P120 Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Who Are Picky Eaters May Consume More Ultra-Processed Foods than Non-Picky Eaters


      Ultra-processed foods may induce high energy intake that leads to excess weight gain, which can be problematic for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as the prevalence of obesity is higher in this population than typically-developing children. Picky eating is also more common in children with ASD compared to typically-developing children, yet how picky eating is associated with types of food that children with ASD consume is unknown.


      To examine associations between picky eating and food categories by NOVA classifications (unprocessed foods vs ultra-processed foods) among youth with ASD.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      A cross-sectional study conducted with 42 parents of children with ASD ages 2-17 years in Florida.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      A food record and mealtime behavior survey were completed by a parent of each child. Foods were coded based on NOVA classifications, and percent energy from each food category was assessed using the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR) software. Parent-reported picky eating was assessed with a mealtime behavior survey. Descriptive statistics and Mann-Whitney U tests were performed.


      Ultra-processed foods accounted for the majority of the children's energy intake (mean 62.6%). Picky eaters had greater percent energy intake from ultra-processed foods (P = .004, mean 68.7% vs 48.0%) and lower percent energy intake from unprocessed foods (P = .001, mean 23.4% vs 44.7%) compared to non-picky eaters. Among the picky eaters, 5 were also considered as binge eaters, which was associated with greater percent energy intake from ultra-processed foods (P = .032, 79.4% vs 60.0%) and lower percent energy intake from unprocessed foods (P = .041, 14.8% vs 32.1%) compared to those who were picky eaters but not binge eaters and non-picky eaters combined.


      Among youth with ASD, picky eaters may selectively eat more ultra-processed foods. Nutrition education for children with ASD and their parents should address both picky eating behaviors and types of foods. If children have disordered eating behaviors such as binge eating, further intervention may be necessary.
      Funding None.

      Appendix. Supplementary data