Health hacks for young adults with autism

One in 44 kids in the United States has autism.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 8:38 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CINCINNATI, ILL. (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - One in 44 kids in the United States has autism, and as they get older and go out on their own, sticking to the healthy routines they adopted during childhood can be challenging.

However, there are some lessons parents can reinforce to put young adults with autism and intellectual disabilities back on a healthy path.

A yogurt-based fruit smoothie is Dustin Stein’s go-to snack. This is a pretty recent change for him.

“I ate a whole container, a whole bag of marshmallows one time,” Stein says.

Suzanne, his mother, says Dustin’s eating habits went downhill after high school.

“Dustin’s diet completely changed to let’s have a bunch of french fries and soft drinks and that was about it,” Suzanne states.

Laura Nabors studies the health of young adults with autism, who are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

“Some of their medications tend to cause increased weight,” says Laura Nabors, Ph.D., human services professor at the University of Cincinnati. “They may have some food selectivity preferences for just certain foods, and it could be high carb foods.”

Nabors oversees a healthy lifestyle program that emphasizes the MyPlate model – five food groups that are important parts of a daily diet. Nabors uses visual cues to explain portions. For example, think of a thumb as the amount of fats you should eat. Two fists equals two portions of vegetables. A playing card is the size of a serving of protein.

At home, she tells parents to involve young adults in planning, shopping, and food prep.

Now, Dustin walks with his parents most nights, and he’s curbing his sugar habit.

“I try to set a limit on how much cookies I eat in one sitting,” Dustin says.

University of Cincinnati researchers say that of the young adults in the program, 44 percent increased their veggie intake, 70 percent reduced the soda they drank, and more than 60 percent began walking or exercising more.

Click here to report a typo.