The GFCF diet has helped improve the lives of many children and their families. But, there is much to learn when you’re first starting out. You want to ensure you’re doing GFCF the right way while avoiding the common mistakes and pitfalls that may slow progress.
In this article: I will share (click to jump to a section)
- What your very 1st step should be
- What exactly the GFCF diet is
- The ultimate goal with GFCF
- Food To Eat
- Food To Avoid
- Many other helpful resources
Your Crash Course On The GFCF Diet
This GFCF Diet Guide will provide you with the information needed to get started. Think of this article like a crash course on the gluten-free, casein-free diet.
For those that really want to dive deeper or want step-by-step video instruction, I also offer “The GFCF Family Class”, which you’ll hear more about throughout this guide.
Remember, I’m simply a Dad sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve learned over the past 9 years. The content in this guide is for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice.
A Parent’s Guide To The GFCF Diet:
Your First Step
Before learning how to do GFCF, there is an important step I highly recommend for you.
Find a qualified professional to help guide you through this journey. Oftentimes, our kids are faced with other medical issues that we didn’t know they had. Things like food sensitivities, nutritional deficits, chronic infections just to name a few.
I can show you how to do the diet and teach you more about food, but you want to find a professional to help guide you and identify any of these deeper medical issues. Unfortunately, not too many doctors and nutritionists know a lot about this approach, so you want to look for naturopathic doctors, functional medicine doctors or nutritionists. The links below are a good place to start.
- MAPS Doctors
- Integrative Medical Doctors
- Functional Medicine Practitioners
- Bioindividual Nutritionist
What is the GFCF Diet?
The acronym GFCF is actually pretty misleading because most doctors will also recommend the removal of soy. This means GFCF actually means GFCFS gluten free, casein free, and soy free).
Whenever I use GFCF I am always referring to GFCFSF. (I am using only GFCF simply because it will help others find this page when searching Google)
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein commonly found in wheat, rye, barley, and most oats. We can now find this deleterious ingredient everywhere.
Because of its sticky composition it’s become a favorite tool of chefs & food scientists, so you will find it in a host of packaged & processed foods.
Of course you’ll find gluten in obvious places like pizza, bread, and pasta, but you’ll also find it hidden in salad dressings, ketchups, deli meats, potato chips, and a host of other foods. It may even be lurking in your shampoo, toothpaste, and art supplies. (glue, play-doh…)
What Is Casein?
Casein is one of 2 proteins in dairy (whey being the other).
It’s well accepted that casein is difficult for humans to digest and it can be highly inflammatory for many people especially those with poor gut health. It can also contribute to addiction-like behaviors.
When it is not fully digested, both gluten and casein can turn into opiate-like compounds called gluteomorphins & casomorphins. These compounds act on the same receptors as oxycodone, heroin, and other opioid drugs.
This is one reason for extreme picky eating and odd or crazy behaviors after children eat these foods.
“I believe dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, second only to gluten.” -Dr Amy Myers
What About Soy?
Contrary to popular belief, soy is not a health food. Unless you buy organic, there is a high likelihood that it will be GMO-Soy.
GMOs are designed to withstand endless spraying of herbicides like glyphosate. It’s becoming clear the detrimental affect glyphosate can have on our health, so avoiding foods heavily sprayed is essential.
Even organic soy is not without its problems. It is highly allergenic, may inhibit thyroid function, and is high in omega 6 fats, lectins, & other antinutrients.
Soy has also been linked to seizures, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
What Is So Bad About Gluten, Casein, & Soy?
These 3 foods are problematic for many reasons and each have been linked to a variety of health conditions. All you really need to know is summed up below.
Gluten, Casein, & Soy Can:
- Cause Leaky Gut & Inflammation
- Get Converted Into Opiate-Like Compounds
- Trigger Autoimmune Reactions
- Increase Exposure To Glyphosate
- Lead To Elevated Levels Of Glutamate In The Brain*
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that plays many important roles in health. However, when levels get too high nerve cell damage can occur. Kids with autism and ADHD often have problems clearing glutamate from the brain.
When kids with autism eat foods high in glutamate, they may exhibit symptoms such as hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, self-injurious behaviors, changes or increases in stimming behaviors, and be unable to sleep well.
Want More Info?
If you want to dive deeper into the problems associated with these foods, I recommend reading my article, “10 Foods That Cause Inflammation”.
