Approaches for Healthy Lifestyles
Making food choices
Learning how to make food choices starts in childhood. Individuals with ASD have difficulty internalizing concepts, but are comfortable with routine. The basics of good nutrition can often be learned if repeated frequently over a long period of time. It is important to recognize that using food as a reward may contribute to weight gain and dental problems.
- For all ages
- When trying to add a new food to someone’s diet, only introduce one food at a time and allow the person to get comfortable with that food over a span of time (1 week or so) before introducing a new food.
- Instead of a cookie jar, have a bowl of cut-up fruit in the refrigerator.
- Look for low-fat, crunchy alternatives to chips for those that crave foods with texture. Try baked chips, veggie straws, or nuts.
- For Children:
- Avoid using food as a reward.
- Avoid offering food unnecessarily.
- Offer healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables, low-fat popcorn, cereal bars, and low-fat yogurt.
- Offer only water as a beverage with meals so the child does not fill up with high-calorie liquids and then reject food.
Getting involved in food preparation
Being an active participant in food preparation can teach a person with ASD skills that may be applied to other areas of life.
- Use visual cues like real food, photographs, or symbols to teach food groups (grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy). Visual cues are useful for people who are visual thinkers.
- Create a list of favorite foods.
- Arrange the list by food groups - this becomes a tool for menu planning and snack choices.
- Engage in food preparation, i.e., washing the vegetables or getting ingredients from the pantry.
- Stir batter or pudding.
Ideas for increasing physical activity:
- For all ages:
- Park farther away.
- Play "tag" for a few minutes in the park.
- Walk to the corner store or activities that are in the neighborhood.
- For adolescents and adults:
- Use a push mower to mow a lawn - 10 minutes of pushing burns 45 calories.
- Rake a lawn - 10 minutes of raking burns 40 calories.
- Wash windows.
- Mop floors.
- Take stairs instead of an elevator.
- Connect with neighborhood walking groups.
- Join a group that does mall walking.