GI Help for Autism By Betsy Hjelmgren

So often I come across patients who I only meet briefly because we are able to resolve their issues in only one (or a few) visits. A few months ago, I met a 3-year-old patient on the autism spectrum, who was suffering from GI problems. I recommended adjusting her intake of fructose and sent her and her mother off, saying, “I hope I never see you again in the office because we resolve your daughter’s issue.” Indeed, that’s exactly what happened, and I was so grateful to hear this week from her mother:

My 3-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum and was having major GI issues – primarily long bouts of diarrhea.  You reviewed her food diaries and advised us to remove sugar alcohols and limit fructose. When you left you joked that you hoped to never see us again (because your advice worked so well). I just wanted to let you know that you changed my little girl’s life (in all seriousness, she was miserable from the cramps and skin effects of her diarrhea and her sleep was also interrupted quite often as well). I just wanted to thank you. In the past week I have given your name out twice and figured that I should let you know how much we appreciated your time and advice! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing your results with me. I am so grateful to hear when our patients are doing well! To anyone else who would like to let us know how you’re doing, share your experience by emailing You can also leave a review on Google+ or our Facebook page.

Why Healthy Fat is Essential for Our Brains By Gia Diakakis, RD

Nutrition is tied to everything in life. Even things that may seem as if they have nothing to do with food and nutrition, like rising rates of ADHD, can be in one way or another linked to diet and eating habits. It’s when I discover these kinds of connections between diet and other areas of health that I will have moments that I think, “This is exactly why I chose to make a career out of nutrition.”

My most recent “aahh” moment was last week. It was a hot summer day in Chicago and my baby Theodore and I were taking a stroll with our friends’ house. My friend Christine is an RN and when the two of us are together, we often discuss health issues. On this particular stroll, we were discussing a book called “Bringing Up Bébé,” which is a book that addressed the differences in French parenting and lower incidences of ADHD. Christine then said, “You know, I just saw an article that was published that shows a link between inadequate fat intake and ADHD in young boys.” That was when the “aahh” moment happened! I immediately asked her to forward me the article so I could dive into the research.

The article is about 40 pages of overflowing medical terminology and statistics that I loved reading. Did you know that “about 50% to 60% of the dry weight of an adult brain is composed of lipid, and at least 35% of the lipid (fat) content is made up of HUFAs (highly unsaturated fatty acids)”?

If our brains are mainly made up of fat, fat in our diet and more importantly the type of fat must play an important role in healthy brain development. In this study, they delved into the ratio and levels of omega-6 fats (found in raw nuts, seeds, legumes and unsaturated vegetable oils such as sesame) and omega-3 fats (found in deep-water fish/flaxseeds/walnuts/etc.). They found that in modern diets “omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in dietary intake have risen from about 1:1 to 2:1 to 20:1”. This is important because another similar study reported that when “comparing 35 young adults males with ADHD with healthy controls, and found that the ADHD group had a higher total omega-6/omega-3 ratio”.

So what does this all mean? Try to incorporate healthy sources of fats into your own and your children’s diet while making sure to eat a variety of food rather than just sticking to a couple sources of fat. Some healthy sources of fat are dairy products, flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, avocado, salmon, halibut, swordfish, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and more. Incorporating fat into your diet will not make you fat if the portion size is correct. It is an important part of everyone’s diet and shouldn’t be feared. Stayed tuned for additional research to come out on this topic!

Research Articles

Gow, Rachel V., and Joseph R. Hibbeln. “Omega-3 fatty acid and nutrient deficits in adverse neurodevelopment and childhood behaviors.” Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America 23.3 (2014): 555-590.

For additional information, check out:

Gluten free cookbook

Gluten Free Cookbook Meal Plans, Recipes and More

Whether you or your child just started eating gluten free, or whether you’re already a pro, our new gluten free diet cookbook contains everything you need to know for healthy, balanced gluten free meals.

The interactive tablet and phone-friendly cookbook contains meal plans, recipes, tips for gluten free living and nutrition facts. What sets this book apart from other GF cookbooks on the market is the expert advice and detailed meal plans from our pediatric registered dietitian, Betsy Hjelmgren.

The Gluten Free Diet is designed to fully meet the recommendations for calories, protein, calcium, iron, and other vitamins/minerals for each age group by using real, wholesome food. Following the meal plans completely will eliminate the need for additional vitamin supplementation for most children, with the exception that all children need extra vitamin D, since it is not widely available in foods we eat. We recommend that children on gluten free diets also take a thiamine supplement.

The cookbook includes three weeks of detailed meal plans, balanced and kid-friendly recipes and tips for gluten free eating. Available for Amazon Kindle Fire®, Apple iPad®, Android devices, and Mac or PC computers. Cookbook is a Fixed-layout ebook, and a PDF is available upon request. Email with any questions.

Healthy, Easy School Lunch Ideas Back to School Lunches

With this first week of school underway, everyone’s favorite chore of packing school lunches starts anew. As parents, it’s a common struggle to balance healthy choices, easy options and food our kids will actually eat. That’s why we’ve got five tips to make this year’s school lunches easy, healthy and kid-friendly.

1. Start with a bento box: We sang the praises of the bento box last year on this site, and it’s worth restating here. Whatever one you choose–a cheap one from Target or a fancy one on Amazon–bento boxes make it easier to pack real food for lunch and save on unnecessary waste. Plus, it’s a lot more pleasant to eat over a plate than a lunch bag.

2. Make your own lunchables: Once you’ve got a bento box, it’s easy to pack foods that your kids can assemble during lunch. Some favorite combos are pizza sauce + cheese + pita; hummus + cheese + cucumber + whole wheat crackers; turkey breast + mustard + tortilla wraps

3. Chop on Sundays: When eating healthy takes a bit more effort, sometimes we have to set ourselves (or our kids!) up for technical success. If you take a few minutes on Sunday to chop up veggies and fruit to store in the fridge, you’re more likely to pack them in lunches during a harried morning.

4. Make extra dinner. School lunch doesn’t have to be limited to a sandwich. If you’re making stir fry, pasta and veggies, or even soup for dinner, double the portion and have more for lunches. Anything that can be frozen, like pizza or soup, you can portion out for future lunches.

5. Purchase a good thermos. Thermoses can be expensive, but they last forever. With a good thermos, you can pack soup for lunch, and it will stay hot until lunch.

Wishing everyone a great new school year!

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