EBook is Available
|This GFCF Guide will always be free here on ImSimplyaDad.com. However, I have an ebook that goes into even more detail that I send all new email subscribers. If you’d like to own this guide and be able to read it offline, you can purchase the EBook for a mere $5. OR, Simply enter your email at the end of this page and I’ll send you a free copy.|
What Is The Goal Of The GFCF Diet?
The goal with the GFCF diet is to calm inflammation. These foods can all spark that inflammatory fire and may even trigger an immune response of some kind. When we eat these foods all throughout the day, that fire burns hotter and longer.
Stop Fanning The Flame
Consider the average American diet. We have cereal with milk for breakfast, a ham & cheese sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner. Not only is that processed food after processed food, but it’s all gluten, dairy, and soy all day long.
It’s no wonder our kids are struggling and their immune systems are in hyperdrive. By changing their diets, we can start to calm down their immune system.
Why Isn’t Everyone Sick
You may be wondering if these foods are so bad, then why aren’t all kids sick. Why don’t they all have autism or some other diagnosis.
The first thing I will say about that is there’s a whole lot of children out there, right now, suffering.
Chronic childhood conditions are ever-expanding, and according to some experts in 5 years, 80% of children will have at least one chronic condition. A diagnosis that will cause them increased challenges throughout their entire lives.
Having said that, some people are able to handle the immune response to these foods and some are lucky enough to have such a healthy and robust microbiome that they experience no ill effects.
But sadly, that is not the case for a growing number of both adults and children. For many of us, this inflammatory response leads to food sensitivities, leaky gut, and/or chronic inflammation.
This inflammatory fire or immune response I am talking about is known as chronic inflammation.
“Chronic inflammation is one of the greatest health risks we face today. It is the underlying condition behind nearly every type of disease and is a major cause of autoimmune disease.” (Dr. Amy Myers, The Autoimmune Solution)
Chronic Inflammation May Cause:
- Impaired ability to concentrate or focus
- Speech & Language problems
- Cognitive Problems
- Problem Behaviors
- Mood and/or Behavior Disorders
- Frequent Infections
- GI distress (diarrhea, constipation, bloating)
- Acne & Eczema
- Food Allergies/Sensitivities
- Sleep issues
- And A Whole Lot More
Chronic Inflammation Autism & ADHD
People with autism tend to have an immune system that is constantly on.
Inflammation can be a good thing. You get a fever when you’re dealing with an infection. That is a sign that the body is fighting.
You want that to happen whenever you’re injured or under attack by a virus or other microbe. Once the damage is repaired or threat eliminated, the immune system powers down and inflammation subsides.
However, in the autism population that immune response is never turned off which of course leads to chronic inflammation.
For more on this subject: read my article What Does Inflammation Have To Do With Autism?
How Long Do You Have To Stay GFCFSF?
Oftentimes, gluten, casein, and soy trigger an immune response and the body may even create antibodies against them. (as happens in the case of a food sensitivity) Because of this reaction, you must go ALL-IN; there are no cheat days on GFCF.
You Have To Go All In. There is no such thing as a cheat day with GFCFSF.
It can take months for the immune system to calm down. This is why most doctors recommend staying GFCFSF for a minimum of 6 months. However, that 6 months doesn’t start until you are 100% free from gluten, casein, & soy.
If there is an accidental exposure or cheat, then you really should reset the clock to give it a good 6 month window of 100% compliance.
The Ultimate Goal Of GFCF
As you can see, chronic inflammation is a big deal, so you want to do everything you can to reduce possible inflammatory triggers. Food may be the best place to start!
It’s usually not enough to simply eliminate gluten, casein, and soy. There are plenty of foods out there that are free of these 3 foods, but that doesn’t mean they are good for your children.
You want to choose foods that will nourish their bodies, ease inflammation, and allow the body to begin to heal and repair.
A nourishing GFCF diet is your ultimate goal. It does take time to get here. Not many parents can switch their current menu to one that is whole foods based, and full of healthy, home-cooked meals and snacks.
It might take months or even years to get to a nourishing GFCF diet. Once you get here, then your kids can really begin to flourish.
What Is A Nourishing GFCF Diet
I’ll get to foods you can eat when you’re gluten, dairy, & soy free in a moment. Let’s first define what I mean by a nourishing GFCF diet.
A nourishing GFCF diet is a whole-food based diet full of nourishing and nutrient dense foods.
Foods To Include Generously On A Nourishing GFCF Diet
- Lots of non starchy vegetables
- Grass fed animals meats & bone broth
- Healthy fats like coconut & olive oil
This is not an all encompassing list of foods you can eat on GFCFSF, but you do want to include generous amounts of these foods. They will provide your children with the building blocks their bodies need to heal and repair.
