Even though this article is entitled “Gluten-free for Kids”, I think there are some good pointers for everyone who is suffers from gluten intolerance or a severe gluten sensitivity. This article is primarily for all the parents out there looking for more info that can reduce the frequency of your child coming into contact with gluten. You will find a handy bullet point list, along with some addition helpful tips at the end.
- Gluten-free for Kids 1: Home cleaning and child proofing
o Don’t leave your food around
o Wipe after if you put food on a counter, then clean that cloth
- Gluten-free for Kids 2: Mealtime
o Don’t use a shared tasting or stirring utensil
o Wooden utensils can hide gluten
o Remember that there will be many things that are automatic that can’t be anymore
- Gluten-free for Kids 3: Friends
o You may want to do pay dates at your home more often so you can have a controlled environment. You can talk to the parents of your child’s friends, but just think of how hard it is for you to really grasp all the little details of gluten-free living. You always have the option of not letting your child visit friend’s homes without you until old enough to not put random objects in his or her mouth, while also listening to you about “not taking candy” from friends or strangers.
- Gluten-free for Kids 4: School
o School is perhaps the most difficult environment to control. There are so many variables and sometimes you cannot always win this battle. Remember that you are making his lunch.
o Your child’s teacher can make sure no lunch swapping happens
o By the time he or she is old enough to be out on the playground with much less supervision, hopefully your child will be old enough to follow your directions and not put random things in his or her mouth.
- Gluten-free for Kids 5: Snacks
o For the most part the basic advice about meal preparation applies to snacks except for one thing. Commonly, snack with be “portable” and without any packaging. If you bake some gluten-free cookies and put them in the lunchbox, there is no guarantee they won’t later end up on a table beside a sandwich at school. Always make your child eat alone in the corner of the class. Just kidding! Remember that you can only do so much as a parent and if the worst that happens is once a year your child gets a belly ache, you are doing pretty darn good in my books.
o If you are buying your GF snacks just remember to scrutinize the label and try to stick to trusted brands. I have been “glutened” many times when I ate something that had indicated there was no gluten on the label. Plenty of times I was okay, too. Focus on brands you trust.
o Notice that a ton of the GF products are unhealthy. There are some that taste good and are whole grain, though. Do some web-searches and you will find thousands of pages dedicated to gluten-free products.
- Gluten-free for Kids 6: Random cross-contamination
o This is the most important point and where people slip up the most. I think I covered it with points 1 and 5. You can be excellent, but not perfect.
Gluten-Free for Kids Bonus Tips Plus Common Questions
Keep a food log
Keep a food log for whenever your child has symptoms, they may not be able to say what it is from, you may have to note the date and time and everything you know that the child ate or used. It can take a long time to fully gluten-proof your home. Kids being Kids, getting into things and putting things in their mouths a lot, for example, you can’t always protect against cross-contamination or them being glutened completely. Often, you may find products or items that do contain gluten after you are able to put two and two together. It can be more difficult if you don’t keep a log
Should you go gluten-free?
Should you go gluten-free? Remember that your personal effort to be gluten free will be helpful to the child but that you will never ever be able to tell the difference personally just by taste. You will never know if a meal or GF snack you made contains gluten just by tasting it. Being more and more educated and skilled at maintaining a GF home or insulating the child from exposure is essential. At the same time, I have never met anyone with a perfect record when it came to being gluten-free right off the bat. There will be times where you are SURE the meal is GF and it will not be. If your child is as sensitive as I am, less than a third of a gram can cause a serious and damaging reaction. My recommendation is to never be so sure. Instead, be vigilant, and accept that you will miss some gluten and your if your child has a serious gluten intolerance, there is a very high likelihood that he or she will be in pain. You should also know that slowly your lifestyle will change and eventually you will be an expert and almost never make a mistake.
Ultimately, my advice is to not put your child in a bubble, but to look for opportunities to learn as much as you can about gluten-free living and to recognize that as a parent of a gluten intolerant child, you are part of a vocal global community. There are tons of blogs and resources and countless people on social networking sites, many of whom would enjoy the opportunity to exchange information or offer pointers. So long as you are getting better and better at rooting out all of the villainous gluten, wherever it might hide, it is difficult for me to image you doing better. It is pretty hard to prevent every belly ache, and don’t forget many of those won’t be from gluten at all. I hope you found my take on Gluten-free for Kids interesting, and as always, feel free to email me if you have questions beyond the resources in this article and in the signature box to your right.