Autism in Our Home: Food Aversions

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What Autism Looks Like in Our HomeFood aversion issues in our home have been the largest source of tension for our Little Man. In an earlier article I mentioned how oral sensory issues is the same as “our son does not eat” and this is fairly accurate. He eats a small, limited variety of foods, and most of them are not very good for you.

Food Aversion  – AKA My Son Does Not Eat!

His food aversion began when he was a toddler. After being off formula he would eat all kinds of things – ham, turkey, meatloaf, hot dogs, spaghettios, cheese, apples, peanut butter. Typical toddler food. Around the age of 2 he began to literally refuse food by throwing his plate on the floor. We had a carpeted dining room so you can imagine how messy this was.

And how aggravating this was.

I did not understand this. It seemed like out of the blue he would refuse foods he had always eaten. During this time he did develop a sensitivity to peanut butter and dairy, until about the age of 3. He would break out in a terrible rash and have some major digestive issues.

I began to do research on food sensitivities and also read a few books about picky eaters. I tried some of the strategies they suggested but no matter what I did he would refuse the food anyway.

Slowly over time we saw his palate become more and more limited. If I had known then what I know now, I would not have given up so easily on trying to increase the variety of foods he would eat.

By the age of 5 he was limiting himself to the following:

Fruit snacks, cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, crackers, chips, candy, cookies, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, juice, milk (he loves milk so that’s a good thing), chicken nuggets, yogurt, and zero fruits, vegetables, or meat. Today that list is even more limited. He since then has given up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches unless he’s super hungry and there is absolutely no other food in the house he wants.

He also goes back and forth with his liquid medicine. He takes 2 liquid medications in the morning in juice, and the other 2 medications he takes he can chew. Well, the juice worked great for a while, but now it’s a fight almost every morning to get him to take his medicine. We do this thing where we have a cup of milk in one hand and a cup of juice/medicine in the other, and he’ll take drinks of both of them until the medicine is gone. And it’s only 2 ounces of juice for the meds. It’s really not that much at all. Some days he takes it just fine; other days it’s a 15 minute meltdown followed by him giving up and finally taking it.

How We Feed Our Son Nutritious Food

There are a few strategies I have tried that seem to work well.

Purchasing Whole Grain Foods or Foods With Few Ingredients

Since our son is a lover of all things crunchy and crackers, I try to purchase foods that are filled with whole grains, like Triscuits. He also likes tortilla chips, which have few ingredients in them, and plain potato chips. We also buy 100% whole grain bread for when he will eat the occasional pb and j. I know these are not the best foods, but in all my research, and in talking with our pediatrician, I’ve found the less ingredients a food has the better, especially if you know what all the ingredients are.

Purchasing Organic and non-GMO Foods

As you’ve noticed our son likes a lot of processed foods. Because of this I will buy, when our budget can handle it, foods that are organic and non-GMO. For example I’ve found an organic fruit snack he will eat, and an organic cereal he will eat. These products are also made with real food.

Providing Nutrients through Protein Powder and Meal Replacement Powder

We do buy him “shakes” as he calls them. Usually something like Pediasure or Ensure, and he loves them, which is great since they have all the necessary nutrients he needs. Along with my endeavor to provide real nutritional food for my son, I’ve also found a whole food protein powder and meal replacement powder he will tolerate, as long  as I add a lot of chocolate syrup to his homemade “shake”.

The Sneaky ChefUsing a Cookbook – The Sneaky Chef

When I first learned about this cookbook I bought it right away. The basics of the cookbook is to create smooth purees of food, made from real fruits and vegetables, to add to regular food that your child will eat. I’ve tried a few of them and they have worked, like adding pureed orange vegetables to his macaroni and cheese. He didn’t even notice. Hallelujah!!

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Purchasing Real Food He Will Eat or Drink Whenever Possible

He loves juice so we buy only 100% juice. He will also eat applesauce once in awhile so I do purchase the kind without high fructose corn syrup or made with real fruit and fruit juice. He also will eat yogurt and I found one that is organic with very little sugar and only real ingredients, that he will eat sometimes. His favorite yogurt is the “slurpy” kind you squeeze from a tube.

Celebrate Every Little Victory

This whole refusal to eat can be so frustrating. I remind myself that I have to celebrate even the smallest victories. We have a chart on the fridge, first developed by our Occupational Therapist, to help him try new foods. Every time he does, he receives a check mark, and we praise him for that. After so many check marks he earns a trip to the Dollar Store. Every little victory helps him feel better and more secure about trying something new.

Do you have a child with a food aversion, or someone in your home who is a severely picky eater? Please share what tricks and tips you’ve applied in your home to help in this area. I am happy to accept any advice or suggestions, and I bet someone else reading this would love to hear what has worked for you too.

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