When I started the gfcf diet in our home, it was a full-time job to find recipes and ingredients. Many of the recipes produced inedible results! It was tiring, discouraging, and expensive.
I've learned, however, that it doesn't have to be so difficult or discouraging to begin or maintain a gfcf diet! Now that I have developed delicious, easy-to-follow recipes, even my childrens' grandparents help with some of the baking and cooking. Now that I know which manufactured products taste the best, I do not waste as much money experimenting.
I've included all of this information in my cookbook, The Good Food Cookbook For Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diets. Although I've included some of them on this site, it would be impossible to share all of them here. If you decide to purchase a cookbook, net proceeds will go to support the work of The Gray Center, benefitting those with autistic spectrum disorders. Your support is greatly appreciated!
The Gray Center
Here are just a few tips for implementing a gluten-free and casein-free diet. Other tips are included in my cookbook.
Tip 1: Gluten-Free flours
Generally speaking, you should avoid wheat, rye, barley, and oat flours. There is some debate as to whether spelt, kamut, buckwheat, and millet also contain gluten. We also avoid these flours.
The flours that I use daily include: brown and white rice, potato starch, and tapioca flour/starch. I occasionally use potato flour also. Other flours are available, including quinoa, soy, chickpea, and sorghum. They tend to be more expensive than the other flours, and have stronger flavors, although they can be substituted in small amounts for other flours.
Tip 2: Using xanthan gum to replace gluten.
Xanthan gum comes in a fine powder. It is used to enhance a smooth texture, and to act as the "glue" in baked goods when gluten is removed. It helps to keep gluten-free baked goods from getting too crumbly.
When using xanthan gum, be sure to mix it with another flour before exposing it to liquids, since it does not mix well with liquids. (And if you spill it on the counter, wipe it up with a DRY, not wet, towel).
Guar gum is a similar replacement, but is rumored to be linked to intestinal difficulties, which we chose to avoid.
Tip 3: Avoiding casein
Casein is milk protein. It is difficult to avoid, particularly since many "dairy-free" products (whipped toppings, creamers, etc.)contain casein. It is helpful for me to watch for the "Kosher" symbol on foods, making sure that they are not followed by a "D" indicating the presence of dairy.
Some ingredients to avoid include: butter flavor, buttermilk, casein, caseinate, cheese, cream, curds, custard, hydrolysates, lactalbumin, lactoglobulin, and lactose.
Tip 4: Monitoring reactions to the diet
Some parents choose not to go "cold turkey" by removing both gluten and casein from their child's diet simultaneously. Withdrawal is possible for those who have an intolerance to these proteins. My husband and I removed both at the same time, and although we saw some minor withdrawal (following us around asking for yogurt and bread, and crying easily) in our youngest son, it was also a very clear indication that the diet was likely to work.
It is important to monitor what a child is eating, since other foods can prove to be a problem once the gluten and casein are removed. Often, it becomes apparent that a person is also intolerant to corn, soy, eggs, yeast and sugars, food dyes, etc. Keeping a diary or journal of the foods being consumed, along with behaviors observed, can be very helpful. We have recently discovered that some fruits (namely apples, bananas, and citrus such as oranges) have the same effect on our oldest son as gluten and casein do, causing difficulty with focusing and paying attention, and more frequent obsessions. He does MUCH better when he avoids these fruits.
Many parents report a dramatic change in their children once they begin this diet. Others become discouraged when they do not see much of a difference. This may be due to their child's genetic make-up, age, the strictness with which the diet is followed, and the severity of their autistic behaviors (if the diet is being used with a child with ASD). It is generally felt that once implemented, the diet should be followed strictly for three months before determining whether it should be continued. This is due to the fact that although dairy can be eliminated from the system within three days, it can take up to 6 months for the gluten to completely disappear.
It is recommended that you seek the support of a qualified health professional before and during implementation of a gfcf (or any) diet.
Tip 5: Monitoring acceptable name brands
It is helpful to know which brand names are gfcf, including spaghetti sauces, milk and margarine alternatives, cereals, etc. The best way I have found to do this is to regularly check the web site www.gfcfdiet.com (they update lists of ingredients and products), or to call a manufacturer to ask whether their product contains gluten or casein.
Please note that a manufacturer (or one of their suppliers) can change ingredients at any time, rendering a previously gfcf product unacceptable. Continue to read labels, and to check the above recommended resources to watch for pertinent changes.