Removing dairy from Linnea’s diet was the best thing we’ve ever done. It started us along the winding path that has taken us to where we are today with our little girl: so anxious to learn; making slow but steady progress; asking the most wonderful questions; learning about math, French and nature in a “normal” grade 1 class. And greatly reduced episodes of hyperactivity!
It all started with taking dairy products out of her diet. It was the first step in a long-term autism diet plan.
Here’s what we did to be successful:
1) Knowing that it could take several months before we saw any positive effects from the new diet, we decided to adopt a “day-by-day” approach. We were patient (seems to be a constant when dealing with autism!) and not expecting quick results. We were also aware of that in order to experience drastic improvements, we might have to remove gluten from the diet, too.
2) We researched and tried different milk alternatives. We compared beverages made from almond, rice, hemp and soy. Not just any alternative would do. It had to be “fortified” and “organic“. Fortified, to be sure that our daughter would get as many nutrients as possible. We were especially interested in the level of Omega-3, and Omega-6 and calcium. Organic, so that we would avoid the pesticides and chemicals that are common in the production of almonds, rice and soy, etc.
3) Next, we mixed the new milk-free beverage of our choice into the cows’ milk that Linnea was currently drinking. We started with small quantities, so that she would not notice any changes in flavour and texture. Little by little, we increased the quantities. After roughly a week, Linnea was drinking a glass of organic hemp “milk” with dinner instead of cows’ milk. So far so good.
4) A crash course in food awareness and food-label reading followed. We wanted to avoid anything containing dairy, such as milk, whey and casein. This was challenging, since so many food items include these ingredients. The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook includes a review of dairy-derived ingredients to avoid, such as galactose, caseinate and lactalbumins, etc. You can also find lists on-line. We ended up only buying food items which claimed to be “dairy free” (and later also “gluten free”) on the package. It was definitely easier than reading food labels! Note that going “lactose-free” is not sufficient. The problem is not the lactose. It is the casein in milk that needs to be removed from the diet.
5) We started the on-going task of finding dairy-free alternatives to all kinds of food items. For example, we have become avid users of organic coconut milk and Earth Island’s organic Veganaise – both great alternatives whenever a creamy consistency is required. We have also developed a list of go-to recipes with dairy-free ingredients. These are the recipes that we share with you on this website, including: