Children with special needs are especially susceptible to weight gain for a number of reasons, including a sedentary lifestyle (sitting and watching TV, rather than moving and playing) and a poor, sugar-filled diet.
“Special needs” is an umbrella term that encompasses many different diagnoses, such as Down Syndrome, Autism, ADD/ADHD and more. The attention your child needs from you and the mentors in their life will vary based on their needs, and the same is true for the type of diet they should be eating.
We’ve broken up our recommendations based on two of the most popular diagnoses (Down Syndrome and Autism), but it’s important to note that each child’s needs are different. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Be sure to see a pediatrician and nutritionist before making large-scale decisions about your child’s diet.
The Best Diet for Children With Down Syndrome
Many of the parents we meet feel guilty that their child has Down Syndrome, and they feel even guiltier that have a hard time deciphering their child’s needs in order to meet them. These parents usually express love for their child through small treats, like candy, ice cream, and fast food.
We understand the convenience this brings. Sugar is a fast and easy way to make anyone happy, but the emotional effects are only temporary, while the physical effects are long-term and dangerous.
Improve your child’s diet by avoiding these foods and ingredients:
- Foods with high sugar
(Children should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. Some foods have that many grams in just one serving!)
- Foods with high fructose corn syrup
- Foods with high sodium
(Children should eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Diabetic children should have less than 1,500 mg.)
Add these things to your child’s diet to help regulate their bowel movements:
- Lots of water!
- Water-rich foods (such as fruits and veggies)
- Fiber-rich foods (such as whole-grain bread, dates, and avocados)
The Best Diet for Children With Autism
Children with Autism also face challenges with their physical health that can be aided with a healthy diet. Your child may have a heightened chance of experiencing bowel discomforts and disorders, such as constipation, diarrhea or GERD.
Further, some research suggests that children with Autism are deficient in certain fats within the brain. It can seem counterintuitive to add fats to your child’s diet, but it’s important to add the right fats to improve attention span and focus.
Pediatricians recommend avoiding these foods to improve your child’s diet:
- Gluten (the protein in wheat)
- Casein (the protein in milk)
- Artificial additives
We recommend adding foods that are rich in these ingredients to your child’s diet to see improvements:
- Omega-3 fats (in fish or fish oil capsules)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
At Special Strong, we not only offer personalized workouts to our special needs clients, but we also have a dietician available to help coach you and your child through the best food choices for them. Test us out before you pay a dime with our 14-day FREE trial today!
Special Strong provides fitness and nutrition for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs fitness certification courses for personal trainers and service providers who want to work autism and other disabilities.