Healthy and Smart Lunch Ideas That Your Child On Spectrum Will Love
Parenting is always a challenge, but when it comes to managing a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), it gets a bit tough. Most kids are picky over food but a child with ASD might be more adamant.
Usually, children throw tantrums over food. It’s always challenging to satisfy their moods as parents because you have to make sure that they get proper nutrients from those foods.
Autistic children have a limited choice of food, because of smell sensitivity and some other issues. It’s always a troublesome work to get them used to new foods. Being a parent, you still need to be cautious about the balanced diet for them. Moreover, a number of foods can be harmful to your kids and might even trigger some behavioral issues. Hence, you need to be selective while deciding what is appropriate for your child. Especially during lunch, since we tend to eat the most at our lunchtimes.
Many parents out there struggle with choosing proper foods for their children. Thus, the children are provided lunch as per their likings. But here is the thing, what is tasty might not be healthy.
To help you decide what food might be good for your children we are here to offer you some ideas that will help you to pick some easy lunch menus for your kids on the spectrum:
The Two Different Types
First, you need to make sure what your kid's eating type is.. Usually, the children with ASD have two types of eating habits They are:
a) Problem Feeders:
These kids have minimal foods in their repertoire. Being sensitive to smell, they prefer rather bland foods. Having hyper-sensory issues with eating, they tend to avoid foods that ordinary people would love to have, namely chicken, pasta, & white foods like bread.
They are more into avoiding spicy foods like peppers, hot sauce, wings, etc. So, try to provide foods that are stimulatory to the brain. Problem feeders sometimes like to eat at their own preferred time or eat alone.
To help them eat better and have a balanced diet you can give social story examples and teach them the importance of eating at the right time and sitting at the table with everyone else
b) Picky Eaters:
These are rather the easier ones to handle. They have sensory & color issues with foods. Everything works out well if you allow them to choose their meals. Keep in mind that they are sensitive to colors. You may want to disguise specific colors of foods with tomato sauces or sometimes mix vegetables in brownies.
However, the critical part is to identify which category your kid falls into. Then it will be for you to decide your next approach.
Once you have decided about your kid’s eating type, move on to the next part, and make sure to supply these following types of foods:
1. Gluten-Free Foods
Gluten affects the behavioral symptoms of a child with ASD. Gluten is found mostly in bread & cereal. So, avoid gluten in your child's menu to overcome these difficulties in his behavior.
Though it’s becoming tough to get gluten-free food these days, you can add the below-mentioned foods to your lunch list:
● Bacon-wrapped pineapple bites
● Peach clouds
● Pork chops with carrots
● Crispy apple-oat fritters
● Replace gluten foods with rice-based foods etc.
2. Casein-Free Foods
This is the part where arguments occur. Many believe that without dairy foods (high in casein), children won’t be healthy & won’t get enough nutrients.
That’s not false, but in the case of autistic children, casein causes harm rather than proving to be beneficial. Dairy products stimulate behavioral aggressiveness. It’s possible to remain healthy without consuming casein if you consider our following suggested foods:
● Cranberry meatballs
● Cashew milk
● BBQ pork for sandwiches
● Dairy-free chocolate pudding etc.
3. Carb-Free Foods:
Carb-free foods do not mean that you can’t give your kid any carbohydrates at all. Instead, the message is to limit the amount of carbohydrate you are serving.
Stats show that low carb or no-carb foods enhance focus, power & energy. To ensure low carb-foods, you may try these foods:
● Sausage & egg breakfast
● Garlic chicken
● Mushroom pork chops
● Rosemary ranch chicken kabobs etc.
4. Sugar-Free Foods
Similarly, as carb-free foods, make sure that your kid consumes as little sugar as possible. Most of today’s health problems occur due to the excessive amount of sugar consumption.
So, go easy on this one. Your kids will have sugars through outside foods & fast foods. So, while in the house, make sure that you give him less sugar. Following foods will help you determine:
● Sugarless fruit cake
● No sugar apple pie
● Sugar-free peanut butter cookies
● Sugar-free brownies etc.
That’s all about what type of foods your child should eat but how do you make it more appealing?
Here is what you need to do-
Decorate the Lunch Box
Sensitivity towards color is a common thing for autistic children. Most of the children even like interesting things & bright colors. Using colors to decorate the lunchbox will likely increase your kid's appetite.
Try to use colorful silicone lunch box dividers. You can even place fruits & vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, strawberries, etc. alongside cupcakes. Doing so will also cheer them up & they will be interested in trying those foods.
Make a List of Foods with Your Kid
It is a rather long-term approach. First, you need to make three columns in your notebook titling Category A, B & C foods.
Then ask your kid to name his most favorite foods. Place them in cat-A. Then place those foods in cat-B, that used to be favorite previously but now not so much. Lastly, in cat-C place, those foods that your kid does not prefer at all.
After you’re done listing, try to focus on the vegetables that are in cat-A. If there’s any, give those to your kid frequently. And if the vegetables are in cat-B, try to give him every two days. Thus, you will be able to alter foods periodically & eventually get him to eat healthy foods.
Some Extra Lunch Ideas
To sum up, what we have been trying to tell you throughout this article is some quick lunch ideas for your autistic child:
● Hard-boiled eggs
● Homemade hamburgers
● Ham sandwiches
● Pizzas (occasionally)
● Organic juice (if possible)
● Chicken fries
● Fruit salads
● Snacks (Based on your kid’s choice) etc.
Remember one thing; you should try to avoid foods that have gluten, caseins. Again as you are giving your kid low carb & low sugar foods, you need to focus more on vegetables & protein. The ideal approach to prepare a healthy lunch for your autistic child is to include fruit, protein, vegetable, snacks & plenty of water. The idea behind adding snacks is to provide variety & to increase his appetite. Consider our tips the next time you are preparing lunch for the little one.