The Optimal Food List For Autism + What To Avoid

Learn about the optimal food list for autism, what to eat and avoid. Find the best autism diet in this guide.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
July 31st, 2022

A healthy diet for people with autism means eating whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Foods naturally higher in vitamins and minerals are good for autism.

However, processed foods that have had many (or most) nutrients removed should be avoided.

Some foods can cause gastrointestinal issues in an autistic child.

Therefore, implementing a specialized diet in some cases, such as a gluten-free/casein-free or ketogenic diet may help the child feel healthier.

optimal food list/diet for autism

Keep reading to find a list of foods, meals, and snacks that are good for autism, as well as ones that are bad. Find the most optimal autism diet today.

What foods are good for autism?

A study found that the most common nutrient insufficiencies in autistic children were folic acid, fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, as well as vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, and K.

Food preferences or obsessions cause some children to have too much of one or two of these nutrients.

Therefore, food avoidances mean that a large amount of autistic children aren’t getting enough of these vitamins and minerals.

This is why helping your child get the right balance of these foods and important nutrients is a crucial step in your child’s growth.

Try adding these foods to their diet with the help of a treatment team:

  • Beans like pinto beans, navy beans, and black beans
  • Peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Eggs
  • Seafood
  • Chia seeds
  • Dried figs
  • Apricots
  • Edamame
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale
  • Spinach
  • Soy milk
  • Almonds
  • Almond milk
  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Chickpeas
  • Oatmeal
  • Lean beef, chicken, and turkey
  • Green peas
  • Lentils
  • Dark chocolate, as an occasional sweet treat
  • Mango
  • Melons like cantaloupe
  • Butternut squash
  • Avocado
  • Rice
  • Onions and garlic
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Carrots
  • Sweet red pepper
  • Pumpkin
  • Citrus like oranges and grapefruit
  • Mushrooms
  • Beet greens

A lot of these foods offer a variety of nutrients, so combining them in thoughtfully different ways through meal planning can help your child get the high-quality nutrients they need.

Make sure to avoid foods that cause your child discomfort, and slowly add new foods to your child’s eating routine.

What are good snacks for kids with autism?

Finding a handful of good snacks for kids diagnosed with autism is important for all parents.

It will take some time and experimentation, but here are some suggestions that your child might like:

The Best Autism Meal Plan

  1. Ants on a log, almond butter, raisins, and made celery
  2. Veggie plate that’s focused on colors and textures your child will receive well – serve with guacamole or hummus
  3. Egg muffins made with veggies (it’s crucial you consider your child’s preferences)
  4. For picky eaters, homemade granola bars are a tasty snack
  5. Roasted chickpeas for kids who need more veggies in their diet
  6. Trail mix for kids who don’t go nuts eating them

What foods should be avoided with autism?

If a particular food results in negative behaviors or stomach issues, make sure your child stops eating it. Here are a few common foods that may cause issues in children on the spectrum:

  1. High-sugar foods
  2. Milk and other dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, iceceream
  3. Wheat products
  4. Processed meats
  5. Processed snacks such as chips, crackers, cookies, etc.
It’s crucial you work with your child’s pediatrician and possible a nutritionist to identify the best foods for your child to eat regularly.

A behavior therapist can assist your family by devising a plan to help you introduce new foods to their diet in the most optimal way.

Best Breakfast For People With Autism

Eating a balanced and healthy breakfast means it has protein, fat, and fiber.

This will ensure your child stays full longer, and also prevents a spike in blood sugar (followed by a crash) that can disrupt their behavior. A few examples of breakfasts with protein, fat, and fiber include:

  1. Protein: Eggs, Meat, Seeds, Nuts, Nut/Seed Butters, Gluten-Free Whole Grains, Beans/Legumes
  2. Fat: Meat, Avocado, Eggs, Nuts, Olive Oil, Coconut Milk And Oil, Seeds
  3. Fiber: Bananas, Avocado, Whole Grains, Beans/Legumes, Nuts, Sweet Potato, Apples

Best Lunch For Autistic Individuals

Ensuring your child eats a healthy and balanced lunch that will give them the nutrients their body needs is one of the responsibilities of a parent.

A balanced lunch needs to have protein, fat, and fiber to help keep blood sugars from spiking and crashing, keep your child feeling full until the next snack or meal, and feed the body with building blocks for lots of energy.

