Picky eating is a common problem for many children with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It can be frustrating for parents and caregivers who want their child to eat a variety of foods, but don't know how to get them interested in new ones. In fact, picky eating can lead to nutritional deficiencies, a major concern for these children. But don't worry we've got some tips that will help! In this article, we'll explore some of the best ways to address picky eating in children with autism and ADHD.
What Is Picky Eating?
At its core, being "picky" is just having strong likes or dislikes. We all tend to favor certain foods over others based on personal preference. However, when it comes to our children's diets, any refusal or reluctance to try new things can become problematic, especially when those refusals lead to weight gain due to a lack of nutritional diversity.
Consider a food allergy
Food allergies can cause reactions that are similar to those of picky eating. If a child is allergic to certain foods, they may experience symptoms such as:
- Skin rashes or hives
- Abdominal pain and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation (or both)
It's important to determine if an allergy is the cause of your child's picky eating before treating it as such. To do so, you'll want to keep a detailed log of what your child eats during each meal and any symptoms they exhibit afterwards. You should also keep track of any other medications that might affect their appetite for example, if the child takes antibiotics regularly for an ear infection and then starts refusing meals while on them, it could be an indication that something else besides food allergies is at play here.
Ruling out GI problems
If your child is showing signs of a food allergy, it's important to rule out any other possible causes first. Food allergies are often accompanied by digestive issues that can mimic symptoms of autism or ADHD. If you suspect your child has an allergic reaction to certain foods, try eliminating them from their diet for a few weeks and then reintroducing them one at a time.
Keeping a food diary may help you identify which types of carbohydrates cause stomach discomfort for your child and if necessary, switch him over to gluten-free food such as buckwheat noodles or brown rice. Common gastrointestinal (GI) issues children may experience include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and leaky gut syndrome.
Consistent Meal and Snack Times
Consistent meal and snack times are important for children with autism and ADHD. If you can, try to keep snacks in the same place each time so that your child will be more likely to eat them. If you're out of the house and want to give your child a snack while traveling, try putting it out before they get hungry so that they don't feel like they have no choice but to eat it when their hunger strikes.
Exposure and Repetition
You can help your child become more open to new food by exposing them to it multiple times. For example, if you want your child to eat broccoli, try making it once a week for dinner until they get used to the taste. It's important not to force them into trying something they don't like because this will only make things worse, they’ll feel resistant towards eating anything else in the future!
If you have tried everything and still aren't able to get your picky eater on board with eating healthier foods, don't give up just yet! There are some additional steps we recommend taking before giving up hope, one option we recommend is the Super Fruits and Veggies supplement, which is loaded with organic ingredients and can help fill nutritional gaps in your child's diet.
Gradual changes are a great way to start. If your child has been eating the same food for years, they may not be ready for a sudden change in their diet. Try introducing one new food at a time and seeing how they react before adding another one on top of it.
If this doesn't work, try making small changes in appearance or presentation of foods. For example, if your child usually eats a gluten-free sandwich but doesn't like it, you could try making a wrap with a gluten-free tortilla instead. Keep the same fillings, just change the bread to a wrap. This small change might make the food more appealing to them. This can go a long way towards helping them get used to new flavors without being overwhelmed by unfamiliar textures or smell. You could also consider cutting up small portions into bite-size pieces so they don't have as much trouble chewing through larger chunks than usual; this technique works especially well when combined with some kindling from above mentioned suggestions such as changing up presentation.
Sensory-friendly meals are a great way to help children with autism and ADHD eat more. They can be made by reducing the amount of salt, spices and sugar in your child's food. You can also try serving foods that are familiar or ones that they enjoy eating.
- Use soft tortillas instead of hard taco shells when making tacos at home (or buy soft ones).
- Make sure there is not too much crunchiness in vegetables like carrots or celery sticks before serving them as snacks; this could make it difficult for your child to chew them properly because they don't want their mouth full all day long!
Enjoy Your Meals Together
- Eat together as a family. Eating together as a family is an important part of teaching your child good eating habits, so make sure to do it every day. You can even get fancy and make it a "family dinner" by setting aside time for everyone to sit down together and eat at the same time.
- Encourage picky eaters to try new foods by using visual cues such as pictures or photographs of the food item on their plate. This will help them associate what they're looking at with something that tastes good!
- Make mealtime fun for picky eaters by doing silly things like singing songs while cooking or making funny noises when putting food onto their plates (this may sound goofy but really works!).
- Use supplements designed for ASD and ADHD children
When kids with autism and ADHD don't get enough nutrients from their diet, they can miss vital vitamins. My Spectrum Heroes simplifies this problem by offering supplements based on an evidence-backed formula. This makes it easy for these kids to get the nutrients they need.
We also invite you to attend our Nutrition Intervention Workshop. It's a fantastic opportunity to gain practical insights and arm yourself with the knowledge, tools, and strategies needed to optimize your child's health, learning, and behavior.
Parents of children with autism and ADHD have a lot to think about. Picky eating is one of the biggest concerns for these children, and it can be disruptive to the family. However, if you're willing to put in some extra time and effort into finding out why your child doesn't like certain foods or textures and then making those foods more palatable, you can help them improve their eating habits.