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What is Samefooding?


You may have heard of the term “samefood” or “samefooding” in the autism community. This is a term used to describe a selective eating pattern that consists of eating the same food or set of foods for days, weeks, or months at a time. Eating samefoods may be perceived as picky eating, however, consuming samefoods for autistic people may be related to food aversions or the desire to stick to a routine that is familiar and comfortable. Food aversions and preferences may look different for every autistic person. Common food aversions may be based on taste, texture, temperature, color, and smell. Heightened response to sensory input is associated as a contributing factor for food aversions, in addition to motor skills challenges that directly affect mastication and gastrointestinal issues. These aversions may result in limited dietary variety and nutrient deficiencies.


A recent study by Kinnaird et al., (2019), examined the eating habits of autistic adults. While eating difficulties are prevalent in autistic children, there has been limited research on whether these eating patterns carry over into adulthood. The results indicated that autistic adults do tend to have challenges with selective eating patterns, but many have learned to adapt to view previous eating difficulties as less prevalent. However, evidence showed that autistic adults are at an increased risk of disordered eating compared to the general population.


One of the main concerns of selective eating is the risk of nutrient deficiencies. Autistic people have an increased risk of deficiencies of calcium, fiber, folic acid, vitamins A, D, and E. Food aversions also cause many autistic people to have an affinity for bland foods that are rich sources of simple carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain over time.


When addressing selective eating with children it’s important to not force food as this can result in a negative experience for both the child and the parent. For both children and adults, it’s important to ascertain if specific aversions are related to underlying symptoms, such as gastrointestinal discomfort. In the presence of symptoms, these types of foods should be noted as food sensitivities and should be avoided. However, if foods are avoided due to sensory issues it’s ok to slowly explore these foods gently.


One of the methods to overcome texture aversions is to try the food in various forms. For example, some vegetables can be added to smoothies to alter taste, texture, and color. It’s beneficial to allow time to explore foods. This may start with simply seeing a new food, then moving on to holding the food, and then feeling the food in the mouth, even if the food is then spat out. These small steps can help introduce the idea of eventually trying to eat these foods.


Methods to overcome specific food aversions may not always be successful and that’s ok. Observing the types of foods you or your child are eating can provide insight into which nutrients may be under-consumed on a regular basis. This knowledge can help you work with your healthcare provider to create a supplement plan to fill in any nutritional gaps.


References:


​​Kinnaird E, Norton C, Pimblett C, Stewart C, Tchanturia K. Eating as an autistic adult: An exploratory qualitative study. PLoS One. 2019 Aug 29;14(8):e0221937. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0221937. PMID: 31465510; PMCID: PMC6715205.

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