It’s been five and a half years since we’ve taken gluten and casein out of my son George’s diet and I have not had a day of regret about choosing to make changes in diet as part of my son’s path. Eating GFCF—and increasing the amount of true healing foods into my son’s diet—has helped him to sleep better, learn better, focus more and sustain a healthy digestive system…all things that seemed out of our reach for George.
There are many resources that help parents to transition off of gluten/casein and adapt to a GFCF diet, but there aren’t so many resources out there about helping families sustain their commitment and energy about staying on the diet long-term. As children enter elementary school, parents face challenges with our kids feeling left out of birthday and holiday celebrations. There are field trips and class parties; informal and formal family events—and parents need to stay on top of providing healthy choices for our kids in all of these situations. Even when families see the initial benefit of eating GFCF, they can sometimes hit a wall of burn-out after a few years.
Keeping this reality in mind, I want to emphasize an antidote to parent GFCF fatigue: making preparation of your GFCF food into a family affair. As a mom, cookbook author and cooking instructor for children of all abilities, I’ve witnessed how dramatic the effects of bringing children into the cooking process with you can be. Rather than children feeling like they are always left out of what peers are eating, families can put their children into the driver’s seat and nurture their development as they learn to prepare healthy food. This simple shift of making cooking into a time that builds connection and communication between you and your child can take away the parent’s feeling that preparing special food is just one more item for your to do list. Cooking together—even f it’s an activity you do once a week or once a month–becomes a time of sharing, exceitement and motivation rather than just a chore.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing all about cooking with kids at the Autism One/Generation Rescue conference and I hope that if you’re able to be there, you can join me to learn about how cooking with kids can:
1. Boost Developmental Skills: No doubt you are already helping your child to develop important fine and gross motor skills; to learn to read and do math. Cooking is an opportunity to work on ALL of these skills and more…in fact, in “The Kitchen Classroom,” I identify how each step of my recipes can be an opportunity to work on developmental skills.
2. Encourage Kids to try New Foods: It’s challenge to stay committed to a GFCF diet when children refuse to try new foods. Cooking is a multi-sensory experience that encourages children to small a variety of aromas and touch a number of textures. In my experience, children who’ve participated in a recipe are more willing to taste new foods. Even if you begin with one bite, you have room to grow each time that you cook together.
3. Develop Social Relationships: For children who struggle with making connections, cooking is an ideal activity to work on turn-taking, back and forth communication and sharing experience. In “The Kitchen Classroom”, I explain how you can “frame” a cooking experience to be successful for your child’s developmental level by setting it up with the supports that he/she may need. As cooking becomes successful for your child, he/she may be more and more eager to cook with you and you can make regular time for this experience-sharing activity.
I’ll be sharing lots more ideas about the benefits of cooking with your kids at the Autism One/Generation Rescue conference, and if you can’t join us at the conference, there will be live streaming available. I would love to hear your ideas and experiences in cooking with your kids and avoiding GFCF burnout!
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer blogs about family and food at www.kitchenclassroom4kids.com. She loves presenting about GFCF cooking with children of all abilities and can come to your organization in person or via skype!