Q: What outcomes can I expect for my child if we follow Brain Food’s approach?

A: The outcome for your child will depend on what symptoms your child presents at the outset, as well as your commitment as a parent to follow the protocol provided by Brain Food. That said, improving and if necessary changing your child’s diet will frequently lead to calmer behavior from an overactive child, for example, or better communication and eye-contact from a passive child. In some cases, the improvement may be quite dramatic.

Q: How can you tell if my child will benefit from the GFCF diet?

A: Parents often contact me because they have heard of the GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) diet, and would like to have their child tested to determine whether the diet would be suitable. Whilst there is a test to identify the presence of excessive gluten and casein urinary peptides, indicating an inability to digest these proteins, the test is not 100% accurate. For this reason, the test would merely be one of several factors taken into consideration to determine whether your child would benefit from a special diet such as the GFCF diet or the GAPS diet. The decision whether to try a special diet requires a holistic examination of your child’s symptoms and health profile. Sometimes a trial period of 3-6 weeks on a restrictive diet will be necessary.

Q: My child is a very fussy eater and only eats a very restricted range of foods. I don’t think dietary interventions will work for us. I’m worried he will starve!

A: This is a very common concern. Children often crave the very foods that are causing them harm. The fact that your child is self-restricting his diet is actually a sign that dietary intervention could be very beneficial. Children with this profile often have gastrointestinal issues such as yeast overgrowth. Once these problems are addressed, they will frequently be more willing to try new foods. In any event, I will work closely with you and provide strategies to help your child diversify their diet and enjoy a wider range of foods.

Q: I’m concerned that if my child needs a low-sugar diet, it will be difficult to prevent well-meaning friends and family from undermining our efforts by giving her sweets.

A: It can be challenging to ensure friends and family are all on board when you are making changes to your child’s diet, but it’s crucial to ensure their support. It’s a good idea to explain that a special diet is not like a weight loss diet, where splurges might be allowed. You may find it easier to bring your own food along to parties and holidays.

Q: What is the cost of treatment at Brain Food?

A: I am very conscious of the need to help families keep their costs down. Families with special needs children in particular are confronted daily with difficult decisions as to how to allocate their resources in the most effective manner, as otherwise costs can add up very rapidly. This is one of the reasons why I am conservative about what tests to order and when to order them. Any recommended tests and supplements are paid for by the family directly, and I do not receive any commissions whatsoever on any tests or products. 

I make every effort to ensure that my fees are reasonable. Typically, a family’s total expense for treatment at Brain Food would be the cost of the initial consultation plus two or three follow-up appointments. There is no charge for short follow-up questions via email/text/WhatsApp between appointments.

Q: If my child needs a special diet, won’t it be very expensive to switch to “free-from” products?

A: Gluten and dairy free substitution products are indeed more expensive and, for the most part, not as good as the real thing. My strategy is to avoid substitution products as much as possible and focus on all of the foods that your child can eat while on a restrictive diet, foods that are naturally gluten and dairy free.

Pick up any cookbook and you may be surprised to find that many of the recipes contain no gluten or dairy. Other recipes only require minor changes, such as pan-frying in olive oil instead of butter. It is perfectly feasible to eat a healthy and varied, Mediterranean-style diet with no gluten or dairy, and you may well find there are health benefits for the entire family. As long as you are prepared to do some cooking, special diets do not need to be any more expensive than ordinary diets.

I will support you in your learning process with tips, recipes and meal plans. And don’t forget to visit the Recipe section for more ideas and recipes!

Q: Wouldn’t a dietitian be more qualified than a nutritionist to help my child?

A: Dietitians in the UK belong to a legally-protected profession requiring registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. Nutritionists, on the other hand, are not required by law to be registered, although many do opt to join voluntary professional registers. This does not necessarily mean that nutritionists are less qualified than dietitians, however. To the best of my knowledge very few dietitians in the UK are currently specialized in dietary interventions for children with special needs. The small number of practitioners in the UK with this specialization are virtually all nutritionists.

Personally, I chose the nutritionist pathway rather than the dietitian pathway because I had decided from the outset that this was the specialization for me. Studying to be a nutritionist gave me the flexibility to add complementary subjects to my course of study, such as child development, autism and genetics, all of which are very relevant to working with children specifically.