Feeding Behavior of Children with Autism

by Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky, PhD

boy eating an apple looking at other foods questioningly
A Boy Eating an Apple by USDA, Public Domain

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in every 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism.  Although the two primary characteristics of autism include deficits in social communication and interactions, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, many children with autism also have difficulties with eating and mealtime.

Studies report that children with autism are five times more likely to struggle with feeding problems than their peers. [1]

Children with autism and their families may be impacted by (a) narrow and selective food choices, such as eating only French fries or food items with a specific texture; (b) ritualistic eating behaviors, such as not allowing food items to touch on the plate or having very strict eating schedule; and (c) mealtime tantrums and a refusal to eat.

Mealtime can become very stressful for everyone involved, including children, parents, caregivers, siblings, and peers.

Autism Speaks developed a parent guide entitled Exploring Feeding Behavior in Autism to support families.  This guide helps caregivers understand eating behaviors, provides guidance on addressing feeding issues, and reviews some common questions that families have about eating challenges. 

Various other resources are available online to inform and support parents, caregivers, and professionals.

Autism Speaks provides an Expert Opinion section of their website which contains multiple articles addressing diet, nutrition, and selective eating for children with autism and their families.  The Interactive Autism Network conducted a Q&A interview with Dr. Anil Darbari, Medical Director of the Pediatric Gastroenterology/Nutrition and Feeding Disorders Program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, on the treatment of feeding disorders in children with autism.

There are a few recommended steps to address eating and feeding difficulties of children with autism.

  1. Rule out medical conditions (e.g., constipation, food allergy) and consult with the child’s primary care physician.
  2. Work with a team of professionals (e.g., pediatrician, dietician, occupational therapist behavioral therapist) to develop a plan.
  3. Set a feeding schedule and routine.
  4. Try new strategies (e.g., offer new choices, provide rewards, model eating behavior).
  5. Be patient. Celebrate small and big accomplishments.

The 2019 MFLN FD Early Intervention webinar series, “Sunrise to Sunset: Supporting Children with Autism Through Their Day,” focuses on supporting young children with autism and their families.  The second webinar of the series will take place on June 12, 2019.  This session will describe eating and feeding difficulties of children with autism and how professionals can support military and civilian families of children with autism.  Visit the webinar event page for “Yuck! I Don’t Eat That! Nutrition & Selective Eating in Young Children with Autism” to RSVP!

 

 

The Composition of Oils

Oils

by Sarah Pittman, B.S., Dietetics student

Although oils are NOT a food group they still play a very important part in a healthy diet because of the essential nutrients they provide.3 Many people ask, what is the BEST oil to use? Well, that is not such an easy question to answer. There are many benefits and uses to the wide range of oils on the market today. Lets break it down. (Nutrition based on 1 tbsp of each).

Canola Oil

  • Saturated fats: low (1 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: high with omega 3 fatty acids
    • Monounsat Fat: 8g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 4 g
  • Smoke point: high
    • Ideal for cooking: sautéing, stir frying and preventing food from sticking to pans

Flaxseed Oil

  • Saturated fats: low (1.2 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: high with omega 6 and omega 9 essential fatty acids
    • Monounsat Fat: 9.2 g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 2.5 g
  • Smoke point: low
    • Not ideal for cooking: better for salad dressings and as a topping

Avocado Oil

  • Saturated fats: low (2 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: high; 70% monounsaturated fat
    • Monounsat Fat: 10 g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 2 g
  • Smoke point: high
    • Ideal for cooking: sautéing, frying foods, but also good for toppings and salad dressings

Coconut Oil

  • Saturated fats: HIGH (13 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: low
    • Monounsat Fat: 1 g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 0 g
  • Smoke point: low
    • Not suitable for high-temperature cooking

Sesame Oil

  • Saturated fats: low (2 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: high
    • Monounsat Fat: 7 g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 6 g
  • Smoke point: high
    • Great for stir frying and sautéing, also good as a topping over an Asian slaw

Vegetable Oil

  • Saturated fats: low (1.5 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: high, rich in both mono and polyunsaturated fats
    • Monounsat Fat: 5 g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 6 g
  • Smoke point: high
    • All purpose oil is best for baking and sautéing

Olive Oil

  • Saturated fats: low (2 g)
  • Mono and polyunsaturated fats: high in monounsaturated fats
    • Monounsat Fat: 10 g
    • Polyunsat Fat: 1 g
  • Smoke point: high
    • Can use in dressings, dips, sautéing, and frying2

Nutritionally you should look for oils that are low in saturated fats and high in mono and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, including butter, red meat, whole milk cheese, and coconut oil. A diet high in saturated fat tends to raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can cause blockages in your arteries.1 Foods that are high in mono and polyunsaturated fats include, olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts, salmon, and mackerel. A diet high in mono and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce the harmful LDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.1 These healthy fats can also treat heart disease and stroke. As far as calories go, oils tend to be similar as 1 tbsp of oil is about 120 calories.

What oils do you like to use in cooking, salad dressings, and toppings?

 

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-ahttps://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-goodbout-fats-bad-and-good. Published 2019. Accessed April 25, 2019.
  2. Moore M. All About Oils – Food & Nutrition Magazine. Food & Nutrition Magazine. https://foodandnutrition.org/january-february-2014/all-about-oils/. Published 2019. Accessed April 25, 2019.
  3. Nutrients and health benefits. Choose MyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/oils-nutrients-health. Published 2019. Accessed April 25, 2019.