It Takes Time
For most people, the idea of cooking 2-3 meals a day and getting your child to eat these foods seems impossible and might feel like too much to handle.
This is your end goal and it can take a year or longer to get there. Don’t let this stop you from moving forward
|Teaching parents how to transition to a nourishing GFCF diet is a major focus of my GFCF Family Class, so if you want to learn more about choosing the best foods for your family, this is a great option. (scholarships available to those in need. Email me and we can chat about options [email protected])|
Want More Info?
If you’re not interested in joining us inside The GFCF Family Class, you can learn more about what foods may be slowing progress by reading any or all of the articles below.
You can also find more information in my GFCF Ebook available for just $5 (or free to my email subscribers, sign up at the end of this article) If you’d like to purchase the Ebook click here.
- 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation
- What Does Inflammation Have To Do With Autism? (and what to do about it)
- Hidden Sources of Gluten, Casein, and Soy
Putting it All Together:
A nourishing GFCFSF diet seeks to ease the burden on the body and allow it to start healing. It takes away many sources of inflammation and helps the immune system to throttle down.
With autism, the goal is to help the child feel better, and thus be better prepared for progress through other therapies and treatments.
How To Transition to a GFCF Diet
There is no right or wrong way to start working towards a 100% GFCFSF diet, so long as you’re always moving forward.
You could take the leap and go all in “cold turkey” style like we did, or you might prefer a slow and steady approach.
Slow and steady can get you to GFCFSF compliance in about 6-10 weeks. It is a lot less stressful, but going cold turkey can get you to 100% GFCFSF right away. It really depends on your personal preference and what you think would be best.
Slow & Steady Wins the Race
Most experts will recommend this method due to its reduced potential for an adverse reaction.
With the slow & steady approach, you typically remove casein first. All sources of dairy are removed for a period of at least 2 weeks.
Then, gluten is removed for 2 weeks followed by soy 2 weeks later.
Other Ideas to Transition to the GFCF Diet
If you feel like you need more help figuring out how to transition, I discuss how to get to 100% compliance as well as the transition phases to get you to a nourishing GFCF diet in my Ebook and in even greater detail inside The GFCF Family Class.
What Can I Eat on a GFCF Diet
I’m sure you are really anxious to learn what exactly you CAN eat on a GFCF diet, and we’re going to get to that in one second. But first, let’s discuss food quality.
It is important to buy the absolute best quality food your family can afford. This means organic produce, grass-fed, pasture-raised animal meats and eggs, cold-pressed organic oils and fats with limited packaged foods.
If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, that is okay. I repeat. That is okay. Buy the best you can afford. Look for ways to save money in other areas of your life so you can afford a little bit better quality of food.
I do have an article that outlines how our family of 5 eats healthy on a teacher’s budget that may help you too.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat, so the better the food, the faster your family can begin to feel better.
Foods To Eat
Below is a quick summary of the foods available to you on a GFCFSF diet. However, when you’re buying prepackaged or frozen foods you want to be on the lookout for hidden or obvious sources of gluten, casein, & soy.
For instance, animal products are great to include in your GFCF diet, but if you buy frozen burgers or chicken nuggets, those might contain unwanted ingredients. You can read more about finding hidden sources here.
I also offer a free cheat sheet that lists all the hidden ingredients that are made from gluten, casein, and soy. That cheet sheet comes with both my Ebook (free to email subscribers or for $5 here) and my online course.
Food To Eat On A Gluten-Free, Casein-Free, Soy-Free Diet
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Animal Products: Meat, Fish, Eggs
- Beans, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
- GF Grains
- GFCFSF Cooking/Baking Ingredients
- Healthy Fats
- DF & SF Milks/Cheeses
- GFCFSF Condiments
Fruits & Vegetables
- Any Whole Fruit or Vegetable (fresh or frozen)
- Fruit Juices (although best to avoid)
- Canned, jarred, pureed, sauces, dried, jellies (verify labels)
- Dirty Dozen (avoid/buy organic)
You can eat any whole fruit or vegetable without worry. If you cannot afford to buy organic, pay attention to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.
These lists are put out by the Environmental Working Group and outline produce with the highest and lowest amounts of residual herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals can contribute to inflammation, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.
More Info Here: EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
- Beef, Bison, & Lamb
- Chicken & Eggs
- Fish & Shellfish (wild caught, stick to smaller fish)
The most obvious source of protein comes from meat and fish. All unprocessed meats and fish are GFCFSF.
