We told the kids this was going to be our “weird food week” – luckily none of them are quite old enough to crack sarcastically, “You mean weirder than normal?”
I thought our family might do the GAPS diet this Lent to see what it would do with my husband’s Crohn’s and my kids’ cradle cap/eczema, but I wasn’t really pulling it together in the weeks before Ash Wednesday. Since nobody’s symptoms are very bad (DH has no symptoms right now), our motivation for undertaking such a massive dietary change – which begins to sound much more difficult the closer you get to making it a reality – wasn’t very high.
Since we were grain-free (and I am sugar-free) for Lent anyway, I decided we’d take 7-10 days and do a “family detox,” like a pseudo made-up GAPS attempt. We started Monday of this week to make it fall between events where we had to be at other people’s houses eating food.
Here’s what we are doing (and remember, this isn’t a “real” diet, just something we’re totally making up as we go in hopes that it gives our guts a little “vacation” and does some good, somehow):
- Day One: no grains, legumes, corn, dairy, potatoes, nuts, raw fruits or veggies, or sweetener of any kind. We did eat eggs, coconut flour, cooked vegs, applesauce, and meats. We had probiotics, although sadly not at every meal. We had lots of bone broth (a mug in the morning and the soup pictured above at dinner).
- Day Two: same as day one except we added 24-hour fermented dairy (yogurt) back in, and some raw fruit and raw veggies.
- Day Three: That’s today. We’ll see what shakes out, but it should be much like yesterday. I figure three days off all sweeteners, nuts, and most dairy are a good thing. I think? Again, just making this up!
- Days Four through Ten: Continue with no grains, legumes, corn or refined sweeteners. Try to not rely on potatoes every day. Continue emphasizing bone broth as much as possible. Bring back lentils first, then other legumes, then gluten-free grains.
I am sharing this, by the way, not so that you can imitate our made-up elimination diet. There’s no science behind it, really, but it has turned out to be the equivalent of training for a big race, in a way.
I learned a LOT the first day about what I would need to do to actually make GAPS happen successfully in our home, if the time comes that we ever feel called to do that diet. It’s like when you’re training for a 5K and folks say that as long as you’ve run half the distance in practice, you’ll make the whole thing when the rubber hits the road. This is our 2.5K training.
Lessons Learned in Starting an Elimination Diet with Kids
We have been mentioning off and on for a few weeks that we were going to take a week as a family to choose to eat no grains, no sweets, no corn – so that people were ready for, “No, crackers aren’t an option with your egg salad,” and “We’re not having any desserts this week.”
My kids were really pretty cool with the idea, which surprised me, and I thought we were mostly ready to go.
What I learned on Monday was that I didn’t prepare them nearly enough.
Next time, I need to explain every part to the children:
- that we’re drinking bone broth all week, even for breakfast, and how it’s important that they finish it all
- that there will be no milk or yogurt or raw fruit for an entire day
- that I’ll still say no to milk the second day
- that we will get to eat applesauce – this was very exciting for the kids simply because we haven’t had a jar open for a while, so it was a fun treat
They were shocked when I said yogurt wasn’t a choice for snack, because our homemade yogurt is always a choice for snack. I just needed to be more specific with the kids about what we were going to do.
To make it easier on everyone, other preparations and changes I’d make in the way we went about this include:
- Start on a Saturday – it was quite difficult packing lunches for my husband and second grade son, so I quickly realized that for the first few days of something like GAPS, when you really should just be having soup at every meal, it would be a ton easier for the whole family to be together all day long.
- Plan every meal, every snack down to each morsel and beverage – What in the world do you make for snacks on GAPS? Seriously soup all day??? That will take some serious explaining to the kids so I don’t have anarchy on my hands if we ever try GAPS. I found that by day two, I had made a few things we could eat, but I just wasn’t prepared for all the things we were cutting out on day one.
- Plan ahead – make some basic soup the day before – a huge batch if you’re smart! Then you don’t have to worry about lunches.
- Make a big batch of beef jerky – one of the few snacks my husband could pack for work when raw fruit and nuts were off the table. Plus some other snacky things we can eat, like coconut flour muffins with date sugar instead of honey and Butternut Spice Bars from Healthy Snacks to Go, without the maple syrup.
- Figure out how to get rid of or store your regular leftovers that you can’t eat, like cut fruit, leftover suppers, opened cheese, etc. The five days before you begin and your shopping trip that week need to be planned out pretty well, too, so that you don’t have a whole bunch of food staring at your that you can’t eat, and then let it go to waste.
- Brainstorm things to do that don’t involve food and that don’t make people think about food (like sitting and watching a show in the morning, which is often accompanied by some before-breakfast trail mix for my kids).
- In “What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days on GAPS” Cara has a shopping list, exact meals that you can eat, and even ideas for what to do as a family that won’t make you think about food. I relied on that book to help me out, but I only cracked it open briefly last week for 5 minutes to help me shop for veggies correctly. I didn’t really read it until the night before we were starting. (That’s dumb, by the way, hence all my “planning” lessons above, learned the hard way.)
Confession: I skipped over the “activities” page thinking, “Yada, yada, I don’t need that….” and then thought about it all day Monday when we started. She was right, I was wrong. Her book is a super resource for the practical side of the GAPS Diet book (and she even tells you exactly what pages in the GAPS book you must read if you’re too short on time to read the whole thing. Love that!).
Have you ever done an elimination diet with kids? What makes it successful and not so painful?
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
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