Planning a gluten free diet for your child may seem restricting at first, but what you have to realize is that eliminating gluten in the diet doesn’t need to compromise the variety, palatability, and most importantly, the nutrient content of the food you serve.
As we now know gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Other hidden gluten sources include malt, which is a barley derivative, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Oats by themselves do not contain the protein, but because its component is very similar to gluten, it may nonetheless cause symptoms in a gluten-intolerant child. Most processed foods contain grain, so reading the information on the nutritional labels is very important. Be wary of foodstuff containing ingredients like starch, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and plant protein. These are possible sources of gluten, and it is best to contact the manufacturer to verify its gluten content.
That said however, lifestyle adjustments must be done to exclude most bread and cereals. The key word here though is ‘most’, because there are breads available in the market now which are gluten free. These are mostly made with potato or rice flour, and are labelled 100% gluten free. Pastas often contain wheat, which makes it a no-no for the gluten free diet. Rice noodles are helpful alternative though, and are equally filling.
Rice is a very good item to include in a gluten free diet and most children enjoy rice. It is easy to prepare, and can be paired with meat, seafood, eggs, or vegetables. Rice is common to Asian cuisine, so meal plan inspiration may be drawn from that. Corn, potatoes, and tubers are not only gluten free; they are also cheap and tasty.
Parents dealing with a gluten intolerant child should know also that a big positive is that they can offer virtually any fruit, vegetable, bean, and meat product in existence, provided that it is natural and unprocessed. Grocery shopping can prove to be a challenging task at times though because most conveniently prepared and readily available food products available in the market – including readymade meals, sauces, and soups – are gluten sources.
Food preparation will therefore take more thought and patience at the outset. For instance, serving chicken soup will take significantly more effort than opening a can: one has to list and
assemble the ingredients piecemeal, substitute gluten containing ingredients with gluten free ones, and follow a general recipe. The child’s health and wellbeing, though, will definitely make up for the effort, not to mention the satisfaction gained from cooking up something entirely from scratch. However, like I said at the beginning, do not make life hard for yourself if you are a really busy mum or dad because you do not have to be creating new meals ever}’ day. Be sensible; keep calm and use the totally safe and easy options when you need to; just think through the process of what you are using and how you will prepare it.
Caring for a child with a gluten free diet requirement can be confusing at first, but you don’t need to figure it out all by yourself. Talking with a dietician helps a lot in planning balanced meals, and speaking with the child’s teacher may help in their diet compliance when at school. Most importantly, talk to the child. Help them to understand that their restrictions do not mean deprivation, and back this up with delicious gluten free dishes and treats. Happy cooking!