The Gluten Free/Casein Free Experiment Round 2, Post #1
Back on the Diet…We’re not dieters. I’ve always just eaten “what ever I like.” It turns out I just don’t particularly like terribly unhealthy foods… or eating to excess. So I’ve never really “needed” to diet, in the traditional sense. As a child sweets and pastries seemed to make me hyper and well… a bit odd, and I usually ended up crashing into a sobbing mess. So my mother limited the availability of sugar and I tended to avoid sweets and baked goods, particularly as I got older. I never liked cake, store bought cookies, or condiments, and milk chocolate reminded me of eating crayons – which is another childhood habit I avoided. When asked of my favorite food in grade school I proudly spouted, “BEANS!” to the great shock, and occasional horror, of the inquirer. Not surprisingly my children have followed suit, and while we very much enjoy baking and sweeter fair, we tend to appreciate it on our own terms, opting for oats, fruit, rice and nuts over wheat flour, and stashing most of our creations in the freezer for later enjoyment.
Though I realized most people tended to appreciate doughnuts and pizza far more than I, I never viewed my eating habits as anomalous or strange, but as I’ve had the opportunity to eat with more people, and sample more foods I generally avoided when I was younger, the role of foods in our bodies, or MY body anyway, has become more and more obvious. Even so, I’ve struggled with accepting the idea of the ever growing popularity of food avoidance diets, mostly initiated by parents for their children. I COMPLETELY understand the biological importance of limiting sugar, certain fats, excess protein, artificial substances and (obviously) harmful chemicals, but I will admit I was skeptical when friends and family would claim copious food allergies, especially to commonly eaten and historically staple foods.
*This is where I admit I was wrong… be sure to bask in it. ;)*
So when my son started showing what have been sited as common signs of a particular suite of food sensitivities, I was skeptical at first, but having tried everything else available to us, we decided no harm could come of giving a little diet a try. So much to my bread-eating, ice cream- and yogurt-loving, cheese-savoring family’s chagrin, we all jumped on the gluten-free/casein-free bandwagon and said good-bye to all dairy, wheat, barley, rye, MSG and all their delicious products. All of us but one…
I had no problem transitioning to a bit more rice, salad, soy and the like, but Daddy Bear opted to simply be covert about his love of milk on his cereal, hot cocoa in his mug (enjoyed under the codename “daddy tea”), and wheat bread snuggling his sandwiches. Little Bear took to the new diet swimmingly, albeit with plenty of physiological changes that were a bit to struggle though at first. I too felt worse initially, but then realized my stomach, and surprisingly, my BRAIN seemed much happier. Which makes me wonder if my issues with foods as a child were a bit more to do with the wheat and milk in many sweets, rather than simply the sugar. I also realized in our initial experiment that we rarely ate fast food and processed foods in my youth, as we lived so far from “civilization,” which of course were the bulk of foods we were now avoiding.
The changes we were looking for were not quick to surface. Though it only took about a week or so to work through the tummy troubles, it was nearly 3 months before the mood swings subsided. After that, it was smooth sailing, in more ways than I can explain! But there were struggles, mostly social, particularly having him in preschool. He couldn’t eat what was served in class, no matter how tempting. All of his snacks were sent from home, and there were plenty of occasions when he would come home out of sorts and in obvious discomfort after a substitute forced a snack on him, or another parent convinced him he could have a cupcake. I tried to be cool about it, not wanting to come off as the crazy new-age mom, but the unfortunate reality was it really was hard on him both emotionally and physically. After about 8 months on the diet, and MUCH discussion of the pros and cons, we decided to see if he’d “grown out” of his sensitivities, so slowly we started introducing dairy, then after about a month, gluten (wheat and such).
A month or so after the second reintroduction things seemed to even out and he seemed to be doing fairly well, but over the course of about 4 or 5 months, we started to see more and more of the old issues. So after much discussion and me secretly limiting gluten and casein when possible, without being obnoxious, we agreed to give it another go.
So here we are about a month into the diet, and things seem to be getting better. This being said, I’m trying even harder than before to make our food as much like “normal food” as I can so maybe Daddy Bear will be a bit more comfortable jumping on board too. Little bear is older now so he’s become an EXCELLENT judge of food contents, and as he LOVES to read food packages he’s become a great help in triaging his own food. He’s also helping pack his own snack so he’s much prouder of what pops out of his pack and is less likely to covet the group snack.
The biggest problem we still face is finding adequate substitutes for Daddy Bear’s “comfort foods.” I have found in searching recipes there are plenty of great ideas, but many of them taste NOTHING like their gluten/casein containing counterparts, which simply doesn’t fly in our house. So while those chicken salad and spiced quinoa recipes sound down right amazing to me, my husband is sneaking it into his napkin while wondering why yesterday’s pancakes were flat and gummy, all the while dreaming of tuna noodle casserole and cheese soup… preferably in the same meal!
While it didn’t occur to me, several of my nearest and dearest have pondered, some more loudly than others, why I haven’t blogged about this until this point. Well, I guess I just assumed this thing that is a bit of a struggle for our family would seem silly to others. So if none of this is striking a chord with you, feel free to breeze by the recipe posts, but if you too struggle with cutting out what have been described to me as “little slices of heaven drenched in syrup” (AKA pancakes), or Garfield the Cat’s favorite entree, we’re excited to share some of our discoveries and get your take, and we’d LOVE to hear about things you’ve tried that pleased the masses!
-Mommy Vegas & the Naptime Gnome <;’)