With so much attention now focused on the foods we eat, more parents of children with autism are wanting to get their hands on some great recipes. Well, we’ve got you covered!
We understand that parents are curious to know if particular foods impact the behaviors of autistic children. And you may also be asking, “Are there foods that make my child’s behaviors worse? And does a special diet really help?”
Well first, know that there is no quick and easy solution. Each child is unique, so much of this will have to be trial and error. You will need to experiment and see what works for you. Any diet requires lots of planning and commitment. It also goes without saying that consultation with a nutritionist is highly recommended.
So given the importance of nutrition for a child’s overall health, it’s worth taking a serious look at. So in this post, I’m going to direct you towards several autism recipes I’ve found to be quite beneficial. But first, I want to acknowledge some challenges and offer some tips.
Children on the autism spectrum display a variety of signs, including challenging behaviors. As we know, autism impacts each child in a unique way. So when it comes to diet, know that each child will have their own tendencies. Some of these may include:
- Limited food selection
- Exclusive preference for types of food high in sugar, salt and/or fat
- Rigid insistence on particular brands, textures, temperatures
So here are a few non-food related tips. These are important because they can impact food consumption.
Routine Meal Schedule
Children with autism need consistent routines. This applies to mealtimes as well. If mealtime routines are inconsistent, this can create a barrier to food consumption. So as much as possible, try to keep meal schedules consistent. Predictable patterns make children with autism more likely to engage in appropriate behavior.
Keep a Food Diary
For many children with autism, their behaviors communicate what they can’t verbally articulate. So recording what your child eats helps you connect behavior symptoms to nutrition. As you do, you’ll better be able to identify trends and patterns. This will ultimately help guide you toward the type of diet that’s right for you.
With that said, here are a few recipes!
Gluten-Free Autism Recipes
Gluten-free dieting is quite difficult in today’s world, given that so many foods have it. But it does have a huge benefit. In a gluten-free diet, you’ll be replacing all gluten products with rice-based alternatives. Rice bread, rice noodles, and rice cakes are a few examples. Certain corn products are also labeled as gluten-free. However, be careful as corn products have several risks.
- Pork Chops with Carrots and Toasted Buckwheat
- Bacon Pimento Cheese Dip
- Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Bites
- Baked Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
- Peach Clouds
- Crispy Apple-Oat Fritters
- Gluten-Free Oat and Buckwheat Pancakes
- Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
- BLT Chopped Salad
- Gluten-Free Shells with Beets, Ricotta, and Pistachios
Casein-Free / Dairy-Free Autism Recipes
Dairy products may intensify certain behaviors with some children. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid dairy while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You’ll find dairy-free products in many local supermarkets. Just check the organic products section. Be sure to inspect the labels though, as many items you don’t suspect may contain dairy.
- Baked Pot Stickers with Dipping Sauce
- Blushing Grapefruit Sorbet
- Cranberry Meatballs
- Dairy-Free Chocolate Pudding
- Cashew Milk
- Mexican Tamales
- Party Spinach Spread
- BBQ Pork for Sandwiches
- Baked Honey Mustard Chicken
- Yummy Honey Chicken Kabobs
Carb-Free Autism Recipes
Low-carb and no-carb diets are other popular options people have tried to asses their impact on children with autism. The goal is to remove all refined carbs from meals. This includes potatoes, sugary treats, and fruit juice. Some diets suggest limiting whole fruit to one serving per day. Although it is a very strict diet, it has lots of benefits including increased focus and energy. Both of these can have a positive impact on your child.
- Sausage and Egg Breakfast Bites
- Pepperoni Meatza
- Southwest Egg and Cheese Boats
- Garlic Chicken
- Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs
- Crustless Spinach Quiche
- Low-Carb Cheesy Garlic Bread
- Bacon-Wrapped Mini Meatloaves
- Mushroom Pork Chops
- D’s Famous Salsa
Sugar-Free Autism Recipes
Another highly sought after set of recipes are those that are sugar-free. And that’s understandable, as many of today’s health problems are a result of eating too much sugar. We all know how hard sugar is to avoid, due to its addictive qualities. And the fact that many kids treats are loaded with sugar doesn’t help much either. So here are some sugar-free options that can help fight the addiction!
- No Sugar Apple Pie
- Sugar-Free French Toast Casserole
- Sugarless Fruitcake
- Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
- Slow Cooker Ham and Beans
- Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cheesecake Ice Cream
- No-Bake Coffee Cheesecake
- No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles
- Whole Grain Healthy Banana Bread
- Sugar-Free Brownies
These are just a few recipes to get you going in the right direction. As you know, commitment to a diet is a lifestyle change. And any diet will involve some degree of trial and error. Expect that some things won’t initially go as you desire. But don’t allow discouragement to stifle your motivation. Know that disappointments are all a part of the process.
Find motivation where you can. One idea is to turn meal prep into a joint activity. Allow your child to help in the meal preparation. Have them find the items at the grocery store. Have them measure the ingredients. This makes them a part of the process. Doing so will help create a bond centered around the food experience.
Here at eduAUTISM, our goal is to resource you to thrive in parenting your child with special needs. Hopefully this short list will help get you going in the right direction. Be on the lookout for our recipe cookbook that will give you a lot more options for healthier eating!
A.D. Daisley holds a Masters Degree from the University of Central Florida and has been working in the field as a Behavior Analyst since 2005. He has provided services to children and adults with varying diagnoses such as autism, mental retardation, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His scope of experience also includes coordinating therapy to individuals and families in conjunction with other supports including School Teachers, Adult Day Training Facility Staff (ADT’s) and Speech/Occupational therapists. He is the Director and Behavior Analyst at Alternative Outcomes since 2007. A.D is also the Director of Creátre, a non-profit organization that uses the arts for the purpose of skill training, outreach and to display community leadership.