The GFCF diet dilemma: Cooking Vs. Shopping

Here you are, once again, standing in the aisles of the grocery store, endlessly reading labels. It doesn’t even help that this is the “Health Food” store- you feel like crying as you come to grips with the fact that there is nothing for your child to eat. At least, not in a package… You go home and start trawling the Internet for solutions. You find some companies who sell some products that sound promising. They state right on their site that their product is GFCF! Excitedly you whip out the trusty credit card and buy a case! When the food comes in the mail, you rip open the box, pull it out and make dinner. You put it on your child’s plate. He takes one bite and spits it out. On the floor. The dog comes over. Sniffs. He won’t eat it either. Frustrated, you gingerly take a bite. It is so gross, it tastes like raw crushed pinto beans. Angry now, you look at the package to find the address of the company so you can write a scathing letter when you notice, in microscopic print, a statement which says “This product was manufactured on equipment that also processes wheat, soy , dairy, nuts, shellfish….Not guaranteed to be gluten free.”

Sound familiar?

I remember those days quite vividly. I think we were like a lot of people, we didn’t really think that much about what we fed our kids (or ourselves). We fed them veggies for dinner- that is healthy right? We didn’t read labels and frankly we didn’t want to know what all the stuff in the macaroni and cheese was. I didn’t cook anything that took longer than 10 minutes to make. One of the main transitions you need to make to be really successful doing the GFCF diet is the transition from shopping to cooking. I had always thought shopping was easier than cooking. I have found that this is not true- even for those not on the diet! I no longer spend hours in the grocery store looking at packaging trying to decide from advertising what will be the best for my family. It seems to me that it takes just as long to read all the labels on cans of chicken broth trying to find one without “natural flavors” (which is almost always some form of gluten in my experience) than it does to take a whole chicken, put it in a pan of water and let it simmer for awhile. The other bonus is that chicken broth you make yourself is one hundred percent gluten free, and all natural. You can be sure of it, you no longer have to trust a wrapper. I can hear you saying, but I work all day, I don’t have time to make broth like cave people! That is exactly where the transition comes in. I really had to knuckle down and learn how to cook. Like cave people. Surprisingly, I have learned to enjoy it. It is really satisfying to feed your children soup that you made from absolute scratch, knowing it is healthy and safe for them and tastes good. What do we say when they have doubts about this new, strange food that does not come from a can? We tell them it is gourmet!

There are a few things I have learned that make it all easier. The first thing is that the crock pot is your friend. We currently have three. You can use a crock pot to make chicken broth while you are at work. You can put hot cream of rice in it for cold mornings and it will cook it while you sleep. A crock pot can cook a roast and veggies all day to perfection while you do more interesting things. On days that I know will be busy, often the night before, I will load up one crock pot with hot breakfast cereal, and one with a roast or some stew while the children pack their lunches for the next day. I will plug in the cereal pot before we go to bed, and then all I have to do the next day for food is to plug in the other crock pot before we leave for the day. In about 45 minutes I can have breakfast, lunch and dinner done for the entire next day. Really, if I can do this, anyone can. It does take practice, but eventually you will learn things that will work for your family.

One final word- cooking is a million times less expensive that trying to shop for prepackaged GFCF food. Since you can make sure your food is safe, you will also be spending less money taking sick children to the doctor. For most people with autistic children this means you will now have the money to pursue some of the more expensive treatments like HBOT, or going to see Dr. Bradstreet. Good luck! For some recipes to get you started , look here.

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