One of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to parents incorporating nutrition therapy into their child’s treatment program is forgetting about the basics.

It's tempting to jump to advanced interventions and become overwhelmed by the flurry of information that then comes your way. 

A child won’t be able to benefit from advanced interventions if basic nutrition is still an issue.

As we all know, nutrition has been a major concern for our children (special needs or not) over the past few years as the food we eat now is very different from what we ate 30 years ago. 

Today, many children’s diets consist of highly processed food with a bountiful mix of artificial chemicals, preservatives, sugar, pesticides and trans fat. 

Shifting more to a “whole-foods” diet and eliminating unnecessary  ingredients can benefit any child but  children with developmental and neurological disorders can see an array of  benefits from improved brain development and function, improved gastrointestinal health and improved immune function just to name a few.

Eat less or eliminate:

1. Highly processed foods

Cooking more meals from scratch takes effort but can really pay off. If your family relies on a lot of fast-food and convenience meals your child may be getting too many unnecessary ingredients.

Focus on how you can incorporate more time to plan meals.

Maybe on your days off set aside a few hours to go grocery shopping and plan a simple menu for the week.

Get your child as involved as possible in planning and preparing meals, they are more likely to eat what you make if they had a hand in it!

2.  Synthetic Food Additives

This includes artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives and artificial sweeteners. 

These additives have been linked to hyperactivity, neurodegenerative effects, poor academic performance and other behavioral problems.

3. Food Containing Pesticides

The best way to do this is to buy organic foods whenever possible.

Children with special needs are much more susceptible to pesticide exposure than normal developing children.

Pesticides have been linked to cancer and neurological disorders.

While you can’t completely control the amount of pesticides your child is exposed to, you can significantly reduce their exposure by purchasing organic food when possible. 

4. Refined Sugar

Sugar is okay in small amounts but a lot of children today consume way more than necessary.  

It usually isn’t feasible to totally avoid sugar, but instead focus on ways to decrease consumption by avoiding a lot of processed food plus avoid more concentrated sources of sugar like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

5. Limit Foods that Contain Trans Fat

Trans fats are a cheaper alternative to natural solid fats, which is why food manufacturers like to use them.

Trans fat increase our risk for cardiovascular disease and in some special needs children can interfere with brain development, vision processing and brain function.

Trans fats are commonly found in processed snack foods, fried foods and baked goods. 

Make sure to look for the word “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredients list of a food to determine if a food contains trans fat. 

Working towards a healthy diet for your child and family can be big undertaking but the benefits are well worth the time!


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