Teens with ASD: How to Start the GFCFSF Diet with an Older Child
The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi
How to start the GFCFSF diet with an older child
As an "alpha parent", my first instinct is to use the old standby "Because I said so!". That may work inside your house but your child is going to be out of your sight and will have to make good decisions about food when you are not there. It is going to require more than just a rule, but also reasoning and understanding to gain full diet compliance. I asked my 17-year-old daughter what it would take to convince an older child who may need the diet to accept even a 6-month trial. She rattled off a list of things that helped her learn how to make good choices about food, which you will see below.
Teaching your child about good food choices:
- Forget the food pyramid - the food pyramid is great unless you cannot tolerate the foods in it, which ASD kids cannot.
- Make the food appealing and taste good. When we first started the diet back in 1998, the options for GFCFSF foods were horrible and no one, not the kids or the parents, wanted to eat it. Over the years, we've gotten many new terrific products that are just as good as their non-GFCFSF counterparts but we've also learned to cook a new way: organic whole foods with as little messing around with them as possible. Good food needs very little to be done to it to showcase its flavor. A nice grilled steak with rice and asparagus is a perfect meal on its own, and is perfectly GFCFSF unless you do something unnecessary to it.
- Prove the benefits of the diet. Use this article to outline the need for the diet.
- Prove the bad effects of not doing the diet. If you cannot tolerate a food, your body lets you know. Ever get heartburn? You are eating something your body doesn't like, and wants you to stop! This is the same.
- You may love ice cream, but it probably doesn't love you and lets you know in the form of constipation or diarrhea, stomach or skin issues. Non-organic dairy also contains many antibiotics and hormones that can kick your child into early puberty (as if you don't want to wait as long as possible for that darling phase to start?!). Dairy can also cause or exacerbate asthma.
- Gluten can actually has even worse effects on those who cannot tolerate it (and its not just true of celiacs) including exhaustion, obesity, digestive problems, headaches and depression, and in some cases even seizures.
- Soy is GMO and toxic - enough said!
- Food colorings, nitrates and preservatives cause hyperactivity and distractedness as well as headaches. http://gfcf-diet.tacanow.org/toxins-in-food-and-environment.htm
- Just like the effect of watching the movies "Food, Inc" or "Fast Food Nation", use the growing and manufacturing processes against them to show how bad food can be. There are horrifying things done to food in the manufacturing process, as this story shows on processed chicken nuggets.
- Find good substitutes for your child's favorite foods before beginning the diet.
- No matter where you live, you can start a garden, even if it's just in a few planter boxes. When your child knows where food comes from, and helps nurture it's growth, that helps them value it.
When your child understands the benefits and can feel the benefits and you provide good, tasty food, they were will be much more willing and able to stay on the diet long term.
If your child hasn't been exposed to all of these things yet, there is a great short book written by a very funny teenager that helps explain these concepts. My 17-yo-daughter read this book and laughed, yelling "OMG, this kid is ME!!!", the whole way through it, and I think your kids will love it too.
More resources on GFCFSF Diet