Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder impacting 1 in 59 children in the United States and is characterized by social, emotional, communication, and behavioral challenges. Children with ASD commonly exhibit food selectivity due to sensory processing difficulties, aberrant mealtime behaviors, and motor impairment. Previous studies have shown that food selectivity can impact healthy growth and development with implications for nutrient deficiencies.
Method: The objective of this study was to understand the differences of intake and variety of MyPlate food groups between children with an ASD (n=10) and typically developing children (TD) (n=27). An analysis was conducted using the data from a pilot study to develop a comprehensive eating screening inventory named the Sensory Processing, Aberrant Mealtime Behaviors, Motor, and Inventory for Eating (SAMIE). Three-day diet records were analyzed for average daily intake of grains, fruits, vegetable, dairy, and protein using diet analysis software, Nutritionist Pro. Food variety was assessed by categorizing unique food items in each food group.
Results: No differences were found in calories and average daily intake of food groups between ASD and TD, however ASD showed significantly less variety in vegetables (p=0.04) and protein (p=0.03). Mean differences showed that ASD had less variety in all food groups compared to TD.
Conclusions: This study supports previous findings that children with ASD exhibit more food selectivity and have a limited food repertoire compared to typically developing children.