However, with processed meat, like ham, hot dogs, & bacon, you’ll have to dive a little deeper. It depends on what the meat was processed with and what fillers are included if they are GFCFSF.
Remember to buy the highest quality animal protein you can afford. Healthier animals make healthier food for you and me. Look for key terms like these:
- Pasture raised (local when possible)
- Organic AND 100% Grass Fed (beef, bison, lamb)
- Grass Fed & Grass Finished (beef, bison, lamb)
- 100% Grass Fed (beef, bison, lamb)
Beans, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
We can find good sources of protein in plants. However, you don’t necessarily want them to be a main source of protein. They can be very hard to digest and detrimental to gut health in large quantities.
You can neutralize some of the downsides of these plant based proteins by soaking and sprouting them. Find more on this in my Ebook and course.
Gluten Free Grains & Flours for the GFCF Diet
Count yourself lucky because you’re starting at a good time. There are tons of GF flours and grains on the market today. There are nut flours, bean flours, GF grains like amaranth, millet, sorghum, rice and many many others.
When you’re starting out with GFCF baking, it’s a lot of trial and error. We had some epic pancake fails before we finally got the hang of it. But again, you’re starting with a leg up because there are literally hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of GF recipes available.
I’ve pinned several recipes on my GFCF Pinterest boards. You can start there, and then search for your recipes to recreate your family’s favorite meals.
Here are your GF grains & flours.
- Bean Flours (chickpea, garbanzo, navy, fava)
- Cassava Flour
- Chia Seeds (can replace eggs)
- Chestnut flour
- Coconut flour
- Corn (NonGMO-Organic)
- Flaxseeds & flax meal (can replace eggs)
- Green Banana Flour
- Hemp Seeds & Hemp Seed Flour
- Millet (certified Gluten Free)
- Nut Meals & Flours (almond, chestnut, hazelnut..)
- Oats (certified Gluten Free)
- Potato Flour/Starch
- Rice (all varieties)
- Seed Flours
- Sweet Potato/Yam Flour
- Taro Root
My friend Paula at Whole Intentions has a great blog post that discusses a lot of the options you have. She talks about the tastes & texture of each, so this will be a great place to learn more.
**Remember, whenever I refer to the diet and always referring GFCFSF. I am using the terms GFCF diet and GFCFSF diet interchangeably simply to help Google searchers find this guide.**
GFCFSF Baking Ingredients
Flours aren’t the only thing you use in baking while many of these ingredients will be fine, it’s always good to double check. This is where it’s helpful to know where those hidden sources of gluten, casein, & soy.
- Agar Agar (binder)
- Gelatin (binder)
- Guar Gum (binder)
- Xanthan Gum (binder)
- Baking Soda/Powder (check label)
- GF Vanilla Extract
- Whole Vanilla Beans
- Vanilla Powder
Gluten adds elasticity and acts as a binder in normal baking. When baking without it, some gluten free bakers like to add strange sounding ingredients like xanthan gum or agar agar.
These different ingredients can help your baked goods hold together better. Personally, I don’t use these in my cooking, but you’re welcome to give them a try.
Additionally, xanthan and guar gum have both been shown to cause digestive distress.
If you think your baking needs extra binding or elasticity, try using agar agar, gelatin, or even chia seeds first.
In order of my personal preference, here’s a list of sweeteners you can use in your cooking.
Note the absence of sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose, which in my opinion have no place in your food.
- Monk fruit
- Maple syrup
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Coconut Sugar/nectar/syrup
- Sugar alcohols (xylitol, erythritol
- Date Paste
- Sugar (nonGMO or organic)
There are plenty of fats and cooking oils that are compliant with the GFCF diet. However, I would advise you to stick with healthy fats only.
The oils in red are compliant with the GFCFSF diet, but you’re really better off avoiding them.
- Algae Oil
- MCT Oil
- Ghee, Tallow, Lard (organic, grassfed, pasture raised)
- Palm Oil/Shortening (organic)
- Hemp Seeds
- Flax Seed (quality brand, do not heat)
- Nuts & their oils (low temp, raw, quality)
- Seeds & their oils (low temp, raw, quality)
- Corn (best to avoid)
- Canola (best to avoid)
- Safflower (best to avoid)
- Rice Bran (best to avoid)
Yes, Fat Is A Critical Nutrient
The body needs fats, and our kids need a lot of it. Their rapidly growing bodies need good construction materials. The brain is almost entirely composed of fat. Every cell in our body is protected by a double layer of fat.
Hormones are also made from fat and we cannot absorb fat soluble vitamins without it.
