Restrictive Diets

Growing up I had never even heard of gluten. Having to account for children not being allowed certain foods was not even a consideration. I honestly didn’t even know kid that was allergic to any foods. Fast forward to today; it is rare to not have the question brought up every time you sign up for the snack list at sports or at school, “Are there any food allergies that we should be aware of?” Restrictive diets for various reasons are more common now for kids than ever before. If you have a child with a severe food allergy, then obviously putting the child on a diet that excludes those foods is a no brainer. But what about only an intolerance to some foods, or even only a suspected intolerance? Is a restrictive diet a good idea?

If you spend time on autism forums, with other autism mommas, or go to see any holistic or integrative physician, then the topic of a restrictive diet will likely be brought up sooner or later. Children with autism in general often seem more susceptible to toxins and unwanted environmental substances. We also know how important the gut-brain barrier can be for children on the spectrum. So, it is not crazy to think hard about the food that your child is putting in their body every day. There are many different restrictive diets that you may hear recommended, but the one we have heard most often (and was advised by our doctor to trial) was the gluten free, casein free (GFCF) diet. But regardless of popularity, whatever restrictive diet you try will come with some challenges. Today I don’t plan on giving you the specifics of good and bad that we saw through our specific restrictive diet (we will dive into that at another time). Instead, I just want to give you my top tips on getting started and making the most out of any restrictive diet you want to trial.

1. Be All In

If this is a trial, and you really want to get an idea of the results of being off of a certain substance, then you need to be COMPLETELY off of it. An example of this for us was to make sure that we avoided all forms of casein, we didn’t even eat things that contained milk to be safe, such as regular bread. I can tell you first hand; this will likely be more of a lifestyle change than you realize. There will be a lot more prep involved, and a large shift in your day-to-day thinking about food. And just when you think you have got the hang of it at home, then you go out and realize how limited your choices may be when away from home. Being “all in” is not easy, and you may even make a mistake here and there with it, but if you want a real look at the results, then you have to put in the work.


2. Give it Time

You may see some great results with your new diet, but it will likely take a few weeks or even months to see real results from a restrictive diet. If the substance was affecting your body in a negative way, it will take some time for your body to heal once that substance is removed. Rome was not built in a day, and a restrictive diet will not work magically overnight. Be prepared as well for some die off reactions. You are getting rid of a substance that your body has been clinging onto for some time now, and even if it is good for you to remove the substance, your body will not love the change at first, and may go through a state of withdrawal. Just remember the beginning is always the hardest, and it is just 3 weeks to form the new routine!


3. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

There are some perks to living in our day and age. One is that you are far from the only person starting a restrictive diet. I mean, there are entire sections in the stores now dedicated to things such as gluten free foods. Use this to your advantage, especially in the beginning when you are just starting to learn what you can and can’t have. Pinterest is your friend. You can find pages upon pages of recipes for these restrictive diets, which really come in handy. The last item I would suggest is downloading an app that allows you to scan barcodes or lookup places to eat that have menu items that fit your restrictions. There are so many ways to get the information you need right at your fingertips now. Reap the rewards of not being the first person to do this and let the tech do the hard work for you!


Restrictive diets are far from easy. I’m not going to lie, the diet that we chose had our experience feeling a lot less like a diet, and more like a complete lifestyle change. Because of this, it is not surprising that many families opt to do these diets together, as it can be very difficult to have just one person on a diet in such an all-in fashion. You may find that a restrictive diet is not right for you or your child because of this, and that’s ok. But if you have suspicions or think that your child may benefit from one of these restrictive diets, then I would suggest giving it a go for at least a few months to see. Even though it isn’t easy, you may be very pleasantly surprised with the results of a restrictive diet.