We’re still in Chicagoland. Martin is asleep in our hotel room, tended by his grandmother, and I’m in the hotel common area. I brought my laptop down here so as not to zap Martin with unnecessary EMF’s from the wireless internet and computer battery; EMF’s demand hyper-vigilance this week, owing to the LED treatment (which has gone swimmingly, as I will explain once we’re back on our home turf). With these few minutes of peace, I think I’ve found a good time to post what Martin’s diet looks like these days.
I’ll start by saying that I am vegan and have been for all of my adult life. (Don’t worry—I’m not judgmental. It just happens to be the choice that works for me.) Adrian is “pescatarian,” so he eats eggs, dairy, and fish. Martin, until this February, was vegan.
When we first radicalized Martin’s diet, he was entirely grain-free. No wheat, rice, buckwheat, quinoa (not technically a grain, but…), amaranth, millet, oats, anything. He also ate no soy or corn. No fruit except coconut, avocado, lemon, lime, and about one pear and one tomato per week. No starchy or sugary vegetables, so potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, and the like were out. No casein (milk protein), so no milk, cheese, or yogurt. (That category was not a problem for a tiny vegan.) No legumes except lima beans, navy beans, and occasional lentils or split peas. No peanuts. No preservatives or refined sugars. No sweeteners except very limited green stevia extract, raw agave nectar (never heated above 118º), cooked and puréed pear, or coconut crystals. Everything must be organic, and nothing is canned.
I suspect that most families who embark on an autism-fighting diet rely heavily on meats, but that wasn’t an option for us. Martin’s was a diet based primarily upon pre-soaked nuts and pre-soaked seeds, dark greens, and oils. In the beginning I was having trouble finding enough protein for Martin, I wanted at least one more sweetener, and his excellent Track Two doctor wanted some dietary cholesterol. So Adrian and I made strategic decisions to add a few non-vegan products that I could get comfortable with:
>>> eggs (I found a farm I like in Trumansburg that supplies eggs to my favorite natural-foods store—Perelandra, over in Brooklyn—and Adrian really liked that I started cooking him weekend brunch eggs at home);
>>> ghee (clarified butter, which has the casein removed); and
>>> raw wildflower honey (either from the farmers’ market or the commercially available Really Raw brand).
We’ve had some changes over the past six months, both adding ingredients and taking away. The biggest change is that Martin now gets to eat limited gluten-free grains. This came about because Martin was showing some signs of ketosis, which is an issue often associated with low-carb diets. Martin’s doctor opined that ketosis was not a healing state for him. So now I serve Martin’s Indian-style dishes with brown basmati rice; he gets occasional gluten-free oatmeal-squash breakfasts; my mother makes him crackers with quinoa flour and other gluten-free grain flours; and I generally look for opportunities to slip about 1/4 cup of grain into him daily.
We also got to add in sweet potatoes, which are starchy but nutrient-rich. And just recently brown bananas entered the fray, as a sweetener for green smoothies and such.
But we’ve lost some foods, too, based on testing for phenol sensitivities. For at least the next few months, Martin will not be tasting any chicken eggs (we’re resorting to duck and quail eggs), garlic, onion, or nightshades (for example, eggplant, or peppers other than black pepper).
Cooking for Martin is a continual struggle, but by this point I don’t mind it as much, and my confidence has grown. It has helped a lot that my mother stepped in with baking and other assistance she can offer from her home. I also like to challenge myself (1) to make sure that Martin’s diet does not mean he does not get desirable and well-prepared meals; and (2) to try to come up with at least one new recipe per week to add to our ever-changing smorgasbord. I am extremely lucky that Martin has never been a picky eater. He’s as happy with a cumin-infused cashew-cream broccoli-spinach purée as many kids are with chicken nuggets and French fries.
I should also point out that I have consulted with two certified nutritionists to make sure that Martin is getting all the nutrition he needs, despite his dietary limitations. That was a comfort to me, especially during the early how-am-I-ever-going-to-make-this-work? days.