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Autism diets: Eliminating additives and synthetic ingredients

The relationship between diet and autism has been a controversial topic for years. For parents who aren’t interested in putting children on a strict elimination diet, the option remains to be smart about additives, chemicals and synthetic ingredients through healthy eating habits.

Woman serving son soup

Because so much remains unknown when it comes to the cause of autism, it makes sense to many parents to cut out chemicals that could potentially have an effect on behavior. Individual parent reports have suggested that preservatives and other food additives affect children’s behavior, especially children with existing issues. Learn how to clean up your child’s diet so you can see for yourself if it helps.

Learn the ropes

The internet is littered with websites that claim to “cure” autism through diet. It’s important to take these with a grain of salt and work with a doctor you trust. Do as much research as you have time to do, reading parent accounts and avoiding anything that sounds like a sales pitch. It’s OK to have an open mind, especially if there’s a chance you’ll see improvement in your child’s autism symptoms. Just be smart and make sure your child is eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Think organic

Rethink the way you shop and cook. Focus on whole foods and homemade meals as often as possible. Most packaged foods contain preservatives and dyes. If you want to eliminate these types of ingredients, become a food label detective. Scour boxes and cans for signs of food dyes, preservatives and artificial sweeteners. Consider healthy substitutions. For example, drop sugary breakfast items in favor of whole grain oatmeal or wheat toast with organic honey. Buy organic versions of the ingredients you see in your favorite recipes.

ListTake notes

Pay attention to what your child eats. Try using a food journal to document his or her meals. Talk to your child’s teacher and to other family members to make sure they aren’t giving your child candies or other snacks with food dyes. If you notice meltdowns or behavior issues, see if those line up to lapses in your healthy diet routine. When it comes to your child, you’re the number one researcher. Autism is a journey, and it’s important to roll with what works for your individual family.

Chicken and rice soup recipe


  • 1 medium chicken (about 2- 2-1/2 pounds)
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup rice

Find the directions here >>

Homemade chicken soup

Broccoli with butter glaze recipe


  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 pounds fresh broccoli florets
  • 6 tablespoons butter

Find the directions here >>

Beans, barley and broth recipe


  • 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans with liquid
  • 3 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 (15 ounce) can Italian stewed tomatoes

Find the directions here >>

More on autism spectrum disorders

Your child has autism. Now what?
Ways to connect with an autistic child
The autism diagnosis and family stress

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