How to Win a Food Fight Battle in Ten Steps
For the first time in the history, overweight and obesity are increasingly prevalent in the general pediatric population. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, evidence suggests that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may be at even higher elevated risk for unhealthy weight gain, with differences present as early as ages 2 to 5 years. To make matters worse, these results clearly indicated that the prevalence of unhealthy weight is significantly greater among children with ASD compared with the general population.
A study published in 2008, by The U.S Library of Medicine’s National Institution on Health, listed childhood obesity as a culprit – affecting nearly one-third of the U.S. children, and the prevalence of these conditions has increased at least four-fold since the 1970s.
Obesity in ASD may be particularly problematic for a variety of reasons. First, core symptoms of ASD may be naturally related to weight problems: for instance, children with ASD may lack social motivation to participate in family meals or in structured physical activities with other children and those parents may be more likely to use food as a reward in children with ASD due to lack of social motivation. The severity or type of a child’s symptoms may also affect his or her ability to participate in physical activities that might mitigate weight gain. Still, little is known about the prevalence that correlates to overweight youth and among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Today, it is still unclear whether risk factors for obesity in ASD are the same or different from risk factors for children generally.
Living in a world of processed and high caloric food choices – today, more than ever, it is important that we all start to pay closer attention to what our children are eating and when. Easier said than done. Right?
Good nutrition and children with autism rarely go hand in hand easily. Often, parents who are responsible for mealtimes within a ASD family – concentrate what the neuro-normality world does not. ASD Parents live with higher demonstrations of restricted eating, and repetitive behavior patterns with food. ASD parents are also faced with a higher intake of low-nutrition, energy-dense foods. Parents usually give in, and pick their battles elsewhere. Can’t say that I blame them. I’ve done it myself.
But to make things more stressful, we all know – it all stops here, with us – the parents.
As if our jobs are not hard enough, we add a picky or selective eater to our daunting-ever-growing line-up of duties. Somedays it seems as though we will never win the food fight battle, let alone score a few points in our favor.
For many parents, loading healthy nutrition into your picky or selective eaters diet will always be source of a meal time battle. Because Autism affects each child uniquely, we all need to run our own battery of food testing on our own child. For some children it’s all about sensory issues – which can make introducing new and nutritious foods extremely hard for parents. If that isn’t complicated enough, dealing with children who like repetition and routines each day, provides another interesting challenge. Oral sensitivity issues can also make this difficult situation worse.
If you are a new parent of an ASD child, or a seasoned ASD parent, but need to make a nutritional change – please ask your doctor before starting any new food regiments. Most ASD families find going gluten and casein free really helps. Lose fast-food as quickly as you can. Try to stay dye-free and offer organic, minimally processed food replacements. Make this part of the whole families repertoire. Read labels. Cook at home any chance you have. Avoid highly proceeded foods at all costs.
Identifying food allergies. If children are reacting certain foods, pay close attention to this. Usually, if a child reject a certain food – it’s because the body is speaking. Your child’s body will naturally reject certain foods for a myriad of reasons. Pay close attention to those cues. Maybe your child is pressing his belly against the dinner table. This might signal a belly-ache. Whatever is causing these reactions, – these food should stay off the menu forever. Your child’s body will naturally attacks a food it identifies as harmful, causing symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, intestinal integrity, shortness of breath, hives. With food intolerance, the digestive system alone rejects the food, finding it difficult to digest properly. Follow the food cues.
Think back on what your child repetitively eats. Maybe it’s a fast food item. Something before you realized it’s time for a change. Identify that item. Begin to build other foods to look like it. The shape, as well as the color. Example: Making homemade organic baked chicken tenderloins shorter and breaded in GF breadcrumbs to look like the fast food chicken nuggets you are trying to wean him off. Take all the time you need. Make sure this process is moving at the speed your child is absorbing the solution. Take each step a day at a time or once a week – on the same day each week.
Always prepare your child and NEVER lie or be deceitful and sneaky about food – this approach can create more challenges for you down the road and not only about food, but trust issues. If you are hiding food within the recipe – tell them, just select the right time – and that certainly is not before they eat it.
How to Introduce a New Food to a Selective Eater.
By the end of a four, to eight month period, depending on your child – you might have them eating many foods from the new, healthy food list column you originally designed – including organic a grass fed, nitrate free hamburger meats, new, healthier variations of chicken or fresh fish nuggets, and lots of real fruits and vegetables in their natural form.
Each child is different. Be patient – in the long run, you and your family will find peace of mind that you will eventually be free from all the additional health issues associated the negative aspects of eating highly processed foods.
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