Butterfly grew up with food intolerances and was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's
Syndrome, and learning difficulties. Now she struggles with OCDs.
This is the story of how we have faced these challenges.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just A Spoonful of Sugar...

... made Butterfly angry and mean. There was a notable difference in Butterfly's behaviour after removing all that other stuff from her diet, but there was still a problem. The thing is, each time something was eliminated, it made a difference in her that was noticeable. Yet after awhile, we'd realize that something was still not right, usually because of a sudden change in her behaviour that was unwarranted and surprising. It all seemed like so many stepping stones across a wild stream of varied currents ~ each stone closer to calmer waters and the prized farther shore. But always one more stepping stone to go. And so it was when I began to realize the difference refined sugar was making to her temper, the frequency of tantrums, etc. right after ingesting candy, for instance. I really didn't need to have to deal with one more thing removed from her diet, but I couldn't escape the reality that refined sugar was simply going to have to go. Ok, avoiding wheat was getting easier, and we had adjusted to candies like salt water toffees that had no artificial colouring. But sugar? Oy.

One of Butterfly's favourite things when she was a toddler was Jello, but when colour had to go, so did Jello. When sugar had to go too, my mom came up with an idea. She used flavourless, colourless gelatin in the making of one type of cheesecake, so she suggested I get some and make jelly with it somehow. So I did. I got unsweetened grape juice and used it to make grape jelly dessert. It was one thing that made the transition easier, because while Butterfly lost some favourite things, she got one back. I made plain grape jelly, and later I sometimes added fruit. It became a mainstay for a little while. Unsweetened fruit juice became her drink of choice at meals and snack time. Things like cheddar cheese and sliced apples and/or grapes, and other fruits were her snacks and desserts, when there wasn't jelly. She loved an orange cut into wedges because they aren't just yummy, they're fun. Peaches canned in fruit juice instead of sugar syrup were good; pears too. I made apple sauce from locally grown MacIntosh apples, because they don't need any sugar added anyway.

It was easier to find meats with no sugar in those days. The onslaught of high fructose corn syrup in almost everything wasn't in full swing yet. Prepared meats often had it though, so they were iffy at best. Better to buy a larger than needed roast, serve it for supper with potatoes and veggies, then cut lunches from the leftover meat. And I made non-wheat pastas ~ I found tomato sauce that didn't have sugar in it and added meat and veggies. Did my child grow up without french fries? Absolutely not. I bought locally grown potatoes and saved the large ones for fries, slicing them into strips and frying them in oil, then serving them with vinegar, sea salt and Parmesan cheese. I started using more herbs and spices in food to add flavour that was preferable to just the sugar and salt in many foods.

Spelt pancakes became a favourite, with no sugar in the batter, but sometimes fruit, and a tiddle of maple syrup drizzled over them. No one cared that the pancakes were a little flat.... "flat as a pancake" applied, but they were yum. I routinely made a large batch of small, "silver dollar" pancakes, served some right away, and froze the rest. Then I just popped some off the frozen pile for subsequent breakfasts, warming them in the microwave, so we had our own quick breakfasts. (If you try this, warm them slowly on low heat, or you'll turn your pancakes into hockey pucks. I warmed them on the "thaw" setting for a minute per pancake.)

I had long since gotten used to the fact that I had to cook and bake ~ no night off at the local fast food joint. Making the kind of meat and pototoes meals I had grown up on was easy. But making the adjustment to no sugar in breads and muffins was probably the hardest part of this. Baking with spelt was challenging anyway. Without sugar, how was I supposed to make it rise and taste good? The obvious answer was honey, but you can't just substitute a half cup honey for a half cup sugar, it's more complex than that. So I cut down on the number of different things I made and just focused on getting a few things right. Breads and muffins were the most needed, so that's what I concentrated on. I found that by adding apple sauce and spices like cinnamon to them, the results were sweeter and tastier. Cinnamon cookies became a favourite treat, and because we didn't have money to buy gifts, we often made these cookies together in the shape of big hearts to give to people for special occasions, such as Mother's and Father's Day, or Valentine's Day. Bud's Nanna was always happy to get a big cookie and a homemade card as her gift. Cakes were very difficult, but I did my best as occasion demanded and at least they were all better than that first one. I made icing using whipped egg whites with warm honey drizzled in for both cakes and cookies.

Even though we were renting, I started a garden. It was useful on a few levels ~ it was great to have this source of food, but I also involved Butterfly as much as I could in an attempt to re-focus her tendency for destruction into something constructive. To this end, the art easle just stayed out in the living room, we didn't just bake food, but also things like salt dough from which we made Christmas ornaments, and gardening was also about wheelbarrow rides to make it fun. One perplexing challenge with the garden was keeping it safe from the weed killer people who did the lawn next door. Wind drift damaged my herbs a couple of times and I'm sure it didn't do Butterfly any good either. She was sensitive to most toxins, but conveying this to people set in their ways was difficult. This bizarre fear of dandelions and the need for a green lawn was apparently more important to some people than the health of a child. Frustrating.

But inside, in the kitchen, I experimented, we baked and learned. Our food was basic, but healthy and good. We had fun with salt dough, we coloured Easter eggs with beet juice, onion skins and blueberries. We froze unsweetened fruit juice in those popsicle trays so Butterfly could enjoy frozen treats. We went to the local maple syrup festival to keep her in maple sugar treats... handed out sparingly. We found gummy bears at the local health food store that were made with unsweetened fruit juice. And so Butterfly grew and learned and we all enjoyed brief periods of relative calm when we managed to keep all the problem foods we knew about out of her diet.


  1. Maple honey candy sounds simply divine anyway!

    I hope you will post recipes for all of these things! I could definitely use them. My kids would love the jelly for sure.

  2. That was one advantage to living in sugarin' country. ;o) We were able to get those maple sugar maple leaves, as well as pure maple syrup lollipops... just maple syrup cooked to hard ball stage I think. Only thing was, they were expensive. But I got what I could at the festival and dished 'em out slowly.

    For the jelly I used Knox plain gelatin. It comes a few little packages of powder to a box. It's not sweetened or flavoured at all. The package says it will gel two cups of liquid, but I found that a little soft. I used 1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 cups juice. Heat half the juice to dissolve the gelatin powder, stirring until it's completely dissolved. Then add the other half of the juice cold out of the fridge, and stir some more. Place in fridge uncovered and voila! Jelly. :)

    I'm going to post resources and yes, some recipes. I just have to compile them first, and figure out how to do that second. ;o)

  3. Excellent! I've been using Knox gelatin in place of xanthan or guar gum in the gluten-free recipes and it works well. Goose reacted to the gums on a sensitivity test we had done, so I try to avoid them and I can't eat corn starch, so the gelatin seems to be a good fit for us.

    Tomorrow's project- jelly! :D

  4. Let me know how that goes... and if they like it! :)