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Coconut pancakes

These pancakes are a fun treat for kids with a healthy twist.

They are gluten free, dairy free, grain free and are sweetened naturally with banana. Perfect for a Sunday morning treat. 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ a medium banana, mashed
  • ⅓ cup dairy-free milk (coconut, almond etc)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs, whisked 
  • ½ tsp cinnamon 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup if desired 

Toppings

  • Berries
  • Nut butters
  • Maple syrup
  • Yoghurt 

Method

Whisk the eggs, mash the banana and add all the wet ingredients into a bowl.

In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

Then combine both wet and dry ingredients.

The batter is thicker than a normal pancake mix but if it is too thick, add some more milk.

Preheat a nonstick pan to medium heat and put a dash of oil.

Once it has warmed up, add 2-3 tbsps of the batter into the pan to make small size pancakes. They are difficult to flip so smaller, flatter pancakes are easier.

Cook for 1-2 minutes on one side until bubbling, and then carefully flip. Repeat with remaining batter. 

Makes about 6 small pancakes. 

Breakfast scramble

Eggs are an easy, go-to staple for a grain-free meal. They provide a complete source of protein to keep your child full and satisfied all morning.

The turmeric adds an abundance of health benefits including anti-inflammatory effects. 

This breakfast could be whipped up in a few minutes!

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped spinach or kale
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Pinch salt and pepper 

Optional sides;

  • Avocado
  • Tomato 
  • Mushrooms

Method

Heat the olive oil in a pan.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and add the spices. 

Add the chopped kale or spinach to the pan and cook until wilted, and then add the whisked eggs and cook.

Serve with avocado and tomatoes. 

Super power smoothie

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, this smoothie is guaranteed to give your child the energy they need to start their day. It is also a great way to sneak in some extra greens into their diet. 

Ingredients 

  • 1-2 cups of greens (spinach, kale)
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • Optional; 1 tbsp nut butter, frozen mango or berries

Method

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

4 ingredient chia pudding

Chia pudding has gained a lot of popularity and can even be purchased at supermarkets, however, it is a lot easier, healthier and cheaper to make yourself!

Chia pudding can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge for a few days of easy breakfasts. 

This breakfast is extremely versatile and there are endless flavour options using different fruits and toppings. 

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp Chia seeds
  • 1 cup Non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, cashew etc.)
  • ½ tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sweetener e.g. honey, maple syrup, rice malt syrup

Optional add ins

  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • Fresh fruit e.g. mango, berries
  • Cacao or cocoa (for a chocolatey pudding)

Toppings

  • Yogurt
  • Berries 
  • Nut butter
  • Granola 

Method

Mix chia seeds, milk, vanilla and sweetener (and any optional add ins) together.

Place in the fridge for 3-6 hours or overnight.

Top with fruit, yogurt, nut butter or granola and enjoy.

Paleo porridge

This is the perfect alternative to oatmeal when you’re trying to reduce grains.

This porridge is gluten free, dairy free, grain-free, and refined sugar free. 

It is a quick, easy and filling breakfast to keep your child’s tummy full.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chopped mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts etc.)
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes
  • 2 tbsp linseed meal (flaxseed meal)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour 
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, coconut etc.) 
  • Dash of honey/maple syrup/rice malt syrup to sweeten

To serve, top with:

  • Berries 
  • Banana
  • Nut butter 

Method

Mix all ingredients into a bowl except the milk. Heat the milk until hot and then pour into the bowl and mix everything until it thickens. OR you could pour the milk on cold and leave the porridge in the fridge overnight to set for a quick breakfast. 

Add toppings as desired and enjoy. Makes 2 servings.


