Ms. Erika Laurion, M.S., C.S., dives into the necessary nutrient intake and corresponding diets for adults with autism and other developmental diseases. She discusses the historical context of diet in the U.S. and how it led to the increased prevalence of diseases like metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Laurion details the three essential food categories and their nutritional values and emphasizes the importance of exercise. The speaker explores the lack of affordable and well-managed group homes and presents alternative economic diets for treating and preventing metabolic syndrome and other diseases. 


Learn more about our speaker, Ms. Erika Laurion, M.S., C.S., HERE

In this webinar: 

1:06 – Objectives
2:25 – Demographic review (CDC)
3:05 – Housing distribution of adults with autism
4:15 – Lifestyle, nutrition and common health problems in the US
5:47 – Metabolic Syndrome (Sindrome X)
7:30 – Standard US diets and contributions to disease prevalence
9:05 – Review of food industry
11:05 – Food pyramid history and evolution
12:50 – Healthy Eating Plate
14:35 – Exercise – What do healthy plates look like?
16:20 – Nutritional value of healthy plates
17:02 – Proteins
18:02 – Milk and dairy
20:08 – Fats
24:57 – Carbohydrates
27:50 – Juice and sugar
28:34 – Healthy snacks and desserts
29:20 – Preventing and treating metabolic syndrome through diet
30:30 – Exercise
30:54 – Typical group home menu
32:40 – Affordable healthy group home menu
34:26 – Stages of change
35:40 – Shopping
38:46 – Stocking a kitchen
39:22 – Cooking
41:10 – Meals and socialization
42:35 – Review
44:20 – Acknowledgements and sources

Laurion states that from 1997 to 2008, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder increased by 289% in the United States (2:45). She discusses the importance of healthy diets specific to individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) and autism spectrum disorder (2:00) and notes their increased proneness to life-threatening diseases caused by poor nutrient intake (1:06). The speaker describes lifestyles, nutrition (4:15), and common health problems (4:40) in the US, highlighting that an estimated 75% of individuals with DD are overweight or obese compared to 68% of the general population (4:42). Approximately 34% of adults in the US have metabolic syndrome (6:25), or a cluster of conditions that can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and death. Once the syndrome develops, gaining weight is easier and can exacerbate symptomatology. Metabolic syndrome occurs when an individual has at least three of five characteristics (5:47)

  • High triglycerides (blood fat)
  • High blood sugar
  • Low HDL (cholesterol)
  • High blood pressure
  • Visceral obesity

Laurion examines the typical US diet and describes how it is largely responsible for the overall poor health of the US population (7:30). She discusses the controversy over what constitutes a healthy diet and explains how modern food corporations capitalize on the debate (9:05). The speaker chronicles the creation and overhaul of the 1992 Food Pyramid, which promoted diets low in fats and high in processed carbs (11:05). Laurion presents the Healthy Eating Plate as a modern alternative (12:50) and underscores its nutritional value (16:20). The speaker discusses three categories of food that contain essential nutrients which must be healthily sourced and balanced:

  • Proteins (17:02) are essential for the growth and repair of muscles and body tissues. They are also vital for immune system function and the creation of hormones and enzymes. Laurion discusses plant and animal proteins, milk and dairy (18:02), and the benefits of eating less red and processed meats (19:00)
  • Fats (20:08) are our most concentrated energy source for the body and are critical to many bodily functions. The speaker examines the historical discourse surrounding fats and discusses saturated and unsaturated fats (20:28). She explains how to avoid trans fats (21:34) found in most packaged and processed foods (22:25) and where to find “good fats” (23:25).
  • Carbohydrates (24:57) are the energy source for every cell in the human body. Laurion considers simple and complex carbohydrates and provides examples of each (24:57)

The presenter touches on our bodies’ need for fiber (27:03) and the importance of replacing juice with water and packaged snacks or sweets with homemade options (28:34). Laurion outlines her most essential suggestions for preventing and treating metabolic syndrome through diet (29:20) and suggests combining them with exercise to create powerful means of preventing disease and obesity. She notes physical incentives and potential savings on medication, doctor appointments, and missed work days (30:30)

Laurion notes that 79% of autistic adults (ages 19 – 30) live at home with parents or caretakers, often due to the lack of well-managed and affordable group homes for those that need them (3:05). Therefore, she states, it is imperative to educate support providers of adults with DD and autism on necessary nutritional values. The speaker examines a typical group home menu (30:54), discusses how to afford healthier alternatives (32:40), and presents a new menu based on the Healthy Eating Plate (33:08). She notes that changes to food and diet can be complex and provides suggestions for assistance (34:26). Laurion provides tips for shopping (35:40), stocking kitchens (38:46), and cooking on a budget (39:22)

She emphasizes the cultural and social importance of meals and advocates for longer mealtimes that involve everyone and offers healthy options (41:10). The speaker reviews the presentation and notes that dietary changes can help groups homes as well as families and those still living at home (42:35)

Published: 03/25/2013

Ms. Erika Laurion, M.S., C.S. as worked in the health fields for over 10 years. She is a nutritional consultant for group homes where she evaluates dietician plans and recommends improvements to overall diet and food choices of the homes and also offers nutrition counseling to at risk, low-income women and children. Erika received her Masters from the Institute of Human Nutrition at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University Erika has a 22-year-old daughter diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Williams Syndrome who lives in Camphill Village, an alternative, residential program for adults with disabilities.

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