5 Tips to Make Gluten-Free More Manageable

A diagnosis of either Celiac’s Disease or gluten sensitivity – and the strict no-gluten diet that is necessary to achieve optimal health for people who have these conditions – can be pretty overwhelming. Especially when the person who can no longer eat gluten-containing foods is a child.

I often meet families shortly after a new diagnosis. They’re usually still processing what it all means and they’re wondering what in the world they’re going to feed their child, especially for snacks and meals on the run when their go-to foods are no longer safe.

If you’re the parent of a child who needs a gluten-free diet, here are 5 tips to make gluten-free more manageable:

  1. Explore alternative grains – I find that many families initially believe that their child can no longer have grains of any type. And I’m always happy to be able to tell them that this is not the case! It’s true that wheat-containing products are not part of a gluten-free diet, but there are plenty of alternative grain sources your child can have. Potato, rice and corn are all gluten-free and are generally well accepted by kids. You can also explore less-well-known gluten-free grains like quinoa and millet which can be great substitutes for pasta.
  2. Save your money – You do not have to purchase expensive gluten-free products found in supermarkets – your child can have a healthy variety of foods that are naturally gluten-free and taste delicious.
  3. Think outside the loaf – Packing lunches can be particularly challenging when sandwiches are no longer an option. Consider wrapping your child’s turkey and cheese in a corn tortilla or use leaves of lettuce to make roll-ups with chicken, tuna or egg salad for lunches.
  4. A new kind of snacking – Most crackers will be excluded from the diet but if your child loves crunchy snacks, try a rice cake with apple butter as an alternative.  Corn tortilla chips and potato chips are naturally gluten-free, making them great options for salty cravings. Hummus, salsa, and avocado (guacamole) are great dips to pair with chips.
  5. Easy for on-the-go – I see many kids who love “Nutella rolls” which are simply Nutella spread on a corn tortilla then rolled up with sliced bananas. They’re easy to make ahead and travel well in a sandwich bag. Most yogurts and string cheese are also gluten-free and make easy snacks for an on the go family. Hard boiled eggs and homemade trail mix (suggested inclusion items below) also work well for packing and snacking.

It is always important to thoroughly read food labels to ensure there are no additives that could contain gluten or possibility of cross contamination when the item was being processed.

Also, remember that all fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and when paired with a dip such as peanut butter, or another type of nut or seed butter, can quickly become a child’s favorite snack.

Social times like a sleepover/movie night or birthday parties can be tough. I recommend air-popped popcorn which can be a great snack for everyone to enjoy together and plain chocolate or vanilla flavored ice cream is a fantastic alternative to cake!

I think you’ll find as you get more comfortable that new ideas start to come pretty easily. I’ve heard of parents making homemade ice cream cakes with whipped cream frosting for birthdays that sound fantastic!

There are many online resources that have gluten-free snack ideas; remember to make sure that you are using a trusted website to ensure you are receiving accurate information. I like www.gluten.net.

You know your child best and will ultimately be the best judge of what will work long-term for your family. I hope the basic ideas I’ve shared here will give you a good place to start flexing your own creativity!

Trail mix ideas: peanuts, cashews, raisins, dried bananas, dried apricots, dehydrated pinapple, craisins, chocolate chips, Rice Chex, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and air-popped popcorn. 


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Anna Herrmann

About the Author: Anna Herrmann

Anna is a registered dietitian at Cincinnati Children's.

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  1. Mary June 13, 11:22
    Sandehiches are still absolutely an option! Gluten free breads have gotten so much better over the years. Aldi has an excellent loaf. Also bear in mind that any fruit, any vegetable, and any Meat that is fresh, or frozen, and sometimes even canned that does not have additives like sauces and seasonings is always gluten free.