GAPS Cheats- what to do if you cheat, how to cheat with minimal harm


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.
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  1. says

    This is so helpful. I wish I’d known about it last year when we did GAPS and then after 3-4 months we had a cheat (a big one, actually, in the form of a slice of lemon pie from our favourite tea house). From there it was pretty much downhill, and we pretty well stopped after that. We didn’t have any “big” issues, like autism, so that was probably not helpful in terms of keeping our motivation. If I had known that it was ok to cheat sometimes (and also that baking soda is legal and could have made more decent baked goods!) then perhaps we wouldn’t have fallen so hard off the wagon.

  2. Kathleen K says

    First of all, what was your grade on your 10th grade speech?

    Did you know that some honey can contain other ingredients such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup. It shouldn’t, but according to Dr. Mercola, it can happen and isn’t always labeled. Buy from a very reputable source–only!

    • Cara says

      LOL, I got an A! My teacher had a great sense of humor :) Good point about the honey. I usually buy Tropical Traditions, which should be good quality.

  3. says

    Hey Cara! I was thinking about writing the same sort of post last weekend, when a friend asked me if we ever cheat on GAPS. I opened up my google reader and saw your post & I was excited! Yay! People need to know about this! We’re not perfect, and once you’re on full GAPS, an occasional cheat (especially a pretty “safe” one) is ok, as long as you don’t go crazy (Snickers bars and diet soda, e.g. probably wouldn’t be a great GAPS cheat ;). I wrote a post this morning & shared photos of our family’s cheats here: Hopefully we can both encourage people to keep working hard on GAPS & not feel like they’ve *failed* if they cheat once in a while! :) :)

  4. says


    What would you say about adding rice back into the diet, and rice flour? We are experimenting with my autistic son and I’m not sure if it’s negatively affecting him or not. What we are seeing is occasional softer stool and possible behavioral issues. Thanks for this great post!

    • Cara says

      Rice is a pretty advanced thing to add in, since it’s a complex carbohydrate it’ll feed the pathogenic bacteria that you’re trying to starve out.

    • Kitsa says

      The new edition came out November 2010. Dr N says that it has to be pure bicarbonate of soda not baking powder as well as aluminium free. Most people on GAPS have low stomach acid and so should avoid it in the early stages as it can lower stomach acid. Once regular eating of sauerkraut has been established the production of stomach acid will be better regulated so using it in baking or in the bath for alkalizing will be better tolerated.

  5. Karen says

    Thanks for your information, however, I don’t know that I would consider the chipotle beans or their bowls as a great cheat due to the soy oil it is cook in. Their only meat not cooked in soy oil is their pork. The cheese has gmo rennet. They use soy oil in almost everything!! Just something to think about!

      • Cara says

        No, I mean the ones from the restaurant- soy oil is bad, but it’s not a complex carb and won’t undo your work as much as a grain would.

        • says

          Actually, soybean oil is extracted using hexane (you know, the chemical that requires hazmat suits to clean up a spill) so it isn’t just bad…’s horrible. All of your other cheats involve actual food, so I wouldn’t worry about them too much, but the soybean oil really shouldn’t even be allowed near a kitchen, much less ingested on purpose.

  6. Raquel says

    Now that I read that I dont feel so bad. I had white rice 4 days in a row with soy sauce. Then I had chinese food 2 days in a row. The chinese gave me a hive type thing on my forehead although it wasn’t itchy, prob from the MSG and veg oil that they use. I was thinking I would have to give up GAPS if I cheated. How bad is white rice to have? I’ve been on GAPS for 2 months and I’m on 2 biokults so far. My issues are food allergies/intolerances that give me itchy rash/bumps on my face/neck but no where else. I think I need to add in some buckwheat.

    • Cara says

      Rice is pretty bad, it’ll essentially undo your work if you’re in the early stages. You may do okay with gluten free cheats (rice is gluten free) but most people will not.

  7. Elisabeth says

    My husband and I are doing the gaps intro diet and we are on the 4th day and on the second stage. We both are missing coffee a lot ! We are wondering when we are allowed to add coffee back into our diet? We are only planning on doing gaps for a month. Does that mean no coffee for a month?? Thanks!

    • Cara says

      I drank coffee on intro – ah another cheat :D I did intro a second time without coffee, and I didn’t see a difference. But your mileage may vary

  8. Kate Haffner says

    Hi, Thanks for your post. Also doing the GAPS diet for Lyme disease. I wanted to mention, that my Dr. had recommended a olive oil or a natural sunscreen like Badger or just plain zinc to put on the kids before the pool. It is waterproof and will help keep the chlorine out a bit. I would love to get a UV light to purify our pool water, but cost is an issue.

  9. Ailevi says

    I’m glad I found this website cud it’s given me all the reasons not to doing the gaps diet for pms and irritability and boy do I love me some carbs , therefore a month into the diet I thought oh common just a bit of apple pie and vanilla ice cream ( I know shameful).bad idea I have had hayfever symptoms with the worst itchy eyes ever. It started to clear and I had a slice of toast oh oh a no no came back full force so please ladies like cara advised wait a loooooooong time before you cheat

  10. says


    i feel like I really need some help here. We are past the 6 month mark with gaps. We started it because of our developmentally delayed some with some violence issues. Before the diet he would have his rages maybe once a week at most. The rest of the time he could be quite charming and fun to be around. Now he has rages every day. We have holes in the wall. We have to hid the knifes and scissors. He comes at us with whatever he can find-pool cues, baseball bats etc. We know the diet makes things worse for awhile but now we are past 6 months. This boy has been homeschooled all his life. (He is 11 but acts much younger.) Now we are considering putting him in school because we need a break from him. We can get no school done with the other children with him at home either. Also, he harms and torments are 13 year old girl to no end. Is there any food we could put back in the diet that might help. I’ve considered popcorn. Also, this boy hasn’t eaten any illegal foods in the past 6 months but in the last month or so we haven’t been able to get him to eat the soup every day. Usually can get him to drink the broth though. The soup he will just throw at us. Any suggestions?

  11. Sherry says

    Bonnie, I would really suggest you pose your question on the GAPS forum. It’s quick and easy to join and there are many friendly people there who can give you advice. Here it is:

    I think you could also put him on tranquilizer meds for awhile until the GAPS starts helping. I don’t buy those specifically but I’ve been able to find generic brand stuff at for really cheap. – literally a little over $1 a day. Depending what it is though you might need a prescription…

  12. says

    Hi Cara,
    This is a really great website, thank you for putting so much time in to it! I bought your e-book too and it’s very helpful.

    I’m reading this article because I’ve been on GAPS for over 3 months now but I’m still not feeling any benefit. A friend suggested it might be because of my recent occasional “cheats”. I’m reading your article though where you talk about setting a “baseline” by adhering strictly to the diet for 2 months or so, so you can see what your body feels like when it’s not reacting to something.

    Sooo, to cut a long story short (too late!) I’m wondering… if a person (me) has been on GAPS for 2 months, 100% compliant, but feels no better whatsoever, would you think perhaps GAPS isn’t the solution to their problem?

    • Cara says

      Hi, I’d guess it’s just not for you, I think you should see a difference in 30 days. If you notice you have trouble returning to your normal way of eating, though, it might be something that is good.

  13. Rayanne says

    I was wondering, I know you said that rice on the GAPS diet was a particularly bad cheat, but what if the rice was fermented with whey for 24-48 hours before preparing – would that help make it a “safe” cheat? When I first introduced nut flour (commercial), I noticed I had problems, but if I fermented it with whey for at least 24 hours, I tolerated it just fine. I have been on GAPS for almost four months now and have only done occasional “legal” cheats (items allowed on the regular GAPS diet), and have suffered no ill effects. For the most part I stick primarily to the soups, broths, and scrambled eggs with vegetables, supplemented with freshly pressed juices (all fortified with homemade sour cream and/or fermented vegetables), as I find these foods to be the most satisfying. However, I really miss rice and was hoping to make a Korean dish called samgyetang, which is basically a chicken stew, but the chicken has some rice (1/4 cup) as the stuffing. I really do not want to alter the traditional recipe if I don’t have to. However, if you think even fermented rice will be a problem, I guess I could skip it. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Cara says

      Unfortunately soaking only reduces the phytates, it doesn’t make the carbohydrates break down into simpler form. There are only mono and disacccarides (carbohydrates) allowed on the diet, and soaking doesn’t make this :)

  14. says

    I got this site from my buddy who shared with me about this website and now this time I am visiting this site
    and reading very informative articles at this place.

