How to Create a Nutrition Plan for Special Needs Children

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Finding out that your child has allergies or another health problem that could be influenced by their diet can be disheartening. It’s scary to know that what you eat at home could be making your child sick. 

The good news is that there are so many products and choices available in today’s grocery stores, from gluten-free alternatives to snacks made without soy, dairy, or nuts. You can manage your child’s diet at home more easily than you might think, but it’s important to have a plan. 

Not sure how to get started? Here are some tips for building a customized nutrition plan for your child. 

First, Know What Symptoms You Need to Treat  

Putting your child on a diet that eliminates just about everything can be used as a diagnostic tool but is not sustainable long-term. Your pediatrician might recommend an elimination diet, but usually for not more than a month or two. 

If you’re not using the elimination diet method, talk to your child’s doctor about the specific symptoms of concern and discuss which foods to eliminate. For instance, a child with hyperactivity or anxiety from autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should probably have limited sugar intake. 

Have a Solid Overview of the Different Types of Diets 

While it’s important to create a nutrition plan that suits your child’s specific needs, you should have a thorough understanding of the different types of diets other parents use to help their children. That way, you can base your own nutrition plan off of an established diet that is backed by science. 

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Understanding the pros and cons of diets like the gluten-free diet, the ketogenic diet, and the specific carbohydrate diet will help you to determine which plan will be healthiest for your child. Some diets, like the gluten-free or ketogenic diet, are often used to treat serious health issues such as celiac disease or seizures. But many parents also turn to plans like the whole food or gluten-free diet to help reduce behavioral symptoms and other issues. 

Know What Advice the Medical Community Is Giving

There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to diets for special needs children. Much of it is entirely speculative and anecdotal. At best, misinformation leads to little to no improvement in symptoms. At worst, it can jeopardize the health of children and lead to malnutrition. 

Because of this, it’s crucial to seek out reliable sources of information when creating your child’s nutrition plan. Seek out advice from the medical community. Use science-backed sources and ask questions when you need to. You need to make sure that you’re giving your kids the nutrition they need through a healthy, balanced diet as you attempt to treat their symptoms.  

Be Creative With Your Choices & Presentation 

Even kids with disabilities are likely to be picky eaters. Making food that fits within your child’s nutrition plan appealing can be challenging, but there are lots of great recipes online to help you make their food taste great. You can also sometimes “hide” healthier types of food inside a meal they find more palatable. 

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The other factor in appealing to kids is presentation. Kids love snack-y foods and they love food they can play with. Making shapes with food, creating a little lunch box in cute packaging, or making a game out of mealtime can all help. Creativity is key for getting special needs children to eat their special diet

Turn to Your Doctor for Advice 

When it comes to your child’s health, you can’t be too careful. It’s easy to feel that as a parent, you know what’s best for your special needs child. After all, you know them best! 

But it’s also important to remember that your child’s doctor has years of training and has been working closely with you to manage their symptoms and help them live a happy, healthy life. They should be your go-to resource if you have questions about your child’s diet or health. 

Keep your doctor informed about your child’s special diet. Better yet, work together to come up with a plan that will be sustainable for your family. You don’t have to do it all on your own—your doctor will help support you as you navigate how to safely feed your family. 

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