Aspergers Children and Poor Eating Habits


My child with Aspergers loves pizza rolls. Problem is that's about all he eats (cheese only - doesn't like pepperoni or sausage). He would eat pizza rolls for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we let him. Is there any way to lure him into eating some fruits and/or vegetables?


Most Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children prefer just a few food items. And it can become quite a power struggle for parents when they attempt to get their child to try anything new. However, there are some ways that parents can "sneak" some healthy stuff into their child's belly. Here are a few tips that may work:

1. Don't get hung up on the time of day your Aspergers youngster eats – or how much he eats in one sitting. It is perfectly fine if your Aspie doesn't eat three square meals every day as long as over the course of a week or two he eats a few things from each food group.

2. Concoct creative camouflages. There are all kinds of possible variations on the old standby "cheese in the trees" (cheese melted on steamed broccoli florets), or you can all enjoy the pleasure of veggies topped with peanut- butter sauce, a specialty of Asian cuisines.

3. Make veggie art. Create colorful faces with olive-slice eyes, tomato ears, mushroom noses, bell-pepper mustaches, and any other playful features you can think of. Zucchini pancakes, for example, make a terrific face to which you can add pea eyes, a carrot nose, and cheese hair.

4. Plant a garden with your Aspergers child. Let him help care for the plants, harvest the ripe vegetables, and wash and prepare them. He will probably be much more interested in eating what he has helped to grow.

5. Slip grated or diced vegetables into favorite foods. Try adding them to rice, cottage cheese, cream cheese, guacamole, or even macaroni and cheese.

6. Steam your greens. They are much more flavorful and usually sweeter than when raw.

7. Using a small cookie cutter, cut the vegetables into interesting shapes.

8. Give your youngster acknowledgement and praise, even if he takes only one bite of something new. For example: "It's great that you tried the green beans!"

9. Let go of the power struggle. You can't force your youngster to do anything, especially eat, so just stop trying. Simply offer him nutritious, varied foods – and eat them yourself. He can have his, or not, but you're showing him how. When moms and dads demand that their children eat certain foods, they're attaching negative connotations to it. Pretty soon, the struggle is worse. Put the food on his plate, but if it stays there, don't push him – and don't stress over it.

10. Offer alternatives if your youngster won't eat meat. The texture turns off many Aspergers kids, and that's fine. Your youngster can still get all the protein he needs from the following:
  • cheese or even meat-filled ravioli (the pasta exterior goes a long way for meat-haters)
  • hard-boiled eggs or any egg dish
  • his favorite crackers dipped in hummus or spread with peanut (or nut) butter
  • mini-tuna melts
  • nachos with beans and cheese
  • yogurt, cheese, or cottage cheese

11. Offer choices that don't matter. You may face stubborn insistence that toast have a corner unbuttered to avoid messy hands, or that cereal be served only in a square bowl, or that nothing gets touched by the preparer of the food. While this kind of behavior is seemingly ridiculous, it's typical of Aspergers kids. Offering your youngster a limited choice is often enough to end the power struggle. But make your rules clear: "At home, you can choose your plate, but when we're eating out, you have to use whatever plates they have."

12. You may have to stick with one basic food color. Aspergers children may like a lot of colors in their pictures, but not always on their plates. When he only wants white foods, for example, consider:
  • fruit smoothies (blend a banana with vanilla yogurt)
  • half white-/half whole-wheat (make toast and sandwiches in fun shapes using cookie cutters)
  • mac and cheese made with whole-wheat (or whole-wheat blend) macaroni
  • oven-baked fries (half regular and half sweet potato to ease your youngster into the idea of trying other spuds)

13. Be creative with the veggies. Hating vegetables is the most common picky-eater problems with Aspergers kids. To convince your child that eating vegetables is not poisonous, try one or more of the following:
  • carrot slices and baby corn are a good start toward more serious veggie consumption
  • lettuce wraps (use a filling he'll eat, like turkey or cream cheese, and wrap it in a romaine lettuce leaf)
  • put a plate of raw veggies next to a sure thing (e.g., grilled cheese sandwich) to lure your child into eating at least one bite
  • thinly sliced veggies stir-fried with teriyaki sauce with a little chicken and rice
  • try dressing (e.g., honey mustard, ranch, ketchup, melted butter) with veggies for dipping
  • veggie lasagna
  • water chestnuts have little taste and can be a good stepping-stone to serious veggies
  • zucchini muffins

14. Many Aspergers kids like to “nitpick” their way through food (i.e., a nibble here – a nibble there). Use an ice-cube tray, a muffin tin, or a compartmentalized dish, and put bite-size portions of colorful and nutritious foods in each section. Give these “finger foods” names in order to disguise how disgustingly healthy that may be, such as:
  • egg canoes (hard- boiled egg wedges)
  • cheese building blocks
  • carrot swords (cooked and thinly sliced)
  • broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets)
  • banana wheels
  • avocado boats (a quarter of an avocado)
  • apple moons (thinly sliced)

Place the food on an easy-to-reach table. As your Aspie makes his rounds through the house, he can stop, sit down, nibble a bit, and, when he's done, continue on his way. These foods have a table-life of an hour or two.

