Eating healthily during the holiday season is a challenge for everyone, but it can be particularly difficult for children with autism. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that the average person gains one to two pounds over the holidays, but never take off those extra pounds. The challenge of maintaining a healthy weight is more acute for our students. Compared to children without autism, the risk of being overweight or obese is 1.57 times higher among children with autism according to a 2018 Journal of Pediatrics study.
“Like most people, our students see food they like and want to eat it,” said Marie Canesi, the school’s Culinary Teacher. “However, our students aren’t as aware of an appropriate serving size.” She also stated that inactivity and using food as a reward can contribute to weight gain. She provides five tips for avoiding weight gain during the holidays:
- Make sure the family sits down to eat. When you eat food while standing you’re more likely to eat more than you should.
- Start with salad. Salad has a lot of fiber and requires chewing, which means it takes time to eat. This allows time for feeling satiated before eating the high-calorie items.
- Fill the plate with small portions. It’s better to ask for seconds instead of gobbling down large portions when the smaller portions would have sufficed.
- Include chewy food and food to cut up. If your student is able to do so, chewing food and cutting it slows down the eating process and helps moderate food intake.
- Get active after eating. Taking a walk or planning for another activity that involves moving helps with metabolism.
The entire family will benefit by following Marie’s advice. Check out one of her favorite healthy holiday recipes.