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10 Tips to Ease Your Child Into the GAPS Diet

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by Melanie Christner

When you dared to become a parent, you probably had no idea what a journey you were setting out on… how strongly you would want your child to flourish and succeed… and how barriers to that flourishing would hurt your parent heart.

Being a parent of a child who has been hurt, taken sick, or wounded… or who is simply not thriving as you feel they could… hits you hard.

So you do your research, and you do your best to wade through a lot of information. Maybe you find information about the addictiveness of sugar; or the benefits of traditional foods, cod liver oil and fatty acids; going gluten or grain-free, how important probiotics are, how bad processed foods are, the many uses of bone broth, etc.

Then you stumbled on the GAPS Protocol — the diet, supplement, and detoxification program designed to repair and seal the gut; restore body and brain; and heal autism, no less! You read the book and its amazing and makes so much sense. You feel this will help your family thrive in many ways and you want to begin making changes for your child. But you have no idea where to start. Changing your family’s diet is completely daunting and you have so many questions.

Having brought over 200 people through my online GAPS Class, I’ve walked through these transition questions. Below are some of my recommendations for easing into GAPS and grain-free living. (Disclaimer, these recommendations assume you have read the GAPS™ Book at least once.)

1. Journal where you’re at

This is an important first step and can be as simple as a single jotted list that includes each family member, along with their frequent symptoms, moods, and food issues. Write them down, and you’ll be able to look back and see patterns, and note triumphs.

2. Change breakfast

Why? This meal, more than any other in the day, sets your pattern of even blood sugar regulation throughout the rest of the day. For this reason, this is the first meal I recommend (gradually) changing to Full GAPS first.

Having a balanced breakfast… with good fats, healthy proteins and low-glycemic veggies… will bring leveled blood sugar that helps kid’s moods, and gives them stable energy… which benefits everyone! Removing the sugary foods also reduces the “food of choice” for pathogenic microbes.

A HEALTHY BREAKFAST FOR BLOOD SUGAR

For example, eggs scrambled in butter with a side of avocado and salsa and homemade sausage patties or sugar free bacon. Protein + fat + healthy carb in the form of vegetables.

This feels good…satiating…never in a state of emergency…balanced.

AN UNHEALTHY BREAKFAST FOR BLOOD SUGAR

For example, a bowl of cereal with lowfat milk, banana, glass of orange juice, coffee w/ cream and sugar. Sugar + sugar + sugar + sugar + caffeine + tiny amount of fat.

Every one of the above items (with the exception of the cream) is going to turn to sugar really quickly. Just as quickly the blood sugar spikes past the safe upper limit. To your body, this is a state of emergency and sets off a chain of hormone messages, insulin being just one of them. Blood sugar levels go back down but so much insulin was pumped out that the blood sugar goes too low, below the safe limit. Sugar high… sugar crash.

3. Work up to a therapeutic dose of probiotics

Probiotic-dosagesAside from the power of food, probiotics can make a big difference, if they are taken in therapeutic amounts. This can be dramatically helpful for moods and can help pave the way for further changes. They are also relatively easy to introduce to kids.

Good probiotics, like GutPro or BioKult, can simply be sprinkled in food or drink. Here is a guide to therapeutic doses (which should be maintained for six months). Remember to start out very small and watch for the so called die-off reaction, when pathogenic microbes get crowded out and “die-off” too quickly, sometimes they cause unpleasant reactions.

4. Replace favorite foods and baked goods

Replace your child’s favorite foods with homemade, grain and refined sugar-free alternatives. Is your child’s favorite food chicken nuggets? Then search online for “grain free chicken nuggets”, or “GAPS Diet chicken nuggets”… you’ll find many alternatives to experiment with and enjoy. Homemade versions will take more time and effort, but they are made with love, and the power of having a hand in bettering your family’s health.

Replace your baked goods with winning grain free recipes (to give you some ideas, google “Honest Body muffin or “Honest Body cupcake)

5. Make broth and use it for soup 1-2x a week

Since this is a foundation of the healing food aspect of GAPS, this skill is important. It can seem difficult, but is really easy once tried. The Weston Price Foundation has great videos and articles that make broth making easy to understand.

Don’t worry if soups aren’t immediately liked by all, the Introduction diet has a way of powerfully shifting taste buds. Your soups will start to taste awesome and rich with real stock, good sea salt, healing animal fats, and high quality meats and veggies.

6. Add epsom salts to your kids’ baths

This is a fun and easy step. Detox baths are an important component of the Detox part of the protocol and if your kids already take baths you can simply start adding 1/2 – 1 cup of epsom salts to their bath. Alternatively, you can try baking soda, sea salt, clay, or seaweed powder.

7. Add one full GAPS meal a week

When you have GAPS breakfasts in your skill set, gradually add in one new GAPS meal a week. Start incorporating GAPS dinners for example, and then snacks, and then school lunches.

8. Work backwards then forwards

I like to recommend that families actually work backward, having a good grasp on Full GAPS, then working backwards through the 6 stages of the more intensely healing “Introduction diet,” THEN commencing on the Introduction diet as originally laid out. I feel this allows for a less “cold-turkey” approach to Intro, and the easier stages come first. What does this look like?

When the family is fully transitioned to Full GAPS, and the GAPS cooking skills aren’t “foreign,” set your date for Intro. Then take a week (or two) to work backwards through the six stages of Intro, starting with Stage 6, then Stage 5, Stage 4, and so on.

