Beginner’s Guide to Gluten Free Casein Free Diet for Autism
+ 30 Kid-Approved Recipes
A gluten free casein free diet called “GFCF” for short is a diet which contains absolutely no gluten, or dairy products. Currently, the benefits of a GFCF diet for autism are mostly anecdotal. However, many parents report an improvement in common symptoms associated with autism including meltdowns, language skills, and hyperactivity.
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 constipation and IBS.
The theory behind the GFCF 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.
There are a lot of food restrictions to this diet, and food aversions typical in autistic children can add to the challenge. If this is something you are considering, consult with your child’s doctor first. It’s best to ensure there won’t be any significant nutritional deficits if your child doesn’t currently eat a
It’s important to make sure 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. Focus on finding recipes your kiddo enjoys.
Making the switch over a period of time may take longer, but it will be easier for everyone.
I’ve created this guide for beginners – who’ve never tried a gluten free dairy free diet, to use this as a starting point for gathering information, recipes, and shopping tips.
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 Beginners” that will give you tons of great information and you will probably find her whole website to be the jackpot of GFCF information.
Know How 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:
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 GFCF 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 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. But two things you will 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
Naturally Gluten & Dairy Free Foods:
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
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
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
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.
And if all else fails, you can make bacon and eggs. Who doesn’t love that?
(Photo Credit: All The Joie)