As with everything, quality matters, but for fats/oils it may be even more important. The right fats can be anti inflammatory and help the body with various processes, but the wrong fats can be hugely inflammatory.
Stick to cold pressed, unrefined oils when buying cooking oils from plant sources. Most oils are processed with heat or chemical solvents and this process oxidizes the oils. Plus. it can leave trace amounts of these chemicals.
Buying Healthy Fats & Oils
- Solvent Free
- Grass-Fed or Pastured Animal Fats
- Ghee, tallow, lard
*Refined oil can be okay, but it depends on how it was processed. I personally use Nutiva Refined Coconut Oil regularly.
I like the healthy fat from coconut, but I hate the taste of coconuts. Refined coconut oil removes that flavor and is neutral smelling and tasting.
Cooking With Fats/Oils
You do have to use caution when cooking with certain fats. Heating it can cause a healthy oil to oxidize and turn inflammatory (like flaxseed or even olive oil).
Fats For High Heat Cooking:
- Saturated Fats: palm shortening, ghee, tallow, coconut oil, MCT oil
Medium Heat (baking)
- Avocado Oil
- Macadamia Nut
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Oil
Best Raw (in salad dressings, homemade mayo, or mixed in food after cooking)
- Flaxseed oil
- Hemp Seed oil
- Nut oils (other than macadamia)
A note on Olive Oil
Olive oil fraud has become a pretty big problem in the last few years. Companies have begun adding other types of lower quality vegetable oils to their olive oils and still selling it as extra virgin olive oil.
Sometimes, there’s not even olive oil in the bottle. You want to make sure you find a pure source of olive oil. Personally, I use Thrive Market olive oil because it’s a great price and I trust their source.
My article, 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation has more information about which vegetable and seed oils that may drive inflammation.
GFCFSF Cooking Ingredients
- All Fresh Herbs & Spices
- Single Spices
- Spice Blends (some blends are not GF:Check labels)
- Coconut Aminos
- All Vinegars except malt(check labels for flavored vinegars)
- Broths/bouillon (check for a GF label)
All Fresh Herbs & Spices like basil, parsley, cilantro…etc are naturally GFCFSF, so you can always feel good using them. Fresh is always best, but it’s not the most practical. When you’re buying spices, try to stick with single spices instead of spice mixes.
Mixes tend to have more additives. It used to be common practice for gluten to be used as an anticaking agent in these mixes. It’s rare today, but it is worth checking before buying that Italian seasoning or other blend. McCormick spices are reliably gluten-free and widely available.
Do You Love Soy Sauce?
Coconut Aminos is a good alternative to soy sauce. Just check the labels for added ingredients. Don’t confuse coconut aminos with Bragg’s liquid aminos as it still contains soy.
Malt vinegar is the only vinegar that should be of concern when on the GFCF diet. Most other vinegars will be compliant. However, check any flavored vinegars as they can sometimes contain gluten.
Apple cider vinegar is the only one I ever use as it is actually quite healing. Look for organic ACV with the mother in a glass bottle. In this case, Bragg’s is a great brand.
- BBQ Sauce
- Salad Dressings
Many store bought condiments are compliant with GFCF, but you always want to check your labels to be certain. Mayonnaise would be the exception.
Most store bought mayo is often made from soy or other inflammatory oils like canola. Better to look for ones made from avocado oil like Chosen Foods or Primal Kitchen.
Another thing to look out for in most condiments is natural flavors. Sometimes, this is code for hidden gluten, so look for the gluten free words on the label OR contact the manufacturer. Some will even have this info on their websites.
Natural flavors can also hide MSG. If you notice a change in your child or are concerned about glutamate, you’ll want to ask the manufacturer if the product is glutamate free.
- Gluten-Free label
- Buy Organic Tomato Products
- Avoid Preservatives & Colors
- Be Aware Of Added Sugars
It’s easier to replace dairy than it may seem. Personally, when I went dairy free I was worried I wouldn’t last very long without cheese. Here it is 5+ years later, and I don’t miss it all that much.
The first thing I want you to know is there is on nutritional reason to drink milk, nor is there a nutritional reason to drink dairy free milk. (despite what it says on the box)
What About Calcium
Contrary to popular belief, drinking milk is not critical for teeth and bones. Yes, milk is rich in calcium, but it is just one component of healthy bones and teeth.
We need a variety of minerals, vitamins, protein, & healthy fats to build strong bones. A nourishing diet will get you those important building blocks.
Eating lots of leafy greens, almonds, and broccoli will ensure your family is getting sufficient calcium.
