Adventures in Snacking

Two years ago, at age 28, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and one thing they do as part of testing is that they interview you, and they interview your family. It was after they interviewed Jess that I heard a term that had never been applied to me before.

Picky Eater.

I was offended. I was more than offended. I was an adventurous eater for goodness sakes! I ate soft shelled crab! Garlic ice cream! Peppers so hot they’d melt your face off!

I was offended. Until certain truths were brought up to me. I had a long list of food that I wouldn’t eat because of texture issues (ricotta cheese, bananas, anything with a grainy texture). I would eat the same foods over and over for months or even years at a time (Honey Nut Cheerios for as many meals as I could get away with being a good example.) And most significantly, I had an aversion all things new.

Shortly after this, I learned two new words: ARFID and Samefood. ARFID is an eating disorder- one where the disordered behaviors having nothing to do with weight or shape, and more to do with food phobias or sensory issues. I have ARFID, and it’s something that takes a lot of management. I heard of samefoods from the Autism Community, and they perfectly described my experience with Honey Nut Cheerios, of having specific foods that were some sensory friends and comforting, you wanted to eat them all the time!

All of this brings me to today and my Adventures in Snacking. With classes starting and my mealtimes being more irregular, I needed to find some new more portable snacks. And that was a big problem.

We learned when I was in treatment that it takes about a week to acclimate to a new food and to be entirely honest, I don’t have time for that.

Clearly, drastic measured needed to be taken. So we designed a challenge. A game even.

We took a long walk through the grocery store and picked out some things I was willing to try. Mostly things with a lot of protein, because my blood sugar appreciates it. Normally trying all the options would take forever, but not today my friends!

We portioned them out so that Jess and I each had one bites worth, that’s it, only one bite, and after the bite was consumed, it got rated, then sorted, into three categories: ‘I’ll never eat this’, ‘I’ll eat this if I’m in the moods’ and ‘I want to eat this all the time’.

And I found a few new snacks, including a yogurt that has a tolerable texture, and chicken chips with 7 grams of protein!

This was definitely better for me than taking weeks being miserable because I’m constantly trying new stuff

Sometimes with Autism, you have to get creative, and it doesn’t always work. That’s why I’m so relieved that this one did, especially because I’ve got so many other changes on.

I’d love to hear any creative solutions you guys have come up with!

4 of my Samefoods

Samefood is a term that I believe originated on Tumblr, and I absolutely love it. It describes foods that Autistic folks turn to over and over again, whether it be because of taste, texture, or some other combination of comfort and sensory factors. I have always had samefoods, although over the years they’ve rotated. Some of these I eat every day, and some not so often, but regardless of how often I consume them, I still consider them essentially the food version of stimming, and I can always use more stims in my life!

1. Cereal: Cereal has been one of my favorite foods for my entire life. The crunchy chunks combined with the creamy milk (which tastes amazing by the end!) means that I’ve always had some type of cereal in my daily rotation. Previous mentions have gone to Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Lucky Charms. Cheerios always take the number one spots though. It broke my heart when they stopped making Olympic Cheerios in 1996, and I’ve never quite forgiven them. These days, Honey Nut Cheerios are my favorite. I eat them for breakfast almost every day, which is nice because it makes the beginning of my day predictable. I will never accept soggy cereal, it is an abomination.

2. Granola Bars: While I am very picky about granola bars, they have a very important place in my life. My blood sugar has a tendency to drop without warning, and having something portable is really important. They’re also great to have around for food situations where there are no acceptable options for me to eat- they’ll hold me over for long enough for me to get safe food. While, if given the choice, I tend toward chewy granola bars that are only a step up from being a candy bar (although points to Trader Joe’s Chewy Bars for having some decent fiber), I like some flavors of Clif Bars, especially the Peanut Chocolate Chip ones. Combine one of those with a glass of milk, and you get a decently protein-y snack.

3. Toast: I love toast. I love Cinnamon Toast, I love Peanut Butter Toast, I love Sourdough Toast. Basically, I could have just written that sentence as Carbs Carbs Carbs and been happy with it. We keep multiple loaves of bread in the freezer so there will always be toast options. This has gotten more complicated since my wife went Gluten Free because toast crumbs contaminate everything, but luckily, she realizes how important toast is to my diet. Coming off years of eating “lite buttery spread” thanks to my eating disorder, I have rediscovered salted butter and oh boy have I been making up for the years I missed. I don’t actually like non-toasted bread, I think it has a soggy texture, but as long as it’s gorgeously golden brown, give me all the toast!

4. Crackers: I am pickier about crackers than I am even about cereal. There are some really great textured crackers out there, and there are some that are like torture! For me, you can never go wrong with saltines. The square ones that come in sleeves are good, but that circular organic ones are even better. I can eat those plain indefinitely, especially if I’ve got some creamy peanut butter to mix things up with. Matzoh is not your standard cracker, but it definitely hits the same notes for me. Granted, you have to stock up during Passover, but that’s evened out by the fact that the Gluten Free stuff is pretty good. I also love Goldfish crackers, although only the original brand and the original flavor. These are so salty and good, but not at all neutral like a saltine is. I have to be in the right mood, but when I am, all I want is Goldfish.

So, what have we learned? One, I really seem to like carbs. Not a surprise, most of my diet is made up of carbs, they’re safer texture wise than anything else. Two, apparently I’m all about the peanut butter, which is surprising for me, given how very picky I am about it (Jif, creamy). Three, I like things with a crispy, crunchy texture, and consider anything soggy to be an abomination.

So what do you guys like to eat? Favorite textures or flavors? Tell me about your Samefoods!