Book Review: Eating For Autism

At first glance of Elizabeth Strickland's "Eating For Autism" I had no intention of picking it up. Years of wading through nutritionally scant gluten/casein free foods in stores had me jaded. Potato starch and white rice flour laden products abound: store after store, layer upon layer, year after year. Seriously. If these foods could be made to taste fantastic and still be nutritious, surely someone would have done that already.

Elizabeth Strickland has. I just wish I found her book five years ago, before my family swore off all gluten free breads.

Ms. Strickland is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in creating diets for children with various health concerns. Who better than a nutritionist with a passion for cooking to tackle the epic challenge of making palatable, nutritiously dense gluten/casein free breads and muffins?

As my baking obsessed Autistic son and I gathered the ingredients for the Pumpkin Muffins my doubts lingered: "Sorghum, Brown Rice Flour, pumpkin, honey, cider vinegar - happy day for the worms in the compost heap", I thought. How delightful to be so wrong! How in the world can muffins made from such dense flours taste so much like their full-on gluten counterparts? We then tried banana muffins and the apple sauce muffins- scrumptious all of them. Yes, jaded special diet moms there is a gluten free Goddess and her name is Elizabeth Strickland.

I expect breads and muffins to be nutritious, but with dessert anything goes. We eat cookies and cakes because they are sweet, not for their fiber content. Yet, Elizabeth Strickland even bases desserts in her high fiber flour mix and are they savory. The Carrot Cake is one of Alex's favorites. With grated carrots and zucchini this recipe is more Zucchini Bread than cake, so I don't feel the least bit guilty sending it in his lunch box as a grain serving. Same with the Chocolate Cake. In fact, most of her cookie and cake recipes have the taste and texture of a delicious sweet bread, perhaps owing to the fiber dense flours.

Only half of Eating For Autism is recipes though. The other substantial portion speaks to the unique nutritional and feeding challenges facing Autistic children. Here Ms. Strickland offers extensive advice for overcoming nutritional deficiencies inherent in special diets, such as the need for B-Vitamins. She also gives pertinent information for targeting and treating food allergies, as well as for resolving feeding issues.

For those new to the gluten/casein free diet I recommend Eating for Autism as your first investment. The practical nutrition section combined with the healthy, sumptuous recipes make this book indispensable to any GFCF kitchen. If you are old hat like me, pleasant surprises await, as your baking world need not be all potato starch and arrowroot. The recipes are so fabulous that my husband, who has no gluten restrictions, even reaches for the muffins. And, my little Autistic baker man is obsessed with this cookbook. Every day he comes straight home from school and grabs Eating For Autism off the shelf. Then he pulls the ingredients out of the cabinet. That is the best endorsement of all.

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