9. Tips for getting young ones to eat broth

  • Serve in special cups alongside each meal and require that broth be eaten before the “tastier” foods
  • Flavor well with garlic, salt and herbs
  • Let them sip with a straw
  • Add pure beef gelatin (like Bernard Jensen’s) to warm broth and let it turn into a broth “jello.” This can be served in different shapes, etc.
  • Puree into creamed vegetable soups
  • Reduce down to a “gravy” for meatballs and vegetables

10. Example script for explaining GAPS intro

As far as talking to little folks, advance preparation is good. Talk to them about what is going on their body in simple terms and how this protocol is going to help make them strong and well.

HERE’S A SAMPLE SCRIPT

“Your body has all these little helpers (teeny tiny “bugs”) inside, but in today’s world our bodies can also get too many not-so-helpful “bugs” (or insert whatever word appropriate for your small one). So we need to have a diet for a while that only feeds the good bugs and makes them stronger so that they can do their jobs. This diet can also help us by repairing our tummies, our muscles, our bones, all the parts of us.

For a little while though, while the “bad bugs” are dying off, we can feel yucky. We can’t avoid that part, but I will help you as much as I can to get them out… we’ll take special baths, we’ll do enemas (insert child appropriate explanation of enemas) we’ll get fresh air and  sunshine, we’ll watch some movies and read books together… (insert favorite activity of choice).”

I also find it helpful to show them the stages and read to them what they can eat on what stage. Then you can kind of make the list the “heavy” or the “authority” rather than you.

May your GAPS adventures be rewarding and may you discover the power of healing foods.

melMelanie Christner delights in helping you apply healing protocols to everyday life, while eating really great food…and becoming friends with your body again. She teaches an online GAPS Class and writes at HonestBody.com. As a mom of four children herself, she works with moms and their kiddos to help them feel their best and to have all the life and energy they were meant to have. Melanie is an NTP, and Certified GAPS Practitioner in Vermont. You can find her in her kitchen, or Nordic skiing, or swimming in the Green Mountain rivers with her family.

 

13 Comments

  • Anonymous

    I am thinking about starting this diet especially for my three year old son who has difficulties with ASD but th hardest part is what is my son going to drink since he prefers cow’s milk to anything else pls help!! Thanks a lot xx

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Anonymous,

      This dependency on cow’s milk, as a drink, is one of the very symptoms of GAPS…its a physiological issue that needs the protocol to address.

      I would recommend two readings for you.
      1. First the GAPS book, which explains what is going on with gluten and casein (wheat & milk proteins) and how they become addictive to those with a compromised gut.

      2. The GAPS Stories book, which has inspiring stories of a few mothers who have overcome extremely picky eating.

  • claudia

    Our ten month old is struggling with eczema and Ige dairy allergy. We would like to try GAPS but don’t know what todo about the fermented dairy on whish it relies so heavily. Please help, we are desperate to help this little one.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Claudia,

      Thank you for the question. Whatever food sensitivity your child may have can be passed over initially. You may find your child is able to tolerate fermented/properly prepared dairy further along in the protocol, but in the beginning you can avoid it. There are many other healing foods to depend on in the Introduction diet.

      This “adapting” is what I do with my GAPS clients regularly…combining GAPS with MRT food sensitivity testing, which allows for a bio-individual plan that removes foods that are difficult for that person.

  • Samina Noor

    Hi…plz guide me how to start gaps diet for 4 yrs old n 7 yrs old…stages n recipes..from where can i get please?

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Samina,

      Thank you for your question.

      Here are some options:
      1. For the Do-It-Yourselfer, I would recommend the Heal Your Gut cookbook, which has recipes for all the stages of GAPS.
      2. My website has a lot of resources for GAPS, namely the GAPS Class which includes recipes, stages, and so much more of the details…including myself as a GAPS practitioner doing Q & A in a private forum.
      3. Here is a free online class I’ve done on the GAPS Introduction diet for Families that you may find useful – https://honestbody.wistia.com/medias/8aza3vzhy4

      May these resources be of use to you 🙂

      Warmly,
      Melanie

  • Samina Noor

    Im living in UK

  • Angela

    Hello Melanie,
    I want to start the GAPS diet with my three year-old daughter. She has a speech delay but the problem is that she doesn’t want to try any new foods. I struggle a lot to try to feed her new meals and new drinks. I’m in the process of getting rid of milk, which she loves. Please help me start this diet with a very strong-willed girl. Thank you for sharing any books, websites, or other information.

  • Rachael

    Thank you for this post! I’ve just finished reading the GAPS book and went online searching for additional advice for converting myself and my 2 yo on the spectrum to the diet. I found your info super helpful! I had been thinking about the gelatin trick to make the broth more jello like but was unsure if that was legit or maybe not diet friendly. Thank you thank you thank you 🙂

  • cwray

    Thank you for this information. I am thinking that my daughter is sensitive to eggs. What can I use in place of them for the recipes and breakfast? Thank you <3

  • Camille

    This is so overwhelming – I don’t know if the GAPS diet is our answer or Salicylates are the problem

  • Joy Wilcox

    I think this is a great way to do GAPS diet! My question for you is …

    Doing the GAPS diet for families as you recommend above, how long do you see it taking to 1) start journaling where you are to 2) getting the family on Full Gaps diet to 3) Doing Intro to completing Intro and then finally being on Full Gaps and being done with intro.

    I was going to start Intro diet in early January, but I think it will be easier to do it your way.

  • Heather Schwartz

    My one year old has a dairy and egg allergy. Can you give me some suggestions for breakfast?

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