Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pros and Cons of a Strict GFCF Vs Mixed Diet Household

When you have a child with autism or ADHD and you choose to implement dietary changes, the question becomes - do we all do it or just the one child? I'll discuss this in reference to GFCF (gluten free, dairy - casein free), but it could also be broadened to any dietary changes you wish to make.

Depending on your personal situation, you may or may not choose to have a strict GFCF household when you initially convert your special needs child onto this diet. Having personally experienced both sides of this topic, I'd love to share with you some of the pros and cons of each.

Strict GFCF for Everyone

Pro - When the entire family "goes GFCF" (or whatever dietary changes you choose), it shows complete support for the one who needs it.

Pro - Eliminates the risk of cross-contamination when you are preparing, cooking and serving foods that contain these ingredients.

Pro - There are additional health benefits (other than reducing or eliminating ADHD and autism behaviors and symptoms) that can be experienced while on this diet. There are over 300 symptoms of gluten intolerance alone! If the whole family goes GFCF in support of the one who needs it, they will likely be surprised at how they benefit as well.

Pro - Simplifies life. One meal plan, one shopping list, one set of cookware and utensils, etc...

Con - If you are restricting everyone's diet due to food sensitivities of one person, it could be that others are unnecessarily eliminating these foods. (Of course, see point 3 above - these changes will most likely benefit them as well!)

Con - It is more expensive to purchase specialty food items and if everyone eats them, you will need more of these items. (Sticking to whole foods, not based on breads and dairy, instead of using GFCF alternates eliminates this con!)

Con - If your children are aware of the fact that they must follow the special diet because someone else needs it, there could be resentment. (Inform the family you are making general healthy changes and don't pin it on the one child.)
Mixed Diet Household

Pro - This is more flexible. When having other people in your home who aren't familiar with GF alternates, you have "regular" food on hand for them. (Although it never hurts to serve your GFCF foods and show them how good they really are!)

Pro - For families with more than one child: If you only have to be strict with one child's food, it's not as complicated trying to organize food for every event, outing and meal away from home. (Although, once you create a routine for one, it's easier to implement for everyone.)

Pro - Because you are more aware of cross-contamination issues, it's more likely to be easier on you when around foods not in your diet. You already have plans in place for keeping food pure.

Pro - Easier on the budget. (This can be outweighed by the cost to keep extra equipment... )

Con - The possibility for cross-contamination is high, especially with younger children who spill, make more mess while eating and don't yet clean up after themselves. (The older your children are, the easier this gets, but the risk is always there, even with adults.)

Con - There is opportunity for the GFCF child to sneak foods that shouldn't be eaten. (This is a possibility for any child who is away from constant supervision, of course, and the older the child is, the more freedom they have over their food. Awareness of what the food is and how it affects them is key to avoiding this.)

Con - There is a greater need for organization to separate foods, have a place for acceptable foods, and know which food is for what diet type, label it all, etc...

Con - Must have extra sets of cookware, utensils and be super diligent to not use the wrong item for the wrong food.

Con - Must buy multiple versions of the same foods or cook more than one version of a meal, which can be time-consuming and complicated.

Con - The child following the special diet alone might feel left out. (While this is a fact of life one must accept on a restricted diet due to food sensitivities and allergies, it's nice to know one is supported in their own home.)
As you can see, there are many reasons one might choose to keep a strict GFCF household or allow mixed dietary plans. Some of the pro reasons for one choice are simply the con for the other choice, just presented in the opposite perspective.

You may see a general trend in the pros and cons and my comments on each and realize that I am generally pro- keeping it strict GFCF in the home. While each choice may have more pros or cons listed, it's not the amount that counts. What counts most is what matters most for you.

Your unique needs and family lifestyle are more important that someone else's opinion. Do what works for you now. You can always change it if it doesn't work best for your family.

Top 5 Kitchen Organization Tips for a Stress-Free Diet for ADHD, Autism and Allergies

Being organized and efficient in the kitchen is a must for stress-free maintenance of a special diet for autism, ADHD or food allergies.

When things get out of control and chaos takes over, it's not pleasant to work in the kitchen. You are more likely to avoid it and make a run for the nearest restaurant, 'fast food drive through' or pre-made processed foods.

When dealing with food restrictions due to allergies or intolerances, those conveniences aren't an option. And when you do have allergen-free options, they are still less healthy than home cooked meals with increased risk of cross-contamination.

Here is my top 5 list of tips to keep your kitchen and pantry organized and clean:

Keep a shelf or place in the pantry, fridge or cabinets designated for allergen-free foods and utensils only. This helps avoid confusion with other members of the household, saves time when looking for items, and prevents cross-contamination with foods that don't belong. *Especially important if living in a household with mixed diets!

Place appliances and utensils where they are most used in the kitchen for convenience. For example, I keep my juicer and blender near my sink for quick and easy clean up. It's easier to use these items for green juices and smoothies when they are already out and ready to go. I have a strainer/basket that hangs in the sink. I rinse off the juicer parts after use, put them in the basket to dry, and simply put the basket in the cabinet to store once dried, while the main juicer unit stays on my counter top. I'm much less likely to use these appliances when they are put away and out of sight.

Put foods you want to eat less of in hard to reach places. Better yet, get rid of them entirely. Not ready to do a complete clean out or have a family member who still eats them? Put things like snack foods and sweets on the highest shelf in the pantry or at the back of the top cabinet. Maybe even move them to a space in the garage! Do what it takes to make healthy MORE convenient.

Label everything. Even if you have a designated storage place for allergen-free foods, it's still a good idea to label everything to avoid mix-ups. If someone absentmindedly puts an item in the wrong place, you can catch the mistake by having the foods labeled. For example, if everyone eats almond butter, but not everyone in the home is gluten free, you will want a jar of almond butter that is dedicated gluten free so that children aren't contaminating the jar with bread crumbs. Keeping it labeled, and teaching everyone in the home what that label means, will prevent accidental food ingestion and keep yourself organized.

Keep it Clean. It's hard to keep up with housework and the kids, I know! But, if you can maintain one thing, I recommend keeping your kitchen clean. As a mom to 4 young children, personally speaking, I can't keep up with it all on my own. But I must keep my kitchen clean. If I walk into a mess, it makes me want to walk right out. You can't cook and prepare food if the counters are cluttered and dirty dishes are everywhere. This is the one place I must hold myself accountable to keeping clean. The only time I leave dishes in the sink overnight is if the dishwasher is full and running and I will be putting them in first thing in the morning.
Try to wash those dishes by hand that don't go in the dishwasher, wipe down all surfaces, and sweep the floor every evening. Taking the time to prep for breakfast or school meals will make the morning much easier as well. You don't have to be Martha Stewart, but a clean, inviting kitchen is great motivation for healthy cooking!

Set aside some time, perhaps a morning while the kids are in school or an evening while they are with Dad or Grandma. Go through and take out what you won't be using anymore and then follow these tips for re-organizing everything that will stay. Once the initial makeover is done, the maintenance is easy. And it will make your life much easier as well!