Best Life: Health hacks for young adults with autism

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 6:41 AM CDT
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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 tough. But 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,” said Dustin.

Mom, Suzanne, 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,” she said.

Laura Nabors, Ph.D. Human Services Professor University of Cincinnati, 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. They may have some food selectivity preferences for just certain foods and it could be high carb foods,” said Nabors.

She oversees a healthy lifestyle program, emphasizing 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 number of fats you should eat. Two fists equal 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,” said Dustin.

A good goal for everyone, regardless of life circumstances.

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

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Kirk Manson, Videographer

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