is it for you?

What are the ben­e­fits of a gluten-free diet for you and your spe­cial child? We speak to a be­havioural ther­a­pist to find out.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - star2@thes­


gluten-free Gluten — a pro­tein found in wheat, rye and bar­ley — causes ad­verse re­ac­tions in some peo­ple. It’s easy for fam­i­lies to opt for a gluten-free diet.

TEACH­ING has al­ways been at the back of her mind, but life and work got in the way. Low Hooi Bee was then with the mar­ket­ing depart­ment of a nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ment line. For five years, her re­spon­si­bil­ity was mar­ket­ing fish oil sup­ple­ments tar­geted at chil­dren with dys­lexia.

In the course of her work, she got to know many par­ents who had chil­dren with dys­lexia, learn­ing dis­or­ders or autism. It sparked her pas­sion. She started finding out more about the dis­or­ders and dis­cov­ered a pro­gramme called Ap­plied Be­hav­iour Anal­y­sis (ABA), which is tai­lored to kids with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and autism. She stud­ied to be­come an ABA ther­a­pist.

In 2008, she left her mar­ket­ing job to be­come a full-time ther­a­pist. She started work­ing with kids with autism and dys­lexia.

“Do­ing the pro­gramme changed my pri­or­i­ties com­pletely. I wanted to do some­thing for the kids, and it be­came a big part of my life,” she says in an in­ter­view at her home in Petaling Jaya, Se­lan­gor.

Cur­rently, the 40-year-old, who is sin­gle, works with three spe­cial kids. She also does mar­ket­ing for a child devel­op­ment centre called Kidz grow in Se­lan­gor.

As she learnt more about the kids’ con­di­tions, she started re­search­ing the ef­fects of food on be­havioural dis­or­ders.

“I have cooked since I was 19. I hosted a cook­ing show called Menu Asia on RTM1 back in 1991. This time, I started look­ing at gluten­free cook­ing. Through re­search I dis­cov­ered that a ca­sein-free and gluten-free (CFGF) diet is ben­e­fi­cial for kids with autism and ADHD (at­ten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der). There were vast im­prove­ments in their be­hav­iours,” she says.

(Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, gluten is a pro­tein com­pos­ite found in foods pro­cessed from wheat and re­lated grain species, in­clud­ing bar­ley and rye. It gives elas­tic­ity to dough, help­ing it to rise and keep its shape, and of­ten giv­ing the fi­nal prod­uct a chewy tex­ture.)

In lay­man’s terms, gluten makes the body re­lease hor­mones called glu­teo­mor­phin, which has the same prop­er­ties as mor­phine. It af­fects them neu­ro­log­i­cally. It leads to hyper­ac­tiv­ity and men­tal slow­down ( see side­bar be­low).

When autis­tic kids or kids with ADHD were fed a gluten-free diet, Low could see vast im­prove­ments in their be­hav­iours and they de­vel­oped faster men­tally.

Last Oc­to­ber, she de­cided to start cook­ing classes that taught par­ents how to pre­pare sim­ple, fast and nu­tri­tional meals for their kids. She holds her classes at At 19 Culi­nary Studio in Da­mansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. Her aim is to equip new cooks with the con­fi­dence and skills to cook a nu­tri­tious meal for the whole fam­ily.

“Many peo­ple don’t re­alise that the Asian diet ac­tu­ally uses very lit­tle gluten. Rice is our main­stay, not wheat, so hav­ing a nu­tri­tious gluten-free meal is eas­ier than you think,” she says.

“As long as you avoid any­thing that uses flour. The only pit­falls you have to watch out for are the hid­den gluten in things like oys­ter sauce, soy sauce and canned food,” she con­tin­ues.

On the avail­abil­ity of gluten-free prod­ucts, Low notes that there are lots out there in or­ganic shops and such. “But I usu­ally try to buy lo­cal, ev­ery­day food. Peo­ple don’t have to hunt for it. It’s read­ily avail­able, like fresh lo­cal pro­duce and meat.”

Pric­ing is higher than non-or­ganic stuff, up to twice or three times more.

Low also urges par­ents to learn to read la­bels.

