vegetables pizza

Gluten Free/Casein Free Food Substitutions for Autism Kids

Transitioning to a new way of eating doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might imagine. Let’s look specifically at Gluten free/Casein free food substitutions for the extremely picky eater.

Many children with autism have food aversions and will not try anything new. I get it. My son was the same way.

There finally came a point that I knew we had to try the nutritional approach because his behaviors were very difficult to manage, he was not making progress with his therapies, and he was literally sick all the time. Even before I was a Clinical Nutritionist, I knew that he was not able to get adequate nutrition from the 4 or 5 things he was eating.

With autism and sensory processing disorders, this can be a slow transition. Do what you can, when you can.

As I talked about in the article, What about my picky eating child, I talked about taking the approach of substituting their favorite foods with gluten free, casein free (GFCF) alternatives. Typically, a child on the spectrum is going to be “addicted” to foods in this category.

Pizza, chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, grilled cheese. It all comes down to cheese and bread. Gluten is the protein found in many grains including wheat and casein is a protein found in dairy products.  Read more about how these proteins affect autism here.

The first step is many times to simply replace these with a GFCF version.

Below, I will list some of the best substitutions for many of these products. I would like to add, that many of these products are not “ideal”, but it is a great place to start.


*Transitioning off grains and off most processed is the most ideal for speedy healing of the gut and as a result, improved behaviors.


Barlean’s Butter Flavored Organic Coconut Oil


UDI’s (also has hamburger buns, hotdog buns, dinner rolls, etc)
Food for Life Organic Rice Bread


Pizzas and Pizza Crusts

UDI’s—Gluten free/casein free crusts but the fully made frozen pizzas have real cheese (casein)—You can just buy the crust and make your own pizza with Daiya cheese and Hormel Naturals Pepperoni.

Amy’s Organic (frozen)—They do provide a fully prepared Gluten Free, Casein Free Pizza. Try to get soy free as well.


Daiya ( highly processed and not the best ingredients)

A better choice is finding a recipe for Cashew "cheese" such as this

Mac N Cheese

Amy’s Organic (frozen)—The only brand I know of that has a Gluten free and Casein free option.

Better Choice>>> Or easily make your own with Brown Rice or Quinoa Noodles with some Cashew Cheese

Snack Bars

Lara Bars

Chicken Nuggets, Corn dogs, Deli Meats, Pepperoni

Applegate Farms
Hormel Naturals


For Baking:

• Coconut oil/butter
• Flax seed oil
• Macadamia nut oil
• Palm oil/palm kernel oil shortening like Nutiva Organic Shortening or Spectrum Organic Shortening
• Safflower oil
• Sunflower oil
• Walnut oil

For Sauteing:

• Olive oil
• Rice bran oil
• Sesame oil

For Salad Dressings:

• Avocado oil
• Grapeseed oil
• Olive oil

Egg Substitutes

• While not gluten or casein, many people have a sensitivity to eggs. These are my favorite egg substitutes for baking

• 2 tbsp. arrowroot flour = 1 egg
• 1 tbsp. chia seeds + 3 tbsp water=one egg
• 2 tbsp. potato starch = 1 egg
• 1 banana = 1 egg in cake recipes
• 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds plus 3 tbsp. water = one egg


I also highly recommend getting vegetables in as much and as soon as possible. One way I did this was to chop bell peppers, carrots, garlic, onions, etc with a food chopper as small as possible and mix it in to their pizza or spaghetti sauce or meatloaf.

 Avocado is an extremely good, nutrient dense food for getting healthy fats in. Here is a good recipe for Chocolate Pudding that hides the avocado.


**If you have a question regarding a gluten free/casein free substitution for a specific food, please Contact Me.  or comment below. I will also be adding to this list as I get more questions.



autism, nutrition, picky eating, child nutrition, boy with healthy food

What About My Super-Picky-Eater Child?

Changing Eating Habits Are Hard For Anyone...But Especially For A Picky Child!

When I first began to look in to changing the way we ate after my son’s autism diagnosis, I was completely overwhelmed and thought there was no way he would eat anything other than his typical macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, or cheese pizza.

I had read that many times once removing these foods, the child would begin to eat new things. They obviously did not know my child!! Any time I would put any new foods in front of him he would throw the food, scream, and cry and gag himself until he threw up.

I knew changing the way he ate was crucial. I knew he wasn’t getting adequate nutrition. He was frequently sick and he couldn’t even tell me when and how he felt bad. He couldn’t even tell me when his tummy hurt. If there was even a slight chance that improving his diet could get him to the point that he could tell me when he had a headache or his throat hurt, it would be worth it.

But…how? How was I going to make this happen?

Based on what I know now about nutrition and health,  I wish I would have been more aggressive with his food and supplements, but it was tough. It is tough enough having a child with autism. Then add in the tantrums and frequent illnesses and now having to learn a new way of eating! It was almost too much to handle.

We took the slow approach.

I switched his morning cereal to Rice Chex and almond milk or gluten free waffles.  This was literally all he ate for 3 days.

Then…..a miracle happened! He took his first bite of steak and broccoli ever!! If you have a picky eater child, you know how amazing this is!!

This seems to be one of the first changes most parents see with removing gluten and casein from their child’s diet. Almost every parent I have talked to has had a similar experience. The gluten and casein acts literally like a drug in their bodies which is why they crave it so much!! Now, it is also important to say that along with the removal of the “drug” comes “withdrawal”. This is somewhat of a “die-off” response as the gluten and casein is being removed from the body. If you have ever tried a sugar detox diet, you probably had similar results! You feel worse before you feel better.

With this type of effect can come a lot of screaming and crying and even crazy behaviors. Stay strong. You got this! Get through those few tough days because it will get better.

Now, he didn’t just start eating super amazingly healthy all of sudden like I would love to be able to tell you. It was a process. We started by switching all of his regular food to gluten free versions…hot dog and hamburger buns, cereals, cookies, etc. This is not, of course, the healthiest way (nor the cheapest!) to do this but it was such a big change for my whole family.

Like I said, I wish we would have been more aggressive and could have cut out all processed foods all at once, but it was much slower than that in reality.  I do 100% believe that his progress would have been much quicker had we been able to make that switch more rapidly.

Other ways I made the change for my super picky eating child:

  • Diluted his juice with water….started with ¾ juice to ¼ water and worked up until it was basically all water.
  • Smoothies with honey and orange juice as a sweetener, slowly reducing the sweeteners over time and eventually replacing it with stevia. The smoothies started with just fruits and almond milk. I eventually was able to add greens and then I added raw cacoa (which also has amazing healing properties) to hide the greens.
  • Switched his morning cereal to gluten free rolled oats and added in lots of coconut oil, cinnamon, flax seeds, and either honey or stevia.
  • Switched his gluten free waffles to super easy grain free waffles made at home.
  • Switched his gluten free chicken nuggets to homemade chicken nuggets with almond meal.


These are just a few ideas for the super picky eating child. I advocate taking a much faster approach and cutting out all processed foods leading to a whole food approach as soon as possible. I understand this is not always easy in the beginning, especially with a child with autism. Remember it is a process. It takes time and it is a marathon not a sprint. Check out my Getting Started Guide for more information on the switch-over process.

I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Leave them for me in the comments.


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