A new diagnosis of celiac disease and starting a gluten-free diet can be overwhelming. Despite an increase in the availability of gluten-free options, adapting to a new lifestyle is still challenging, especially for kids. Education from an experienced celiac disease team, like the Celiac Disease Center at Cincinnati Children’s, is highly recommended. Experts like ours can help families navigate dietary changes, discover new foods to try, and learn how to incorporate these changes into your everyday life.
Here are tips I share with my patients to help them as they adapt to this new diet.
HOW TO BRING A GLUTEN-FREE DIET TO YOUR HOME
1. Explore alternative grains.
One misunderstanding about celiac disease is that you can no longer consume grains of any kind. Luckily, that’s not true. Wheat, barley and rye are the grains you need to eliminate, but there are still plenty of other whole grains that are allowed.
- Rice, potatoes and corn are more familiar gluten-free grains. These are generally well accepted by kids.
- Be adventurous and explore other alternatives like quinoa, millet and amaranth. These grains can be cooked and eaten whole, or may be used to make gluten-free breads, pastas and cereals.
2. Don’t break the bank.
Specialty products tend to be more expensive than traditional wheat-based products. However, plenty of foods are naturally without gluten and are easy to incorporate into your family meals.
- Consider using rice or potatoes as a replacement for noodles.
- Corn-based products like chips and tortillas are delicious and readily available at grocery stores.
- Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free and can be used in many ways to add flavor and color to recipes.
3. Think outside the loaf.
Adjusting to gluten-free bread can be tough, which can make packing lunches a challenge. Try these ideas instead:
- Make sandwich alternatives like turkey and cheese roll-ups using corn tortillas or lettuce as a wrap.
- Create a homemade “lunchable” using cheese slices, sliced lunchmeat and gluten-free rice, nut or corn crackers.
- Use a thermos to provide leftovers from the night before: Put boiling water into the thermos while you heat up the food, then dump out the water and replace it with the heated food. (This helps the food stay warm longer.)
4. Stock up on snacks.
Having gluten-free snacks readily available for your child will make busy schedules run a little more smoothly. Try some of these simple combinations:
- Rice cakes with peanut butter
- Hummus with carrots
- Trail mix made with gluten-free cereal, nuts and dried fruit
- Fresh fruit and cheese
- Corn chips and guacamole
- Popcorn and peanuts
- Apple slices with almond butter
5. Use your resources.
A lot of gluten-free diet information is available to you on the Internet. This can be both good and bad. Be sure that your sources of information are reliable. Here are some websites and apps I recommend:
- Website: Beyond Celiac
- Website: Gluten-Free Living
- Website: Celiac Disease Foundation
- Website: Gluten Intolerance Group
- App: The Gluten Free Scanner
- App: Find Me Gluten Free
Transitioning to a diet without gluten is a process. Learning the ins and outs of the diet, along with finding gluten-free alternatives your child likes, can take time. I hope these tips will help make the transition a little less stressful.
For more help, please reach out to the Celiac Disease Center at Cincinnati Children’s. We offer expert care from pediatric gastroenterologists, registered dietitians and nurses in one well-coordinated clinic. Our team has the deep experience and expertise to provide an accurate diagnosis, education about celiac disease, and the support your family needs to adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle. We also care for young people with wheat allergies and non-celiac gluten sensitivities. You can also follow us on Twitter @CincyKidsCeliac.