“There’s a lot you can find out from the la­bels on the can. If you see any­thing that says ‘flour’, ‘ mod­i­fied starch’ or ‘thick­ener’, the food con­tains gluten. If you see ‘ tex­tured veg­etable pro­tein’, that’s ac­tu­ally MSG!

“We’re very blessed be­cause we have at our fin­ger­tips dishes like kuay teow (flat rice noo­dles) and chee cheong fun (steamed rice noo­dles). We have de­li­cious pro­duce like sweet po­tato and po­tato. The key is to in­dulge in whole, fresh foods, and to stay away from pro­cessed foods,” she says.

Low thinks it is great that just by be­ing a lit­tle mind­ful with food prepa­ra­tion, par­ents can see a world of dif­fer­ence with spe­cial kids. Even in the av­er­age house­hold, she thinks whole, fresh food is the way to go. Pro­cessed foods of­ten have preser­va­tives and added sugar, which are ob­vi­ously not good for kids.

“At my classes, which are three hours long, I teach busy moth­ers and new cooks how to make bal­anced meals. A lot of peo­ple think cook­ing is dif­fi­cult and time-con­sum­ing, and when they hear the term gluten-free cook­ing, they’re even more put off. It’s not. You can make a (gluten-free) meal out of very ba­sic in­gre­di­ents. It beats any meal you can have out­side,” she says. n For more in­for­ma­tion on Low Hooi Bee’s classes, visit www.at19­culi­ Check out gluten-free recipes cour­tesy of Low on page 4.

Golden Wedges With Fruity Sauce

1 medium sweet po­tato (cut into chips) ½ tsp salt (op­tional) ½ tsp pep­per (op­tional) 2 tbsp corn­flour (for dust­ing) 200ml oil for fry­ing Half cup sesame seeds

Sauce 1/3 large can tomato puree 2 tbsp raisins ¼ tsp five-spice pow­der 2 tsp sugar 1 tbsp vine­gar 100ml wa­ter 2 tbsp corn­flour Mi­crowave or boil the sweet po­tato chips un­til about half-cooked. Drain and dry.

Sea­son the chips with salt and pep­per.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep pan. Lightly dust the chips with corn­flour and then put to fry once oil is hot. Ad­just the heat.

When chips turn golden brown, re­move and drain. Roll or toss in sesame seeds.

For the sauce, com­bine all the in­gre­di­ents in a pot. Bring to a gen­tle boil. Re­move from heat.

Veg­etable And Chicken Pat­ties

300g minced chicken 1 onion (puree) ½ car­rot (puree) 50g spinach (puree) ½ tsp salt ½ tsp pep­per 1 egg 1 tbsp corn­flour Mash the onion, car­rot and spinach purees and add to the minced chicken.

Add salt, pep­per, corn­flour and egg. Mix un­til well com­bined.

Us­ing wet hands, shape the mix­ture into pat­ties about 4cm in di­am­e­ter and about 1cm thick.

Heat up three ta­ble­spoons of oil in a large pan or skil­let and fry the pat­ties over medium heat.

When pat­ties are browned, re­move and drain off ex­cess oil.

Silky Smooth Tofu And Egg Combo

1 box/tube white Ja­panese tofu 2 eggs ½ car­rot (finely chopped) 3-4 shi­itake mush­rooms (diced) 50g prawns (chopped) ½ tsp salt Pep­per to taste A few drops sesame seed oil 2 sprigs chopped spring onions In a bowl, mash up the tofu. Beat the eggs. Add the veg­eta­bles, prawns and sea­son­ings. Com­bine with the mashed tofu and mix well.

Trans­fer to a bowl or steam­ing plate and steam in wok for about 10 min­utes or un­til set over mod­er­ate heat, OR mi­crowave on medium for about 10 min­utes or un­til set.

Sprin­kle spring onions just be­fore serv­ing.

Fast and good: Low Hooi bee (centre) teaches par­ents how to pre­pare sim­ple and nu­tri­tional meals for

their kids.

Com­plete meal: Veg­etable and chicken pat­ties, served with golden wedges with fruity sauce, and fresh veg­eta­bles.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.