A major focus of the lab's research is on developing and implementing nutrition interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who often face additional barriers to healthy eating. Dr. Gray's expertise in behavioral nutrition enables her team to design interventions tailored to the unique needs of these populations, taking into account behavioral factors that may affect their dietary choices.

ASD Nutrition Study is nutrition education intervention for children with ASD and their parents. A nutrition intervention called Autism Eats was designed to prevent the development of feeding disorders and the long-term negative health impacts associated with poor dietary intake in young children (birth to 36 months) with ASD. This randomized controlled trial is funded by NIH and aimed to evaluate the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of the nutrition education intervention for children with ASD and their parents through the Early Intervention (EI) services. registration number: NCT05194345

Since 2023, the intervention has been expanded to the preschooler age group. This feasibility study is part of the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P), supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through University of California, Los Angeles (PI: Gray, Subcontract of UT2MC39440). The Autism Eats: Preschoolers program consists of age-appropriate lessons and various resources for parents.

The Autism Eats intervention consists of ten 25-min weekly lessons plus two 25-min monthly booster sessions. Parent-child dyads receive the lessons through their regular EI services implemented by EI providers. The intervention integrates ASD-specific feeding strategies (e.g., repeated exposure, food chaining, and making regular mealtime routines), and behaviorally-focused nutrition content and activities (e.g., goal setting and healthy meal planning). 

Autism Eats intervention components

Lessons: topics and objectives

1. Feeding Milestones

2. Sensory Properties of Foods: Taste, Flavors, & Textures

3. Introducing New Foods

4. Balanced Eating and Nutrition

5. Food Allergies, Special Diets, and Supplements

6. Beverages

7. Mealtime Routines and Schedules:

8. Restructuring Food Environment

9. Hunger and Fullness Cues

10. Maintaining Healthy Nutrition

Booster 1. Where are We Now?

Booster 2. Celebrating Achievements

Static website repository

Social media

The Autism Eats: Preschoolers version consists of ten 30-min weekly lessons plus two 30-min monthly booster sessions. Parent-child dyads receive the lessons through their regular service providers. The intervention materials has been updated from the original early childhood Autism Eats to provide developmentally appropriate content and materials for preschoolers with ASD and their caregivers. The provider manual and parent handbooks are currently being reviewed by a panel of service providers and parents. We have incorporated more kid-friendly recipes and hands-on activities. 


Research poster_Nutrition 2023_TP_HLG.pdf
Comparison of Food Groups Klinger ASN.pdf
Nutrition2022 Poster_HLG_Final.pdf
RD_masterPoster_Draft Jimenez_HLG.pdf
Conference Poster 2022.pdf

More information about Autism Eats can be found here