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Afternoon Delights

More Thoughts on Feingold & Food

A few readers left questions about yesterday's Feingold-friendly breakfast post, so I thought I would answer them here in case it might be helpul to someone else, or in case someone has suggestions, particularly for this first question regarding milk - how to save when buying lots of it for a large family.

From Melissa:

"What kind of milk do you use? Regular (non-organic) milk is $3.50/gallon here--a real budget buster when you go through one per day. If you do use organic, any tips on keeping the cost managable?"

First let me say, milk is allowed on the Feingold diet, but we choose to limit it with Earlybird (more on that below). We do buy organic milk as much as possible, or alternatively, milk that is free of growth-hormones. That said, only three of us drink it, so I know I buy much less than the average family. I try to limit milk servings to our three main meals a day, and encourage water and juice in between. I think that saves a bit, but I can imagine how much milk a larger family would go through in the course of a day when most, if not all, members are drinking it.

I have yet to price out all the varieties of milk available to us. In fact, I have set up a sort of "price book" for myself (an idea I first read about in The Tightwad Gazette). Mine is a small looseleaf binder in which I will keep notes on each item we buy regularly - where the best prices are, how to use it, store it, etc.

As with any grocery item, when buying organic milk, check the price on the store brand at a natural market; it might be less expensive than a national brand. Also, find out if there is a local dairy where you might buy direct, or perhaps, join a local food-co-op. You could check with your state's agricultural board or take a look at this Local Harvest website (big hat tip to my friend Theresa for the link).

If you have suggestions for saving money on milk - organic or otherwise - please do share them by leaving a comment below!

Speaking of milk, Theresa left this comment:

"We are looking into Goat's milk though because I am beginning to suspect that we may have a problem with milk based on Andrew's behavior on those days (like today) when we've had dairy for breakfast."

EB has issues with milk, too, though he does eat dairy foods in moderation.

A couple of years ago, just after he was first diagnosed with PDD-NOS, we tried a two-week gluten-free/casein-free diet. I had read that children on the autistic spectrum can benefit greatly from a GFCF diet, so we gave it a shot. It was very hard - the boy loves his bread!  Someone told me that any food your child craves is probably a trigger for them health-wise (i.e. physical or emotional symptoms).

After two weeks, we didn't see much difference, except with milk. He was drinking a lot of it at the time, and without it, he seemed to be calmer. So we cut it out completely.

We think with EB, he has certain levels of tolerance. He can handle dairy and wheat in moderation - too much of it is, well, too much for his system. If he binges on dairy or wheat he reacts to it with an uptick in PDD behaviors. For instance, he loves cream-cheese bagels, but he'll ask for them over and over. Same thing with homemade pizza. We find when we get away from those things he does better. He can have them again at some point, but we have to remember to keep it in check. There needs to be balance.

From LeeAnn:

"Dawn, your list of breakfast foods is so comprehensive, I'm having a hard time figuring out what is *eliminated* in this diet. Could you point out a few common items that EB cannot eat?"

In my breakfast post, EB can have everything I listed, only we need to follow the Feingold list and choose appropriate items. So for instance, he can eat cereal - but not just any cereal, it needs to be a brand that is approved. There are a lot of brands listed, many of them natural varieties - but some mainstream as well. We always have several types on the shelf - EnviroKidz are a big hit. Crispix is too. Since cold cereals can be expensive, I look for coupons, wait for sales, and try to watch how quickly we go through them.

It's hard to make a generalization, but basically there are certain fruits and vegetables - such as apples and berries - that contain salicylates (chemicals produced naturally) that some people are sensitive to. (More information here.) EB can eat other kinds of fruits - he particularly loves melon, pears and bananas. He can't eat raisins, but he can eat dried pineapple or chopped dates. So it's just a matter, in most cases, of finding substitutes.

We're very fortunate that EB is not a picky eater. For example, when we began the Feingold diet, he was drinking lots of apple juice - yet he made a smooth transition to pear juice. We use an organic bottled juice which is, unfortunately, quite expensive, but there are other less expensive brands listed. (We cut his juice with 2/3 water by the way.)

Also, at the time, he was eating lots of applesauce (literally every day with almost every meal). We switched to "pearsauce" - which at first was jars of Earth's Best pear baby food, but that was crazy-expensive considering how much he could eat. So instead we buy organic pears (they go on sale a lot) and cook them down and mill them to make pearsauce. He loves it! (And it makes delicious pear bread to boot!)

It is important to note that this is all stage one of the Feingold diet. After four to six weeks on stage one, you are supposed to move on to stage two and start re-introducing things like apples and tomatoes. You watch for signs of intolerance. We have never done this, as we find EB does so well on stage one, we're not ready to make that leap yet, lol!

Most homemade foods, made with F-F (Feingold-friendy) products are A-ok too. So, EB may not be able to eat Chips-Ahoy, but he can eat homemade chocolate chip cookies.

I think it's important to have lots of choices available, so that the feeling of limitation is downplayed. That's why I just ordered organic lollipops and natural decorating sugars. We don't eat these things regularly, but on the occasion when all the other kids are getting a pop or are eating a colorful cupcake, EB can too.

A few other notes:

  • Yogurt is OK, but not just any flavored, colored, mainstream brand that catches our eye. It must be one that is listed as tested and approved.
  • EB can have jam, but only a few kinds are listed in stage one. I'm hoping to order some online, but in the meantime, I would like to make some homemade pumpkin butter and pineapple jam.
  • Eggs, biscuits and ham are all super - with homemade biscuits, fresh eggs, and a ham from the list (several brands are suggested).
  • Waffles - can't do regular ol' Eggos, but can do some of the organic kinds. Since these are expensive (and we can whip through a box in a day) I try to make homemade.
  • Homemade muffins and coffee cake and other baked goods are all fine too. I couldn't pick up a coffee cake from the bakery - they might use artificial flavorings or preservatives. But really, homemade is so much better for all of us, and our budget!

Not all the items listed are obscure - many mainstream varieties are listed. But I do find more of what I need in a natural foods market. Organic or natural food products tend to use less or no artifical ingredients and preservatives, and these things are highly intolerable for a child with sensitivities. (For the record, all of us are sensitive to some degree - ever get a headache from Nutrasweet? I sure do.)

The trick for my budget (and time) is finding a balance. For instance, we can (and do) buy these delicious organic Krispy Rice bars. EB loves them and has one on the way home from speech twice a week. He likes to have them other times too, though. Since he eats them so quickly, I really should find a less expensive alternative - homemade granola cookies maybe. Save the bars as a now and again treat - not an everyday thing.

I hope that gives you some idea of how we have to make alterations. The diet is not difficult but it is something you have to think about and work around. In most cases I've found we can find an acceptable brand or a subsititution. The key for me is having meals planned out ahead so my shopping is efficient. I can't just grab anything off the shelf, so a carefully thought out list is a must for me if we are to have things to choose from and meals that are healthy and varied (and waste less food in the process).

And, as I've mentioned before, the Food List which comes with your membership explains all this in detail and provides all the name brands you can use.

Gill asks:

"How are things like fishsticks? I guess the coating is a no-no?"

Fish sticks are ok, Gill, if you use an approved brand. We happen to like Ian's frozen fish sticks very much (not sure if they are available over there). I would like to make and freeze our own - they sound so simple to do. I would just be sure to use a crumb coating made with crackers, cereal or bread from the approved list.

So, there's my very long question and answer post! I hope you found it helpful. Keep in mind, I am not an expert in any of this, and other than being a member, am in no way affiliated with the Feingold Association. I am just grateful that these food changes have helped my son, and in the process, helped me improve my food shopping habits.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day. :)