Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Brooks College of Health

Degree Name

Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN)


Nutrition & Dietetics

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Nutrition & Dietetics

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Y Arikawa

Second Advisor

Dr. Anita Fuglestad

Third Advisor

Dr. Jen Ross

Department Chair

Dr. Lauri Wright

College Dean

Dr. Curt Lox


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability that may affect nutritional management of children with autism. Parent’s attitudes and their behavior towards healthy eating reflects on the child’s eating habits and thus, their nutritional health. This study aimed to describe the diet quality of children with autism using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores. It also aimed to assess the relationship between parent’s perceived barriers and self-efficacy and children’s dietary behavior and dietary intake (age 5-13 years). The relationship was assessed using 2 questionnaires, Nutrition and Health Awareness and BAMBI questionnaire for parent’s attitudes and beliefs and dietary behavior, respectively. Dietary intake of these children was collected using the ASA24 hr recall online tool. The parents were asked to fill out the questionnaire online. For those who did not have assess to the computer, the investigator of this study filled it out for the parents with their input. A total of 109 parents of children with autism participated, 79 from the U.S and 30 from India. Children in this study presented abnormalities in gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep issues and dietary behavior as seen in previous studies. Children of parents with high level of barriers showed severe problems with dietary behavior (p 0.00). Children of parents with high self-efficacy showed very minimal or no problems with dietary behavior (p 0.00). The HEI scores among the participants were higher than the National Standard scores in typically growing children of the same age group as of the participants. According to the anthropometric data, the BMI of the participants were higher than the standards of typically growing children of same age as of the participants of the study. Children with autism had a poor dietary behavior and poor dietary choices with respect to intake of fruits and vegetables and a variety of foods in the diet. This could be attributed to social, economic, and cultural differences in the study groups.