The Doman Method Nutrition Program
Your Survival Guide
Last week, I taught the lecture about nutrition to parents attending the Doman Method Course in Moscow, Russia. After the lecture, I did some reflection and tried to put myself in the shoes of the 55 parents in the room. Nutrition is the foundation of the Doman Method treatment program for our children with special needs. That’s a lot of pressure on our parents to do it right!
As a home cook and baker, I see restrictive diets as a new and exciting challenge. It’s fun to think of new, nutritious and equally delicious ways to prepare the foods we love. Over the years, this has led me down lots of interesting paths and has expanded my own palette (as well as my husband’s).
However, I can imagine for a lot of parents (especially those who DO NOT cook) that our Elimination Diet can feel daunting. I first felt this when Spencer, my husband, had to go gluten-free because of a gluten intolerance. As an avid baker, I was crushed. What on earth was I going to do now? But there was no choice -- I adapted, I experimented, I learned, and now I almost exclusively bake gluten-free. Honestly, it just tastes better to me now!
Whether you’re just getting started or you are a pro at our Nutrition Program, here are my top recommendations to do prove a great diet for your kid with special needs at home:
1. Do some investigative work: Before starting your child’s Elimination Diet, get familiar with the products at your local grocery store. What are the veggies that seem to be out each week? What sources of good quality fats and animal proteins are at your disposal? Now that you’re eliminating quite a few foods from your child’s diet, there may be some amazing products that you’ve simply been skipping over for months…or years. Understanding variety will make it much easier to eliminate foods that are problematic for your child. Keep a mental note of these foods for Step Number 4.
2. Get acquainted with Pinterest: Pinterest is going to be your new best friend. When I’ve needed to search for gluten-free recipes, dairy-free alternatives, amazing paleo crockpot recipes... Pinterest is my go-to. It’s an amazing tool right at your fingertips. Why? Because there’s going to be a mother, grandmother, dad, aunt or uncle who’s been through all of this before and is kind enough to share their recipes online. It will also allow you to find some amazing recipe blogs that you can refer to anytime. And, as you find recipes that you love and become a part of your roster, you’ll be paying it forward to the next person.
3. Trash day: Now you’re ready to rip off the bandaid. Anything in the house your child shouldn’t be eating as part of their new diet, trash it. If it’s unopened, donate it. This week I had a bowl of Easter candy staring me in the face and I threw it out. Temptation gone. After I threw it out, my husband saw it in the trash and said, “Honey, thanks for throwing those out.” No one likes to be reminded about what they can’t have. Honestly, I felt a lot better. It’s better to have these products out of sight and out of mind. And, you’re less likely to buckle when under pressure to get dinner on the table. Please note, everyone (and I mean everyone) has to abide by the rules. Whatever you cook is what everyone’s going to eat. Any no-no foods must be indulged outside the house. No one gets preferential treatment or special food prepared for them at mealtime. You’re a family -- everyone eats the same thing at mealtime.
4. Whatever you do, meal plan: If you’re unfamiliar with cooking without dairy, gluten, sugar, etc., you must meal plan. Make it a habit, and pick a time every week to do it — no exceptions. Do not step foot in the grocery store without a clear idea of what to get. Take some time at home to put your grocery list together — you know that your child needs several veggies, a grain/potato/root veggie, and a protein at each meal. Pick a couple of great Pinterest recipes from Step 2 and plan those at certain points in the week. If you’re new to cooking, it allows you to get what you need and keep you focused. Trust me, as your skills get better over the coming months you can spread your wings a bit and add/subtract things based on what looks good in produce or what’s on the shelves. Initially, plan your meals for the week.
5. Know what you can prepare ahead of time: To cook veggies, meat and grains at 5 different times of day is only possible if you have a hired chef! In many cases, the parent who is the main Doman Method programmer is also cooking the meals. There’s just not enough time! So, cook your grains and meats for the day. Veggies should be prepped fresh for each meal. Otherwise, you miss out on the full nutrient power of those foods. When I do this, I cook my veggies how I want them to be and then in the final minutes I toss my meat and grains in just to heat them up.
6. Get creative!: As you start to practice and make a habit of cooking with an Elimination Diet, you start to feel comfortable with it. If you don’t have an ingredient? Okay! Omit it, or even better replace it with something. Very often, just a quick Google search of “alternatives for X” will give you lots of great ideas. As you use more recipes and as you learn how new ingredients taste, you’ll be able to pair things together and come up with flavor combos that the whole family will enjoy.
The Doman Method Nutrition Program can seem like a huge challenge, especially for novice cooks. But food preparation is a journey in itself, whether you’re on a restrictive diet or not. Confront the fact that there will be mistakes. Yes, you may end up throwing out that $25 piece of salmon because it’s inedible. It happens. We’ve all been there. What’s more important is that you get consistent with the habits of preparing, informing yourself, and just having fun, and you’ll be an expert in no time!