In 10th grade English class I did a speech/diagram on how to cut class and leave our closed campus without getting caught… this post is giving me flashbacks.

I started the GAPS Diet with my daughter in 11/2009, so over two years ago.  As we’ve progressed, and she’s found healing, I’ve had plenty of experience with ‘GAPS cheats’.  There are a few different areas of GAPS cheating that I’ll cover- What cheats are okay early in the diet, what to do if your child (or you) is reacting to cheating, how to cheat with minimal harm, and what cheats are somewhat acceptable.

What cheats are okay early in the diet?

For the GAPS Intro diet, I would really recommend staying with it to the letter. It’s an intense healing diet, and is quite a bit of work for cooking, self control, and for your body to repair.  A few exceptions that you could make are with your meats and whether your veggies are organic, if you have to use ‘organic’ rather than free range grass fed meat, I think that the intro diet is still worth going through.  Also, if you have to use conventional produce that can be okay too.  See more about How Important is Organic in the GAPS Diet?

Lots of broth is recommended on the Intro diet, and it might not be feasible to consume that much, especially for little ones.  You will still get lots of healing from GAPS even without all the recommended broth. Do make an effort though.

I would like to repeat, that when you are first starting the diet, if you give cheats, even something equal to a grain of rice or a single chocolate chip every other day, you won’t be able to see if the diet is working and there really isn’t a point in doing it.  It’s very important to have fanatical adherence while you’re testing the diet so that you have a baseline to work with and see what foods are causing reactions.  These suggestions are for later on, once healing has taken place.

What to do if you cheated on GAPS and are reacting to it, or expect a reaction?

On GAPS many people will cheat, whether it’s children grabbing an ‘illegal’ food off the counter, or adults seeing just how much one little cookie could really hurt.  Once you’ve been on GAPS for a week, you are very likely to have a reaction to cheating.  I (keeping it honest) had a piece of Papa John’s pizza about 6 weeks into the GAPS intro and my system massively rejected it. It came back up, and I got hives and felt pretty sick that night.

Other common reactions:

  • Return of mood instability
  • Anger
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Night terrors
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • … and more

If you cheat, or more likely if your small child cheats, I have had success giving activated charcoal to counteract the effects.  Activated charcoal absorbs what is in the digestive tract, which has prevented my daughter from reacting to things like wheat bread, chocolate, and fruit.  Depending on the stage they’re in it can be mixed with yogurt, apple sauce, honey, or just dumped straight in their mouth and followed with water.  This treatment shouldn’t be used often, though, as it usually causes constipation and binds to the other needed minerals in the digestive system as well.

Consult your doctor for doseage (I use half a capsule but this is not medical advice).

How to cheat later in the diet with minimal harm

Once you (or your child) has been on the diet for quite a while- I’d give it 2-3 months if your symptoms were really really minimal, 18-24 months for more complicated things like autism, you may have experienced enough healing to start some mild cheats.  When choosing what to cheat with, I use noncultured dairy (even industrial dairy occasional, see picture above), and small servings of non-glutenous grains and potatoes.  Vegetable oil in small amounts occasionally seems to be tolerated for us too.

It’s still beneficial to stay on GAPS as much as possible, but introducing cheats allows occasional eating out without getting ill or having setbacks.

I’ve found that, while we still avoid gluten as much as possible, a tiny bit of cross contamination (as will happen in mainstream kitchens) hasn’t harmed my little one any more, and she used to react severely to gluten (night terrors, loss of eye contact) when we first started the diet.

Other cheats that were shared on Facebook, with my notes about them:


  • Almond milk- Homemade almond milk can be made in a high powered blender using raw or soaked/dehydrated almonds. Store bought almond milk should be watched for brown rice syrup or other illegal sweeteners.
  • Bacon- Uncured, sugar free, nitrate free pastured raised is good (find some here), after healing has taken place SCD allows once a week crisply fried bacon.  Because the sweetener content is pretty low, I buy organic bacon with maple syrup in it a couple times a month from the regular store.
  • Baking soda- Baking soda is allowed in the more recent version of the GAPS book
  • Beans- Canned beans without additives, or beans that haven’t been properly soaked are common cheats.  Chipolte beans are a decent cheat.
  • Buckwheat- Fermented buckwheat is one of the first grains to try as transitioning off GAPS.  My little one can have a little, but is still reacting with night terrors if she eats more than a little bit. We’ll try again in a few months.
  • Carob
  • Chipolte- Burrito bowls, no rice, no corn are great meals when traveling.
  • Cocoa- Cocoa is allowed ‘after digestive symptoms have passed’ per the most recent edition of the GAPS book.  See my chocolate truffle recipe– YUM!
  • Coconut milk– I’m a sucker for canned coconut milk and I order it by subscription from Amazon.  Guar gum is technically illegal, so it’s recommended to wait a while before introducing it and watch for reactions.
  • Fish, canned- try to get BPA free cans, but I’ll admit we buy wild caught salmon and tuna in regular cans fairly often.
  • French fries- Potatoes don’t seem to cause reactions as much as some things.
  • Frozen veggies- Barely a cheat, veggies ideally are local and fresh.  But frozen is economical and saves tons of time in the kitchen. I use lots of frozen veggies.
  • Heavy cream- Cream has less lactose than milk, so it is better tolerated.  Can be whipped or used in place of yogurt in recipes once tolerated.
  • Instant coffee- Also technically illegal. Only a small amount of coffee is okay on GAPS,
  • juice, bottled or boxes- only freshly pressed juice is allowed on GAPS.  However, 100% juice can work in a pinch
  • Lara bars- another big cheat for us, watch the ingredients but it’s usually just nuts and dates.  Not organic, not soaked/dehydrated
  • Maple Syrup- For some reason my little one who reacts to most carbs seems to do better with maple syrup (illegal because it’s a more complex sugar) than honey.  We still limit this quite a bit, but it has a nice flavor for some things where honey is too strong.
  • Nuts, roasted and salted- Because roasted/salted nuts from the store may be coated with a fine coating of wheat powder, it’s best to avoid for a while.  GAPS protocol doesn’t say that you have to soak and dehydrate nuts, but most of us do as it makes them more digestible.  Roasted and salted store bought nuts are a fast cheat, and unsoaked almond flour is used in baked goods.
  • Pools- Chlorinated pools are bad for the body ecology, and the toxins do go right in through the skin.  We avoided them for the first two years on GAPS, but last summer we did swim (we live in Arizona). Saltwater pools would be ideal, but we don’t have one. We take epsom salt baths to detox after swimming.
  • Popcorn- A fairly common cheat, we just started making homemade popcorn and my little one seems to do fine with it about once a week or so.
  • Soft cheeses- One of the first cheats can be soft cheese, which doesn’t have quite all the lactose used up.
  • Stevia- Something many of us that are low-carb GAPSing use to sweeten.
  • Sweet potatoes- Starchy and should be avoided at first, but might be tolerated later on.

Learn how to heal leaky gut

60-page ebook of all my best GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) articles all in one place.

Powered by ConvertKit
Please follow and like us: