Helping Your Child Adjust to a Gluten Free Diet

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If your child has been recently diagnosed with celiac disease or if he is simply allergic or sensitive to gluten, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of having to follow a specialized diet. While any kind of food restriction can make raising a child more challenging, however, you will be pleased to know that, while difficult, it is not impossible.  Below are some top tips for helping your child to adjust to this new way of life.

Know the Restrictions

The first and important rule is to understand just what kind of dietary restrictions are in place for a gluten free diet.  As the name implies, your child will be eating foods that free of the gluten, a protein found in grains like rye, barley and wheat. That means that any products made from these grains – such as bread, pasta and baked goods like cakes and cookies are out.  What your child can have includes meats, dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables and products made from gluten free grains like rice or corn.

Work with Your Child’s School

One of the most important things to remember if your child is going gluten free is to work closely with the school – especially your child’s teacher – to make sure that the diet is consistent.  If possible, pack your child’s lunch with the special foods that he needs so that he will always have the stuff on hand that he can eat.  Educate your child’s teacher – if they do not already know –about what schools snacks and treats your child can have.  And try to make things easier on the teacher when you can: if you know there is going to be a birthday party at school for one of your child’s classmates, for example, make sure to send a gluten free dessert for your child so they don’t feel left out.

Start Exploring Your Local Grocery Stores

The good news is that now is the best time ever to be on a gluten free diet. Why? As more people are diagnosed with celiac disease or even gluten sensitivity, more and more products appear on the market that are gluten free but still taste grade and allow your child to enjoy a pretty normal diet.  Some of the more popular gluten free item with parents and kids alike are gluten free pizza crusts, gluten free cakes (including birthday cakes), gluten free bread and gluten free pasta.  If you are lucky enough to have a larger health or specialty food store in your area, you can also find products like gluten free English muffins, tortillas or premade waffles or pancakes.  This can make your child’s diet virtually indistinguishable from the diets of the other kids – and this can be important to help your child try to fit in.

Consider Making More Homemade Foods

One thing you might notice when you are buying gluten free foods, however, is that they can be a little on the pricey side. If you are interested in your child staying gluten free but are also concerned about your family budget (and who isn’t nowadays?) then consider making more things from scratch.   If you start with a gluten free flour (like flour made from corn or rice), you can make your own cakes, pizza crusts, breads and other yummy treats that will help keep your child on track when it comes to  his diet. If you are a little uncertain as to how to begin, check out a gluten free recipe site like Food Network to get the ideas you need for the foods your child will love.

Make Sure Others in Your Child’s Life are Educated

It’s not just teachers and the school staff that you have to worry about educating. Other members of your family –including those in your extended family – need to know what foods are okay  (and not okay) to give your child.  Otherwise, family reunions and other get-togethers can become stressful in a hurry. Also, if you and your family belong to a church or other community of faith, members of that community should also be informed so that they understand the game plan.  That way, your child will not accidentally get exposed to gluten at, for instance, a church social or Sunday school.   If your child is a member of a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, the troop leaders will also have to be notified.

In short, following the gluten free diet can be difficult, mostly because of all the hidden gluten in grain-based and similar products.  Gluten can feel like it is literally everywhere.  But if you follow the tips suggested above, you will find that it will help you and your child both make the transition into following a gluten free diet.