Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently report child food refusal based on characteristics of food. Our study sought to determine whether parent report of food refusal based on the characteristics of food was greater in children with ASD than in typically developing children, associated with a greater percentage of foods refused of those offered, and associated with fruit and vegetable intake. A modified food frequency questionnaire was used to determine overall food refusal as well as fruit and vegetable intake. Parent-reported food refusal related to characteristics of food (eg, texture/consistency, temperature, brand, color, shape, taste/smell, foods mixed together, or foods touching other foods) was compared between 53 children with ASD and 58 typically developing children aged 3 to 11 years in the Children's Activity and Meal Patterns Study (2007-2008). Children with ASD were significantly more likely to refuse foods based on texture/consistency (77.4% vs 36.2%), taste/smell (49.1% vs 5.2%), mixtures (45.3% vs 25.9%), brand (15.1% vs 1.7%), and shape (11.3% vs 1.7%). No differences between groups were found for food refusal based on temperature, foods touching other foods, or color. Irrespective of ASD status, the percentage of foods refused of those offered was associated with parent reports of food refusal based on all characteristics examined, except temperature. Food refusal based on color was inversely associated with vegetable consumption in both groups. Routine screening for food refusal among children with ASD is warranted to prevent dietary inadequacies that may be associated with selective eating habits. Future research is needed to develop effective and practical feeding approaches for children with ASD.
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