This is the third in an ongoing run of posts about how we have handled the strict Brain Balance diet.
So far I have written about the importance of being converted and committed if you want to change your family’s diet, and about how to talk to your kids about the diet. Today I’d like to write just a bit about one of the most important things we have learned while doing this diet.
Keep. It. Simple.
One of the first things that will happen after you have become converted and committed to eating this way, and after you have talked to your family and everyone is on board, is you will feel sick thinking about all of the things that you can’t eat. You will run through your mind a list of all of the foods you have normally eaten and you will realize that much or even most of that stuff is now off limits.
You will then do what any self-respecting parent does these days. You will go to the internet and look for recipes of things that you can eat. Your first go-to place might be Pinterest. Because our Brain Balance diet is so close to paleo (the biggest difference being that with paleo you are completely grain-free and with Brain Balance we can still have corn and rice) you will intelligently look for Pinterest boards with paleo recipes.
You will find someting like this:
I would love to eat Sweet Potato Latkes “Everyday” or Blueberry Pumpkin Muffin Bars for Breakfast in the morning, or Avocado with Warm Bacon Dressing right now (I should not be writing this while I’m hungry).
If you can whip up a culinary masterpiece for every meal, awesome. But this is our reality: We have four kids ages 8, 6, 4, and 2. And we have a dog that needs walking, and we have a new house that needs constant repairs and upgrades, and we are starting school, and I have a job, and we have church responsibilities, and we are still doing over an hour of Brain Balance exercises at home per day plus twice-weekly trips to St. George for more Brain Balance (usually at least a four hour trip). So even most easy and every day paleo is just not happening for us right now.
So what do we do? Actually, we were saved by a conversation with my Aunt Nan. She is one of the healthiest eaters I know. She is the one who packs her own food to every family outing and happily eats her delicious looking salads while everyone else is having whatever they are having. So we asked her. How do you do it? How do you come up with a menu every week? She simply said. “I don’t. I usually eat just about the same thing every day."
Actually, this is only partly true. She follows a basic pattern of easy go-to foods that she comes back to and can modify as she needs. Just because she usually has a salad for lunch does not mean that it is the exact same salad every lunch. (I know and she knows that it is important to have variety in our diet so please no comments about how we are ruining our and our children's health by not having variety).
This was so liberating for us! We don’t have to make every recipe in the paleo cookbook. (Think about that for a minute. How many cavemen or cavewomen used cookbooks??) We just need a few go-to meals using whole, natural ingredients that our kids will enjoy and that will fill us up. So what are our foods.
For breakfast we usually have cold cereal with fruit. We like the gluten-free, organic corn flakes with rice milk. If we don’t have fresh fruit, we thaw out some frozen berries and put them on top. Yummy. Easy. And not too expensive.
Some mornings we also have eggs, and sometimes we have oatmeal.
Lunch is often leftovers from dinner the night before. Sometimes we do almond butter and honey roll-ups on a tortilla (no more difficult than a pb&j sandwich). We always have lots of organic taco chips from Costco and fresh (sometimes frozen) fruits and veggies on hand to supplement.
Dinner is where we have a bit more variety, but we nearly always keep it very simple. Some kind of protein, some kind of veggie, and maybe some corn, rice, or potatoes to help fill us up.
Simple. Simple. Simple.
I figure the diet only does us good if we stick to it. And if we feel pressure every day to make some paleo masterpiece like we found on Pinterest, we will more often than not slack off. This may not work for everyone. Some kids (and some spouses) are pickier eaters and their parents have to find just the right thing that they will like. But my advice, if you are serious about this and you have a crazy life like ours, is keep it simple. Find some foods that everyone likes and stick with them. After you have a good routine, feel free to explore a bit on Pinterest or ask your paleo friends, and try adding maybe one or two more things to the list. See how they go. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Remember: THIS IS A MARATHON and my #1 rule of marathon training is never go so hard one day that you can’t get yourself out of bed the next to run again.
The Paleo Donuts with Chocolate Ganache will have to wait :)
As always, please feel free to comment on and share this post with your friends and family. We hope our story helps other people working with children and adults with autism. Feel free, as well, to click on the thermometer and donate to help us pay for the Brain Balance program that has done so much for us. Every little bit helps!