In order to live a healthy life, we need to consume all the necessary nutrients.
We adults can understand the necessity and can force ourselves to have foods that we don’t like at all. But children always want to have what they like. As a result, they do not get enough nutrients, and for that, parents need to work a lot to make them eat healthy foods.
This becomes tougher with autistic children and their parents. Due to their condition, children with autism spectrum disorder mostly have certain food choices, and they like to avoid certain foods from certain food groups. As a result, they do not get proper nutrition.
Autism And Dietary Struggles
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD have a development condition that manifests a range of behavioral challenges and differences. Sometimes these can become evident as feeding issues. The issues with food of an autistic individual might manifest as the following.
- Avoiding some particular foods.
- Strongly prefer some specific foods.
- Instead of chewing food, pocketing it in their cheeks, or sucking on food.
- Rituals around eating.
Individuals who are also suffering from ASD are at higher risk for gastrointestinal problems. Those children with ASD might also avoid specific food or might develop a strong temperature or texture aversions because of sensory issues. In most cases, it has been seen that in frustration, parents of children with ASD might limit the food of their children only to those that they know their child will accept. But it is not at all a sustainable model for developing nutrition and healthy eating habits. When you work with a nutritionist and your child’s pediatrician, you will be able to expand the diet of your children or introduce specialized supplements to address potential dietary deficits.
Diets For Positive Behaviors And Healthy Eating
A lot of parents of autistic children turn to specialized diets just to support their children’s well-being. A number of studies have shown that children with autism have a tendency to shy away from healthier foods.
That includes fresh fruits and vegetables. They mostly like processed scratches and snack foods. Children with autism also can struggle to get enough protein because the texture of a lot of foods containing protein might be unappealing.
In order to encourage a change in these types of behaviors, parents often try some specific approaches to feeding problems. Here are 3 most common and popular diets for children with ASD.
Autism MEAL Plan
This is more than a nutritional plan. The autism MEAL plan usually focuses on changing behaviors toward some particular foods. This is a relatively new approach to helping individuals who are suffering from autism in getting their nutritional needs met.
Some studies also provide parents of autistic children training in autism MEAL plans for around 8 weeks, and it has been found that the behavioral approach eased the stress of mealtime in caregivers a great deal.
But you also need to remember this behavioral approach doesn’t show any behavioral improvements in children with autism around food and meal selectivity. Further research is still required in case applying this particular behavioral approach could help children long term.
GFCF Or Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet
Several parents put their autistic children on a GFCF diet. As both gluten, wheat protein, and casein, the dairy protein might end up making digestive problems in autistic people worse. That is why removing these two from their diet completely makes sense.
But when it comes to supporting this specific idea, more research is needed. The GFCF diet might improve behaviors around food for a little while. However, it can be really complicated to ensure that your child is getting enough protein, amino acids, and whole grains.
Western diets are mostly dependent on dairy and bread; in this case, elimination of casein and gluten becomes tougher. So, the parents need to make sure that when they are opting for a gluten-free and casein free diet plan, they are including other food options to meet these requirements.
Modified Ketogenic Diet
This particular low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate-protein diet might help autistic children get the required protein for muscle and brain development while removing the potential sources of a part of the digestive discomfort from wheat.
When you focus on certain types of protein, it will help you eliminate dairy from your children’s diet, in case milk or cheese causes them digestive distress.
The ketogenic diet typically includes higher nutrient intake, at the same time removing specific irritants. So, it might be more effective for children with autism in comparison to other diet plans.
Here, you need to be extra careful about the amount of fat that is being consumed by your child, as this also can cause obesity and heart disease.