I’ll admit it: When we were in Maine, we threw some dietary caution to the lobster-scented coastal wind. We stayed primarily in B&B’s and were lavished each morning with fancy Belgian waffles, baked fruit served in luxuriously rich sauces and warm muffins, fresh-baked cookies and the like–all made with refined white flour. Tasty, yes, but we did miss our usual whole grains, veggie, fruit, nut and lean meat diet. (Cheers to the Co-op in Belfast! They saved us from veggie withdrawal symptoms.)
While our toddler was certainly off his schedule, and sleeping in a variety of different beds throughout the trip would set off a tantrum in even the mildest of two-year-olds, we really noticed a difference with the change in diet. So, we indulged while on vaca, but I decided that when we returned, we would try out a gluten-free diet, and see if the white flour really was at the root of total toddler meltdown.
I contacted Joseph’s nursery school for help. Anneliese’s (where he attends 3 days a week) is the only school in Orange County with an organic menu. They are very conscientious about the kids’ diets, so I was hoping for some input. They did mention that some other parents were trying the same thing–with the idea that the glucose breaks down over the day, and by bedtime, the child is behaving like they have been fed an all-sugar dinner. Hmm, thought I. Bedtime troubles, we’ve got those in spades….
It’s relatively easy to make the switch to a gluten-free diet. Mother’s Market and Henry’s both carry plenty of options. If you are blessed with a Whole Foods in your neighborhood (you lucky so-and-so!) the choices are even wider. I picked up some bread mixes and little Joseph and I made a project of it. He got to break the eggs and hold the measuring spoon while I poured the oil. And, I won’t make you guess whether a toddler enjoys kneading sticky dough! They do.
We did a couple of different types. Chebe offers a pizza crust that we prepared, rolled out, and cut into star shapes. When my little Dora fanatic immediately proclaimed them to be Explorer Stars, I knew we’d have a winner. (Yes, it tastes good, too.) I was so pleased with the whole thing (and feeling so smugly Martha Stewart-esque) that I went ahead and made a whole batch of star-shaped mini-pizzas (cutting the veggie-pepperoni into heart shapes!) to freeze.
OK, fast-forward: What a DIFFERENCE! Within only a couple of days, bedtime became a time of peace and cuddling–and sleep. It’s been two weeks now, and we haven’t had a single meltdown (except once when he missed a nap in order to visit his cousins). And, instead of our regular two-hour nightly Battle Royale to get the child in bed and asleep, he gladly gets into bed and snuggles happily while stories are read, then lights out, and he goes to sleep!! Wow! After the countless books we’ve read to find some magical fix for bedtime bawling–with no success–we have this happy, agreeable bed-timer. What a treat!
Let me add a very special note: While we only narrowly escaped an unfortunate appearance on one of those nanny reality shows, most importantly, I’m happy for little Joseph. He used to get so very upset and frantic at bedtime, screaming, shouting, crying, kicking–I can’t even begin to understand the little storm that was going on inside him, his frustrations. And when he would quiet down, he would cling to us in the dark, refusing to fall asleep, repeating “hug, hug,” hoping we would never let him go. How wonderful for HIM to have his anxieties removed. How wonderful that we can lay there hugging and kissing and reading books and singing songs and all the while he is confident and at ease. There have even been evenings when we were able to leave him in his bed, awake, and let him fall asleep by himself!
OK, now what about the rest of the family? For me, personally, I like to keep an eye on the glycemic index. We’ve all read that diets high in sugar make the waistline heavy. An apple-shaped body is a result of a high-glycemic diet, and, as someone who had a second baby this year, the waistline is a particularly sensitive region for me, weight-loss-wise. In case you aren’t aware, gluten-free means potatoes and corn–two of the worst offenders on the GI! I can tell you that in only two weeks, I have been in such pain (I can’t even digest them!) and weight I JUST lost is creeping back to my midsection. Clearly, gluten-free is not for me. My husband feels the same. He is the type that keeps a caloric balance: when one culprit is cut, other treats can be added. Studies have shown that when we think we are eating light, we allow ourselves more special treats (which is fine in theory). The problem is that most people can portion out a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Exactly what portion of gluten-free peanut-butter shortbread cookie is appropriate?
Anyway, we promised ourselves we would try this for a month. If we experience an entire meltdown-free 30-day period, we owe it to our son–and our sanity–to make a gluten-free diet our child’s new lifestyle.