Children are notoriously picky eaters. As such, attempting to eliminate the gluten that is commonly found in typical kid favoured foods like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and chicken fingers is often met with staunch resistance. Yet with the negative health effects like inflammation, lethargy, digestive problems and more that gluten can have on people, more and more parents wish to remove this harsh ingredient from both their and their children’s diets.
Tips for Getting Kids on Board with a Gluten Free Diet
Armed with the risks that gluten poses, the question shifts from, ‘should we cut gluten out of our family’s diet?’ to ‘how do we successfully eliminate gluten from our family’s diet?’ The answer to this question may seem impossible, but though kids may not initially be on board with following a gluten free diet, a few smart strategies can help you get your kids on board with a gluten free diet.
1. Include Kids in the Decision Making Process
As a parent, you have your reasons for desiring a gluten free diet. For some parents, medical conditions may necessitate the change. For others, a desire to follow a healthier diet may spur on the decision. Whatever your reasons may be for leading your family to a gluten free diet, don’t neglect to include your children in the conversation about the changes. In age appropriate terms, discuss with them why your family will be starting this new way of eating. Allow room for any questions or concerns. Taking the mystery out of the change can go a long way in enlisting children’s support.
2. Enlist Their Help with Meal Prep
Tasting a meal they have helped prepare can make that meal seem much more appealing to children. Enlist your children to help you prepare gluten free meals and their delight over helping with the meal will lead them to giving the meal a try. Even the youngest of children can help with simple tasks like washing produce or snapping peas that will instill them with a sense of pride and ownership over the meal. The time spent together preparing and cooking meals is a fantastic way to help teach children a lifetime of healthy cooking habits and is sure to make treasured memories for you and your children alike.
3. Give them the ‘Write’ Stuff
It has been said that the voice people trust the most is their own. Help your children hear their own voice when it comes to what truly makes them feel their best. Before embarking on a gluten free diet, have your children keep a written log of what they eat and how they feel throughout the day. Older children can write in a journal and younger ones can rely on pictures or emoticons to indicate how they are feeling. Next, have them complete a similar log when following a gluten free diet. Recognising the positive changes they are experiencing for themselves will help spur children on with their gluten free lifestyle.
4. Plan and Dream Together
When your children first hear the idea of cutting gluten out of their diet, they may envision a life filled with salad and devoid of cookies. Instead of relying on packaged gluten free substitutions, get creative about nutritious alternatives. Spend some time planning and dreaming all the foods that are possible on a healthy, gluten free diet. Experiment with recipes for different desserts that use almond meal instead of refined flour; try pizza made with cauliflower crust; cut veggies into spiral strips to replace noodles. Once your child sees that eating a healthy, gluten free diet doesn’t have to be boring, he or she might just become excited about the idea!
5. Choose Your Wording Wisely
The way you address the subject of beginning a gluten free diet with your children can be very impactful. Make a conscious effort to use positive language about moving towards a healthier way of life to help everyone feel their best. Avoid couching the change as a diet, as the term “diet” can have negative connotations or imply a short term change. Carefully explain that your family is making these dietary changes to fuel your bodies with the best food sources, not in order to lose weight as is often associated with diet changes.