Eating and Nutrition

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Picky Eating

Persons with FASD are often very picky eaters. This may be related to a problem with sensory integration. Some individuals are very sensitive to taste and texture. He or she may not like raw whole carrots, but slicing or shredding the food might make it more acceptable. Fresh tomatoes may not be pleasant , but peeling and removing the seeds or using them in a sauce might be fine. At times, mixing foods may make them more palatable. At other times, separating foods may be better so that there is not an unusual combination of tastes and textures. Some individuals may also benefit from smaller, more frequent meals.Adding a daily multivitamin to round out their diet is also a good strategy.

Not so well known is the impact of underlying brain dysfunction on taste sensation for many individuals with FASD. For many, their sense of taste is so attenuated that they will only eat food that is very spicy or very sour. Sometimes individuals with FASD may not eat apples or oranges but will eat lemons because they are able to taste them.
     Nathan E. Ory, 2004

Meals and Diet

Some children with FAS eat relatively little, and their parents are concerned about their child's ability to maintain a normal weight for healthy growth. Doctors may recommend feeding the child high calorie nutritional supplements.

Maintaining a healthy diet seems to have a significant effect in helping persons with FASD to control behavior. Good rules of thumb include:

  • Avoid additives
  • Read labels
  • Minimize fast food
  • Patronize restaurants that don’t use preservatives.

Teachers know that the worst days for behaviors are the day after Halloween, Christmas time, and Valentine’s Day. It’s not necessarily the sugar, which in reasonable amounts should not cause problems. Rather it’s the food coloring; red coloring agents seem to cause the most problems. Other likely culprits are aspartame and preservatives. Try an additive-free diet for about a week, then try adding one potentially troublesome food at a time to see what affects your child and what does not.

Mealtime Issues

Eating problems are common for alcohol-affected children. Parents should be flexible in your expectations:

  • Allow ample time to eat.
  • A child with FASD may eat slowly because of poor muscle control or a poor swallowing reflex.
  • Accept that FASD children may be sloppy eaters.
  • Work on one kind of table manner at a time. Integrate a new manner only when the previous one has been successfully used for some time.
  • Avoid restaurants at peak times when eating out.

Useful Links

FAS and Nutrition
Nutritional Interventions for Children with FASD
When "Attitude" Comes From Low Blood Sugar
Nutrition Program for Daughter with FASD
Picky Eater Strategies