Gluten-free kids

So, we’ve got gluten issues in our house. I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, along with my 3-1/2-year-old daughter. And judging from how grocery stores seem to be making gluten-free products more available, we are not alone.

So, we’ve got gluten issues in our house. I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, along with my 3-1/2-year-old daughter. And judging from how grocery stores seem to be making gluten-free products more available, we are not alone.

I am not all Debbie Downer about my “ailment,” as someone recently referred to it. Seriously, my general attitude about being gluten-free is a good one. Since being diagnosed and figuring out my new diet, I feel better than I have since I was about 10 years old.

True, figuring out my new diet, was tricky and somewhat time-consuming at first, but the rewards (um, like, FEELING NORMAL) made it all worthwhile. But then when I had to factor a little biddy in to the mix, it got a bit hairy there for awhile.

I’m a big believer in kids eat what we eat – for the most part. There are some exceptions, and I never wanted my girl to stress over food, even considering most food in a grocery store is off-limits to her.

We’ve made some good headway, and I’d love to share some of the way I’ve managed a mini-celiac in the house.

I can break down the hardest parts about having a kid with celiac in to three major categories…

1. One kid is wheat-free and one kid is wheat-all-the-way.

How can I have both foods (gluten-free and not) in the house and make it all fair, cost-effective, AND simple?

First, I try not to buy “normal” food that does not have a gluten-free (which we’ll call GF from now on) alternative. This was our buh-bye to Goldfish, among other staples in a house with preschoolers. I also made it a goal to find or learn how to make tasty GF “little kid food.” I do not spend a fortune on GF products, and (for the most part) my girls eat the same food at the same time (as much as I like to cook, I’ve never wanted the job of personal-chef-to-my-children).

There are plenty of GF snacks that both of my girls really enjoy, too: Pirate’s Booty, popcorn, kids Clif Bars, rice cakes, tortilla chips, yogurt, cheese sticks, raisins, and trail mixes to name a few (see my previous article on easy snacks for kids for more ideas).

Healthy is easy, right? But if we were to splurge and get junk (this is all hypothetical, of course), I’d even it out like this: the five year old selects Oreos, I come home and make up a batch of GF cookies for my GF girl to have at her fingertips. Doritos, which are not GF? Cheetos are safe for the other. You get the idea…

Another simple idea is to have a GF section in your pantry. That way there is no confusion when they go to grab a snack – for the girls or for babysitters (or for husbands).

2. What about baked goods? We may have celiac disease, but we are not on the Atkins diet!

We have found Sami’s Bread to be the best option out there – Ellwood Thompson’s sells it, and I suggest stocking up on most of their products (pizza crust, millet and flax chips, and breads) so that you can have them on hand. This way, when I go to make a sandwich for one, I can make it for two – and they’re both happy and full.

I love to bake, and I’ve tried all sorts of flour concoctions as GF alternatives. While they are ok, I have to remember that I’ve got little ones and a busy life, so the very easiest way for me is to keep a bag of Pamela’s Pancake and Baking Mix in the house. There are a handful of recipes on the back, and while I’ve tried a few, my favorite Pamela’s trick is to use it in all of my “regular” recipes. Banana bread? Yes, I use my go-to Joy of Cooking recipe, but instead of two cups of flour, whoosh, in go two cups of Pamela’s.

There are also a handful of other GF box mix options. I’ve wasted money on a few that turn out pretty gross. I hate to say… I do not care for Bob’s Mill, finding them flavor-less and gritty. No offense, Bob, but there are some people with gluten allergies that actually do like their food to taste good.

The Betty Crocker’s are good (and easy!), as are the other Pamela’s products and the Whole Foods 365 brand.

3. Playdates and preschool

Kids with allergies are more and more the norm, but we have to address it wherever we tromp. You have to get comfortable being an advocate for your child. You wouldn’t send them somewhere that was not physically safe for them to be, right? You have to consider allergy kids as “handled with care” products. Simply put: it’s not safe for them if the person caring for them does not understand their allergies.

Upon meeting a mom or teacher, I go in to my spiel… I explain the allergy in some detail but not great length, and I always end the conversation by asking if they have any questions.

I have not had a lot of trouble getting my girl to understand her allergy. In fact, she will ask anyone who puts food in front of her, “Is that gluten-free?” Even if they just slice an apple, she’ll ask. Truly, these kids get it more than we give them credit for, especially as they get older.

Also, it’s just a normal routine for us to take snacks wherever we go. For playdates, we pack double, so that we can “share with our friend.” School lunches and snacks are not too complicated; you just have to be set up for success in your pantry and fridge. I doubt we’ll ever be sending her with two dollars to buy school lunch, though.

Eating out gluten-free is a whole other category, though. You can learn more about that here.

What are some ways you make your life easier with a gluten-free kiddo?

(Photo by Lauren Massey)

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Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard loves thinking about, preparing, consuming, and serving good food. Believing that life is to short to eat the same stuff over and over, she loves to test new eats on her friends and family. Kelly loves her coffee-addicted hubbie, her two little blonde-haired babes, all things sweet, black tshirts, and the color pink.

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