Corwin, like many kids like him, is an extremely picky eater. Certain textures and flavors will make him gag. Therefore, we have always had a problem getting him to eat anything different to begin with. Add in this new diet the geneticist recommended, and it’s an absolute impossibility to get this kid to get all the nutrients he needs in a day.
First off, some vocab. Gluten is a protein found in a variety of grains, especially wheat. Casein is a protein found in dairy products. The difficulty here is that it’s not like the other evil to Corwin’s digestive system, dyes, that can easily be recognized by reading a food label. Oh no, instead, you basically have to memorize a list of (no joke) at least 40 different ingredients to look for on food labels unless you choose to buy the products marked as “gluten-free” or “dairy-free”. Oh but watch out for soy products when looking for “dairy-free”… casein can still be added in the form of “caseinate”. Overall, this whole diet is incredibly confusing with a variety of gross foods that my picky eater wont touch.
So why bother? Well, there is an abundance of research that supports the theory that children with Autism/PDD/Asperger’s syndrome digest these proteins differently than your average Joe. When digested, they release peptides into the brain that cause changes in behavior, perception, etc. Once these proteins are removed from an Autistic child’s diet it is reported that a variety of their symptoms disappear by varying degrees. The reason why I chose to go along with this diet is because I want Corwin to be able to be comfortable going to school without worry of being ridiculed for slightly odd behavior, be able to go to the hairdresser without headphones to block out the harsh buzzer sound to his sensitive ears, to comfortably try new foods without worrying about the new food triggering his gag reflex, to be able to deal with the natural transitions throughout the day without becoming totally unglued, etc. While I believe that his Autism is an integral part of who he is, I think it would be wonderful if I could at least help him be more comfortable and at ease with the world he was born into.
Back to the problem… Here is an example of my 4 yr olds diet:
Breakfast- 1/2 an organic apple, Trix cereal (gluten-free!), and coconut milk
School snack- Gluten-free potato chips and smart water
Lunch- 2 hot dogs (the only meat this kid will eat) with ketchup, organic sliced bell peppers (raw), the other 1/2 of the apple.
Snack- Almond crisps (they taste somewhere between a cracker and a chip)
Dinner- Organic navel orange, gluten-free mashed potatoes (which we fight him to eat), organic carrots, organic watermelon, organic canteloupe, and usually some more bell peppers
Dessert- Dairy-free ice cream
So most parents right now may be going “Oh my gosh! Why are you complaining!”… here’s why. There is no way he is meeting his nutritional requirements, even with a multivitamin. He is SO picky that these foods are literally ALL he will eat. We have tried gluten-free bread, pancake mix, cookie mix, etc, and with no luck. He is so difficult. I’m sort of at a loss now of what to do… However, because I can’t afford a dietitian, we just have to keep wasting money and trying new products until we ultimately find something he likes. In the mean time, it’s fruits, veggies, chips/crackers, hot dogs, and screaming in-between about how much he wants “gluten pizza!” and “gluten french fries!”…
[UPDATE] I recieved the GFCF Shopping Guide and it was absolutely amazing!
Also, because Corwin had such an aversion to meat we started adding in “cheat” ways to get this kid some protein. However, meat has far more nutritional value than just protein… Example, amino acids! Crucial for his little developing brain. So we discussed it further and decided that the thing that caused the MOST significant change in Corwin was taking out gluten… we hardly noticed any change at all with casein. So we added dairy back to his diet and it has been going strong ever since. Gluten-free is still a struggle but with the growing number of gluten-free sections at grocery stores it is getting much easier… Kroger is fantastic! Wal-mart even has a (small) gluten-free section and since I can’t budget weekly trips to Whole Foods or even Sprouts, it’s awesome :).