Rotation Diet and Hints!

My family started the GFCF diet for a few months and then started a rotation diet to prevent food allergies/intolerances and to identify foods that were a problem for our son. These allergies are outlined further in the Karyn Seroussi's book, Unraveling the Mystery of Autism. It is also important to note that some autism spectrum children can get in a “rut” and will want to eat the same foods day in and day out. Rotation diets can serve and address both of these potential problems.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I did not start a rotation diet until I had figured out my son Jeff's GFCF and allergy issues “down to a science.” Going GFCF is hard enough so give yourself some time before you embark on this step. Typically, adding the rotation diet time period is about three to six months after starting the GFCF Diet.

This document attempts to highlight the ways to start a rotation diet for your child. You start by grouping all food intakes into categories. For organizational purposes–here are some suggestions for these “groupings:”


Rotate too (except for water)! Some good choices are: Pacific Rice Milk–plain, Darifree (my son had a reaction to the natural flavors in this; be careful,) Almond Breeze, diluted pear or cranberry juices (go light here–too much sugar! It is important buy 100% juices that are organic and to stay away from less than 100% juices!)


Choose a flour for a day’s baking activities (for example: rice, potato, quinoa/tapioca, garbanzo bean, sorhgum/jowar, buckwheat, teff, and corn.) When there is a call for multiple flours in a recipe–it is okay to just use one type of flour and not the multiple flours suggested. The recipes turn out OK (although I find that potato flour is a very dense flour and has to be cooked a little longer. Also, it appears to never fully cook–it is a little gooey–but don’t worry it tastes okay.) All flours make great muffins, breads, waffles, etc.

If a recipe calls for multiple flours, use just one or some from the same food family as outlined below:

Here are some examples of good food families for flours:

  • 3/4 cup potato flour and 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour and 1/2 cup tapioca starch (these two go together on quinoa day!)
  • 3/4 cup rice flour and 1/4 cup rice starch
  • The “Bette Hagman Mix” is the best GF flour ever!


I use chicken eggs one day and on other days, I rotate, using alternatives such as duck or quail eggs (which can be found at most Asian food stores). For children with egg allergies, here is a list of replacements for eggs and for rotation diets. These all bake well and I have used each one of them in my recipes (see the “Kid-Friendly Recipes” section in this chapter). More information about egg substitutes.

  • 1 tsp. arrowroot powder and 1/2 tsp. of water for every 1 egg a recipe calls for
  • Try 1 tbsp. of acceptable pureed fruit from Gerbers like prunes or pears
  • Just Whites is a powder product found in health food stores for folks who are not allergic to egg whites
  • Egg Replacer from Ener-G is a great alternative (but this product contains corn, so be aware of your child’s allergies)
  • 1 cup of water boiled with 1/2 cup of flaxseed powder–use 2 tsp. for every 1 egg
  • Duck or quail eggs are another alternative. These egg types have a different molecular structure versus chicken eggs and could be a viable alternative. Typically, you can find these eggs in Asian stores or via online specialty stores
  • Special note: Duck eggs are a 1:1 ratio to chicken eggs. Quail eggs are much smaller and are a 4:1 ratio to chicken eggs.


I use honey one day (there are about seven different kinds of honeys so you can rotate a different honey EACH DAY if you want), and date sugar or maple syrup another day. Stevia is a good alternative to sugars for children with yeast issues. I avoid REFINED SUGAR due to the process it undergoes in order to become usable and instead, use a natural substitute. Please never use artificial sugars such as Sweet and Low, Splenda, sucralose, Equalizer, or Nutrasweet (also known as aspartame.) These are not good for any body to ingest. I would avoid all products that contain these artificial sweeteners.

Special note: I use about 1/3 of the total amount a recipe calls for sugar. You NEVER need that much sugar and I am worried about yeast growth, so I either cut it down or eliminate it all together. You have to do a lot of experimenting here. I have thrown away a lot of bad batches of food!

Oil/Butter Substitute

Same thing here –corn oil (if your child tolerates corn), vegetable, safflower, sunflower oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. You can skip margarine and use the oils–use 3/4 cup oil vs. 1 cup butter or margarine. Or I use ghee (clarified butter which IS GFCF), which spreads a little like butter (kind of). GHEE IS GFCF SAFE. I PROMISE – do not make ghee yourself–buy it!


Chicken, turkey, beef, or pork (I stay away from all fish including salmon, halibut and tuna–unfortunately, these have a lot of mercury issues.) I know one mom who uses ostrich, alligator, buffalo, and other exotic meats! (AND HER SON EATS THEM!) I like my meat in cellophane and unidentifiable! My preference and recommendation is to buy organic meats–this is expensive (can be cheaper if you buy in bulk and keep everything well frozen until ready to use) but may be the best thing you can do for your family.


On “potato” day, I use sweet potato baby food in his muffins (get it?) and then, I rotate yellow squash, summer squash, celery, carrots, zucchini, pears, corn, pears, peaches, prunes, or papaya (my son does not tolerate all fruits so be careful). I use Gerber baby foods to make the rotation easier. They cook great and I eliminate having to prep these, and they also give baked foods a great texture.

Special note on calcium: Eliminating MILK and CHEESE and other products in a GFCF diet can deplete a child of a necessary supplement, CALCIUM. You can supplement calcium via rice, soy, and other casein-free drinks with added calcium or with a calcium supplement. No supplement can be as powerful as the vitamins, minerals, etc. normally obtained directly from healthy foods. Here are some food suggestions for calcium replacement:

Calcium in Milligrams per 100 Calories

Watercress..................... 800
Turnip greens..................650
Collard greens................. 548
Mustard greens.................490
Spinach......................... 450
Broccoli......................... 387
Green onions................... 240
Okra............................. 213
Cabbage........................ 196

And if your child child turns his nose up at these, calcium powder such as the powder from, is a great alternative too!

Rotation Diets Can Vary By Child and an Art You Perfect Over Time

Some other helpful hints on rotation diets include these lessons learned:

1. Document Food Intake

Keep a food and behaviors journal. Track all intake and yes, output. (Questions that should be answered: Did he have good “poops” today or were they runny and icky? How much liquid did he drink? What supplements and/or foods did he eat and when?) This helps track down food allergies, problems caused by supplements and other diet-related issues that might crop up.

2. Go Slowly and Introduce New Foods One At a Time

Do not introduce too many new foods at once! Go slowly! It is easier to track down a problem when each food change is introduced slowly–one at a time. I introduce no more than one new change each week–either a food or a supplement!

3. Read All Food Labels

See How To Read Food Labels. When in doubt, make it yourself. Any questionable ingredients are probably not good for your child. I generally avoid words with more than 3 syllables!

4. Be Watchful and Check For Allergies and intolerances

Watch for face and bottom rashes. These are a symptom telling you, “This new food change is not working.” Most food allergies or intolerances will show up in 2 hours or 1 day. I was able to pin point bad behavior in therapy to the food Jeff ate the day before. We eliminated those foods and the behaviors went away. Common GFCF allergies are: SOY, CORN, & EGGS. These are the allergies to watch!

5. Hidden Gluten/Casein Can Sabotage Your Efforts

There are hidden sources of gluten in: baking powders, shampoo, MEDICINES, diaper ointments, lotion, lip balm, baking powders, sun screen, Play Doh, toys, rubber, and glue. Go to for sources of all things that are GFCF approved! (This source is updated frequently so stay tuned! Each new parent to the GFCF diet needs to spend at least two hours studying this website. It is invaluable.) These evil sources of gluten will ruin your best plans and will make all your efforts fruitless. Watch out for hidden gluten and casein!

6. Obsessing With Certain Foods?

When your child obsesses over a particular food or an object (i.e. smelling it a lot or wanting to eat the same thing for each meal), it is a good sign to get rid of it. Remove it for at least two weeks from the diet.  For more information about how to deal with obsessions over time, please refer to Are You Babying Your Special Needs Baby?

7. When In Doubt - Go Without

Watch out for ingredients you aren’t sure about and do not understand! They may contain hidden gluten. A rule for me is if it has more than 10 ingredients, I do not buy it! (For example, barley malt in Rice Krispies has GLUTEN!)

8. Changed Label On a Favorite Product?

If a manufacturer has changed their label, it’s most likely they may also have changed the ingredients. Be careful! Always read the labels, whether it is a new product or an old favorite, everytime.  When in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly!

9. Bake Lots and Store For Easy Access Later

Buy a garage freezer and cook on the weekends or at night when you have time. (Check out garage sales or relatives upgrading their appliances. We got ours from Sears for less than $400.)

10. Easy-To-Find Foods For Diet-Rotating Families!

Assign a color for each food day (blue for potato day or red for rice day, etc.), mark each of the food items for each particular food day with its assigned color and finally, place all same-colored foods in their color-coded buckets/containers. That way, if you (or the primary person in charge of feeding your child) are not there, it will be easy to feed your child with no mistakes (for example, if it is RICE DAY, Jeff can have every food item marked with BLUE dot that are in the BLUE bucket).

11. Allergy Watch!

Watch for allergies to newly introduced foods. Just because something is gluten-/casein-free, it does not mean your child can automatically eat it! This is why it is so important to document and rotate foods to  troubleshoot potential problem foods for your child. The most common food allergies are corn and soy. But each child is different, so learn your child’s allergies and be alert to any new ones! Allergy testing is something you should consider for your child in order to learn if there are new food allergies. Again, the most common additional allergies besides gluten and casein are SOY, CORN, & EGGS. If you suspect your child of being allergic to these–eliminate them for a minimum 2-week trial period!

12. Did I Say Be Watchful? How About Another Way To Do So?

Be anal retentive about anything that comes in contact with your child! Gluten can be absorbed via the skin, not just in the stomach after eating.  An example of this is having an allergic reaction to playing with regular Play Doh, which contains gluten and is not safe for children with autism (you can make your own GFCF play doh.  So watch your child carefully. Give explicit instructions to the child care center or school on what your child can and cannot eat and/or play with. Make sure caregivers and staff do not leave food lying around. Also, if there is a freezer, ask to store emergency food supplies for your child. A good thing to store is frozen cake or cupcakes so your child can participate in birthdays and other celebrations. (A great idea is to make the cupcake or cakes look very special so they do not feel left out.)

13. Storing GFCF Baking Products

Keep your flours in the freezer or refrigerator after you open them. They tend to go stale or will go bad faster. I store mine in tightly closed tupperware or plastic-sealed containers. BE AWARE–bugs tend to like non-gluten flours.

14. Storing Gluten Foods For Other Family Members

Keep gluten foods in a separate place, optimally in a separate kitchen cupboard. I bought a separate cupboard for GFCF ingredients at the Container Store. This makes sure no cross contamination will happen.

15. Sneaky GFCF Kids

Some kids will go out of their way to get at forbidden foods! Be careful here. Young children typically do not reach for other people’s foods (some do, some don’t!). If your child is going out of his/her way to get forbidden foods, you need to store them out of reach, safely locked up, and/or hidden. Some families go completely GFCF to prevent this from happening. Each family is different.  You decide what is best for your family.

16. Last Words

So... start by diving in! The water is just fine. You will make mistakes. Accept them, learn from them and then, MOVE ON. Start with a two- or three-day rotation and add days as you feel more confident. Take one day at a time. It is frustrating. But keep swimming and before you know it, you’ll be charging from one end of the pool to the other in no time at all.  And the entire diet and rotation will have become second nature to you.


Autism Journey Blueprints
Parent Mentor Program
Find a TACA Chapter near you
Email or Phone