If that seems unlikely for your kids, you may want to add a good calcium supplement, but avoid calcium carbonate as it’s not well absorbed. Talk to your doctor about good options.
There is a wide variety of dairy alternatives for you to choose from. Most of the time ice cream, cream cheese and yogurts will be made from coconut, cashews, or almonds.
There are even more options when you’re looking for DF milk. However, many of them will have added gums or carrageenan which are linked to adverse health effects.
The best idea is to look for those with minimal additives and no sugar added. You can always make your own nut milks too.
- Coconut (milk, cream)
- Flax Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Nut Milks
- Potato Milk
- Quinoa Milk
- Oat Milk
- Rice Milk
- DF Yogurt (coconut, cashew, almond)
- DF Ice Cream
- DF Cheeses (Daiya, So Delicious)
Check out my GFCF Food List to find specific brands and products that may meet your dairy free needs.
Foods To Avoid On The GFCF Diet
There are obvious things to avoid like bread and milk, but these ingredients lurk in many of our packaged foods hidden under cover ID’s like “food starch”, “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” or “lactalbumin”.
In order to ensure you stay 100% compliant with the GFCF diet, you have to know all the ingredients that contain or are derived from gluten, dairy, & soy and their cover IDs.
There are over 250 ingredients to watch out for.
I’ve compiled a printer-friendly, alphabetized list that you can take with you to the grocery store the first few GFCF shopping trips. Simply enter your email at the end of this guide, and I will send you a copy. You may also click here to learn more for yourself.
Common Foods to Avoid on a GFCF Diet:
- Baked Goods: Breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, bagels, tortillas, cornbread, etc.
- Pastas & Noodles: raviolis, lasagna, macaroni, gnocchi, couscous, egg noodles, etc.
- Crackers: pretzels, Goldfish, graham crackers, whole grain crackers, etc.
- Breaded Foods: fried chicken, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, onion rings, etc.
- Breakfast Foods: cereals, granolas, oatmeal, pancakes, biscuits, muffins, and premade scrambled eggs, etc.
- Condiments: store-bought sauces, dressings, gravies, malt vinegar, ketchup, croutons, etc.
- Dairy: cheese, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, cheesecake, etc.
- Soy: soy sauce, liquid aminos, tofu, edamame, miso, soybean oil, soy lecithin, etc.
- Misc: french fries, potato chips, lunch meats, hot dogs, meat substitutes, candy, chocolate, beer, etc.
- Preservatives, Artificial, Natural Flavors: there are hundreds of chemicals that make up food additives, many of them are derived from or contain gluten, casein, or dairy.
- Non- Food Items: Make up, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, stickers, play-doh, glue, medications, vitamins, etc. Check with manufacturer.
Restaurants will add surprising ingredients to their food, so it’s always a good idea to discuss your special diet with your server at the least, but preferably the chef.
Many sushi restaurants will add flour to the rice to make it “stickier”, and I’ve been to a few places that add butter to their hamburgers.
While you think you’re making good choices, you could be inadvertently eating an offending food and sabotaging your diet.
Eating out always represents the potential for cross contamination. A restaurant may only use fresh potatoes for their french fries. However, if they fry them in the same oil as their chicken fingers or onion rings, then those fries will pick up some of the breading and thus no longer be gluten free.
This may seem like no big deal; it’s only a miniscule amount of gluten. However, when we are talking about gluten sensitivity or an immune reaction to gluten, this small amount is enough to spark inflammation and that’s what we are trying to avoid with the GFCF diet.
Cross contamination can easily occur at restaurants that don’t have specific precautions in place, or it can happen at the grocery store, specifically the bulk bins.
If you’ve ever seen employees filling the flour bins, then you’ve seen them spill and all the powder flying around them as they fill the bin.
Also, customers can mix up the scoops, so when you think you’re just getting almond meal, you may be getting some gluten too.
Cross contamination can also occur before the food makes it to the store or restaurant. Oatmeal and millet are two grains that are naturally gluten free, but because of where they are grown and how they are transported, they are often contaminated by wheat flour.
This is why it’s so important to find certified gluten free oats & millet.
Reading Food Labels
Look for obvious sources of gluten, casein, and soy first. Manufacturers will let you know if it contains one of the major allergens, typically below the ingredient list.
The major allergens are wheat, dairy, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, and eggs.
You might see a simple statement like “contains wheat” or “contains milk” after the list of ingredients. You may also see them labeled in the ingredients themselves followed by a statement in parenthesis.
For instance, lactic acid can be dairy free or it can be made from milk. Within the list you might see: “lactic acid(from milk)” or it may say something more like: “lactic acid(non-dairy source).”
