As parents who’ve implemented the diet, we understand the challenges of beginning what feels like an overwhelming task. To that end, we’re here to help you get on your way. Beginning the diet requires a few things. Your determination is the first, and most important. You will also need a few tools to get you started:
GFCFSF Food list
GFCFSF Meal Plans
Sources of Gluten
Sources of Casein
Sources of Soy
Ingredients and Substitutions list
What Can I Feed My Child?
A Guide to Reading Food labels
Toxins in Food and the Environment
The Steps to GFCFSF
Be Prepared! Read through the TACA website and pick a date to start the diet. Spring/Winter school breaks or summer are the best because your kids are with you 24/7 for 10 or more days straight but if there is no break coming soon, just pick a weekend and start. There is no time like the present!
Weeks 1-2 – Remove all casein (milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, etc). Do not replace them with soy. Begin calcium supplementation.
Weeks 3-4 – Remove gluten – wheat, oats, barley and rye.
Weeks 5-6 – Remove all soy. Now your child is considered to be “on the diet!”
Weeks 7-8 – Recheck everything and refine diet, if needed. Replace any personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste, laundry soap and classroom supplies.
Weeks 9-10 – Recheck everything and refine diet, if needed. Do an inventory of sugars and carbohydrates, adjust diet to good levels.
Hints for Diet Success
The first few weeks can be hard on both the child and the parents. The children typically have meltdowns and regress when the foods they are used to are removed and replaced with new things they are not used to. How long this lasts depends on a few factors – how bad their addiction to the foods is, if you replace gluten, casein or soy with foods he’s allergic to, diet sabotage, and how committed you are.
To make it easier on the parents:
Be committed. Know that research shows that 91% of ASD kids improve on the GFCFSF diet. The diet will only make your child healthier, and healthy is the goal after all. Yes, the diet can be confusing at first, but everything you will need is here on the TACA site to help you make sense of it all. And remember this, YOU CAN DO IT!!!
Make sure your spouse is on board. If your spouse keeps giving your child things that are not on the diet, there is no point to doing it. The diet is 100% or nothing. The second time that my spouse gave our son something with wheat in it, I removed all non-diet foods from the house and it didn’t happen again. For more ideas on getting your spouse on board, read some helpful information.
Do your research before you start. Know what he can and can’t have. Learn how to read labels.
Get a blood test for foods, IgG and IgE Foods Panel, before you begin if possible so you don’t start giving your child other foods they are allergic to.
Think of five of his favorite foods and find substitutes for them.
Go through our recipe database and pick a few things you think you can make that your child would like and get all those ingredients.
Use our menu plans to help you plan out your days.
To make it easier on your child:
Remove all his old favorites from the house so he can’t see them. If he can see them, he won’t understand why he can’t have the usual and the tantrums will be worse and last longer.
Don’t take him with you to the grocery store for a few months if you can help it, or be prepared for a fight in the store.
Some kids do better with substitutes if you put them in the old container. Get some empty (make sure they are new or very clean) containers from his old favorites and put the new things in them.
Don’t eat his old favorites (like pizza) in front of him for a few months.
Consider locking your pantry or refrigerator.
School – Make sure you get the diet written into his IEP and that the school staff understands the diet. It’s federal law that they must follow it. Include in your IEP that they give you a week’s notice for all food-related events so that you can supply a substitute. Supply the school with GFCFSF school supplies and a list of what he can and cannot have. See School Supplies and Essential Handout for Aides and Teachers.
Things that can cause failure:
Well-meaning relatives – Some relatives don’t understand the need for the diet and don’t see what harm a little cookies and milk would do. Once your child is on the diet, you will see what harm it can do though. Days of diarrhea and crying, stomach pains, headaches and tantrums will convince you but they may not see those things if they don’t live with you. Explaining it in terms of a diabetes-type medical issue usually helps. Cookies and milk are all good, unless you are allergic to them and they make you sick, then they are like poison, and they wouldn’t knowingly want to give your child poison. Some relatives will think you are crazy, some may even tell you to your face! But once your child starts making improvements, you can show them that it DOES work.
Schools – School staff can sink your diet if they don’t understand it. It is not optional for them to follow it, as its federal law that they must. Most parents merely supply ALL of the foods that the child will consume at school, taking the guess work out of the way for the staff. School supplies like glue, stickers, paint and playdough all need to be checked too.
Creating a carb-junkie – When most people begin the GFCFSF diet, they merely substitute GFCFSF versions of the things their child was addicted to – fries, chips, bread, yogurt, milk etc. The problem then becomes that there are no nutrients in those foods and they are all carbohydrates. That won’t make him healthy in the long run. Carbs also feed yeast, a recurrent problem in ASD children. The goal is to make your child healthy so while those foods are ok during the transition period, you should focus on reducing those foods as much as possible and introducing foods like meat and vegetables – things with nutrients.
Unknown allergies – When you start the diet and substitute new foods, you might start giving him foods he’s allergic to. As soon as you can, get an IgG and an IgE food panel (blood test) done to find out what foods he’s allergic to and remove those from his diet as well.
Supplanting Calories – Giving large quantities of juice or milk substitutes, or other empty calories like potatoes can cause feeding problems. The body will pull the easiest calories it finds first and then tell the brain that it doesn’t need the rest. What that means is that a child who is drinking a lot of juice or milk substitutes (which are VERY high in sugar,) or candy, the body will take the calories from those first and then tell the brain that it’s not hungry anymore. What happens then is that a child just drinks the juice and will eat very little to no food and starts losing weight. This can create a viscous cycle and cause a feeding disorder. A child should not have more than six ounces of juice, soda or milk substitute per day. Then the body will pull the calories out of the more complex foods, along with their nutrients, which is your goal!
The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for calcium for children is 800-1200 mg per day. Without dairy products, this is virtually impossible to meet without giving a supplement. Fortunately, calcium supplements are cheap and available in pills, liquid, chewable and powder forms.
Some GFCF flours
- Almond Flour
- Pecan Flour
- Rice Flour
- Brown Rice Flour
- Sweet Rice Flour
- Potato Starch Flour
- Potato Flour
- Tapioca Starch
- Sorghum Flour
- Buckwheat Flour
- Arrowroot Flour
- Garfava Flour
- Quinoa Flour
- Navy Bean Flour
- Cornmeal and flour
- Lentil flour
Some Milk Substitutes
- Vance’s DariFree (vanilla and chocolate) Potato Milk
- Almond Breeze Almond Milk (plain, vanilla and chocolate)
- Hemp Milk (plain, vanilla and chocolate)
- Rice Milk (many brands are available in local grocery stores, make sure they are GFCF as some aren’t) plain, vanilla, chocolate, organic, some are in the refrigerated section too. Be careful with rice milk, as it contains ARSENIC.
- MimicCreme (cashew and almond with rice starch)
Oil and Butter Substitutes
- Coconut Oil/Butter (substitute 3/4 cup coconut oil/butter for 1 cup shortening)
- Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread – Soy-Free
- Use fruit butters in place of oils in recipes
Not all substitutes are created equal and cannot merely be substituted 1:1. If you want to substitute oil for butter, margarine, or shortening you should keep in mind that it can lend a greasiness to the finished product. It is not a direct substitute and the other liquid ingredients may need to be slightly reduced. Example: 1/3 to 1/4 cup oil = 1/2 cup butter, margarine, shortening or butter/margarine.
You will also find substitutes for sugars, eggs, corn, beef, soy, vanilla and vinegar on our site. Read more about GFCFSF ingredients and substitutions.
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Parent Mentor Program
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