Aspergers & Picky Eating

"My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s in January. His eating habits are not that great. He will only eat about 3 specific foods which are not at all healthy. How can I introduce something new to him if he doesn’t like to try anything new? Unless he has eaten it before, he will not try it."

This is a common problem with people with Asperger’s. Some AS adults will eat only three or four foods for months at a time. For AS kids, many foods taste terrible to them (but not to others) or have disgusting textures or smells. They can’t help these reactions; they are a part of Asperger’s. Unfortunately your son’s three choices are not healthy ones, so he isn’t getting a balanced diet. For that reason, his diet must change.

Your son’s diet should include protein from eggs, milk, cheese, fish, beef, and chicken, pork, even hot dogs. He needs grains, which provide B vitamins, from breads, hamburger and hot dog buns, corn, and cereals. He needs vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, from juices, fruits, and vegetables. He requires calcium and vitamin D from milk and cheese. Getting him to eat these foods is the challenge.

You will have to eliminate the three items he will eat from your home and offer him a variety of other healthy foods, letting him choose what he will eat from them. Prepare for a battle royal when you do this! He may scream, cry, and have “meltdowns” at every meal. But, when he gets hungry, he will try at least some of the new foods. Whatever you do, don’t give him any of his preferred three foods, or they are all that he will eat and he will never try any of the new foods. Needless to say, the rest of the family must not eat his preferred foods, either.

Perhaps he would try some whole grain cereals. Many children like Life cereal or Cheerios (with or without milk). If he’ll eat the cereal, see if he likes a sliced banana on it. Use Splenda to sweeten cereal, fruits, and baked items. Try popcorn (a whole grain). Don’t load it up with butter. 

Fruit juices may appeal to him. There are new ones on the market that are delicious and have a serving of fruit and one of vegetables in each glass. Try hot dogs and hamburgers. He may like scrambled eggs. If he will drink milk (even chocolate milk or a milkshake), it will give him protein and calcium.

Try mixing rice or noodles into a cheese and chicken casserole. Most children like macaroni and cheese. See if he does. Try tacos made with whole grain tortillas, hamburger, and cheese. Will he eat fried chicken or chicken nuggets? How about fish and chips?

Many fruits may taste sour to him. Canned peaches and pears are sweet and may appeal to him. Cut fruits into bite sized pieces so they are easy to eat. Don’t chastise him if he doesn’t eat them; maybe in the future he will. Make small apple or blueberry muffins. Yoghurt with fruit is an option you could try.

As far as vegetables are concerned, it may be an uphill road! But, sometimes vegetables can be hidden in other foods, for example, in those juices mentioned above. How about putting some onion in his hamburger? Potatoes are vegetables and he might eat oven-fried French fries. Blend some cooked cauliflower into mashed potatoes. He may not notice the difference. He may like sweet potatoes. He might like creamed corn or cornbread. Does he eat any soups? You could try tomato soup made with milk; he might like it or chicken noodle soup. 

It’s very important not to make “a big deal” about what he doesn’t eat. If you do, eating will become an even worse power struggle than it’s going to be. Offer various new foods at each meal. If he doesn’t like them, don’t make an issue of it. He’ll eat something when he gets hungry! Avoid serving soda pop and sweets so he doesn’t fixate on them. When he finally accepts a new, healthy food, offer it often, but not at every meal, so he has to keep trying new foods.

My last suggestion is to make sure he has a multivitamin each day. Get one that is chewable, tastes good, and has a cute shape. Also, drinking Ensure or Pediasure is a good way to supplement his diet with vitamins and minerals.

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