If you have a child who suffers from Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance or wheat allergies, you may be concerned that you may not be able to provide them with a healthy, well-rounded diet. On the other hand, your child may worry that others may view them as being different. However, neither of these things needs to be an issue, not only can you provide a healthy, nutritious gluten-free diet for your child – it can be delicious and fun too. Being a gluten-free kid in today's world with its fantastic support via websites, books, support groups, recipes, and products, being gluten-free is much easier than you would think. The key to a gluten-free yet fun and delicious diet is creativity - that and being prepared. Here are my favorite ways to raise a gluten-free kid without missing out on any of the fun.
1. Make It Fresh:
Just because your child can't consume gluten doesn't mean that there isn't anything left for them to eat. There are many foods that are naturally gluten-free, for example, vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood. And there are many great natural gluten-free foods available at your grocery store, including everything from gluten-free baking mixes and breads to gluten-free snacks and desserts. It may take a little more work to create a fresh, gluten-free menu for your child, but the benefits will outweigh the challenge.
2. Always Be Prepared:
I suggest keeping a stash of gluten-free snacks with you at all times and to also send some to school for the teacher to use on those days when birthday treats or snacks are shared. I also think keeping your child's backpack stocked with several gluten-free treats a good idea. I would also suggest sending gluten-free meals and treats with your child when they go on play-dates, sleepovers, and outings. Don’t forget to add a couple extras for sharing with friends who are interested in what your child is eating.
3. Stay Positive:
If you are stressed about or negative about providing gluten-free foods for your child, they will definitely pick on it. You don't want your child to have any negative feelings about being gluten-free. Remind yourself that your child didn't ask to be gluten-free; you are doing it to better their health and life. Stay positive and you will find that your child will have a positive outlook on the situation too. And as most things in life, the more positive you are the better things turn out.
4. Cook Together as a Family:
Getting your children really involved in the foods that they eat is always a great idea. I suggest starting a small vegetable or fruit garden with your child and encourage them to help water, weed and harvest the vegetables. Then, include them in the preparation of a meal using those vegetables and fruit. Children love to garden and prepare foods that they helped grow; you will be amazed at their excitement to eat fruits and vegetables that they grew.
5. Make It Fun:
It is easy to jazz up any meal using a little creativity. If you are serving your child fresh fruit and gluten-free yogurt, arrange the fruit into a rainbow shape and add the yogurt at the bottom as clouds. You can spice up almost any food item with a little bit of seasoning, allow your child the opportunity to experiment with different spices. I also highly recommend that you get your child as involved in their food choices as possible, as they are most likely to eat more of the foods that they have a part in decision process.
6. Get Them Involved:
Children love to ask questions and will enjoy learning about being gluten-free. Introduce them to being gluten-free with a great book or magazine and then encourage them to be proactive about their own health. Teach them how to read food labels and educate others about gluten intolerance. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is Power” and you want your child to feel very powerful and knowledgeable about what is healthy for their body.
7. Make a Statement:
Take your child shopping to pick out a fun, bright and unique lunchbox. Not only will it make your child feel good when others tell them how cool their lunchbox is, but it also makes it almost impossible that another student would accidentally grab your child's lunchbox by accident at lunchtime. Take it a step further and allow your child to pick a matching water bottle and snack containers – making a statement with their foods can be fun.
8. Make It an Event:
Give your child’s friends and classmates the opportunity to understand what it means to be gluten-free by inviting them to a gluten-free cupcake party. Let the children use gluten-free frosting and toppings to decorate gluten-free cupcakes. Once the other children see that being gluten-free is really not that different from the way they eat, they will feel more comfortable. The key is communication, the more others surrounding your child understand being gluten-free, the more comfortable your child will feel.
Is your child unable to eat gluten? How have you made their eating experience more fun?