Below are some helpful tips in rasing a gluten-free child!
- Arm your kids with knowledge: It doesn’t matter if your child is 2 or 12, he should be learning to take full control of his diet from Day One. Teach him what he can and can’t have, and remember to put that positive spin, stressing his favorite foods and the “goodies” that are allowed.
- Sleepovers: If your kids are going to a sleepover, be sure to talk to the host parents about his dietary requirements. Not only will this help prevent goofs, but it will give you a chance to find out what they’re serving for dinner, snacks, and breakfast, so that you can send “equivalent” treats for your child.
- Camps: Most camps are great about accommodating special diets. Talk to the camp coordinators, and, if they have one, the camp nutritionist or cook. You can send food in coolers packed with dry ice if your child will be there for an extended stay.
- Parties they’re headed to: Kids love parties – but not because of the food – they love them because they’re FUN! If your child is headed to a party, try to find out in advance what will be served, and offer to provide food for all the kids, or at least your own. Remember, there are always great gluten-free “treat trades” that your kids can enjoy if you prepare in advance.
- School birthday parties: Most teachers will help you accommodate your child’s needs for in-school birthday parties by allowing you to send in some goodies they can store in their cubbies or the teacher’s desk. I’ve found pudding to be a great solution (its easy to store and my son loves it!)
- Parties you’re hosting: Don’t be afraid to make your party entirely gluten-free. Everyone will love the food! Consider making gluten-free lasagna (or baked ziti) with DeBoles lasagna noodles for the main course, and let the kids help with dessert by whipping up some gluten-free cupcakes for cookies – even the guests will have a blast!
- Lunches: There are lots of great lunches you can send to school with your child. Leftovers are the best! Some schools will allow kids to warm their food in a microwave. If not, you still have great options. Yogurt or string cheese make good sources of protein…sandwiches can be wrapped in gluten-free bread, lettuce or corn tortillas. Gluten-free stir-fry and even soups in a keep-warm container make great lunches, too. Be sure to remind your child that trading lunches isn’t allowed.
- After-school snacks: There are lots of fun after-school snacks, and many can be packaged for the road, in case you need to run errands or go somewhere after school. Consider string cheese, fruit or veggies, quesadillas, popcorn, or trail mix. If you’re not going to be in the car, popsicles, smoothies, taquitos, and of course leftovers are great snacks.
- Remember that kids are resilient: Whether you think raising gluten-free kids is a breeze or a challenge, you need to remind yourself that kids are resilient. Sometimes tackling the challenges of a gluten-free diet is more difficult for parents than for the kids. Kids are busy thinking of the fun they’re having, the friends they’re making … they’re far less focused on food than we adults are!
One very important point (and one I reiterate this throughout the site); you are now an advocate for your child’s health in a way that puts the responsibility on your shoulders; not a doctor’s or the school board, but on yours. It is now up to you to make sure they don’t feel left out, that they understand why they avoid gluten, and that you help them embrace the beauty of a healthy lifestyle. Being gluten-free certainly does not have the same challenges it came with even just 10 years ago. There is ongoing research to help us better understand why our bodies can’t break it down, help to manage the challenges from peer and support groups to nutritionists and medical doctors, and a growing number of available gluten-free products on our grocery store shelves.
I promise that with time and dedication, you will grow (not only) used to this new way of eating, but you will learn to love it too! We have so many amazing, delicious recipes coming on this site to help you navigate your way to a healthy life, and ensure your children don’t ever feel left out, or void of flavor!
To a yummy and normalized life for our children!