Gluten Free / Casein Free / Soy Free (usually) foods that we like

December 11, 2007

I’m going to try to put together a list of GF/CF/SF foods that we’ve been using for our nephew J (who has Autism). Hopefully, this gives someone a head start on their own GF/CF adventure.

Keep in mind that ingredients change over time, so always do your own homework and call the company (almost all products have 800 numbers on them now) and verify everything. I spent a few hours shopping the stores and calling on my cell phone right there in the aisle. Just do it!

Milk Substitute

We’ve tried rice milk (often not “safe” per the packaging), almond milk, hazelnut milk, even hemp milk (can’t do soy milk). We’ve settled on Almond Breeze almond milk by Diamond. They have a sweetened (with evaporated cane juice, not sucrose) and non-sweetened. I prefer the sweetened, my wife prefers the unsweetened (I think it tastes too nutty, where the sweetened tastes more like 2% milk to me). J seems to like either, but we bought a bunch of the sweetened at the Vitamin Cottage when they had a per-case deal. We use the vanilla flavor for use on cereal or cooking (it’s a bit more watery than 2% cowmilk and not enough fat to make a good binder, tho) or just drinking. We use chocolate flavor for drinking because he (and I) like it! We also found some “juice box” sized containers from Pacific that we use for travel, when we can put it in a sports drink bottle for him.

Pasta

J *loves* pasta, and I can’t blame him! At first, that seemed like one of the harder ones to solve, but actually, I think we’ve found some really good substitutes. There are some that are made from brown rice that are very popular, but I actually don’t care for them as much (will get the brand some other day).

The ones we use the most are made by Mrs. Leepers and are made from CORN. They have corn pasta spirals that work very well for us, and he likes them with “butter” sauce (Fleishman’s unsalted margarine sticks, yellow box, green ribbon) or red sauce (just a decent tomato sauce that is GF/CF/SF).

Mrs. Leepers also makes a tri-colored radiator pasta (I think it’s brown rice based) as well as a tri-color spirals (may also be rice based) … he likes both of them, too.

Oragam makes some nice products as well as Dr. Schure (forget the actual spelling). More info on them later.

Hot Dogs

What kid doesn’t love hot dogs? Normally, we’d head right for the Hebrew Nation product, as I think they have the best taste, but they use soy in their products. If you are only on a GF/CF diet, get Hebrew nation, but if you are also SF, look for Bar-S brand. We’ve found them in Safeway, King Soopers, and even Walmart. Per their website, all of their products are GF/CF/SF except for their corndogs.

Butter / Margarine

So, no milk products, so butter and all of its friends are right out. Even a lot of margarines have soy in them as an emulsifier. We found Fleishman’s unsalted margarine sticks (yellow box, green ribbon) is safe, per the manufacturer. It is unsalted, so we just add some kosher or sea salt to the mix and it all works out. It doesn’t really add the qualities of butter, as it melts more into just an oil, so that’s a little disappointing, but considering we can’t do milk products, cream is pretty hard to come by.

If you can do soy, there are a lot more choices out there, but we don’t so I can’t really tell you about them.

Cheese

Sorry, we’re at a dead end here — we’ve only found one thing that was GF/CF/SF and they wouldn’t even use it on Fear Factor.

Juice

Most juices are OK, but you have to be careful with anything using artificial coloring. Some artificial coloring isn’t GF, so we just stick with pure products — besides, they taste better. Our apple juice has “apple juice” in it. Simple, eh?

Meat

Most meats are OK, but deli meats (roast beef, turkey, etc) may have non-GF/CF safe ingredients. Boars Head is safe per the manufacturer, and I think it tastes better than a lot of the other brands out there (bonus!). Also, we’re not willing to try rotisserie chicken for the same reason … it’s too hard to know what the seasoning and prep ingredients are. Most seafoods seem to be OK, in the unseasoned state … anything that is a “prepared” food, do your homework and error on the side of caution.

Breakfast Cereal

We’ve tried a few of the GF/CF cereals out there and the best (and most kid friendly) we’ve found is by Envirokidz. The kids like:

  • Gorilla Munch (like Kix?)
  • Koala Crisp (Coco Pebbles)
  • Amazon Frosted Flakes

They didn’t care for the Panda Puffs (peanut butter), but I liked them. They are very good cereals made from simple ingredients (evaporated cane juice instead of sucrose again) and taste very good. NOT ALL ENVIROKIDZ CEREALS ARE GF/CF!! Be careful and read the labels.

