Coping With a Gluten-Free Diet for Kids

Whether you just found out that one of your children (or a family member) has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and needs to avoid gluten, or you’ve been helping your child follow a gluten-free diet for a while, having a community of support is so important. Knowing that you have a physician, registered dietitian, and others to discuss your successes, questions, and frustrations with helps you navigate through the information and food choices.

Reminding yourself that your family member will feel so much better on this diet helps when frustrations over food preparation, products, or perceived limitations creep up.

Here are a few ways to help you cope with becoming gluten-free.

  1. Breathe. You CAN do this!  Did you know that many foods that you already eat are gluten-free? Fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish, and many dairy products are gluten-free. And for most gluten containing foods that your family member cannot live without, there is a gluten-free alternative. Also, there are several gluten-free grains just waiting to be enjoyed.
  2. Focus on the blessings. There are blessings that come along with a gluten-free diet, including teaching your child at an early age to have healthy eating habits and to be mindful of what he is consuming. And becoming gluten-free for someone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity is life changing as far as how he will feel once gluten is eliminated.
  1. Read food labels. For someone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it is important to avoid all gluten. This includes gluten in products that you may not have thought of—like your soy sauce, luncheon meats, etc. So reading labels and being educated on products that typically contain gluten is important. Knowing the terms used on a food label that indicate that gluten is contained in a food gives you the advantage over gluten sneaking into the diet.
  1. Educate the whole family, including your child with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Here is an example of why this is important. You purchase a new margarine for your gluten-free family member. Another family member comes along and uses it to put margarine on regular bread. He uses a bit, then puts the knife back into the margarine to get more. The gluten-free margarine is now contaminated. So you may need to put a special label on foods that need to be just for your gluten-free family member. Also, you want to make sure that everyone knows that the new wooden spoon or the gluten free toaster should not be used with gluten-containing foods.

Also, as early as possible, start educating your family member who is gluten-free on how to follow a gluten-free diet to empower him with the knowledge to advocate for himself too.

  1. Separate cooking appliances and utensils. Anything that is porous or scratched can retain bits of gluten, so you’ll need to replace plastic and wooden utensils and non-stick pans. A toaster used for gluten-containing foods cannot also be used for your gluten-free family member, so a new toaster is important too.
  1. Eating at restaurants. Yes, you will be able to eat out at a restaurant again. But first, make sure that you are well-educated on the gluten-free diet. Look for restaurants that truly understand what gluten-free means. We have an entire gluten-free (and nut and dairy free) restaurant near us with fabulous food! In general, a good rule is to talk to the chef and/or the manager of a restaurant that you would like to eat at to gauge their understanding of gluten-free meal preparation to decide if it’s a good fit for you.
  2. Enjoy a meal together. It’s okay for the whole family to enjoy gluten-free meals together, so give yourself a break. It’s not necessary to make separate meals for separate family members.
  3. Consider other gluten containing products too. Shampoos, lipsticks, some medications, play dough, and other products that you may not think of may have gluten, so be vigilant.  Gluten does not pass through the skin, but accidental ingestion can occur if hands aren’t washed properly. Avoid use of gluten-containing products on your lips or around your mouth.

Remember that you can do this, and it gets much easier with time.  And the reward of eliminating gluten from the diet of your family member with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity is priceless.

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