Healthy eating and autism: are they an abnormality?

Anna Laura Brown

What do you think of when you hear the words healthy eating and autism? Do you think about one of the many special diets for autism such as paleo, gluten free casein free, or other eating restrictions?

Or do you just laugh and think that the words healthy eating and autism don’t even belong in the same sentence as you struggle to get your child on the autism spectrum to eat anything other than chocolate chip cookies or potato chips?

In any case, healthy eating and autism are not only possible but essential for the overall health and well being as well as for helping your child to function in the world. Many children on the autism spectrum also have allergies and digestive issues making it even more important and often crucial to eat healthier and in some cases to avoid one or more foods.

There are several books that have been written in recent years talking about the connections between your gut and your brain and since autism is a brain disorder, having a healthy gut is even more important with children with autism.

That said, how exactly do you make healthy eating for your child with autism a reality? While no one strategy will work with all children, here are some things to consider trying:

+ Take a hard serious look at your eating habits and the eating habits of the rest of your family and household. Are you eating healthy? Do you have lots of sugar and processed foods lying around? You can’t expect your child with autism to eat healthy if you don’t.

+ Realize that picky eating is normal to one degree or another with all children and not just those on the autism spectrum. In order to get your child eating a variety of foods and limiting sugar and processed junk foods, you will have to accept that your child may have some meltdowns or throw tantrums in the beginning. Your child can’t always have everything he or she wants and teaching him or her to learn this lesson with food is a good way before he or she has to learn with something more difficult.

+ Find a reward or something your child really likes or wants and use it to encourage him or her to try new foods. Once you know your child doesn’t like something then you will want to limit forcing him or her to eat it. However, your child cannot dislike something he or she has never even tasted and often you may need to use bribery to get them to try it.

+ Involve your child with meal planning and shopping. Use pictures to ask your child what he or she wants to eat. You can exclude pictures of foods your child cannot have or that you don’t want him to have.

Know that healthy eating and autsim are a challenge but they are doable. It won’t happen over night but you can have a healthy thriving child on the autism spectrum who actually will eat broccoli and spinach. Yes really.

Anna Laura Brown is an integrative nutrition health coach who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum herself at the age of 5. She is passionate about helping parents and children improve their health and live a healthy and thriving live regardless of any allergies and or diet restrictions. Learn more about her and read her blog at

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