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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. 

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.

Whole roasted cauliflower

Ingredients

1 large cauliflower

50g butter

3 garlic cloves (crushed)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Method

Heat oven to 200C

Mix together the butter, garlic and oregano to make a garlic butter.

Wash the cauliflower and trim off the big leaves.  Most of the stalk can stay on, as it will be soft when roasted.

Rub the garlic butter into the cauliflower.

Put cauliflower in roasting pan and cover with foil.  Bake for 30 min.

Then remove foil and reduce oven temperature to 180C.

Bake for a further 45 minutes.

Mix the oil, mustard, capers, parsley and lemon juice, and pour over the hot cauliflower.

Serve.

Dietary approaches for treating autism

Before you read this article, there is something to consider:

* 9% of children diagnosed with autism at age 2 will lose their diagnosis by age 4

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860351/)

There are lots of interventions to improve symptoms of autism and help children to flourish, however, the diet should be the first. It is possible to improve your child’s functioning through diet, and it is well worth giving it a shot!

Autism doesn’t just have one cause, it has multiple root causes, therefore there isn’t necessarily only one dietary approach which can work.  Your child could have gut issues, detox pathway problems or mitochondrial dysfunction.

This isn’t about trying to change your child; it’s about stopping the pain, the digestive issues, stopping the seizures and healing your child’s body in a respectful way and increasing their life expectancy.  Things won’t get better without doing something about it, but they can get worse.

The following are the dietary approaches I choose from when working with a child with autism.

  • Gluten free, casein free, soy free (GFCFSF)
  • Specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) / Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet
  • Low oxalate diet
  • Anti-candida diet
  • Food sensitivity / elimination diet
  • Paleo diet
  • Low FODMAP diet
  • Feingold / failsafe
  • Low Oxalate diet

Now I’ll explain a little about how each one works, its positives and its negatives.

Gluten free casein free and soy free

This is useful because it removes substances that can cause digestive, neurological and systemic issues in some people.  By removing these from the diet the gut can heal, nutrients can be absorbed and you can get some quick improvements.

This is my entry point for children with autism, it’s a great place to start.  It is a reasonably straightforward diet to start with.

The reason why some people don’t get any results with it is because it can lead people down a road of eating highly processed gluten free diets.  Highly processed gluten free foods can be higher in sugar and additives than products containing gluten.  This is because the manufacturers are trying to replace the functionality of gluten in the recipe.  That’s why it’s critical to work with a specialist nutritionist, rather than going alone on this diet.  This must be approached from a perspective of whole foods, not processed foods.

SCD / GAPS diet

These diets remove disaccharides and polysaccharides.  People who don’t have enough of certain enzymes in their body will react with constipation, diarrhoea, inflammation and bloating when they eat disaccharides and polysaccharides.  Disaccharides are sugars such as sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar). Polysaccharides are found in starches, like grains or potato. By temporarily removing them, the gut can heal and the bacteria in the gut are able to rebalance.  This diet is useful for autism, and lots of severe gut issues.  SCD is a bit easier to do, but it doesn’t include as many gut healing foods as GAPS does, which is why I prefer to use GAPS.  There are numerous ways that GAPS or SCD can be done poorly, which is why I highly recommend you work with someone with specialist training in this area.  For instance, some people do GAPS too low in carbohydrate.  This can cause issues, particularly for people with thyroid or mitochondrial issues.  Some people react strongly to some of the healing foods such as fermented foods, and never manage to progress and reap the benefits.

Paleo

Paleo is one of my favourite eating styles.  It is very focussed on whole foods and it removes grains, dairy and soy.  It is an approach which you can stick to long term, if it suits you.  A common misinterpretation of the Paleo diet is that it is meat heavy.  This isn’t actually true.  The basis of all Paleo meals should be vegetables, with a bit of meat, rather than a slab of steak with a side of veggies.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is quite trendy at the moment, particularly for weight loss.  It is actually a therapeutic diet which has been used for a hundred years for epilepsy.  It fell out of favour when anti-epileptic drugs were developed, and is only now recommended for people when epilepsy doesn’t respond to drugs.  But shouldn’t dietary intervention come first, then drugs? It is a low carb, high fat diet which forces the body to use ketones for energy, not glucose.  It is restrictive, but it works.  It protects the brain and reduces oxidative stress, which is why it is helpful for autism.  Again, you can do keto in a really unhealthy way.  Think of a keto meal as a massive bowl of leafy greens, with olive oil and some meat.  Not a slab of cheese.

