When a parent is hit with the knowledge that their child is gluten intolerant, it can be a serious blow, because getting gluten out of kids’ diet is no easy chore. Below are Ten Tips for Getting Gluten Out of Your Kid’s Diet
Many parents know very little about what it means to be gluten intolerant in the first place, but when you hear just how much of the regular food we eat contains gluten, you start to panic. No parent wants to continue seeing their child sick and uncomfortable because they are allergic to a form of wheat that is in almost all food, but the idea of becoming gluten free can seem absolutely overwhelming.
The first thing to remember is to relax, breathe and remember that it can only get better from here. You know that your child can no longer eat gluten, you know that a dietary change is underway, now it is just a matter of changing your habits and starting new dietary trends.
That’s a difficult process, but starting is always the hardest part. As momentum and experience builds, eating gluten free will eventually be as easy as eating any other diet. Furthermore, you should remember that the best way to be actually gluten free is the healthy way: a diet high in veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds and without high carb high sugar alternatives.
Consider these ten tips for getting gluten out of your kid’s diet:
#1 Engage the whole family
One of the first things you should try to do when you discover your child can no longer eat gluten is engage the whole family in the dietary change. This can be extremely difficult, particularly if you have more than one child and at least one of them isn’t allergic to gluten. No child wants to have to stop eating mac and cheese just because their brother can’t eat it anymore.
And yet, you must consider what is going on in your gluten intolerant child’s mind when they are told they can no longer eat like they used to. If they go home and have to eat a meal that is different than the rest of the family, they may feel left out and resistant to the change. If changing their diet can be part of a family activity, the child will feel more supported and the transition will be easier for the entire family.
Some of the naturally gluten free recipes for kids are so good that the rest of your family won’t even know they’re eating gluten free.
#2 Cook your own food
Once you start trying to find food for your child that they can eat after a coeliac disease diagnosis, you’ll quickly find there doesn’t seem to be much. Many of the classic foods that you have eaten throughout your life and that you have eaten as a family will be all of a sudden off limits. That means regular bread, pasta, macaroni and cheese, desserts, and many less obvious substances as well.
You’ll quickly learn that you will have to begin doing a lot more cooking when your child cannot eat gluten. It is not as easy as going to a fast food restaurant after school to feed your child anymore. Instead, you will have to read nutritional labels, look up recipes and discover new foods that are tasty and exciting yet safe for your child to eat.
If it seems like a lot of work, don’t worry, once you get into the habit of cooking, it won’t seem like a burden at all.
#3 Involve and inform the school
It’s very important to seek out support from the school when making a dietary transition for your child. Many times, teachers in class offer students snacks and treats that contain gluten or other allergens. In addition, the cafeteria will probably be serving primarily food that your child does not eat.
While you may not necessarily be able to expect the cafeteria to change their menu, you can seek support from the teacher by informing them of your child’s intolerances so they can plan ahead at snack time. In addition, your child’s teacher can help make sure your child never takes gluten snacks from other students if offered. It may even be a good idea to let other mums know the most common signs that a child might be gluten intolerant.
You will probably have to pack your child’s lunch, but inform your teacher that this will be the case so they can make sure your son/daughter does not give into temptation and try to eat the school lunch. (Don’t worry, your cooking is probably better than school lunch anyway).
#4 Keep tasty treats close by
Every kid likes a sweet treat to eat every once in awhile, and that will certainly be no exception with your gluten intolerant child. You can find many great gluten free snacks at the grocery store, or you can opt to look up recipes to create your own. The important thing is that you have these treats stashed away for your child to enjoy when they deserve it.
Having these sweet treats around will help make sure that your child is happy enough with their dietary transition. If you completely take sugar away from them, it’s almost certain that they will resist the change in diet. If you replace their sugar fix with a healthy gluten free sweet treat, then they will be as happy as ever with their new diet.
#5 Talk to the doctor
One of the most important things you should do as you begin to change your diet to accommodate your son/daughter is talk to the doctor. This is important because you must learn what nutritional components you may end up missing with a no-gluten diet. Most importantly, you must find a re-placement for the grains found in wheat.
Talk to your doctor about your new meal plans and dietary accommodations. If you can, find a doc-tor who specializes in nutrition. The key is to ensure your child is getting everything they need from their diet, and nothing that will hurt them.
If you are simply thinking of changing to a gluten free diet because you’ve self-diagnosed your child with coeliac disease, check with your doctor before making final changes. Changing the diet of a child who is not gluten intolerant may not only be more harmful, but it also delays finding out what the real problem is.
#6 Go Unprocessed
It may be tempting when you first switch to a gluten free diet to buy all the boxed gluten free foods like macaroni and cheese and pasta. This is especially true when it comes to feeding a child. You probably figure that the easiest way to change your kid’s diet is to make the new one look as much like the old one as possible.
Yes, you could continue to feed your child pizza and chicken nuggets for dinner on a gluten free diet, but why not make this transition an opportunity to make the whole family healthier? The best focus for a gluten free diet is on fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, meats and cheeses. One nutrition expert suggests that you try cooking a new vegetable every night and making sure your child eats at least two bites of it to help them get accustomed to trying new foods.
#7 Learn to Read the Labels
This is something you’re going to have to get used to when eating a gluten free diet. You may think a food is completely safe because you see no evidence that it would contain wheat, but when you look at the box, you’ll often get an unpleasant surprise.
The beginning stages of switching to a gluten free diet will be long and frustrating. You will find case after case of your favorite foods which you could have sworn were still safe actually containing the little gluten devil. Learn to read the labels, and soon you will discover for good what foods you can eat and what foods you can’t. In the end, it probably won’t be nearly as bad as you thought.
#8 Form New Habits
One of the most difficult things about switching to a gluten free diet is making major changes in your dietary habits. If you have been eating one way or another for years, it’s going to be a considerable effort to switch that up and try something new. You’re going to have to learn new recipes, work on new cooking schedules, make new accommodations and find new substitutes for your favourite recipes. Furthermore, you’re probably going to have to cook at home a lot more of-ten, as many restaurants do not offer gluten free options.
Take things as they come and let your habits change as your behaviors change. Things will be difficult at first, but as you build up these new habits, you’ll be more and more comfortable with your family’s new diet.
#9 Ask for Feedback
This may sound crazy, but be sure you ask your child for feedback about your food. Be mindful about this. Go ahead and cook the vegetables even though your child doesn’t want to eat it and make them eat a few bites. But you should make sure your child is still enjoying their meals after going gluten free. Make sure your son/daughter is at least enjoying the main course of their meals to help them transition into a new diet with minimal strife.
#10 Know the Rewards
The process of going gluten-free is certainly not easy, but you can push forward by realizing and remembering the rewards. You have probably decided to go gluten free because you saw that your child was sick and miserable all of the time and you finally took them to the doctor. As a parent, you want more than anything the comfort of your child. Push through the first stages and remember how wonderful it will be to see your child healthier and happier than they’ve ever been.