Thursday, January 21, 2010

A whole new food challenge...

Musings from the Greenhabilitator...

2010 is already shaping up to be the Year of Food for the Greenhab family. I blogged here a few weeks ago about how we're finally buckling down and focusing on what we eat this year. Then last week I checked in to mention the Meatless Monday and Eat From Your Pantry challenges I'd joined.

We've been doing quite well with both, by the way. Mr. Greenhab has happily accepted the fact that his Mondays will be meatless. He even recorded a cooking show last weekend and asked "Mmmm...can we have this for Meatless Monday?" (I did a little happy dance in my head!) I've moved beyond my fall-back plan (pasta) and have even broken the spines on a few cookbooks I've had forever.

The Eat From Your Pantry Challenge hasn't exactly helped me to green my food routine, but it has inspired me to get all the junk out of my pantry and freezer so that we can have a fresh, healthy, sustainable, new start. I'm considering January a month of purging and planning.

And speaking of purging... We were just handed an all-new, somewhat unwelcome, challenge last week when we discovered that our 4 year old son may have a milk allergy. It's kind of a long story (which you can read about here if you're interested), but suffice it to say he has some behavior problems that don't fit neatly into any diagnosis. We randomly heard about someone else with the same issue and learned that the protein casein, found in milk, can cause this type of behavior.

We took Fletcher off of milk immediately and, within a day, we noticed a huge difference in his behavior and attitude. It honestly felt like nothing short of a miracle! I quickly adjusted a few things - switched cow's milk for soy, ditched the cheese, and found a few dairy-free snacks. So much for emptying the pantry; it was suddenly filling up again.

The more information I read and experienced people I spoke to, the more I heard that I would need to take him off of gluten as well. As you may know, GFCF (gluten free, casein free) is also known as "the Autism Diet", which has been of enormous help to some autistic children. Fletch was doing so well that we didn't think eliminating gluten was necessary. He had done a complete 180 and was such a sweet boy now! Until yesterday, that is.

Yesterday all of the whining, arguing, negotiating, name-calling, and power struggles returned, so I think that we will have to eliminate gluten as well, to see if it makes a difference. After seeing a glimpse of what a sweet little boy he can be, it's worth a shot to see if we can bring that boy back.

At this point, I feel as if I've been pushed into the pool without my floaties and it's sink or swim time. I've read at least eight thousand food labels in the last two days. Because every prepackaged item at the grocery store seems to contain either gluten or milk, I've finally been forced to do some of the things I've needed to do all along -- make more from scratch, buy organics, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, read labels, and eat real food.

It might not be the "slow and easy" way I envisioned greening our food, but it could certainly be a blessing in disguise. Now to convince my 4 year old of that!

PS~ If anyone has experience going CF and/or GF, or you have experience with other food allergies, I'd love to hear about it!


Daphne said...

Oh I feel for you. My dad can't eat wheat (and sometimes milk). I had to cook for him for a week and though it wasn't hard, you really can't use anything premade. You have to cook from scratch. I think of all the things that kids love and they tend to fall into the wheat and milk category (adults are a lot easier).

The Raven said...

When we were trying to identify my son's food allergy (which turned out to be soy), we quit eating everything for several weeks. We have up dairy (which we were not eating at the time anyway) and gluten, corn, soy, peanuts, citrus, etc. Thank goodness we could add almost everything back in! And it was this allergy that led us to start adding in meat and dairy to our diets.

I agree that it is awfully hard! Rice cakes and almond butter were a huge part of our diet... But seeing our son feel so much better made it all worth the effort.

I'm so glad the diet has made a difference for your son!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I know I've already told you but just wanted to say again that I'm very interested to hear how things go for your son. I hope you'll keep us updated.

We took our son off of milk two days ago after reading your original post. He seems to be doing better, but like I told you, he is always fine at school, so I'm waiting to see how he does this weekend. Going gluten-free sounds like a very daunting task, so we're taking this very slowly.

I meant to ask you yesterday - have you read the book "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka? When I read it several years ago, it exactly described my son. If you haven't read it, it might be worth a look.

Joy said...

Keep up the good work! I can't tell you how happy I am to hear about pro-active actions on the part of a child!
I was a pre-school teacher and I can't tell you how many parents I would have in conference who told me "well, the doctor said he was alergic to [gluten,dairy,soy,etc] but he just likes that food so much!"
I get that it's hard to watch your child go through that kind of a change,especially when the alergy doesn't manifest itself physically, but in the end when you give in to 'the beige diet' that kids seem to be addicted to you're only making things easier on yourself with your child suffering in the process.
Sorry to get a little preachy there but I have had some very sad experiences with some amazing children.
Also, these are just my experiences. Every child is different and needs different things, so there is no offense intended!

Green Me Alison said...

I've been navigating these waters (the gluten & dairy free ones) myself for the past few months. I think the biggest key is to only buy foods that are specifcially labeled gluten free and or dairy free. And or if a product you love is not labeled as such, but looks clean, check out their website for ingredients. Pacific foods for example has a complete list of all their products and the allergens they contain or that they are free from. Here is a link to their PDF to give you an idea:

Also, your son wants some traditional kid style foods, you could check out Ians. They have fish sticks and other kiddie foods in frozen. Some are both dairy and gluten free (some are one or the other) and the taste is pretty good, although the price tag is high.

Good luck and feel free to ping me with any questions as I've got a pretty good sense of what is available in our area!

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

good luck with the diet experimentation, i hope you figure out something that works for your son. for great gluten inspiration, read
a lot of people complain about how expensive living gluten free is, but if you make things from scratch then i think you won't run into that problem so much.

Nature Deva said...

I have a dairy allergy so avoid it and took my son off dairy last year because I suspected he also had it since his sinuses were always stuffy esp. after he ate cheese (he always hated milk so I didn't give it to him). He also had the "allergy shiners" under his eyes which look like a dark shadow.

He greatly improved, shiners cleared up, too but the peer pressure of seeing his friends eat pizza and ice cream set in so I got him goat's milk mozzarella (no casein in goat's milk) from Vitamin Cottage and made him pizza at home (you can get rice crusts for gf or make it yourself from gf flours) and tofutti cuties ice cream sandwiches or other dairy free ice cream and he's a happy camper again. I make the majority of our food from scratch and he eats lots of fruit based treats, lots of veggies and he doesn't know the difference that it's so good for him. It's just what his taste buds like.

I have tons of recipes that are vegan and so delicious if you ever want some easy meals everyone incl. kids like to eat.

Anonymous said...

Some parents have success using Enzymes instead of going GFCF or to handle a partially GFCF diet or to handle planned infractions. Check out Houston Nutraceuticals or Kirkman Labs for their enzyme products. We've used enzymes for almost 3 years and are now successfully weaning my son off of them. We had horrible digestion/gut issues with my apraxic son from age 1.5 until age 4 or so. Enzymes were part of that healing process. You might want to read Karen DeFelice's book Enzymes for Autism and other Neurological Conditions for more info.
Note: this didn't help his peanut allergy (an actual IgE allergy), but he now tolerates all other foods with no issues.
Laura in So Cal

Carol said...

Soy is the number 2 allergen, and its cumulative, so you may want to give rice milk or one of the many other alternative (you can make rice milk at home easily, btw.) I'm also not wild about adding phytoestrogens to children's developing hormonal system but that's just me. We have a history of breast cancer in the family and soy is forbidden for the estrogen.

Kellie said...

Thanks so much to everyone for the advice and support! I did buy soy milk for Fletcher to make up for the lack of milk. While he doesn't drink a ton (one cup per day) I think I'll remove that and see what happens.

@Erin~ I have a copy of RYSC, but it just didn't hit home for us. He doesn't seem to have some of the sensory issues like being bugged by tags in clothing, not liking change, etc. I *really* wanted it to work for us, but I just couldn't make him fit. :(

@Alison~ Thanks for the tips! I'm sure I'll be chasing you down for advice!

@Nature Deva~ My hubby has those allergy shiners, along with asthma, GERD, and other allergies. I'm trying to convince him that he needs to try this diet as well.

@Carol~ That is good to know. My husband came home last night saying "The ladies at work said not to give him soy milk b/c it's bad...but I can't remember why." Now I know! I'll go find some rice milk!

Olivia said...

I am celiac so am very familiar with the gluten free diet. Just want to say - check the labels on the rice milk carefully if you want to go gluten free as some of them contain gluten.

Emily said...

Good luck with everything. We did GFCF for 18 months with our daughter with ASD, and it got a lot easier after the first few weeks. We found a brand of bread she liked (Kinnikinnick) and life was better immediately. Hang in there, and do it religiously for a few months at least, to see if there are any benefits. It's very healthy to avoid gluten & casein, as long as you get lots of fruits & veg. Quinoa has lots of protein, so try that too. Kids' tastes will open up eventually.

Pure Mothers said...

uten free for my son until 18 months (when my husband slipped up and accidentally gave it to him) because my mother-in-law has celiac. There are some good blogs and support sites out there for gluten free cooking. I agree with another commenter about soy. It's a big allergen, full of phytoestrogens and it inhibits iron absorption. Hemp milk is higher in nutrients than rice milk. But we do some rice too. Also oat milk. Great for making smoothies! And if no nut allergies, almond milk is delicious! Rice dream is a yummy ice cream alternative. Some people with dairy allergies do well on dairy from beta 2 (A2) casein cows. Not sure if they exist in the States. But the Guernsey cows here in London are A2 and the milk products don't affect some people they ay A1 milk products do. Good luck with your son. Keep us posted!

Wonderer said...

just another soy warning here. it's extremely estrogenic - I'm afraid I'm not wording it correctly, but pretty much the soy imitates estrogen in your body, screwing with your hormones, etc. yuck-o

Happy Friday!

Robbie said...

Well, I can't speak to a lot of this, but I recently tried almond milk at home, and it's not bad. So that may be an alternative if you're not up for soy milk.

Good luck! Dealing with allergies is never an easy task.

Tony R. said...

My wife is Gluten free and we both gave up meat about a year ago. She has great recipes if you are interested. You can find her @

You might also want to check out The Gluten Free Girl blog.

Julie said...

Good luck with going GF for your little guy. I recently stumbled upon this blog: looks like there might be some useful info and recipes there for you if nuts are not an issue for your family. GL and keep us posted :)

Levinson Axelrod said...

Thanks for all of the advice from your post and from these comments. They're very useful and informational.


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