Even though Alex is on a restricted gluten-free and casein-free diet, he is a good eater with a healthy appetite. We are fortunate that he not only understands he cannot eat foods that contain glutens (such as wheat) or milk products, but he is also willing to try a variety of meats, vegetables, and fruits. Moreover, he likes rice, which is his staple grain item. The only foods he will not eat are popcorn and mashed potatoes, and he’s not crazy about broccoli. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Alex has instituted three snack times per day at regular intervals: around 3:30 in the afternoon during the first commercial break of the game show Jeopardy, 8:00 in the evening (which he sometimes refers to as dessert), and 9:00 in the evening. This final snack time is in conjunction with his nightly supplement pills, which he prefers to take with food. Although we have gone through times when Alex was indecisive and had trouble making up his mind what he wanted, he now likes to be offered choices of what he can have for a snack, and he quickly chooses from the options we give him when he asks.
Since most baked goods contain wheat flour and milk, Alex can’t eat those for snacks, but he sometimes likes to have the Kinnickinnick Toos, which are gluten-free and casein-free sandwich cookies that are tasty. Recently, I found a recipe for peanut butter fudge he can eat that is easy to make, and he loves it. I just microwave a 16 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter for one minute, and then microwave a 16 ounce tub of Duncan Hines classic vanilla frosting for one minute. After that, I stir the two ingredients together, pour the mix into an 8 x 8” pan sprayed with Pam cooking spray, and put it in the refrigerator to cool. I was delighted to find such an easy recipe, and he was happy to have a sweet treat for snacks. While Alex doesn’t eat most candy because it often contains milk products, he does like to eat marshmallows, especially Kraft marshmallows that are in special shapes. Before Christmas, they make marshmallows in pale green Christmas trees and pastel red stars. The other day I bought him a bag of heart-shaped strawberry marshmallows made for Valentine’s Day. He is also a big fan of marshmallow Peeps and likes the various shapes they make for holidays: blue bunnies for Easter, pink Valentine hearts, orange jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and snowmen for Christmas. One of his quirks is that he likes his snacks in threes or multiples of three; for instance, he wants to have three Peeps marshmallow treats or six Kraft marshmallows, which are smaller than the Peeps. I’m guessing that the choice of three and its multiples has to do with his love of pi, which, of course, begins with three.
Besides sweet snacks, Alex also likes fruit, including bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes. He especially likes to eat grapes with Ed when they are watching sports on television. Alex will wait patiently until Ed offers him some grapes and then happily gobbles them down. He reminds me of a dog watching and waiting for people to drop their food so that it can have a snack of its own. Most of the time Alex prefers to eat his snack sitting at the kitchen table. When one of his snack times is imminent, he’ll walk to the kitchen and pace, waiting for us to offer him something to eat. If we don’t catch his pacing as a clue, he’ll come ask us, “How ‘bout a snack?” to remind us that he’s hungry. He also prefers to eat most snacks, other than chips, marshmallows, and cookies, with a fork, probably because his sensory issues make him dislike touching food and getting his hands messy. Other than when he’s sharing grapes with Ed, he eats all kinds of fruit with a fork, and he even eats his peanut butter fudge with a fork instead of just picking it up and taking bites of it. Recently, he broke away from a rigid routine of snacking by eating Tostitos round bite-sized tortilla chips directly out of the plastic container we use to store them instead of picking out six perfectly round ones with no broken edges and lining them up on a napkin. While this may not seem terribly significant, I see his willingness to break from a compulsive pattern he’s had for years as progress. By not lining them up and by eating more than his usual self-allotment of six chips, he’s moving away from the autism stereotype of needing to do things the same way all the time. An added bonus is that he’s willing to eat all the chips in the bag, even the broken ones, which means that it’s no longer up to Ed and me to finish off the bag for him. Fortunately, he can eat whatever he likes and remain slender, which is a blessing for someone who likes to eat six times a day, and Alex seems to savor his snacks, just as he does his meals.
“The godly eat to their hearts’ content, but the belly of the wicked goes hungry.” Proverbs 13:25