Going gluten-free can be a huge adjustment for people who haven’t been living a gluten-free life. There are new food options, different protocols for eating out, and more. When making this switch to gluten-free living, sometimes kids will need to join in on this change. This may not always feel like an easy transition to make. However we have some tips for going gluten-free with kids.
Going Gluten-Free with Kids
Making the move to gluten-free eating with kids doesn’t have to be a difficult task. While there will be some adjustments that need to be made by both you and the children, it isn’t impossible. In fact, there are some fantastic ways to make this transition as smooth as possible for the entire family. Kids can adjust well to gluten-free eating with some simple changes within the home and how you approach the change.
Find quality substitutes
For many children, moving over to a new eating plan can be difficult. Every child has a favorite snack, treat, or meal. Making the move to gluten-free eating may have been an overwhelming concept years ago, but it doesn’t have to be now. There are many great substitutes on the market for most of their favorite foods. It can help to find the substitutes and incorporate them into your weekly or monthly meal plan.
3 Tips for using gluten-free substitutes with kids
- Find a local bakery/restaurant that prepares items they can have - While you may not be able to eat at this places regularly, they can be a nice alternative for a special occasion. When looking for locations that offer gluten-free friendly options, make sure to ask before going about what the location does to avoid cross-contamination. Finding a safe location can offer a natural reprieve for kids from the normal.
- Pick up special lunch box items - If your child is going to be eating gluten-free you will want to make sure to pack gluten-free items in their lunch that are easy to open and enjoy without help. This can prevent cross-contamination while still letting them enjoy quality foods. Find a special treat or item that can go in their lunch to help discourage trading with someone who might have a gluten item.
- Find a substitute for their favorites - Does your child live on chicken nuggets? Do they love a good sandwich? Don’t completely eliminate these items. Instead, find a gluten-free replacement that will satisfy this craving and give them a taste of normalcy. While it might not be the same, having something close can be a game changer.
Plan for events and activities
One of the harder times for kids to be gluten-free is when they go to an event or special activity. Activities such as sports where there is an after game snack can be a hard situation for kids. Birthday parties, sleepovers, eating out at restaurants, and visits to a local theme park or attraction can also be difficult. These events can leave children feeling left out when they can’t eat certain gluten items. Having a plan for these events can help to avoid upset.
3 Ways to plan for eating gluten-free at events, activities, and more
- Birthday parties and sleepovers - Birthday parties and sleepovers are very common for children. However, these parties and sleepovers often offer snacks and foods that are not gluten-free. Plan ahead by bringing a cupcake or some snacks from home that your child can have. This will let them feel like a part of things even if they can’t eat what everyone else can. Bring a lunch box or cooler with foods that are safe to a sleepover so that your child can have fun safely.
- Research options before attending - Some locations will have gluten-free items that can be purchased for an added charge or as part of their menu. Before visiting an event or attraction, reach out to find out what their gluten-free offerings are. Knowing which carts, restaurants, or vendors sell gluten-free items can be a big help.
- Inquire about rules for bringing in outside food - Many places will not let you bring in outside food. The exception to this often comes when you have a child who is on a special diet. Reach out to the location and find out if restrictions can be lifted to accommodate a food allergy. Many places will let you bring a bag or small cooler to accommodate this situation if they do not offer an affordable menu option.
Make it a family change
For some families, only the children go gluten-free. This can leave a child feeling left out more often than not. Sometimes the solution is to make it a family change. Have everyone eat gluten-free where possible to help normalize it for the child. When that is not possible, make sure that the child has the same types of food in a gluten-free way so they don’t feel left out. For children, it is very important to feel like they are a part of what the family is doing. Find ways to include them.
3 Ways to transition the family to gluten-free eating
- Try gluten-free meals for everyone - Eating gluten-free as a family can help your children to feel like they are a part of things. This might mean committing to gluten-free eating for a few weeks to see how the entire family adjusts or researching meals the family can eat together without gluten. There are more options out there than you might realize.
- Cook gluten-free foods safely - If you are not going to have the entire meal gluten-free, make sure to take precautions to avoid cross-contamination. This may mean washing dishes or items like air fryers between uses to avoid gluten contamination to a gluten-free item. The goal is to avoid having items with gluten touching any gluten-free items in any stage of preparation and serving.
- Keep gluten-free options on hand - If your child is making a move to gluten-free eating, make sure to keep gluten-free items on hand that are comparable to what you are eating. Having these options on hand will avoid comparison and feelings of inferiority for a child with a gluten allergy or sensitivity.
Try a Family-Friendly, Gluten-Free Recipe
Grilled cheese is a childhood staple that your family can continue to prepare and enjoy, even while eating gluten-free. Here’s our Elote Grilled Cheese Recipe for you to try.