The Combination of Food Approach and Food Avoidant Behaviors in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: "Selective Overeating"

J Autism Dev Disord. 2022 Mar;52(3):987-994. doi: 10.1007/s10803-021-04945-6. Epub 2021 Apr 12.


Based on parent questionnaires, we demonstrate the presence of an eating pattern among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by both food selectivity and eating in the absence of hunger. Children with ASD were categorized as engaging in eating patterns of selective overeating, selective eating only, overeating only, or typical eating. Group differences were found in the areas of diet composition, body mass index, and behavioral flexibility. Both the selective overeating group and selective eating only group were prone to favor calorie-dense, nutrient-deficient diets as compared to other groups. Eating groups also presented with differing profiles of everyday behavioral flexibility. These results suggest that selective overeating in ASD may present unique challenges and require tailored interventions.

Keywords: Autism; Eating; Flexibility; Health; Picky; Selective.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Child
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia