Getting started on an autism diet plan

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It made absolute sense for us to start our journey to overcome autism by looking at the food our family was eating.  We came to that conclusion after consulting piles of books, research papers and on-line sources. We found a common thread among highly credible sources: so much of autism seems to be related to the gut.

Our family has followed a clean, whole-food autism diet  plan – where most ingredients are organic, free from artificial substances and have been processed and refined as little as possible – since January 2015. Following this autism diet plan continues to be a learning process, and a sometimes daunting task. But the prospects of life-changing improvements are so promising, that we feel we owe it – to our daughter and to ourselves. In in the scheme of “all things autism”, we feel it’s still relatively easy.

Of course, making drastic changes to a diet takes time and preparation, both mental and practical. To set one up for success, a realistic approach is to make only one change at a time. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that it is a process that you ease into over an extended period of time – months or even years if necessary. What is important, though, is to initiate the process.

Eliminating dairy the first step of our autism diet plan
We started by removing dairy from our daughter’s diet, and spent some time trying different fortified, organic alternatives made from almond, rice, hemp, soy, etc. Initially, we mixed the new product into cows’ milk, and gradually increased the quantities, so that the change in flavour and texture would not be noticeable. After a week or so we eliminated the cows’ milk altogether. At the same time, the quite extensive detective work of choosing foods without milk, whey or casein (milk proteins) began. So much food includes milk! Little by little we made the transition to dairy-free products.

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Next step in the autism diet plan: eliminating gluten

The next big task was to eliminate gluten. There is actually quite a lot of knowledge required in order to do so, unless the food package states “Gluten-free”. This is because gluten is contained not only in wheat, but in many other grains as well. Identifying dairy ingredients is relatively simple, but it’s not so easy to identify ingredients which contain gluten. We followed the same approach as previously; gluten-free pasta was mixed with the habitual product, a small piece of gluten-free toast was sneaked in on the breakfast table…  Over the course of several months and as we became more educated about sources and alternatives, gluten was also out of the diet.

With those two “biggies” – dairy and gluten – behind us, the rest of the elimination process seemed a lot easier. Little by little, we were cooking and eating food that we felt contributed to our daughter’s positive development. A big step on the journey!

Tips for success
Ready to start your own “healthy eating” project? These tips might be helpful:
  • Use the best-looking ingredients you can find.
  • Cook big quantities. Strive for left-overs, keep in the fridge and use within a few days.
  • Freeze excess leftovers in appropriately sized containers.
  • Invest in some great tools and helpful cooking utensils.
  • Forget about variety. You only need one good food option for every category; one kind of cracker, one kind of rice, yogurt and so on. Once you find it, stick to it. Little by little your list of staple food will grow. Now you can focus on alternative ways of using each ingredient instead. Check out our family’s list of go-to staple foods here.