The easiest thing to do is to compare the list of ingredients with a list of ingredients made from gluten, casein, or soy.
|I have created a list of ingredients to avoid on GFCF. This list is available for free as part of my GFCF JumpStart kit and to students in my GFCF Family Class. I also dive deeper into how to read food labels in the class as well.|
Things To Watch Out For On Food Labels
- Wheat Free Does Not Mean Gluten Free
- Lactose Free Does Not Mean Casein Free
- Non-Dairy Does Not Mean Casein Free
Additionally, if a GFCF packaged food is made in the same building as its counterpart, you may be getting traces of milk, wheat, & soy.
Remember in the beginning even trace amounts are enough to keep your immune system activated. If possible, only buy packaged food without the warning “processed in a facility that also uses milk, wheat, soy…”
You know what the GFCF diet is, and you understand the goal is to reduce the burden on the body by removing foods that can trigger inflammation.
As you remove these foods, your children’s guts can begin to heal and their struggles should improve. Things like sleep, attention difficulties, hyperactivity, behavior problems, and gut issues like constipation, bloating, or diarrhea can all get better once they start to feel better.
Always remember, the end goal is a nourishing GFCFSF diet not just one that is free of gluten, casein, and soy.
What Should You To Do Next?
This was a lot of information, so take a moment to absorb everything you just learned.
Go ahead; take a breath or two or ten.
Your next step is create a plan and figure out how to actually implement this new intervention. The GFCF Family Class can help you do this.
I walk you through how to create a plan to get started, how to work with picky eaters, and how to eat GFCF on a budget. Plus, the class comes with a full month’s worth of meal ideas and teaches you how to select the highest quality foods for your family.
Join Us In The GFCF Family Class Today
More Help Is Available
I am always available to answer quick questions or help you if you get stuck or overwhelmed. Feel free to reach out to me via email ([email protected]) or DM me on Instagram.
You will find I have written many articles on the GFCF Diet. It has become my biggest success as an Autism Dad, but I was so lost in the beginning.
That’s why I’ve spent so much time creating helpful resources for my fellow parents. Check out those free articles through the links below.
I wish you the very best of luck, and please come back and let me know how your family has progressed! ([email protected])
I love hearing about your successes. It motivates me to keep coming up with even more ways to help.
Other Articles That May Be Helpful
- 8 Steps To Get Started On The GFCF Diet For Autism
- Starting the Autism Diet: The Day I Almost Cried at Whole Foods
- 8 Reasons The Autism Diet Did Not Work
- Gluten Dairy Sugar Free Lunches Made Easy
- 35 Gluten Free Dairy Free Packaged Snacks
- Overcoming Picky Eating And Autism
- Eating Healthy On A Budget
- Eating GFCF On The Go (coming very soon)
You May Also Like:
It Gets Easier
I wish I could say that switching to a GFCF Diet will be easy, but I can’t. It’s going to be hard work in the beginning, but if you stick with it 100%, it will be worth it.
If you go “ALL-IN”, you’ll start to see positive changes. Maybe, you’ll even be one of the lucky ones who see remarkable results right away.
Remember, it will get easier. You’re going to find your way. If you are not one of the early responders to GFCFSF don’t lose hope.
Diet is often the first step towards healing, but it is a critical first step.
Stay committed. Keep learning. Get yourself and your family healthier, so everyone can become all they were meant to be.
Feeling Lost Or Overwhelmed?
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed and feel like you need help with this huge step for your family’s health, my GFCF Family Class breaks it all down into manageable steps.
My biggest goal with this online course was to take away the overwhelm that comes with completely changing everything you’ve done in the kitchen. The First Two Lessons Are Free. Watch them here:`
The GFCF Family Class Will Teach You:
- Choosing The Best Foods
- Picky Eating Strategies
- Cost Saving Strategies
- Sample Meal Plans
- How To Create A Plan To Go GFCFSF
- And A Whole Lot More!
Doctor Reviewed & Approved!
There is a lot of bad and incorrect information across the internet today. I certainly do not want to contribute to this problem or give out bad advice. While I am very proud of this GFCF diet guide and The GFCF Family Class, I am Simply a Dad sharing his knowledge and experience.
I wanted to make sure that everything I say and recommended here was accurate and safe. Therefore, I reached out to my friend and naturopathic doctor Nicola Ducharme.
