Improving the symptoms of autism and other developmental disorders through diet is a popular method among parents. Scientific research is not conclusive on how effective a diet such as GFCF, or gluten-free/casein-free, is. However, a number of parents have said the GFCF diet has changed their lives. The GFCF diet consists of two basic eliminations: wheat and dairy.
Most children drink milk. However, on the GFCF diet, cow's milk in any form is not allowed. Finding a milk substitute that your child likes can be a challenge. Many varieties of alternative milk sources exist, such as rice milk, almond milk, soy milk and hemp milk that can be found at your local grocery store. Be sure the container states the product is casein-free, not just dairy-free. Some products may state they are dairy-free but still contain the casein protein as a thickener.
Commercial breads contain the gluten protein from wheat flour. However, there are brands you can find at your local supermarket that are gluten-free. These breads are made from rice or tapioca flour. The taste and texture are different from regular bread. The different flour used to make gluten-free brands gives the bread density. If you have trouble finding a bread that your child enjoys, try making your own. Gluten-free bread recipes are plentiful online.
Cheese is a common favorite of children and eliminating it from your child's diet can be difficult. Alternative cheese products are mostly soy-based and have a similar taste and texture to your child's regular cheese. Check the ingredient list before purchasing any alternative cheese, as some brands that are labeled "dairy-free" may still contain the casein protein.
Meat that is minimally processed and unflavored is generally considered gluten-free. Prepackaged or frozen meat may contain spices that are not gluten-free, so it's important to check the list of ingredients. Also watch out for meat that is breaded, such as chicken nuggets, because these products do contain gluten.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are usually safe choices for gluten/casein-free foods. Frozen vegetables can be as well, as long as they are not packaged in sauces or flavorings, especially butter flavor.