15. A veggie pizza is one the most cleaver ways to disguise healthy foods. We tried a spinach-cheese pizza with our 5-year-old several years ago. We knew he probably wouldn’t even touch it – but guess what? It is his favorite food item now! Go figure :)

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

Brandy Dusenbury Balting Mash up some veggies and mix it into the cheese in the pizza rolls, lol. Or let him dip raw veggies into ANYTHING he likes- yogurt, ranch, ketchup, A1 sauce, cheese, salsa, use ur imagination!
12 minutes ago
Cindy Mohammed Abril sounds like my son he likes pizza he will not eat any raw veggies sauces ketchup etc
8 minutes ago

Benzma said...

We nearly pulled our hair out trying to raise our son (now 15) who refused to eat meat, veggies, fruit, any bread other than white, juice, and just about anything else that wasn't peanut butter or cheese. As he grew older we did learn that, as the article states, power struggles accomplish nothing. Negative attention from outsiders (parents at birthday parties or sleepovers, relatives at family dinners) had absolutely no effect. Planting a garden, reading up on nutrition and recipes, visiting farms and farmers markets did nothing to entice my boy, although on occasion he would concede to take a small bite of a "new" food, then politely decline to eat any more. A great deal of his distaste seemed to stem from a texture problem, and a lot of it was a genuine dislike of the taste of these foods. At this point, we have succumbed to supplementing his diet with Muscle Milk, ProMax bars, vitamins, etc. It's not a perfect situation by any means but we finally came to the conclusion, after countless wailing complaining visits to our pediatrician, that he is thriving despite the Aspie food constraints. Family meal times are pleasant, rather than stress-filled battlegrounds, and on his end, my son has greatly improved about stretching his boundaries and trying new food, if only just to placate us. Best of luck to you in this amazing journey of raising a neuroterrific!:)

Anonymous said...

Vanessa Willis Google "food chaining" - It works!
2 hours ago · Like · 2 people
Crystal Hodgdon sounds like mine
about an hour ago · Like
April Miller My son is like that...i found one thing..we make broccoli chesse cornbread...he loves it and doesnt realize hes eating veggies! =)
about an hour ago · Like

Mitze said...

The answer is in the 'reward' for eating something new or healthy. My child loves desserts. So, the deal is he tries something or eats something and then he can have the dessert he wants. It has been a great motivator for our son. Sometimes he chooses to not have the dessert and not eat what is expected and that is fine with us. I find trying to disguise food doesn't work because of his keen sense of smell and he quickly figures it out anyway. He will eat raw carrots and broccoli as long as there is ranch dressing. He will eat a taco, as long as there is sour cream. As the child gets older I have found that they become a little more agreeable about trying new things. Patience is the key.

Anonymous said...

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group
According to Cheri Fraker, a pediatric speech pathologist and oral feeding specialist, Food Chaining is a child-friendly treatment approach that builds on the child’s successful eating experiences. Foods a child accepts are studied for patterns in taste, texture and temperature. New foods similar to the ones the child eats well are used to create the food chains, or links, formed between the foods a child accepts and the new, targeted foods we wish for him to eat. The child is presented with new foods he is likely to eat as they are similar to the ones he already enjoys eating.
18 hours ago · Like
Melanie Bowers try to make your own and hide vegies on the top maybe mix in shredded veg with the cheese
16 hours ago · Like
Shaz Ali gfcf..my son would never eat healthy today since he was addicted to those foods..now he's healthier than ever..veggies, salads, sunflower seeds..it's great
12 hours ago · Like

Sycha said...

Really great article! I never had eating problems with my children (Aspie and Neurotypic), but I imagine very well the difficulties it can be. Anyway, these tips are very usefull for any parents, and I make a french resume and a link in my blog: http://www.aspergerquotidien.com/. Thank you for your blog.

Anonymous said...

once my son was on rispertal he would eat almost anything and also improved in many other areas as well.

Now I only wish he would use a napkin and silver wear.

Anonymous said...

you could try pedasure it has a texture like milk smoother though it tastes like a milkshake has all of the vitamens... it was the only thing i ate for dinner like two years straight... (i have aspergers)

Megan said...

Tonight my son defused to eat the pasta I served because he thought I looked disgusting and he hated the red bits in it. So I took the red bits out and showed him that they are circles and he loves circles. Planets! It's the solar system. Then he named all the planets as he ate all of it. I was shocked. He also responds well to being told it's not food. Its colours. Eat your favourite colour first .. or if it's any shape really. Talk about the shape of it. Anything but the taste or smell or texture.
He's 5 and has been not been diagnosed yet but I think he will be soon. His dr has told me he's sure he's on the spectrum but wants to observe him for longer before diagnosis.

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