They lasted three weeks.
It's not that they didn't think the GFCF diet would help their son, it's just that it became too much; she found she was spending all her time in the kitchen baking, preparing meals, and cleaning up. And when they went into town, they went for an hour or two at least, and inevitably they would get hungry and stop for a quick bite at a fast food place. She is not alone; this is a common theme that I have heard from parents who have tried the GFCF diet but ultimately abandoned the effort.
One of my wife's favorite things to tell me is "Don't overthink it." And overthinking is why I believe many people abandon the diet. When you first start out, the information overload is overwhelming. You're gluten free so you can't have common bread off the shelf anymore and the gluten free bread options off the shelf are limited so you have to make your own bread so you buy a cookbook that uses a combination of five specialty flours plus xanthan gum and Oh my Gosh! This stuff is so expensive! and then you are also casein free so you need to make sure that there are no milk products as well and there are no good substitutes for heavy cream and then I gotta clean up all these extra dishes now and...I think I will just go back to a regular diet. :-(
I admire those who can get in the kitchen and make things from multiple flour combinations and have taken the time to experiment to find just the right recipe for everything, and I look forward to doing that someday too. But when you are feeding a family of six there just isn't time to do all that, especially when you are just starting out.
So, for those just beginning your own GFCF Experience, I say keep it simple, and here are some ways to do just that:
Who needs bread? July 4, one of America's great grilling holidays, is only two weeks away. Many people will be manning the grill cooking up lots of burgers and hot dogs. And of course, the only way to have a burger or a dog is on a bun, right?
To quote Lee Corso, ESPN College Football guru: "Not so fast, my friend."
Instead of trying to find that perfect GFCF alternative bun, why not go the simple route and eliminate the bread altogether? You can still have your burger with your favorite GFCF cheese melted on top and all your favorite condiments and vegetables piled high, you just eliminate the bread and use a knife and fork.
Okay, so the knife and fork are too inconvenient. You have this urge, this desire, to hold this burger or dog in your hands with all the trimmings piled high. Well, why not try lettuce? After all, isn't that one of the main burger or hot dog additions? Just get yourself a nice piece of lettuce and wrap everything up inside. Alternatively, pick up some corn tortillas at the store and use those as buns. Simple.
When we make school lunches for the kids, we don't go out of our way to find alternative sandwich bread. We just eliminate the bread altogether. We will send them lunchmeat rolled up like you see on a deli tray, along with some GFCF chips and fruit and/or veggies. No bread required.
Simply put, bread is an occasional treat, but not an everyday staple in our children's diet.
Who needs milk? For us, the gluten free part of the diet was easy compared to the casein free part. Helena, when we first started, was an exclusive milk drinker, and we made her quit cold turkey. We had some really rough days and nights those first few weeks, but we made it through. Now, Helena primarily drinks water with an occasional 100% fruit juice cup thrown in. Or a cherry Icee...
Much like bread, elimination has worked for us when it come to milk products. Yes, we buy milk substitutes, like soy milk and almond milk. But the key is that we don't give it to our kids as drinks. We primarily use it for cooking and also in cereal. Milk substitutes, especially soy, are readily available and, given milk prices these days, fairly reasonable.
Butter has by far been the easiest change we've made. As I mentioned before, we use Earthbalance, which is a great buttery tasting spread that also comes in sticks. Great for cooking and frying too.
Cheese is another product where elimination has been the best option. The kids love Tofutti and nothing else, but it may not be easy to come by (many organic/health stores may not carry it as it contains trans fats). Many non-dairy cheeses also contain casein, believe it or not. And, quite frankly, they don't taste good.
Don't focus on the flour Okay, so in the last two points I have focused a lot on just flat out eliminating bread and milk from your diet, for the most part. So what's left? Turns out lots:
There's a lot of stuff out there!
I think one of the best persons I've seen who talks about GFCF foods in this manner is Shauna, the Gluten Free Girl. In her last four posts alone, she has talked about rice salad, strawberries, fruit salad, and cherries. All fresh, all GFCF.
I really think this is one mistake that people starting on the GFCF diet make - they focus on the flour and the milk, and not so much on all the wonderful products out there that are naturally gluten free.Plan ahead How convenient places like McDonald's and Burger King make it for us. You are out and about, and the stomach starts rumbling. Suddenly, you see the arches in the distance, and you make a beeline for the drive through. One value meal later, and you are on your way to gluten and casein enrichment. When you see that drive thru, it is so convenient sometimes.
But with a little planning, you can avoid those side trips.
If you know you are going to be out and about for a while, don't go emptyhanded. Get a good sized cooler, and pack everyone a water bottle. Put some fresh fruit in there. Maybe some potato chips (which you know are GFCF since you read the label beforehand, right?). Or pop up some popcorn.
The point is, bring your food with you. Then, when you crave, you know you have it on hand, and the lure of the drive thru goes away. And you know that what you are eating is GFCF.
Make no mistake, switching to a GFCF diet is not just a change in diet, it is a change in lifestyle. And it is very challenging. I cannot deny that. You really need to start thinking about what you are eating, and reading labels is essential. And there is a lot of planning and preparation involved. But I hope that some of my tips at least help you realize that, in reality, it is not as challenging as it seems, and that, with a little work, you can succeed. Our friend is going to try again, and I know she will make it this time, as will I.
Stick to it - it will be worth it.
Thanks for reading!