Feeding children food that they’ll eat and enjoy isn’t always easy. Finding out that your child has celiac disease can add a complex layer to mealtime. While it can be more than a bit overwhelming, it is not an impossible adjustment. The best first step is to work on educating yourself on the way to approach it so you don’t let it overwhelm you. Here are some tips for kids with celiac disease.
Tips for Kids with Celiac Disease
Start by learning what items are not allowed with celiac disease
One of the best places to start is by learning what items are definitely not celiac friendly. While it can seem as simple as removing bread, it is not. There are many items that either contain gluten or are cross-contaminated by gluten. Gluten is found in a variety of foods/drinks you might not expect. Here are a few items that contain gluten to keep in mind.
- Bread - The majority of bread is made with gluten. Take some time to check the ingredients on bread items to be sure that they are not made with gluten.
- Pasta - Many kinds of pasta are made with gluten. Don’t be fooled by “veggie pasta” as many will use flour as a binding agent in these types of pasta.
- Crackers/Chips - Crackers and chips are also culprits for gluten. Make sure to check the ingredient list on these items before purchasing.
- Sauces and Dips - Many sauces and dips will have hidden gluten in them as a binding agent. Make sure to check your favorite sauces and dips for any gluten contamination or risk of cross-contamination.
- Desserts - Not only will items such as cake and cookies have gluten, but you can also find it in ice cream, layered desserts, and even in some puddings. It is important to check the ingredients on desserts to verify they are free of gluten.
- Soup - Soup is another area gluten is often hiding. Many soup recipes will include flour as a way to thicken the soup.
- Cereal - Many kinds of cereal will include gluten as part of their recipe. It is also important to look at where it is manufactured as some places prepare cereal of different types in the same factory.
- Pre-seasoned/Pre-made foods - Items such as frozen fries, pre-made boxed meals, and even taco seasonings can include gluten. It is important to look at the ingredients on these items before purchasing to confirm they are safe.
- Reading the label - stay away from the words wheat, rye, barley, malt or triticale.
Learn about cross-contamination
When people are initially diagnosed with a gluten allergy the thought is that they can just remove bread and they’ll be good. This can seem like the best answer but there is another issue when you are allergic to gluten. Cross-contamination can be a problem in inexperienced kitchens that prepare gluten-free food.
Overall, the label of “gluten free” is actually a very safe label, though a parent might still check the ingredients. Celiac.org is a great resource to help you navigate the world of labels. )
Here are a few things to look at when purchasing food for a person with celiac disease.
- In a restaurant - When dining at a sit-down or drive-thru restaurant location, it is important to ask to speak to someone who works in the kitchen. Many servers are unaware of the full preparation process in the kitchen. Ask to speak to someone preparing the food. You will want to ask if items containing gluten are prepared on the same surfaces or will come into contact with gluten-free foods. It can also help to ask about any friers as sometimes gluten-containing items are fried in the same friers.
- In the store - When purchasing new food items for a child with a gluten allergy, it’s important to do your research on the brand. Do they have a dedicated gluten-free area of their factories? Are gluten-containing items prepared in the same area as gluten-free products? What level of contact will that food have with gluten-containing items? Asking these questions before shopping can save you accidental gluten exposure.
- At home - If the entire family is not going gluten-free you will have to have certain safety protocols in place to avoid cross-contamination. You will want to clean down counters, pans, and even air fryers before using them on gluten-free items. Cooking/prepping gluten-free items in an area where gluten items were prepared can cause gluten exposure.
Know your replacement foods!
When switching to a gluten-free eating plan, it can feel like you are giving up everything you love. This can be a stronger sentiment for children who don’t fully understand the shift to new eating habits. It can be a big help to find items that are gluten-free that will replace some of their favorites. While you won’t be able to replace everything, there are quite a few replacements. Here are a few replacement options to consider while gluten-free.
- Gluten-Free Bread - Try an ultimate gluten-free bread bundle to try a variety of bread types and find the gluten-free bread option your child will enjoy as a replacement.
- Gluten-Free Baking Ingredients - Did you know items like baking soda and baking powder can contain gluten? Try out an ultimate gluten-free baking bundle to use as a substitute in some of your favorite baking recipes.
- Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts - One of the big favorites for kids is pizza. Don’t give up pizza. Instead, try these Ener-g Rice Pizza Shells to make their favorite pizza for them.
- Gluten-Free Desserts - Finding great gluten-free desserts to enjoy can be a big help when moving to a gluten-free life. Items such as doughnut holes, pound cake, and brownies can be purchased as gluten-free options or you can make your own from scratch using the baking ingredients listed above.
- Gluten-Free Sauces, Soups, and Dips - When looking at switching to gluten-free eating, spend some time finding gluten-free sauces, soups, and dips that can replace items that might be a no-go now. This will help the transition to gluten-free living to go smoother.
- Gluten-Free Seasonings - It can help to spend some time either looking for gluten-free seasoning packets that are already made or making your own gluten-free seasonings that will add flavor to food without risking gluten contamination.