A few examples of healthy lunch foods are:

  1. Protein: Meat, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Beans/Legumes
  2. Fat: Fatty Fish, Olive Oil, Eggs, Coconut Milk, Avocado
  3. Fiber: Fruits, Vegetables, Beans/Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, Gluten-Free Whole Grains

Best Dinner For People Diagnosed With Autism

To ensure your child has the healthiest dinner that provides them the most nutrients possible, we have put together a list of meals and foods to definitely include:

Meals

  1. Taco Bowls
  2. Cheeseburger Casserole
  3. Veggie Burgers
  4. Salmon Burgers
  5. Lasagna Soup
  6. Sheet Pan Salmon
  7. Chicken Fajitas (cassava tortillas are recommended)
  8. Taco Sweet Potato Skillet
  9. Herbed Asparagus, Chickpea, and Potato
  10. Pizza
  11. Chicken Nuggets
  12. Gluten-Free Spaghetti With Sauce
  13. Vegetable Fried Rice
  14. Chicken Soup
  15. Easy Turkey Burger
  16. Sweet Potato Fries

Foods

  1. Fruits
  2. Vegetables
  3. Nuts
  4. Meat
  5. Seeds
  6. Beans or legumes
  7. Fish

Why is my autistic child not eating?

Many kids with autism might have postural issues that interfere with eating.

For example, low muscle tone can make it challenging to maintain an upright seated position for autistic children.

Sensory aversions related to autism are another common reason for kids having eating problems.

Is autism caused by food?

Autism is not caused by food-related challenges or malnutrition, but for many individuals, there is a connection between food and autism.

Research suggests that food-related challenges can have a significant impact on many autistic individuals.

Is milk or yogurt good for autism?

According to previously preliminary research studies, a diet without any milk and dairy products can be useful for some people with autism by reducing certain behaviors or symptoms that can negatively affect quality of life.

Is chicken therapy good for autism?

Yes, keeping chickens and a chicken coop have been praised as being therapeutic for individuals with autism.

People who own chickens and practice chicken therapy are getting those with autism involved in feeding and taking care of the chickens.

The therapy promotes self-help and independent living skills, and helps autistic individuals be more responsible.

What vitamins/supplements help with autism?

Dietary supplements have been proven to be very helpful for autistic symptoms, through both diet changes and supplementation.

Improving diet and choosing specific supplements can help your child better manage their daily challenges.

In this section, we will cover in-depth the most common dietary supplements used by families with autistic children.

Note: Before beginning any type of supplement regimen for your child, it’s always important to consult with their pediatrician.

  1. Vitamin D
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Vitamin B-6 and Magnesium
  4. Melatonin
  5. Sulforaphane (Broccoli Sprout Extract)
  6. DMG and TMG
  7. Vitamin C
  8. Methyl Vitamin B-12
  9. Omega-3 and Fish Oil
  10. N-acetylcysteeine (NAC)
  11. Digestive Enzymes
  12. Probiotics

Can sugar affect autism?

It may be best to take away sugar from your child’s diet to maintain balanced sugar levels, as children with autism can show signs of hyperactivity.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is similar to sugar but can cause overstimulation in the brain, thus leading to your child behaving hyperactive.

9 Diet Strategies For Parents With Autistic Children

Here are nine strategies to try at home for helping your son or daughter become more comfortable eating a broader range of healthy food:

  1. Offer a protein, fruit or vegetable, and a starch along with a tiny amount of their favorite chips at every meal.
  2. Review your mealtime routines and adjust them if necessary.
  3. Make food fun and something your child looks forward to.
  4. Introduce a visual schedule as a written list and/or pictures to show your child the day’s meal and snack times. Post this in their room and in the kitchen to give her a frequent reminder of when she should eat. The idea is to give your child as much preparation time as possible prior to meals, which comes with the added advantage of helping them manage food-related anxiety.
  5. Don’t let your child wait for hunger pangs. Instead, simply offer foods on a chosen schedule. For example, breakfast is at 9:00am, snack is at 12:00pm, lunch is at 2:00pm, another snack is at 4:30pm, and dinner is at 6:00pm.
  6. Take the anxieties out of your child eating food and try to maintain a positive mindset and believe that your child will eat. Celebrate every success your child has with eating healthy!
  7. Offer your child the same food as the rest of the family is eating, even if they might refuse it. It’s crucial that your child sits at the table while the rest of you eat.
  8. Serve food family style by putting foods on serving plates, as well as by letting your child serve themself.
  9. Try some movement before meals by requesting your child to get up and move, whether it’s jumping jacks, dancing, or going for a walk.

References

  1. Livestrong.com
  2. Autismspeaks.org
  3. Verywellhealth.com
  4. Autismdietitian.com
  5. Childrensmn.org
  6. Tacanow.org
  7. Carmenbpingree.com
  8. Autismdietitian.com
  9. Clinicaltrials.gov
  10. Harkla.co
steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

Table of Contents