Here is what Dr. Nicola had to say:
“Dave has put together such a comprehensive guide to the gluten, dairy and soy-free diet. This diet is so helpful for kids with challenges ranging from ADHD, sensory issues, behavioral issues and autism-spectrum disorders. I also see this diet helping kids with chronic infectious processes including Epstein-barr virus and Lyme disease.
But it can be hard to implement, especially in the beginning.
Dave has been there. He explains enough about the science whys and hows for parents to see the importance of the diet, and be able to implement it, but in a way that is easy to understand for the layperson.
He provides many valuable tips and tricks, breaking it down into manageable steps. I love how he encourages parents and caregivers to adopt a healthy, healing diet – not just a gluten-free, casein-free diet. They’re not always the same thing.”
“This is such a valuable guide, I know it will be an invaluable resource for so many families.” -Nicola Ducharme N.D.
Do you still have questions on the GFCF Diet?
Leave a comment and let us know your questions, struggles, or successes.
Want to say thanks for such an awesome guide to the GFCF Diet?
You’ll notice the absence of annoying video ads and popups from this site. My ebooks and online course is how I keep this site going.
If you found this guide useful and would like to say thank you and support more great content from I’m Simply a Dad, please consider buying the EBook or signing up for my GFCF Family Class.
Thank you for this resource, I have been battling the idea of going gfcf, but i know too much now, not to. I have not read your material in much detail, but want to thank you for putting it together in such a coherent manner., and offering it for free. It’s not uncommon that once you put together info like this, most folks will Charge as much as A published book and dangle it in front of desperate parents who are already low on resources and overwhelmed. So I wish you abundance, prosperity and all good things. ( I will also buy your ebook :))
Thanks so much Anu! I’m glad you found it useful. I put a lot of time into this guide, so it makes me so happy that it is helping people like you. I remember being that desperate parent in the beginning which is why I wanted this to be free. Thank you so much for your kind words. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Since there are several diets out there and not all will work for everyone. How long would you advise someone to try this diet before switching to another if this doesn’t help improve my child.
So so happy to find this guide! I recently moved in with my 4 grandkids and their Dad (ages 6, 5, 4 and 2!). I have worked on my own nutritional issues and recognized right away the signs of food allergies in the kids. While I’ve eliminated many foods from the house, like milk, microwave popcorn, sugary cereals and kool-aid, I know there’s so much more I could do. If I only knew how. The thought of changing EVERYTHING in their diet is overwhelming. But I’m going to read your guide and start taking the steps. Deep Breath!
Thanks for your comment Becky! Sounds like you have a head start on getting them on a good path. It is certainly overwhelming in the beginning. Best of luck, if you have any questions feel free to reach out [email protected] or imsimplyadad on social media. Good Luck Grandma 🙂
Trying to find where to sign up to get the free ebook. I only see sign up for free updates. Please help
Any sign up spot will get you the free ebook. If you have any problems shoot me an email, and I’ll get it to you. [email protected]
GOD IS GREAT I HAVE BEEN LOOCKING FOR SUCH A VALUEBLE INFORMATION FOR SO LONG ,GOD BLESS YOU AND YOU ENTIRE FAMILY
Thank you so much for your time and effort in this. Appreciate your generosity for providing this as a free resource. God Bless
You are very welcome Liz! I hope it helps.
Thank you so much for providing such amazing information. I have been searching for so long and I am ecstatic to have found you! Thank you!!
Hey Kim, I am so very happy that you found this helpful!!!! I am planning on adding more content on recipes and meal ideas, but if there are other topics or questions you are looking for more info on, feel free to reach out ([email protected]). I am happy to help or create new articles to help make this easier for you and people like you!
Im so glad I have found this my son is 4 and has Autisim and Type 1 Diabetes. On top of that he doesn’t eat solid food he sucks on breads, cookies and other foods bit won’t chew them so im still reading him stage 2 baby foods and pediasure for the vitamines. I have to give him that in syringes like medicine or he won’t drink it. He will oy drink milk and water im trying to get him off dairy completely bit he won’t drink almond milk or anything else. Right now I have him on, Horizon Organic milk non GMO it’s like 8.00 a gallon but regular milk messes with him bad. So I would like to completely get him off of dairy completely. Bit his doctors say with him not actually.eating solid foods he need the nutrition. I think it’s hurting him more then helping him. None of his doctors will listen to me it’s so hard to get any help where I’m at in Nevada as far as any of his therapy or anything like that waiting lists galore just wondering if anybody has any ideas that I can try with him and I’ve pretty much tried everything but I’d really like to get them off of dairy once and for all I’m just scared for his nutrition factors because he doesn’t eat only baby foods and very little.