Top 10 Fruits & Vegetables For Children With Autism

by Raksha Hegde last updated -

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“No, mom, I won’t eat these chicken nuggets because they are not the ones I usually eat!” Most parents face resistance from children about new foods as they are not sure about the foreign tastes and textures. While it is common for young children to be picky eaters, research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that pickiness in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may be even more restrictive. Parents say that some children with ASDs yearn for the familiar and may limit themselves to as few as five foods. To avoid sensory overload, children with ASDs may even stick to white or beige-colored foods.

While parents can do their best to include new foods, it is possible to get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber from the right kinds of “white” foods as well as universally-liked foods like green grapes. While most dietary guidances recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, they emphasize on 1 serving of green vegetable and 1 orange vegetable or fruit every day. White vegetables like potatoes, turnips, cauliflower, and onions have been kind of forgotten. A 2013 Purdue University Roundtable Executive Summary on white vegetables found that it is as important to include these plain colored ones in everyday meals as they can increase fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Most white fruits and vegetables like bananas, pears, and potatoes are also favorites among children and this could help increase overall vegetable consumption among them.

Top Fruits & Vegetables For Children With Autism

Let us look at the list of top fruits and vegetables that may not cause a sensory overload to children with ASDs.

Banana 

Everyone’s favorite fruit can be eaten in a variety of ways and it is good for you! One serving – one medium ripe banana – provides about 105 calories, 0 gram fat, 1 gram protein, 27 grams carbohydrate, and 14 grams sugar. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium (422 mg) and fiber, according to a report by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

How to eat: This popular fruit can be eaten raw, frozen, and blended to make a delicious, dairy-free ‘nice cream’, or sliced and served on waffles and pancakes. For a fun treat, you can insert a popsicle stick, dip the banana in yogurt or chocolate syrup, and freeze it. Toasted banana bread with milk is an excellent evening snack for children. Better still, warm banana bread can be slathered with peanut butter to increase the protein content.

Sliced bananas on a plate with two whole bananas aside

A wide variety of health benefits are associated with bananas. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Apple

A medium apple has 96 calories and 5 grams of dietary fiber, according to the USDA. The fiber, combined with pectin which acts as a prebiotic, helps provide friendly gut bacteria and keep the digestive tract in order. This delicious, juicy fruit also provides a megadose of vitamin C and the mineral, boron, required for bone health.

How to eat: While eating a whole apple is fun, apple slices taste great with peanut butter. You can also chop the apple and add it to a simple green salad or mix it into a chicken salad as a stuffing for a kid-friendly sandwich.

Coconut 

While coconut may be an exotic ingredient to include in the kids’ menu, you will be surprised as to how many children love the sweet, nutty taste. Coconut muffins or mild curries are excellent ways to start including this as it is rich in niacin, copper, and iron. In terms of nutritional content, 100 grams of shredded coconut contains 283 calories, 7 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of saturated fat whereas 1 cup of coconut milk has 552 calories.

How to eat: Try adding small pieces of coconut into cereal or oats. The easiest way is to make coconut milk from fresh coconut in a blender. Coconut milk can be used just like cow’s milk to make smoothies and simple curries.

Green Grapes 

You don’t have to try hard to get children to have grapes. That’s a good thing because grapes are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. A 2014 report published in the PLOS One journal found that different grape varieties have a range of antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

How to eat: Grapes are a great mid-meal snack to have. Frozen grapes sprinkled with a little sea salt taste like candy and are usually a hit with kids. Adding chopped grapes to a green salad, chicken salad, or even a pizza adds a refreshing taste.

Mushrooms 

Mushrooms range from the plain white button variety to the meaty portobello to the exotic shitake mushrooms. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, such as copper, magnesium, and folate and according to the USDA FoodData Central database, 1 cup stir-fried sliced button mushrooms contain only 28 calories.

How to eat: Slice button mushrooms and sauté them in olive oil till they are golden brown. Season the sautéed mushrooms with salt and pepper, and serve on buttered toast. You can toss them in salads, omelets, and pasta too.

Potatoes 

Potatoes contribute key nutrients to the diet including vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber. While they have got a rap for being not-so-healthy in the past, research reports by nutritionists suggest that potatoes can be part of a healthy diet for children. Just make sure that these delicious tubers are eaten in MyPlate serving sizes. 

How to eat: Home-made mashed potatoes, seasoned potato wedges, as well as fries are kid-friendly comfort foods. Baked potatoes are one of the healthiest and simplest ways to enjoy the tuber; just add salsa and shredded cheese to add a bit of kick. Potato pancakes also make for a healthy and filling breakfast.

Cauliflower 

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that kids can either love or hate. Sometimes, overcooked cauliflower may smell in a way that is not appetizing to some. The trick is to figure out the best way your child would like to eat cauliflower. This wonderful cruciferous vegetable belongs to the Brassica species, which have been positively linked to the reduction of the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

How to eat: Cauliflower can be fried or oven roasted and seasoned with spices. Cheesy cauliflower tots and cauliflower rice is a great way to introduce something new on the menu for children. Cauliflower and cheese pair well – so try a cauliflower casserole for a delicious meat-free dinner.

Cauliflower casserole on concrete background

Casseroles are a delicious way to eat cauliflower. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Asparagus 

Besides being a fantastic green vegetable, asparagus is full of vitamin C, potassium, and folate. One cup of asparagus contains 4 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of dietary fiber. Research published in the Health & Nutrition Letter by Tufts University reveals that these green stalks have an active compound called rutin, which helps strengthen capillary walls.

How to eat: The classic steamed asparagus with Parmesan cheese or cheesy scrambled eggs with steamed asparagus is a good way to get your kids to eat it. You can also add chopped steamed asparagus stalks into pasta or stir-fries.

Green Beans 

Sometimes, green beans can be the last thing that kids want to see in their school lunch boxes. But try experimenting with butter, onion, and garlic as green beans contain vitamins K, C, A, as well as folate and potassium.

How to eat: Fresh green beans can be eaten raw; just snap the ends and add it to salads. However, make sure you wash them well to get rid of any pesticides. Roasted green beans can be dipped into hummus or a cheesy dip.

Pears

Pears are usually a favorite with the children, due to their juicy, refreshing taste. Full of vitamin C, fiber, and phytonutrients, these fruits make an excellent school lunch-box option. A 2015 research report published in Nutrition Today revealed that eating pears can improve gut health and prevent constipation

How to eat: Try adding thinly sliced pears into a cream cheese sandwich or into a classic turkey and cheese sandwich. A simple and healthy lunch box snack can be pear wedges with nut butter. You can also experiment with different pear varieties to see what your child likes best.

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About the Author

Raksha Hegde is the content director at Organic Facts and helps oversee a team of brilliant, dynamic content writers. She completed her MS in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, US. A former business news journalist and editor, Raksha followed her passion for wellness to become a certified Yoga teacher and a wellness festival curator. She believes that learning is a life-long process; she did a certificate e-course on “Introduction to Food and Health” in 2019 from Stanford University, US. 

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