Thursday, September 19, 2013


I’ve had SO many questions about Russell’s gluten-free diet, so I thought I’d write a post about it! Hopefully it can help some of those who have asked me questions, and maybe others too!


Back in March (or February? who knows?), we were approached by the preschool coordinator at our church about some of Russell’s behaviors. I don’t want to go into too much depth about that on a public blog, but I will say that it prompted us to have him re-evaluated with the school system (who does testing for special services like Russell had when he was younger) and also with a private organization.We didn’t go through as much testing as they all wanted, because it all happened around the time Paige was born, and I just couldn’t handle it. But I think we’ve gotten all the answers we need for now. Basically, because of his family history and observable behaviors, we strongly suspect ( as did the psychologists) he is ADD.

I began suspecting this right around March when we were approached at church. So I did a lot of research about what we could do without putting him on medication. (One psychologist told me that “medication is always the first line of defense for ADD.” Really? For a 4-year-old? Not for us, if we can help it!) Anyway, in my own research, I saw that many families believed a gluten-free diet helped their children. The studies about such diets are limited and inconclusive, but I decided to try it anyway with Russell based on those personal anecdotes.


They say it takes at least 6 weeks to rid the gluten from your system and thus, to know if the diet is working, you have to try it for that long. But for us, the difference was instant. We started the diet on a Saturday. On Wednesday, Russell got a special award at Awanas, and his teachers asked us what we were doing differently because he was behaving so well. At church, we heard the same thing. At our homeschool co-op, the same. He was paying more attention, he wasn’t so spacey and fidgety, he was interacting better with other kids.

At this point, he can have a little gluten without it affecting him. He’ll eat a half a cookie from Harris Teeter’s free cookie bin, and a few days later he can have a few goldfish. I have realized that a whole bowl of regular pasta is too much. The difference is obvious – he’ll act like some children do when they have too much sugar, but it stays with him for a couple days.

There are people who say, “People have been eating bread forever, and just now the gluten-free fad is happening. You’re overreacting; it’s wishful thinking that he is acting better; it’s in your head.” Well, yes, people have been eating bread forever, but not GMO bread. And not so many processed foods. And perhaps that was the key – cutting out wheat ended up cutting out a lot of processed foods: goldfish, sugary cereals, donuts, etc. The gluten-free equivalents of those things have much healthier ingredients, in general. I don’t know all of the science behind it, but we’re going to keep doing what works.


Now, the actual diet:

It was really overwhelming to start a gluten-free diet at first. It seemed like all of Russell’s favorite foods included gluten: mac and cheese, cereal bars, biscuits, snacks (like Teddy Grahams, animal crackers, goldfish). And I didn’t want to buy all the specialty gluten-free foods because those would make our budget skyrocket.

I started with a rotation of easy dinners:

  • tacos (corn shells are usually gluten-free, just check the ingredients)
  • gluten-free pasta with sauce (our favorite is Bionaturae – I’ve only found it at Whole Foods)
  • Stir fry
  • Meat, veggie, and potato or rice
  • Hot dogs, veggie, french fries or tater tots (Ore Ida’s are GF)
  • dining out: Chick-Fil-A’s kids’ grilled nugget meal is GF; Red Robin has a GF bun, as does Emma Key’s

(I have many more recipes now, and we hardly eat hot dogs, but this is what I did in the beginning to make it less overwhelming.)

Breakfasts are really easy to make gluten free: eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, sausage, fruit, oatmeal, grits.

For lunches, we choose a main dish – a sandwich on GF bread, 2 hard-boiled eggs, meatballs, hot dogs. Then we add sides: raisins/craisins, pickles and olives (my kids love those), fruit strip or fruit snacks, fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, potato chips, tortilla chips, nuts. We choose from those same items for snacks, too.

And there you have it! The hardest thing (still) is dining out. Generally I just choose things that I think won’t have much gluten – because, like I said, he can handle some.

I’m always happy to answer questions if you have any! Happy eating Smile

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