|Our teenage son doesn’t understand
his mother’s need to write a blog.
So mutters the precocious 16 year old. Words cannot describe his disgust and accompanying headshake. It is an award-winning performance, just for our benefit. Do we care? Nope, it spurs a post of its own.
The way we live and the way we eat has been inspired by the teenager who lives in our house. As I’ve mentioned before, complicated lives and a stretched budget led to a compromise on nutrition. Convenience foods allowed me to simply put dinner on the table. Full of salt and sugar, without taste, and laden with chemicals, convenience food is the most hideous nutritional offering available in the supermarket.
Most pre-packaged, convenience food includes gluten, which is a protein processed primarily from wheat. Gluten is the darling of the food industry. You’ll find it everything, not just grain products such as cereal, bread, crackers, potato chips, and noodles. Gluten is linked with autism and there’s a good reason for it. Many parents of autistic children will tell you that when their child has consumed gluten, a dramatic change occurs.
When our son was diagnosed, I frantically searched for information. How could I help him? How could I combat its effects? Less interested in why or how he became autistic, I turned to sources that could help me deal with the hand he’d been dealt. The internet was full of information and misinformation. So, like social scientists, we watched his every move for signs of what would trigger a meltdown.
It didn’t take long before we determined that there was a high probability for a meltdown after meals. Teachers agreed with our hypothesis, afternoons were more difficult for him than mornings. He ate breakfast at home, which was protein-based. We started packing his lunch with a protein-based meal rather than letting him eat a school lunch. Things began to improved. When we realized that meltdowns occured after eating specific foods, I threw open our cabinets and started pitching food. Gluten was present in nearly all of them.
I began buying ‘gluten free’ products. Most tasted awful and were expensive. I poured money into health food stores and specialty food aisles. Nothing really worked, then it dawned on me. As long as I bought processed food that still provided the convenience I thought was needed, I could never control the content of what my family was eating. That is when we took control of what we consume. It changed everything, not just what we eat, but the way we live.
Simply described, nearly all of our food is fresh. We don’t buy food in a box or can. If that isn’t possible, we only buy food that contains a few, pronounceable ingredients. The less processed, the better. Do we still have processed food? Sure, but they are no longer the primary contents of our pantry. We still buy frozen pizza, but its gluten free and does not have a single ingredient that I can’t pronouce. They taste great and are worth the price. We still buy potato chips, but the bag list three ingredients: potatoes, salt, sunflower oil. I can live with that. Sadly, Little Debbie’s snack cakes will never be gluten free and have an ingredients list a mile long. But there will always be a small space in our pantry reserved just for them (for emergencies only!)
Regularly, we look at the remaining processed food we buy, in order to evaluate whether or not we should make it ourselves. Recently, we’ve started growing our own mushrooms. We can dehydrate them and replace the canned mushrooms that we’ve always purchased. It’s worth every effort we make when I see my son enjoying life, even when he’s making fun of us for writing a blog.