Picky eating is very common in autism. Don’t let that discourage you from trying diet. In fact, having a picky eater is an important reason TO try diet.
Picky eating is often due to being addicted to wheat and dairy. The opiate-like compounds created from the improperly digested wheat and dairy proteins causes addictive cravings for wheat and dairy foods. If your child is like most children with autism, they eat almost only wheat and dairy containing foods like: pizza, milk, bread, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, as well as maybe a few snack foods like French fries. There are many foods that are great substitutes for gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy).
Additionally, “Addictions” to chemicals (e.g., MSG, artificial additives) can affect restriction to one brand or a strong preference for processed foods. MSG is known to create “excitement” in the brain by stimulating the glutamate (excitatory) receptor, making food seem to taste much better. Artificial ingredients such as artificial colors and flavors can also affect similar cravings.
Nutrient deficiencies (such as zinc) can make all foods taste bad or bland. When zinc is deficient, which is a common finding in children with autism, sense of smell is reduced and food tastes boring or unappetizing. Texture can then become an even bigger factor: imagine eating mashed potatoes if you can’t taste the potato flavor – a bland mouthful of mush.
Notice how all the previous circumstances are “biochemical reasons” for picky eating. The good news is there is something you can do about picky eating. First is to try an autism diet like GFCF.
Next, get creative with taste, texture, and visual presentation. With picky eaters, texture goes a long way. Cooking to Heal contains many creative recipes with kid-friendly textures.
There are things you can do. As the addictive foods are removed, children begin to eat a larger variety of foods. Very often children expand their diet with some creativity and effort in the kitchen; however, it is important to reach out to a feeding therapist if your child is very limited with food choices.