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
Plan 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.
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 (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) 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
All the food that you can’t eat, like cut fruit, leftover suppers, opened cheese, etc. needs to be given away, frozen or put away somewhere. 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 activities that don’t involve food
…or 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!).
Also from Cara – a brand-new GAPS Starter Package that rolls together all of her resources. It’s the closest you’ll get to having a chef come prepare all your food 😉 At least you’ll have everything you’ll need to get started, in one neat package.
Why Plan Meals for Special Diets?
Of course, a little recipe organization and meal planning is good for those of you who are eating whatever they want, too.
I visited a friend today and remarked on her cute chalkboard with the week’s meals listed. She started telling me how much her family likes seeing what’s coming, and then got more and more excited as she described the benefits of meal planning, which she’s only done for a couple weeks. In that SHORT amount of time, she’s already noticed:
- wasting less food because she thinks about what’s in her refrigerator and plans to use it up
- using food from the freezer more consciously and regularly
- getting in and out of the grocery store more quickly
- using more meat than usual and yet spending less
- she was particularly pumped about the amount of money she is saving by shopping only once a week since she knows what to buy for all five days
I couldn’t be happier for her that she’s discovered the joys and true freedom of menu planning. And all I did was say, “Cute blackboard…that new?”
How to Get Started Menu Planning
You just gotta write it down. Once you do, you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan. Have fun with it! You could:
- Use Pinterest to collect recipes.
- Write a simple list on paper or in a notebook.
- Buy a cute chalkboard, whiteboard, or bulletin board
- Write it on the fridge with magnetic poetry (maybe I’m stretching there)
- Try an online menu planner like Plan to Eat
I admit, I’m still a paper and pencil person, but only because I keep saying I can’t do one more thing on the computer.
However. Whenever I do any strange diets or use a bunch of new recipes, Plan to Eat is my go-to tool. Because of the speed of the “import recipes bookmarklet,” I can just quickly drop new recipes into PTE online and my entire grocery list is auto-generated and ready when I walk into the store.
Plus, once everything is in Plan to Eat, I can drag them around the weekly planner to make things fit my real life daily schedule, make notes on my favs (and not so favs), and I’ve realized that more and more of my recipes are easier to find in my computer than my paper copies, which might end up on the counter, on my desk, or just…AWOL.
This way they’re always in my phone, and I’m ready to cook much faster.
If you’re worried about the upfront time “cost,” because you do have to get the recipes into PTE, don’t – this bookmarklet thing is so cool! It makes a pop-up window sit right next to the website you have open, and you can scroll through either place and copy and paste right into your “recipe box” on Plan to Eat. It seriously takes more time to find the recipe in my long-winded posts than it does to move it over.
A word about copyright: Bloggers and online recipe writers do work very hard to make sure they publish original and delicious recipes. Please be sure to always source exactly to the page you found the recipe, and really, best practice is to only copy the ingredients and write your own method instructions, or just link to the original and let PTE friends check it out there. That’s both legal and courteous. I can upload my own recipes whenever I want, though, because they’re mine!
If you want to check it out, PTE offers a free 30-day trial. Bet you start seeing the financial savings that fast, just like my friend did!
I’m so glad of the chance to remind you of the importance of meal planning for those of you trying an elimination diet of ANY sort.
When you’re working so hard to make changes, you have to be kind to yourself and know what you’re doing each day, or you probably won’t make it.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Health Home and Happiness books from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.