• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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Adults and Children with Autism tend to be Picky Eaters

Many of us with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have difficulty tolerating foods. There are several reasons for this, for our being seen as “picky eaters” from childhood.

First, our acute sense of smell serves to warn us about foods that we are not going to like. My father used to smack my food out of my hands when I was younger because I NEEDED to smell everything before I ate it.  His answer was to smack the habit out of me; it didn’t work.

Although, at the time no-one had any idea that I was autistic, as I was not diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until I was 38 years old, I doubt his approach would have been any different.

Juicing a Solutions to ASD Picky eating


Textures and Smells

I need to smell the foods so I will know what they taste like.  I need to know what to expect.

Our sense of smell is closely linked to our sense of taste, but for an ASD child (or adult for that matter) the connection is heightened, amplified hundreds of times. As an adult I can go into a restaurant, and purely using my sense of taste, and smell recreate what I’ve eaten at home in my kitchen.  It is my super power!

I am often asked how/where I learned how to cook, and my only response is through my nose.  This usually gets me very strange sideways type looks—doesn’t everyone cook using their nose? Doesn’t everyone stand over a pot of bubbling homemade tomato sauce and know what is missing? Apparently, not.

Eating difficulties are taken one step further when you add tactile sensitivities into the mix.  The way food feels in my mouth, its texture (lumpy, smooth, wet, etc.) is extremely important. I cannot eat mashed potatoes with lumps.  That is a smooth textured food, but if I am eating it and there are lumps on my tongue alongside the warm smooth feel of the well mashed potato my gag reflex is activated.

Additionally, I cannot eat anything that has skin on it, and don’t even get me get started about eating meat with grizzle, fat, or bones in it!

Back to the skins. Most fruits and vegetables have skins on them that I cannot tolerate.  (Carrots, tomatoes, apples, plums, pears, etc.) I do not have an aversion to their smells, or their tastes.  In fact, I LOVE fruity smells, but usually eat very little fruits, and even less vegetables—if any at all.

A multi-vitamin might be a good solution to the missing vitamins and minerals in my diet, except, they smell—horribly, and I can taste them for hours after taking them. I cannot get most vitamin supplements past my nose.  My new solution: JUICING!


Juicing as a Solution

I have consumed more vegetables in the past week (since purchasing a juicer on New Year’s Day) then I have in the past five years, at least—and I feel great!  Truly, I do.  I don’t know if it is that the nutrients are making me feel good, or if it is because I know I am doing something that is healthy and good for me, but either way I feel wonderful.

Juicing may be the solution. At the very least—it may be worth a try.

This past week I have tried several recipes, some of which I put together myself, and some I’ve borrowed from Farnoosh’s Favorite Green Juice Recipes.  I haven’t tried all of the juice recipes on her list (yet) mostly because I fear some of those veggies listed, but I did purchase them and am going to be trying everything on the list—eventually.


Juice Recipes

These are the ones that I have tried and liked.

Apple, Orange, Carrot: 4 Carrots, 1 Apple, 1 Orange

Apple Grapefruit: 1 Grapefruit, I Red Apple—if you or your child does not like the bitter taste of grapefruit, the apple sweetened the juice.

Citrus: 1 Orange, 1 Grapefruit, 1 Lemon – this was a little tart for my taste so when I tried again I added a second orange that really helped.

Pure Grapefruit: 3 Pink Grapefruits – warning this is tart.

Perfect Morning Essential: 4-6 Carrots, 4 stalks of Celery, 1 Lemon , 1 Macintosh or Yellow Apple—( I am drinking this one as I type)

Hot Afternoon Boost: 4-6 Carrots, 4-6 stalks Celery, 1/2 bunch Cilantro, 2 Roma Tomatoes, 1 Lemon—full of veggies, and it tasted pretty good. I’m going to have another this afternoon.

Power After-Workout Drink: 1/2 Romaine lettuce, 3-4 leaves of Kale, 3-4 Carrots, 1/2 bunch Carrot top, 1 Apple, 1 Lime—I had one last night because I was feeling lethargic.

Instead of putting on a pot of coffee, which is what I felt like doing I decided to try a juice instead, and I had a nice energy boost not long afterwards. I did, however, cheat a bit on this recipe, which came from the Favorite Green Juice Recipes. I was scared of taste of the Kale because I hadn’t had any before so I added two apples to make sure the juice would have enough sweetness in it for me. I enjoyed it—but warning it will be a brownish green color.


All in all I am having a good time juicing and thought I would share my findings with you all since I’ve found a way to get those fruits and veggies in my system. Best of all, juicing feeds my laziness because I don’t have to peel all the fruits and vegetables. The only ones I needed to peel were the oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.

I’ve read that it isn’t necessary to peel those lemons and limes, but I don’t like the extra bitter taste not peeling them put in my juice.

I wanted to give this juicing thing a try, so I looked around at juicers. Some of them are very fancy and expensive! I did not buy those, I grabbed a less expensive regular juicer to get started and it is working great so far. If anyone else gives it a try let me know what your results were like—we can swap recipes!

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. Thank you very much for this. I,too, suffer with Asperger’s as well as selective eating. I am just glad I am not the only one who deals with these two issues. I am extremely picky and tend to avoid going places,if food is the focus. I tend to tell friends and family,that I am either busy or don’t feel well if they invite me to dinner.

  2. Pingback: Food.. taste, texture, smell… | Atypical Neurality

  3. No pickiness here! Only funny little quips in not eating things because they smell funny or there are too many recurring shapes too close together… like circles… can’t eat honey if I saw the honeycomb in the jar!

    • LOL, yes I can definitely see that! Ya know what else? I almost forgot that I don’t like most of my food touching! Something can touch and be mixed, but most things stay separated on my plate, or onto separate plates.

  4. i had a lot of pickiness too; i hate that fatty texture, like you said, grizzle ICK! gross. probably all for the best because its horrible for your health to eat straight up fat anyway!

    i hated mushrooms (texture of a slug! ewe!) and onions and celery. i didnt like the taste of onions but im thinking the texture might have had something to do with it since i dont mind the taste of celery, but hate it cooked in something so it resembles onion. as ive gotten older, ive become more accepting however, and i will eat mushrooms as long as they are small and in something and onions or celery as well.

    my dad likes meat, but if he runs across a fish bone in his fish, hes done immediately. i like fish enough that if i order it, ill eat the rest, but i pick at it like crazy to be sure there are no bones involved. lol

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