Cooking for children on gluten-free diets requires special planning and care to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Replacing gluten-filled junk food with gluten-free junk food of course, isn’t good for kids.
Research shows that children with celiac disease are at higher risk for nutritional deficiencies. A variety of nutritious foods are vital to healthy growth and development.
Plan Ahead When Cooking for Gluten-Free Kids
Explain to your child what foods are safe for them to eat and what foods contain gluten and are off-limits. The depth of this discussion will depend on the age of your child- use visual aids if you need to in order to help your child understand the concept of safe and unsafe foods.
Help your child write their favorite gluten-free foods in a notebook or a recipe file. Divide the file into sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and “away from home foods.” This will help your child understand what is safe for them to eat and it will give you a “go to” file when you need meal ideas.
What Kids Really Like
Children on gluten-free diets naturally want to eat foods that look and taste like foods they ate before being placed on a gluten-free diet. Kid-friendly recipes for gluten-free spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, pizza, cookies, muffins and gluten-free breads that look “normal” help to make the transition to a gluten-free diet much less traumatic. More and more gluten-free foods, both homemade and store-bought are looking extremely “normal”- even breads and pizza.
Let Kids Help Cook
Get your kids involved in preparing gluten-free foods and they will learn all about gluten-free ingredients and how to use them. This is an invaluable life-skill for gluten-free kids!
When Your Gluten-Free Child is Away from Home
This is probably one of the most traumatic issues the parents of gluten-free kids have to deal with. Visits with grandparents, sleep-overs, birthday parties, school lunch rooms and sporting events are all potential places where your gluten-free child may unintentionally exposed to gluten.
Tell family, friends, teachers, school administrators, coaches, babysitters and day-care providers exactly what your child cannot eat. Print safe and unsafe food lists and give this information to any and all people responsible for your child’s care.
Stay Positive and Supportive
Your child is on a gluten- free diet for life. It is important to show children that gluten-free foods can taste great, look normal and that they can still eat their favorite foods.
Author Information: Teri Gruss, MS
About.com Guide to Gluten-Free Cooking
Teri was diagnosed with gluten intolerance after decades of symptoms that culminated in malabsorption syndrome. Teri has written numerous health and nutrition articles for the popular website naturalnews.com and was a founding member and moderator of nutritioncircle.org, a nutrition forum for healthcare professionals and students. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association and supports the non-profit organization Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of North America as a member.
Email Teri Gruss, MS here.