Are you thinking about trying a gluten free diet with your child who has an autism spectrum disorder? A gluten free diet for autism is very popular and for many reasons. There have been several studies done which show that many more children on the autism spectrum are gluten sensitive and or have celiac disease than the average population. See Healing the New Childhood Epidemics Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A disorders for one such study which showed that 65% of children on the autism spectrum improve when they eat a gluten free diet. There have also been other books that have been published more recently that talk about the connections between grains and your brain. This has to do with autism but also with other auto-immune diseases and other brain disorders as well.
So how do you actually implement a gluten free diet for autism? This can be challenging but it can be done. I remember when my mom put me on this diet as a child around age 6 and it was hard at first but I did it. Now I regret eating gluten again and I wish I had stayed off it forever.
Here are 7 steps to actually getting your child to follow a gluten free diet for autism without tearing your hair out.
1. Be committed to making it happen. Do what it takes. Get commitment from your spouse if you have one, or from anyone else who lives in your household. If you have other children, you will need to explain to them what is going on to the extent possible.
2. If your child is old enough and has enough understanding to know what is going on, explain it to him or her as well. Make sure you tell your child the reasons why you are doing this gluten free for autism diet.
3. Get prepared. Gather enough gluten free recipes to be able to make a variety of delicious meals that your child will want to eat for at least 2 months. Keep adding to your collection on a regular basis. Avoid recipes that involve a lot of complicated instructions or too many ingredients. This is one of the reasons that my free 30 days of gluten free and dairy free recipes offer that you can opt-in for below or at the top of this page, has the recipes that it does. Yes I do sometimes cook things that are more complicated but the gluten free diet is much easier when you have simple recipes to follow. You also need to stock up on things that you will use a lot of such as gluten free oats, millet, quinoa, olive oil, coconut oil and various spices.
4. Eliminate as many of the foods with gluten in them from your home as possible. Ideally you want to get rid of everything, but depending upon who is in your household and their dietary needs and cooperation, you may have to keep some of it around and out of sight from your child.
5. Take inventory of how much food with gluten your child has been eating. If it is a lot, you may need to transition to this diet gradually by eating for example, one gluten free meal per day rather than doing it all at once. If you already don’t eat a lot of gluten, then you may be able to do it cold turkey. One fairly simple thing that you can do is to replace any pasta and bread you have been eating with the gluten free versions. Over time you will want to eat fewer grains and carbs and eat more fruits and vegetables but in the beginning you may have to focus more on gluten free and less on eating for optimum health.
6. Involve your child in planning your meals. Ask your child to chose what he or she wants to eat from pictures of foods. This helps reduce picky eating and makes it more likely that your child will eat what you have prepared.
7. Keep plenty of snack foods on hand for munching. Great gluten free options include: apple slices, apple sauce, gluten free crackers, fruit snacks (organic ones are better), peanut butter with celery or rice crackers, dates, packs of nuts etc.
Need more detailed help? Check out my Healthy Eating for Children with Autism Online CourseDid this help you? If so, I would greatly appreciate a comment and a share on Facebook, twitter, linkedin, or pinterest.
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