Did you have a fun Halloween? We did 🙂 Halloween is my favorite holiday, and this year was a great one. My kids are big enough to really “get” the whole trick or treating thing, and seeing them excited made me excited, too. Sadly, they are also big enough now to be less willing to participate in a family costume theme. Sigh. I guess we can’t all dress up like food every year, right Dad?
This year Halloween fell on a Saturday, which meant day-long celebration complete with lots of parties! There were sugar, gluten, and dairy-filled treats galore, and the kiddos enjoyed every bite. Maybe even more so than most kids, because our kids are dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dye-free 80% 0f the time. That other 20% of the time they might eat some dairy, gluten, or sugar, but letting loose isn’t typically to the Halloween degree.
Before you think I’ve lost it and am starving my kids, please know they are all healthy and happy little people. The basis for the our children’s diet was inspired by the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet developed by well-known pediatrician and parent Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Briefly, the GAPS diet:
“…focuses on removing foods that are difficult to digest and damaging to gut flora and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods to give the intestinal lining a chance to heal and seal.”
As I mentioned in my discussion of probiotics, connections between healthy gut bacteria and overall health are even becoming popular and accepted in conventional western medicine. The GAPS diet is a much more comprehensive lifestyle than simply removing dairy, gluten, dyes, and refined sugars. There are numerous stages to the process that are designed to “heal the gut.” (You can read more here). For us, I didn’t think at this point (january 2015) a complete GAPS diet protocol was required because my kids have been on a probiotic since birth, the majority of their foods have always been organic and healthy. Plus, I didn’t see myself having the physical energy or time it takes to complete the whole 6 stage diet. I did, however, feel like some diet changes, specifically dairy-free, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free were worth a try. Logan’s OT had already suggested eliminating dairy, I wondered how dairy was affecting Jackson’s asthma, and I noticed Ava had GI issues when she ate gluten.
I was ready to make changes, but it seemed impossible to explain to my then 2 and 4 years olds that they couldn’t have a cupcake or a slice of pizza at their friend’s birthday party. I wanted them to still be able to eat the foods kids like to eat, just not all of the time. So, I adopted a plan from my husband’s Cross Fit “Paleo friends.” After the initial 30 day elimination, some Paleo-enthusiasts follow the Paleo diet 80% of the time, and don’t follow it 20% of the time. I knew my kids had food sensitivities, but with birthday parties/play group/school functions, it didn’t seem possible to be DF/GF, etc. 100% of the time. I did think, though, that we could strive for DF/GF 80% of the time. I had no idea if this would work, but I wanted to try.
I saw near immediate changes after eliminating dairy and gluten from my kids’ diet. Logan’s eczema cleared up, and neither of my sons had to use the nebulizer for their asthma throughout the winter season. Logan’s OT noticed right away that he didn’t look red & bloated, and had a longer attention span. Gluten made a big difference for Ava, who has some GI issues when she has gluten, and generally avoids it (that kid knows her body!). I noticed that the less gluten Logan had, the less he craved and gravitated towards these types of snack foods. Jackson’s moods seemed to be more stable, and he generally seemed to have more energy.
This all started in January 2015, and we are still going strong almost 10 months later because we believe the results, and find the 80/20 balance very do-able. Even my picky kids understand that they need good food to function, and that treats are ok that 20% of the time.
So, what do my kids eat?
- Lots of fruit (there are many beige-colored fruits of Logan)
- Homemade applesauce (which I note because it’s in the full GAPS)
- As many vegetables as I can convince them to eat (carrots for Jackson & everything else for Ava)
- Avocado (Logan’s one non-beige food)
- DF/GF turkey meatballs, ground turkey, GF/DF chicken and fish nuggets (Jackson & Ava)
- Eggs (Ava only. Jackson has a raw egg allergy. Logan won’t go near eggs.)
- GF pasta and Pretzels
- HUMMUS (lots of it)
- Smoothies–check out their favorite recipe here
- Homemade fruit gummies (recipe soon)
- GF Oatmeal (not Logan, it’s a texture thing)
- Fortified GF cereal (with almond milk or watered-down calcium fortified OJ)
- Trail Mix with homemade granola
- Whatever DF/GF muffins I bake up (like this yummy-ness)
- Almond butter or PB sandwiches on GF bread
- And their favorite–Pancakes (I hide hidden veggies in them, look for that recipe soon).
I cook the vast majority of my children’s food, and I am honest that it would be more difficult to follow this diet if I was unable to do that. It is not super easy, but it is also not super hard. It’s just different.
I don’t know if is the way they will eat for a year or forever. I have a hunch that Logan is much better off being DF, and Ava being GF, but I don’t know about Jackson (he has a raw egg allergy so he already avoids those.) All I know is that for right now, the kids are happy and healthy living this 80/20 lifestyle, and we continue to see benefits. That’s reason enough for me to keep on doing it.