No-grain granola

This homemade granola is so delicious, easy to make, and healthy. It is packed full of healthy fats for growing children and a perfect snack or breakfast. Top it with yogurt and berries, or milk for a grain-free cereal.  You can halve the recipe for a smaller batch.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried coconut flakes
  • 1 cup mixed sliced nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews) 
  • ½ cup Pepitas 
  • ½ cup Sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp Chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp flax meal (linseed meal) 
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup rice malt syrup or maple syrup 
  • 3-4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Combine all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and then add the wet ingredients (rice malt syrup/maple syrup, vanilla and coconut oil) and mix well until all combined. 

Spread the granola on the lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.

Gently mix/flip over the granola and place it back in the oven for 5 more minutes or until golden brown.

When ready, remove from the oven and let it sit for at least 15 minutes to become crunchy. 

Be careful to watch in the oven as it can quickly burn!

Store in a jar or airtight container. Makes around 8-10 servings.

Sweet potato shepherd’s pie

I am a huge fan of batch cooking. If you want to feed your family a healthy diet and not spend hours and hours in the kitchen every day, you need to cook in bulk. Some things like casseroles, curries and shepherds pie lend themselves to cooking in bulk. I love Shepherd’s pie, but this one has a twist as the topping is sweet potato, rather than white potato.

The recipe below will make enough for 3 meals for a family of 2 adults and 2-3 kids.

Ingredients

2kg lamb mince (preferably organic)

3kg sweet potato

Lots of fresh rosemary

4 onions (finely chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped or crushed)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Brown the mince in a sauce pan on medium to high heat for 5-10 minutes.

Add the onions and garlic.

Use a food processor to grind up the rosemary to a fine dust, and add to the saucepan.

Whilst the mince is simmering, start to prepare the sweet potato topping.

Chop up the sweet potato (no need to peel as long as it looks clean. Just give them a wash).

Add to a saucepan of water, and cook until tender. This will take roughly 15 minutes, depending on how small you cut them.

After the meat mixture has been cooking for about 30 minutes, pour off the liquid that has formed, into a pyrex jug.

Divide the mince evenly between 3 medium size casserole / pie dishes, that are freezer safe. I use stainless steel ones which are suitable for oven and freezer.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, drain off the water, and mash. Add the reserved liquid from the meat to the mash to make it smooth.

Add the sweet potato mash topping to the mince, dividing evenly between the 3 dishes.

Use a fork to score the top.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Eat one, and keep the other 2 in the freezer for another day.

Serve with green beans.

Why does a gluten free diet help autism (Part 3)

This is final instalment of a 3 part series on gluten and autism. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

The first thing most parents of children on the spectrum say when I recommend removing gluten from the diet is that they can’t as that is all their child will eat.  That is usually confirmation enough for me that gluten needs to go!  Remember in Part 2 when I said the gluten forms opioid like compounds in the brain of children with autism.  What do we know about opioids?  They’re addictive.  So your child could literally be addicted to gluten!

The first thing you need to do is get educated.  In part one of this series, I explain all the foods where gluten can be found.  Make sure you are familiar with what is in and what is out.

Next, start to play around with some gluten-free foods.  Remember at this stage, we’re not trying to remove all grains, just gluten.  That means things like rice are still allowed, which opens a world of rice-based foods like noodles or rice cakes.  These are not fabulous foods, as they are purely refined carbohydrates, but this is a journey, and we are only on the first step – removing the gluten.

Now that you have figured out what gluten-free foods your child will eat, create a meal plan or download a ready made one from my website!.  Make sure you are never caught short having to give your child a gluten containing food.  Every time there is a slip up, you go back to the start of your trial, which can be really demoralising and difficult for you and your child.

Then hit the shops!  You may find you need to change how you shop and where you shop to get the specific foods you need.  Being gluten-free has become more manageable in the last 10 years, but it might still be worthwhile looking online or in health-food shops to find what you need.

Next comes the implementation step.  You can do it gradually, substituting one meal or snack at a time with a gluten-free alternative, or you can do it all at once.  Just remember that you might see withdrawal symptoms if you do it all at once.

