This week I wanted to focus on a topic that I feel that everyone struggles with; nutrition. For the majority of people, adults included, nutrition can be difficult to get under control. Children, especially, struggle with the idea of nutrition because, as you all know, children generally do not like "healthy" foods. Picky eaters can be a nightmare for parents, especially if there is more than one in the family. Children who have varying abilities can be extremely picky and might even become fixated with certain types of foods or textures and tastes. Autism Speaks provides a list of seven ways to help a picky eater and those include: rule out medical problems, stay calm, take steps toward tasting, tune into textures, play with new food, offer choices and control and be careful with rewards. Those tips were put together as the result of a study that concluded that children with autism are actually five times more likely to have mealtime struggles; you are not alone! Autism Speaks also provided another article that discusses how to encourage a picky eater. That article reports that actually, seventy percent of parents with children on the autism spectrum experience problems with excessively narrow eating habits. The research project featured in the article focuses on expanding the food choices that parents may offer to their children by addressing their child's underlying anxiety, inflexibility and sensory issues. The article states that by arguing and putting stress on the situation at the dinner table, it actually makes the situation worse. One of the provided examples in the article discusses the importance of making the mealtimes encouraging and fun, maybe put the new food in cute shapes or in a fun bowl, whatever makes it appealing and inviting for the child. The idea is not that your child has to eat a clean, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and all that other stuff diet, but that the child knows that there are so many exciting options out there and that food is not something to shy away from. In turn, the child might eat a more balanced and healthy diet in the long run.
A good resource for understanding a balanced diet is MyPlate. They have a ton of suggestions and information about nutrition across the lifespan.