  15. says

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Spending some time and
    actual effort to generate a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

  16. says

    Have you ever thought that maybe high FODMAPS foods could be an issue for your daughter? I thought of that when you said maple syrup seems to bring less of a reaction than honey. Honey is a high FODMAP, whereas maple syrup isnt and is one of the sweeteners they suggest on FODMAPS as opposed to honey. Im unsure which scenario would be better for me as im pretty sure i respond poorly to high FODMAPS foods–but dont want the complex carbs of the maple syrup to leave too much for the pathogenic guys to eat up.

  17. says

    Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about making my
    own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thanks

  18. says

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I certainly loved every little bit of it.

    I have you book-marked to check out new stuff you post…

    • Suzanne says

      Hi Nada, You asked why starch is a problem on GAPS protocol. Starch – or complex sugars of any kind – break down easily to feed microbes in the gut. Those microbes can digest complex sugars faster and more efficiently than our guts can, so they get the nutritional benefit out of the food we eat rather than us. Our guts are populated by many different microorganisms which coexist among themselves and coexist with our cells and body systems; they regulate one another and fortunately, some of them are very beneficial to us. Many, however, are also very taxing or toxic to our cells, may accidentally cross the intestinal lining and get into our bloodstream and navigate to other tissue sites, or simply penetrate our intestinal lining while thriving in the intestinal lining, and send toxins through to our bloodstream which then pollute our body tissues. Imbalances in microbes can also lead to disturbed elimination (constipation, diahrhea, or swinging between the two states) which also leads to toxins having more opportunity to pollute our guts. GAPS protocol was designed to encourage the balancing of the intestinal microbes, bowel regularity, detoxification of our body tissues, and healing and sealing of the gut lining so that in the future, unwanted intrusion by microbes and their toxins could no longer occur. Lastly, it is known that the majority of our immune system cellular material resides in the gut lining. If our gut lining is compromised or overpopulated by bad microbes, we can assume that it will reduce our immune function and we will be unable to ward off or cure illness. Starving out the bad bacteria is really a big challenge but well worth the sacrifice. As a result of following GAPS, I have gained back memory functions lost for 30 years and I have a newfound learning ability which I believe was absent during my childhood and my young adult life. I have lost 20# and can think clearly and more calmly. My kids have reversed anxiety behaviors, learning challenges, and my husband with Lupus has made headway with asthma symptoms, becoming medication free. I hope Cara agrees with my explanation or will correct me, thanks Cara for a great post!

  19. Jo says

    What about peanut better (organic creamy with sea salt)? I’ve been on the GAPS intro diet for about 2 months. I eat a tablespoon of pb almost everynight (confession).Is that a horrible cheat?

    • Cara says

      I don’t think it’s horrible, I’d stick with almond butter rather than pb, and only once you’ve introduced almonds though.

  20. Julie says

    Going back to the coconut sugar question, coconut nectar is extracted from the coconut flower, not tapped from the tree. It’s never heated up. To make the sugar they just naturally evaporate/dry the nectar to make the crystals. Do we have any new info that tells us we can have coconut sugar on the gaps diet?

  21. Dorothy says

    Thanks for being real and providing info and suggestions! I did so well without cheating for 4 months and experienced so much healing and then suddenly I don’t know what came over me but I just started eating bread and then sugar and then fast food and then symptoms started coming back. It was good to see those sympyoms come back so I could know and it all ended when I had some costco pizza and seriously thought I was going to die I was do sick and in pain. That was motivation enough not to cheat anymore!

  22. April says

    I’m finishing day 3 right now. As far as level of seriousness, I’m guessing I’m on the low end of the spectrum. I’m making very little cortisol, my T3 is low, I have mild intolerances to gluten and dairy, I have a mild candida problem, my blood sugar is inching toward trouble (though I’ve never been one to eat many sweets). So my problem is I started this without thinking about the fact that we are taking our oldest 3 to Disneyland for their birthday. We fly in the evening of day 12. What am I going to eat? I don’t think TSA is going to let me take 4 days’ worth of broth or soup on the plane. Our hotel doesn’t have a kitchen. I’m following your e-book for the most part, though making my own soup recipes so far. Today I’ve had 2 tsp of sauerkraut juice and no reaction, so I’m planning to follow your 30-day guide as far as when to switch phases. I’ve re-read the book and still don’t get how to know when to move on. I’m also not sure on this garlic thing. Do I add a clove of crushed garlic to every bowl of soup? I bet I ate 6 bowls of soup today. I only added garlic to one. So…what the heck do I eat at Disneyland?


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