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A Beginner’s Guide to Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet for Autism

A gluten-free casein-free diet called “GFCF” for short is a diet that contains absolutely no gluten, or dairy products.

Currently, the benefits of a gluten-free casein-free diet for autism are mostly anecdotal. However, many parents report an improvement in common symptoms associated with autism including meltdowns, language skills, and hyperactivity.

Beginner’s Guide to Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet for Autism
+ 33 Kid-Approved Recipes

Additional studies are needed before we can fully understand the link between gluten, dairy and autism and the effectiveness of the GFCF diet as an alternative treatment for autism.

But, many parents are still willing to try the diet, especially if their child also shows signs of gastrointestinal issues.

As many as 2/3 of autistic individuals also have gastrointestinal issues such as chronic constipation and IBS.

How Could a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet Help?

The theory behind the gluten-free casein-free diet is that sensitivities to gluten and dairy can cause inflammation or irritation in the digestive tract and that this irritation can affect the nervous system and brain, exasperating symptoms of autism. 

I’ve created this guide for beginners – who’ve never tried a gluten-free dairy-free diet but are considering it for their autistic child.

This guide is intended to serve as a starting point for gathering information, recipes, and shopping tips.

Food Restrictions & Your Child’s Health

There are a significant amount of food restrictions to this diet, and food aversions typical in autistic children can make this diet extremely challenging.

Because of the many restrictions, you should consult with your child’s doctor first before making any changes.

It’s best to ensure there won’t be any significant nutritional deficits if your child doesn’t currently eat a very varied diet. 

It’s also important to make sure that as you implement these changes that your child is still consuming a nutritious diet and that you are making safe supplementations if needed.

Take your time making the switch. Children with autism commonly struggle with transitions and changes.

It’s fine to ease into this diet at your child’s pace rather than making an entire lifestyle change overnight.

Begin by focusing on finding and creating recipes your child enjoys eating. Once you’ve found enough options for what they will eat, then stop serving food with restricted ingredients.

Making the switch over a period of time may take longer, but it will be easier for everyone.

Gluten-Free Casein-Free For Beginners

Without a little research and meal planning, it will be hard for beginners to be successful on a GFCF diet.

Rachael Roehmholdt has an excellent article titled Top 10 Tips for Gluten Free Dairy Free Beginnersthat will give you tons of great information.

In fact, you will probably find her whole website to be the jackpot of GFCF information.

Remember to Look For “Hidden” Dairy and Gluten

These two ingredients have a lot of aliases making it easy for them to sneak into your diet without you even realizing.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the different names for gluten and dairy so you can be fully educated about the ingredients in your food when you check food labels.

Save the image below as a quick cheat-sheet:

GFCF For Autism | Gluten Free Casein Free Diet | Reading Food Labels | Other Names for Gluten | Other Names for Dairy #Autism #GFCF

Focus on What You Can Eat & Getting Your Child To Eat

As mentioned above, there are a lot of restrictions and if you’re only focusing on those restrictions it might feel really discouraging.

If you are trying a gluten-free casein-free diet for autism and your child has food aversions it might seem like there is nothing left to feed them.

Create an inventory of safe foods and recipes that your family can start trying. It’s a good idea, to begin using GFCF recipes that are versions of foods your child already enjoys.

It may be helpful to even create a positive reinforcement plan for trying new foods.

Give your child choices, and let them help you in the kitchen, if possible.

Whole foods which are naturally gluten and dairy-free are the most nutritious option to stock up on.

Packaged and processed foods labeled as gluten-free may be more convenient but not as healthy.

They are fine to have and eat, but you shouldn’t build your entire diet around these items. However, two things you do want to buy already made are gluten-free pasta and bread.

Also, be aware that swapping a food (such as cheese) for its GFCF version won’t always be successful .. they never taste the same. 

So focus more on finding new tastes that your child likes.

Naturally Gluten & Dairy Free Foods:

The following foods are naturally gluten-free and casein-free.

  • Any fruit
  • Any vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Red meat, poultry, and fish (check labels of processed meats)
  • Rice
  • Oats (although it’s possible they could be contaminated with wheat during harvesting or processing – so use ones specifically labeled gluten-free)
  • Soya and almond milk

Kid-Friendly Recipes

GFCF Diet for Autism - gluten-free dairy-free recipes for picky eaters #GFCF #Autism

I’ve rounded up a bunch of kid-friendly recipes from other bloggers, focusing on foods that I know my own children love, to help you get started with your GFCF diet for autism.

I’m sure there will be something here that your child will eat.


No-Bake Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars | The Big Man’s World
Banana Oat Bars | Lean Green Bean
Apple Cinnamon Muffins | Health Extremist
Apple Bread | The Baker Mama
Spinach & Sausage Egg Muffins | Raising Generation Nourished
GFCF Pancakes | Veggie Balance
Banana Pancakes | Texan Erin
Breakfast Oat Cups | Baby Foodie
Flourless Waffles | Wholesome Yum

Oat cups from Baby Foodie


Sweet & Sour Meat Balls | Celiac Mama
Fried Chicken Tenders | Blessed Beyond Crazy
Taco Chicken Pasta | EBL Food Allergies
Pizza with Sweet Potato Crust | The Soccer Mom Blog
Ground Turkey Taco Zoodles | Perchance to Cook
Quick Chili | Dad Cooks Dinner
GFCF Shepherd’s Pie | The Wholey Trinity
Mac & Cheese | Stacey Homemaker
Beef & Cabbage stir fry (my personal favorite) | Budget Bytes
Chicken Fried Rice | Slimming Eats
Sausage and Rice Skillet | Life Made Simple – Just check the label of the sausages you’re buying.
French Fries | Corrie Cooks

Zoodles from Perchance to Cook


Dark Chocolate Muffins | Beaming Baker
Peanut Butter & Banana Icecream Sandwiches | She Likes Food
Candied Pecans | Clean Eating
No-Bake Rocky Road Bites | Cotter Crunch
Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels | Strength & Sunshine
Veggies & Vegan Ranch Dressing | Clean Green Simple
Butternut Squash Fries | JJ Virgin
Chocolate Chip Cookies | Texan Erin

Cookies from Texan Erin


Everything Dough | Nurture My Gut
Mixed Berry Jam | Nourish Every Day
GFCF Sweetened Condensed Milk for baking | Kit’s Coastal
Honey Oat Bread | Hungry Hobby

GFCF condensed milk from Kit Coastal

If you’re feeling defeated, remember a lot of your tried and true recipes can be tweaked and made into gluten and dairy-free meals.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Cookbook

A few of my readers have recently purchased the Everything Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Cookbook by Audrey Roberts (from Mama Knows Gluten Free).

The cookbook has 300 gluten-free and dairy-free recipes so there’s bound to be options in there for everyone. Her book is available on Amazon.

gluten-free casein-free

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