Gluten- This is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. I’m not going to lie, this is not easy to give up! However, the behavior changes that you may see as a result may far outweigh the inconvenience.
Casein- This can be very difficult to eliminate, but it can prove to be key in making significant progress in your child’s life. There are so many milk and dairy alternatives, you are likely to find things that your kids will like.
Food Dye- One of the best things that you can do for your child is to start eliminating food dyes. These are the things at the end of the ingredient list that says a color name followed by a number, like Red #40 and Yellow #5.
The Big Three Foods to Eliminate
Get excited about everyone eating healthier!
Have others around them eating the same foods. Don't allow siblings to eat junk food in front of them.
Don't make it a punishment or a chore to eat new healthy foods.
Explain why these foods are better, and how they will help them to be healthier.
Take them shopping and let them pick out the foods.
Find a garden or orchard where you can pick your own food.
Put new foods in the packaging that they are used to. (Put gluten free pretzels in the old pretzel bag).
Make a sticker chart to reinforce each time they tried something new even a small bite.
Buy some cookbooks with nice photographs and encourage them to chose recipes that they will eat.
Have them help you plan and cook the meals.
10 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat New Foods:
Where do I start?
I know that this is an overwhelming undertaking.
Start by making a switch to equivalent foods. Switch their current cereal to a gluten free one, try some brands of gluten free pasta, and start swapping out milk for almond milk. Pour a few tablespoons of almond milk into their milk and see if they notice, each day put in a little more almond milk and less cow's milk until they are drinking it straight.
Eat more ethnic foods. There are tons of gluten free, casein free options at Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, African, and Mexican restaurants.
Make more meals that can be served with or over rice or potatoes.
Just make meals that naturally don't have gluten in them, if you try to go straight to gluten free bread or baked goods, it is going to be terrible compared to what you are used to.
Continue to do this until you feel that you have enough foods that your child will eat to go completely gluten and casein free for a month. If it is making a difference, you will probably notice changes after 3-4 weeks, so you don't have to commit to this forever, just a few weeks.
In order to truly know if the diet is working, you have to go absolutely 100% free of the given food for about a month. I usually start to see a change in my clients after about a week or two and a huge improvements after about 3-4 weeks if it is working. Most of these children are addicted to the gluten and casein and go through a withdrawal from it. You may see some restlessness, anger, or irritability during the first 2-3 weeks. Once it is out of their system, you will be able to tell if the diet is working or not. Sometimes you may think that it didn't do too much because they gradually improved over the month, however, when the food is reintroduced, their behaviors spike again.
How will I know if it is working?
Do food dyes really effect behavior?
Food dyes have been shown to increase behaviors in children. The European Union requires food dyes to come with warning labels and has banned many of dyes that are still used in the USA. Major companies like Kellogg's change their products to sell in Europe, but they still use the cheaper products with synthetic food dyes in America. The FDA has studied this and its report says that “Certain children with ADHD and/or other behavior problems when exposed to various provoking food items, including AFC, may result in behavioral changes associated more with irritability, fidgetiness, and sleep problems rather than attention deficit and learning deficiency or a hyperactivity syndrome.”
If your child survives on mac-and-cheese and pizza, there is a good chance that they are addicted to these foods. When people with a DPP4 deficiency digest the proteins found in both wheat products (gluten) and milk products (casein) the protein is only partially broken down. This leaves partial proteins that are similar to morphine and these opiods go the brain. Wheat and dairy have a calming effect on the brain, but leaves these children in a fog. This is why when a person first goes gluten and casein free, will go through a type of withdrawal and their behavior will get worse for a week or two. (This is normal and it is important that you stick with it to see the positive changes).
Why do I hear so much about gluten free and casein free diets?
The children that usually respond the best to diet changes are the ones that had regressive autism, ADHD, Allergies, sleep disturbances, and chronic stomach and intestinal issues. I have not seen diet changes do much for the children that have severe non-verbal Autism, especially Autism related to a chromosomal deletion. I have seen diet changes work wonders for children who have regressive Autism, ADHD, and PANDAS.
What type of children improve with diet changes?
Soy is also one of the biggest allergies and many kids can not tolerate it as well. If you have given up gluten and casein, and have seen no effects, then going soy free for a few weeks is a good next step. The main sources of soy can be avoided pretty easily, like soy milk or tofu, but soy is one of those ingredients that is found in lots of processed food. Soy Lecithin or soybean oil is found in things that you would never suspect, so read labels carefully.
Should we also give up soy?
My first answer is yes, but I know that it is completely unrealistic. They are more expensive and hard for some people to even have access to. I try to buy as much organic food as I can, but can't afford to buy everything organic. There are 12 foods that have been found to contain the most chemicals. These are known as the dirty dozen. Buying those 12 foods organic is a good place to start. Also, chemicals bioaccumulate in meat and dairy. Whatever they feed the animal is in their flesh and their milk. Just like you shouldn't take some medications while nursing your baby, those medications including antibiotics are in the cow's milk too. I would defiantly buy organic meats and dairy if you chose to eat them. Once again, if our children cannot detoxify well, all of the chemicals that we expose them to can build up in their bodies and have negative effects.
Should we only eat organic foods?
Diet changes, especially for older children who are already set in their eating habits, can be very difficult. You have to get everyone on board including both parents, grandparents, and teachers. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a parent trying to eliminate gluten and casein in their child's diet only to have the other parent sneak them treats or school staff hand out fish crackers at snack time. Some kids have very little change while others have huge improvements. If your child's behavior is better, the diet won't seem like a burden at all.
Will it be worth the effort?
Processed foods are everywhere. It is unrealistic to give them up totally, but there are some ingredients that are defiantly worse than others. Some people follow the 5 ingredient rule. This is a quick way look at the label and see if it contains more than 5 things, then it is probably highly processed and you want to avoid it. Of course you don't want to miss out on a great product with 7 healthy ingredients though. I usually make sure that I can pronounce the ingredients and know what they are in nature. Remember, many of our children can not detoxify and these chemical, colors, flavorings, and preservatives and they are overloading their systems?
Do we need to give up processed foods too?
How can I get my child to eat this stuff?
If your child is a picky eater to begin with and they live on bread, noodles, and cheese, the I know what you are thinking, “This is totally unrealistic and I could never get my kid to eat this stuff!” It will be challenging, however, the children who are the pickiest and who eat the most gluten and casein to begin with are many times the ones that have the most dramatic improvements from eliminating them from their diet.
My favorite book that explains the effects of diet on children with mental health symptoms, as well as gives an in depth description of all the biomedical interventions, is Healing the New Childhood Epidemics - AUTISM, ADHD, ASTHMA, and ALLERGIES by Kenneth Bock, M.D.. If you are interested in learning more on either topic, it is a great resource.
Where can I learn more?
Everything that we put into our children’s body has great effects on their mood, behavior, sleep, and overall well-being. Of course, all parents want to feed their children well. However, the mass produced processed food that is now seen as our new “normal food” is not our natural sustenance. Our bodies have not evolved as quickly as the food industry and we are starting to see the negative effects.
I feel so strongly about the power of diet to transform health, I created another website dedicated solely to healthy, dairy free, gluten free recipes and meal ideas for kids and families. Check it out here at