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Autism Diet: Foods to Avoid for Children with Autism

Diet is crucial when raising children; this holds especially true for specialized autism diets tailored to children on the spectrum. Figuring out what to eat, what to avoid, and what to increase all converge to ensure comprehensive nutritional growth for your autistic child. Although no specific diet can cure or treat autism, certain foods might worsen symptoms or contribute to behavioral issues. This article will explore the foods to avoid for an autistic child and how this can promote their overall well-being and quality of life.

Artificial Food Additives

Artificial food additives, like artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, have been linked to hyperactivity and behavioral issues in children with autism. These additives are often present in processed foods, sodas, candies, and snacks. To mitigate exposure to these additives, it’s advisable to opt for natural alternatives and whole foods. These are better foods that can help manage autism.


Gluten is a wheat, barley, and rye protein. Some individuals with autism may have sensitivities or allergies to gluten, leading to gastrointestinal issues, irritability, and cognitive difficulties. Consider a gluten-free diet or consult with a healthcare professional to determine if gluten is a trigger for your child.


Casein is a protein found in milk and dairy products. Similarly, like gluten, some autistic individuals may have sensitivities or allergies to casein, which can lead to digestive problems, mood swings, and cognitive issues. To address this, you could experiment with dairy-free alternatives such as almond, coconut, or soy milk, in order to determine if they positively impact your child’s well-being.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Excessive sugar consumption can lead to energy crashes, mood swings, and hyperactivity in children, including those with autism. Moreover, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have been associated with adverse effects on behavior and cognitive function. To make healthier choices, consider opting for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup in moderation.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener in many processed foods and beverages. It has been linked to increased inflammation, obesity, and behavioral issues. Avoid foods and drinks containing HFCS, such as sodas, fruit juices, and processed snacks.


Caffeine, being a stimulant, can have various effects on the body. It not only impacts sleep patterns but can also lead to increased anxiety. Additionally, in children with autism, it can worsen hyperactivity. To promote better well-being, it’s advisable to limit or even steer clear of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, and specific medications that happen to contain caffeine.

Allergenic Foods

Food allergies or sensitivities can exacerbate symptoms in autistic children. Common allergenic foods include peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, and soy. If your child has known allergies or sensitivities, avoiding these foods and seeking suitable alternatives is crucial.

While there is no one-size-fits-all diet for autistic children, it’s important to be mindful of the foods they consume, as this can have a positive impact on their overall well-being. By steering clear of artificial additives, gluten, casein, excessive sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine, and allergenic foods, parents and caregivers can effectively create a supportive environment that fosters their child’s development. It is essential to consult with healthcare professionals or registered dietitians to tailor a diet that suits your child’s specific needs. Remember, small changes in diet can make a significant difference in the lives of autistic children, promoting their health and happiness.

More information and resources

You can learn more about early signs of the spectrum disorder and how to understand what it will mean for you and your family here: