autism; Food for the Brain Foundation;


3. Ansel. K; Nutrition for your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics;; April 2022

4. Implementing Special Diets; Autism Research Institute;

5. Zauderer. S; Optimal Food List For Autism + What Foods To Avoid; Cross River Therapy;; April 2023



7. Cermak. SA, Curtin. C, Bandini. LG; Food selectivity and sensory sensitivity in children with autism spectrum disorders; J Am Diet Assoc; PubMed Central;; February 2010

Also Read:


Tips for Parenting Child with Autism
Educational Options for Children with Autism
Interesting Games and Activities for Autistic Child

This post was last modified on May 8, 2023 11:17 am

Recent Posts

When Can Babies See Color – Stages Of Color Vision Development

One of the most heartwarming moments for a parent is witnessing their baby's first reactions…

September 21, 2023

Best Beach Essentials For A Baby You’ll Definitely Need

Heading to the beach with your baby can be a wonderful experience, creating cherished memories…

September 16, 2023

A Visit To A Museum Essay – 10 Lines, Short and Long Essay

The art of storytelling has taken many forms over the centuries. One such form is…

September 16, 2023

Reinforcement VS Punishment – What to Choose for Dealing with Kids’ Behavioral Issues

Whether you're dealing with temper tantrums or trying to instill a sense of responsibility in…

September 16, 2023

Fun And Engaging Toys For 3 Year Old

When a child reaches the age of three, their world transforms into a vibrant playground…

September 16, 2023

100+ Inspirational Bible Verses About Mother

There's a unique bond between a mother and her children, a bond often celebrated and…

September 16, 2023