We tried a granola type cereal and it just tasted and felt like clumps of sawdust.

Snacks

Well, cereal is always easy, and there are some very good GF/CF “cereal” and fruit bars out there. Gluteno makes some, but double check the labels. LARABAR bars are very, very good and are GF/CF/SF/kosher/etc/etc … just simple, pure ingredients.

Popcorn! We buy Safeway’s store brand *organic* microwave popcorn (unbuttered). Simple ingredients, and I confirmed with the 800 number they were safe. This popcorn tastes so good, in a blind taste test, you’d swear there was butter on it. J has a sandwich sized ziptop bag of popcorn in his snack box at all times (unless he’s just eaten it!).

…more to come…

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Our experience with Gluten Free / Casein Free and AUTISM

December 11, 2007

So, we’ve been hearing about the positive effects that a Gluten Free / Casein Free (milk products) diet can have on kids on the autism spectrum, but we like to try to make only a few changes at a time, so we can observe the results as accurately as possible. We have some family members with Celiac disease, so we are familiar with the Gluten Free restrictions, but Casein Free is a new challenge for us.

Even worse, some of J’s favorite foods include Mac & Cheese, breads, cheese, MILK (glug glug), and more pasta. See the problem here?

To add even more complexity, there seems to be some concern about eating Soy as well, so we’ve attempted to eliminate that as well. Well, that makes cheese substitutes just about non-existent. We did find one almond cheese that did not appear to have any casein or soy, and it tasted … well, bad.

So, we finally jumped in the water, and it was *not* easy. But, if there was a chance that this could help, even 10%, it would be completely worth the effort! We started poking around in August 2007 and seriously started implementing it in September 2007. They recommend you don’t try to go “cold turkey”, but we worked around that by allowing some comfort foods that we couldn’t eliminate immediately anyway. It seems to have worked out OK.

One thing that we do is we taste *everything* we give to J … if we wouldn’t eat it, unless he says he likes it, we don’t make him eat it.

Overall, we’ve been able to replace his diet with on that is GF/CF/SF (soy free, for the most part), and the results seem to be very encouraging. Just over 3 months later, he does seem to be more lucid when he communicates,;we are seeing more spontaneous conversational communication (not just stuff like “school bus!” when he sees a school bus, but real conversational bits); he’s “home” more often and has been able to accommodate more intricate tasks requested of him; etc.

Some of the things that he’s done just out of nowhere makes your jaw drop — it’s amazing.

Now, lately, he’s been in a bit of a funk because of the transition back to the parents, but when he’s not in the middle of a regressive behavior, his skill performance has definately increased. Also, we do expect regular progress because we *know* he’s capable of mainstreaming — it’s just a mater of work on everyone’s part to help him get there, but the progress he’s made in some areas does seem pretty encouraging.

Of course, all of this is still purely anecdotal evidence at best, and we’re trying to be as objective and pessimistic as possible, but we’re still pretty happy. 2-3 word phrases have become 4-5 word phrases in short order, and although his need for prompting has remained fairly high (which we attribute to stress and anxiety from the transition and uncertainty), the intensity of the prompt (gesture or a single word vs a phrase or full sentence or physical prompt) has greatly reduced.

We’ve been doing as much as we can to work with the parents to find foods that he likes and are easy for them to prepare … we cook a lot at home, but with their schedules, that’s not as likely, so we are trying to help them find foods that will work, rather than them put him back on a McD diet out of convenience.

We have a Whole Foods / Wild Oats that we shopped at a lot to get started, but we’ve been able to find more products at the local Safeway and King Soopers, too … also at the Vitamin Cottage (locally owned chain) as well as some Internet mail order sites. I probably should do a separate post for the foodstuffs, as this one is already long enough, plus I think I can edit it after the fact to modify the list.

Short story, we think it worked for J. I don’t know how much time we’ll get with him after the transition, so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to observe his behavior and also get accurate data on how his diet maintenance has been going, but if I do, I’ll post updates.

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