Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting started

Backing up a bit, I thought I would explain how to get started on a diet that is often greeted with hesitation and fear. When I opened the envelope from the lab and saw the list of 23 foods we needed to avoid (half of them were his favorite foods) I just about choked! When you take it one step at a time, it isn't as daunting as it appears from the overall perspective. So let's break it down:

Breath first
Big deep breaths!! It CAN be done and it WILL become habit.

Go online and hit all the websites that detail recipes and alternative foods. Read, read, read!

Make lists of all the foods the child CAN have and there really are still a lot of foods available. Make lists of the foods the child cannot have, including and even more importantly the list of hidden foods/ingredients to avoid and keep those in a bag that is with you always, for the sake of shopping. You will need to refer back to these on many occasions. Make a copy of them to give to close relatives and care givers who interact with your child.

Find recipes online, from friends, and in books that address special diets, make grocery lists from there initially, eventually you will just be replacing those items as you run out.  It becomes second nature to shop for these foods.  In the early days I found it helpful to keep a running list, as I ran out of a food, I would write it down.  Now, I have a generic list that I typed up and I just check off the foods I need as I run out, since so many are the same every time we shop =)

Talk with your child through it all.
I am amazed at how well a three year old can really comprehend what this is all about. He knows he cannot eat foods from the "red list" (the color of the reactive foods on the test, lol) and how they effect him. I believe that by feeling better on the good foods, he also gets a true life lesson about the foods he can and can't have. When he has an infraction, he feels the effect more than we do. His outward behaviors are just a sign of what is going on inside.

Keep a daily journal that not only details foods and supplements, but keep track of good and difficult behaviors, you will start noticing connections to certain things that can further be eliminated. This is also important when choosing to challenge a food. The other great thing about a journal is that you will be able to look back at the progress you are making with the diet. It is easy to forget the difficult behaviors until you are faced with them again. Something that helped me was to use color coding highlighters with one color for improved/good behaviors, one for difficult behaviors and another for the first three times foods were introduced during the diet, so I could watch for patterns. When you have umpteen pages to sift through, this will save your sanity!

Find a local or internet-based group you can share with and learn from. Yahoo and Google both have great groups you can search through. and Facebook now offers us endless reaches around the globe, instantly.  There is nothing better than having a resource like this. When a question pops up, you can gain knowledge from those who are directly effected by the very same issues you are faced with. It's a two way road, you will learn from others who are more experienced than you and eventually you will help others who are newer at it than you. I find this method of learning to be priceless and rewarding in many ways.

And last - make the switch - go shopping
We went cold turkey, but for some, a gradual approach works best. Either way, just go for it and don't look back. When you offer your child a new food, it becomes the ONLY option. The good thing about children is that they tend to have narrow food interests, so once you find a food to replace a favorite, maintaining the diet is actually pretty easy! Imagine that? Comfort and ease come with repetition. We had resistance, and still do, with two favorites - milk and bread. So basically, we have none! I do keep almond milk in the house (mainly for me, since the baby can't handle dairy either) but for bowls of cereal, it really doesn't taste much different. It's also great for baking and cooking. As long as a child is receiving supplements and eating other foods high in calcium and D, milk isn't even necessary. (note - almond milk is high oxalate, which we no longer use now)  See my more recent blog entry for pumpkin seed milk, if you need a low oxalate alternative to milk. 

At some point, consider researching and adding enzymes to the diet. Generally, food intolerance is related to the lack of an enzyme needed to digest the food(s) which causes a leaky gut, resulting in antibody production. Adding enzymes for a good two months while on the diet may allow you to return some food(s) to the diet, slowly, but possibly even permanently. Check out my enzyme links to the right. There is more information than you could ask for on

If any readers have tips or tricks to share here, please do!

**A fabulous GFCF resource is TACA (regardless of whether autism is part of the picture, this source of dietary steps to take are priceless, after all autism is proving to be an autoimmune disease too).

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