A grain free diet seemed so daunting to me that I put it off for more than two years, in trying to heal my son’s eczema. Grains are such ingrained in our diet, it felt impossible to do without it, especially for kids who do not really take diet changes well. So in this post, I share some grain free diet sample menu that my son eats in a typical day, with the hope that you see how easy it can actually be.
How we came to do this grain free diet
By the time we finally embarked on a grain free diet, 9-year old J had already been gluten free for almost six months. You can read about our first and second (current) rounds of gluten free diet here:
- gluten free diet journey – round 1 (lasted 3 months)
- gluten free diet journey – round 2 (targeted 6 months, now at 8 months still going strong)
While on the gluten free diet, J was also already dairy free, egg free, soy free, and corn free. The only form of sugar he took was raw honey. The only form of foods that came in a box was Weet-Bix sorghum bars and Orgran multigrain crispibread. All of these we removed when he embarked on the grain free diet.
So it was completely zero sugar (except for the natural sugars in fruits) and zero processed food, in a bid to get him on as clean a diet as possible. That was why I agreed to make him banana ice cream as his afternoon snack every single day, as I felt all the effort was worth it, considering the benefits of going grain free (you can read about how grains can trigger a pro-inflammatory immune response here in this linked research, as well as our amazing experience with the grain free diet, and what it has really done for J’s eczema).
Before you start
Our experience in dealing with the kids’ eczema tells us that the biggest hurdle to any kind of diet seen as restrictive is in the mind. The mental resolution it takes for even a grownup to stick with any kind of diet is tremendous, it requires massive mental strength to not cheat.
Let’s face it, we have all been there. The temptation, the reward excuse when we had previously done well, the need to have control over what we eat, the way our gut and brain sometimes fail us, the guilt and lousy feeling after falling off the wagon.
Knowing how tough the going can get, these are the most important things to do, to prepare yourself or your child for any kind of restrictive diet:
1. Get on board
The person doing the diet has to be convinced that it is going to help him in his condition. If you’re doing this for yourself, do your research, read up on stories of people who had been successful on it, and how it has benefited them. When you know why you’re doing this, and how it is going to improve your health condition, that alone is enough to keep you going.
If it is for your child, talk to him. Be clear about the timeline (how long this diet is going to be), so that the child can see the end of the tunnel. Talk about how it would improve his eczema or any other health condition.
A restrictive diet takes away the sense of control, so try to give the child some autonomy in other ways: let him choose his fruits for the week when you go grocery shopping, give him a few options for the daily smoothie, ask if he would prefer spinach soup or cabbage soup for dinner.
For J, it was easy to convince him because he had seen how the gluten free diet had reduced his itch substantially, but not completely. His daily itching episodes were still causing him a fair bit of misery, so he was eager to try something different to get it down.
2. Clear out the pantry of foods that do not qualify
This step is super important. Don’t leave temptations lying around, unless you know you have mental strength that is beyond human. Donate the foods to some food bank. Or get family members who are not involved in the diet to quickly finish up the non-compliant foods in the pantry, and also get them on board that they should not snack on non-compliant foods at home, if possible, just for the duration of the diet.
3. Equip yourself with menus and recipes
When you have an idea how each meal looks like, it would certainly be less daunting to embark on a new diet. So read up on and collect recipes, or write down the meal plans for each week, if it helps you organise your thoughts, your shopping list, and meals preparation, etc.
4. A safety net to fall back on
Know your soft spot, your craving, some food that would lead to your downfall. And be ready with a substitute for that food that complies with the diet. For instance, if sugar is your thing, as it is for J, a homemade banana ice cream treat, served daily in the afternoon heat, is enough to sustain his craving and keep him off all other junk.
Once you get the above points all sorted out, you’re ready to go! For even more tips, visit www.marksdailyapple.com.
Our grain free diet sample menu
Here is a grain free diet sample menu that we follow in a typical day:
Breakfast: green smoothie of apple, celery, cucumber, and lemon.
Mid-morning snack: sweet potato, or banana
Pre-lunch (about 30 to 45 minutes before lunch): fruit or smoothie of choice (our favourite: refreshing watermelon)
Lunch: fish or chicken for protein, and a generous serving of one vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, green leafies, celery, cabbage, or mung bean sprouts, etc.).
Mid-afternoon snack: homemade banana ice cream
Pre-dinner (about 30 to 45 minutes before dinner): fruit of choice (papaya, honeydew, pear, apple, etc.)
Dinner: fish or chicken for protein, a soup (usually a clear broth of radish, or carrot and spinach, or lotus root, or cabbage), and a generous serving of one vegetable.
For lunch and dinner, I just do one kind of vegetables per meal, with variety across meals. This cuts down on preparation time and hassle. The vegetables simply take a quick dip in boiling water of less than 20 seconds, to make them more palatable to the kids. If your preference is to take some of the vegetables raw, then do take care to give them a good wash.
What to expect
When you first start on the grain free diet, you may feel lethargic and that your energy level has gone down. This is to be expected, especially if grains used to be your main source of carbohydrates. You may also feel cranky, as your body adjusts to the major shift in your diet.
You may experience ups and downs in mood and energy level for the first 5 to 7 days, after which you may get a general sense of well being and uplifting in mood, together with a clearer mind, before your eczema or other symptoms start to improve.
It is important to get more meals a day while on the grain free diet, smaller ones interspersed throughout the day, to sustain your energy level. The tummy space that used to be grains, should now be filled up with a lot more fruits and vegetables, and just a little more fish, poultry or meat than before.
Like many other foods, grains are great for some people, not so great for others. If having eliminated the common food triggers for eczema from your diet does not give you enough relief from your rashes and itching, do consider going grain free. Hopefully I have shown you it is actually not that difficult, through this grain free diet sample menu. Do give it a try, and let us know how it goes in the comments below.