Keep a diary. Remember to write down in detail what your child eats and what their symptoms are.  Start this a week in advance so you can make a comparison of before and afterwards.  The symptoms you keep track of will be specific to your child.  They could be related to behaviour, stimming, digestive issues or rashes.  Or it could be a combination of all of these!

Why does a gluten-free diet help autism (Part 1)?

One of the best-known diets for autism is gluten-free, but what does this mean, why does this work and how do I try it for my child?

In this post (Part 1), I will explain what a gluten-free diet entails.  Part 2 will explain why this is approach is worth trying and Part 3 will give you a framework to get started.

Part 1

Going gluten-free is the first step in changing the diet for your child with autism. It is usually done at the same time as removing dairy and soy.  This is often called a “Gluten-free, Casein-Free” (GFCF) diet (Casein is one of the proteins in dairy foods).

Various studies have shown that a GFCF diet leads to improvement in up to 80% of patients with autism.  The type of improvements were in behaviour, seizures, gross motor skills, social contact, eye contact, ritualistic behaviour, language and sleep.

It is up to parents if they want to remove gluten and dairy at the same time, or to do one at a time.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.  Removing both at the same time is like ripping off a band-aid.  Difficult, but the transition is over quickly.  Removing one at a time is a more softly-softly approach, but it may be difficult to make any progress. On the plus-side, a gradual reduction will reduce any withdrawal symptoms for your child.

Going gluten-free means you need to avoid any products made from gluten-containing grains.  These grains are wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and triticale. Oats are a bit of a grey area as, whilst they don’t contain gluten, they do contain a similar protein called avenin.  Some people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to avenin, but even most coeliacs are ok with avenin.  The problem is that quite often oats get contaminated with wheat, rye etc. during processing.  You can buy certified gluten-free oats which have been processed in isolation from gluten-containing grains and tested to make sure they don’t contain gluten.  Bear in mind that these gluten-free oats may not be made in Australia.  My recommendation is generally to remove oats for a period of time, and then reintroduce standard Australian organic oats and watch for a reaction in your child.  The reaction could be digestive, but it could also be mood or behaviour related.

Foods that you may not realise are made from gluten-containing grains include couscous, semolina and bulgur (the main ingredient in tabouleh),

Gluten also hides in many processed foods likes some processed meats, or anywhere a filler is required. If you buy packaged food, you need to read the ingredient list (and the allergen declaration) very carefully.  Remember that wheat-free does not mean gluten-free.

If you think going gluten-free is worth a go, you should commit to doing it 100% for 6-12 weeks.  There is no point in doing it 95%, as even a small exposure to gluten will undo all your hard work.  You might start to see benefits within a few days, which will be very motivating to keep going, or it might take the full 12 weeks to see progress.

If you have a suspicion that your child might be coeliac, because of a family history or other symptom, it is a good idea to do some testing for this to start off, e.g. taking with a cheek swab to see if they carry the gene.

The benefits of removing gluten for children with autism are strong, but this doesn’t mean your child is coeliac, or allergic to gluten.  Don’t be put off giving this a go because you have tested your child and they have been classified as not allergic to gluten.  There is no nutrient in gluten that you can’t get from other foods, so there is literally nothing to lose.

One final word of warning – you can have a gluten-free diet made entirely of junk food.  This will not help your child’s gut or improve their symptoms.  It’s ok to use some gluten-free processed food in the transition, but try to move to a whole-foods, naturally gluten-free diet as soon as you can.

Nutella bread

Ingredients

160g linseeds

300g hazelnut meal

150g arrowroot powder

2 tablespoons chia seed

2 teaspoons celtic sea salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

8 eggs

200g dark chocolate chips

60g psyllium

220g water

2 ripe bananas (mashed)

Method

Using a high speed blender, process the linseeds until they are a fine powder.

Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well .

Add the eggs, apple cider vinegar, water and mashed bananas.

Mix well.

Stir through the choc chips.

Pour the batter into a greased, lined loaf tin / silicon loaf tin. Bake on 180˚C for 1 hour.