Low FODMAP

A low FODMAP diet can be used if a child has really bad gut symptoms and we want to get immediate relief of the pain.  It removes the foods that feed bacteria, so it reduces gas and bloating. However I see over and over people who have been told to do a low FODMAP diet years ago and are still on it.  This is a disaster for gut health.  The foods that feed bacteria feed the good bacteria and the bad bacteria.  By permanently removing them you can starve the good guys, and gut health will go downhill over time.  Never do a low FODMAP diet without supervision, and never stay on it long term (more than 6 weeks).

Anti-yeast diet

This removes sugar, which feeds candida and restores the body’s good gut bacteria. You can look for clues that your child has candida issues . This diet can get complicated with restrictions and food combining, so I use it in a simplified way for clients, and focus on reducing sugar.

Feingold / Failsafe diets

These remove food chemicals (naturally occurring and additives) called phenols from the diet.  Lots of children with autism have issues with their biochemical pathways so they can’t detoxify these substances normally.  Removing the phenols can give instant results, however it is a really restrictive, plain diet to stick with, and there is no end game. I frequently see people who have been on this diet for years, and still can’t tolerate any thing.  I then guide them off the diet and on to something like GAPS which helps improve the range of foods they are able to eat.  I have tried most diets myself, so I am familiar with their unique challenges, and this one is the hardest in my opinion.

Low oxalate diet

This isn’t one that you commonly hear about.  I think about a low oxalate diet in people who have pain all over their body, and oddly enough have cloudy urine.  I also think about it when someone proudly tells me how many green leafy veggies they or their kids eat.  Lots of green leafy veggies are high in oxalates.  A low oxalate diet can be a really unhealthy diet as it removes nutritious foods, so the emphasis always needs to be on temporary removal of oxalates while you heal the gut, then reintroduce them.

The take home message:

As you can see there is no one size fits all.  A personalised diet needs to be chosen based on all the symptoms someone has.

Supplements are great, but they come after diet.  You can’t out-supplement a bad diet, or even just the wrong diet.

And it is really important to remember that healing diets are therapeutic.  They aren’t intended to be used forever.  Get proper guidance from me on which diet is best for you by making an appointment here.

Peanut bliss balls (tree nut free!)

If your child is allergic to nuts, it rules out lots of normal bliss ball recipes.  These balls are made with sunflower seeds instead of tree nuts, but still taste great!

Ingredients

250g sunflower seeds

25g raw cacao

270g medjool dates

150g natural peanut butter

50g honey

Method

Use a high speed blender to process the sunflower seeds to a fine meal.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender.

On a high speed, process them for about a minute.

Form into balls with clean hands.

Leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours to firm up.

Chocolate milkshake

A healthy twist on an old favourite!  Enjoy for breakfast or a snack

Serve 2

Ingredients

1 handful baby spinach leaves

1 handful frozen raspberries

1 cup almond milk

2 cups filtered water

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon cacao powder or cacao nibs for extra texture

Method

Combine in a blend and process until smooth

Serve immediately

Paleo coconut bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of coconut flour
  • ½ cup of tapioca flour
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup of coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Method

Preheat oven to 180˚C.  Grease a loaf tin or line with grease proof paper. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredient in small bowl, mixing well

Crack eggs into a large bowl and use hand mixer to beat until frothyg

Slowly add in coconut oil, vinegar and honey

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring constantly

Pour batter into loaf tin and smooth the top

Bake for 30 minutes

Remove from oven and cool

Slice and store in container. Keeps well in fridge for up to 7 days or freezer for up to 3 months.