A kids guide to going gluten free
If your child has been diagnosed with coeliac disease or non coeliac gluten sensitivity, they’ll need to follow a strict gluten free diet. Always talk to a doctor before cutting gluten out of your child’s diet.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and the derivatives of these grains, including malt and brewer’s yeast.
A gluten free diet excludes all products containing these ingredients. Those who are gluten free can still enjoy a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, beans, legumes and most dairy products. Such ingredients are naturally gluten-free, and safe for individuals who do not have allergies to these respective food groups.
Eating gluten-free is the only way kids with coeliac disease can stay healthy. There’s no medicine or shot you can take to make it go away.
By sticking to gluten free food, kids with coeliac disease will start to absorb the vitamins and minerals needed to grow. Lots of gluten free kids feel stronger and have more energy after being on the diet.
People with diagnosed coeliac disease have a condition that causes damage to the lining of the small bowel when they consume gluten. This damage can result in various gastrointestinal issues and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Coeliac disease can occur in all ages and genders, and there is a genetic link to the disease. People with the disease have to remain on a strict gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives. Avoidance of gluten will repair damage to the small bowel and reduce other symptoms.
Luckily, there are lots of delicious foods that are naturally gluten free! Fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten free, and so are most meats like chicken and fish. A lot of ice cream is gluten-free, too!
There are also gluten free versions of your kid’s favourite foods, like gluten free bread, cereals, pancakes, chicken nuggets and even pizza crust. Just make sure you look for a gluten free label on the packaging.
Additionally, there are many grain, flour and starch alternatives that naturally do not contain gluten and thus can be consumed by children on a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-Free Grains and Flour-Alternatives Include:
If you’re a mother who has been diagnosed coeliac disease, you must still maintain a gluten free diet while breastfeeding.
If your infant has been diagnosed with coeliac disease and you are formula feeding, make sure to check with the manufacturer to see if the formula is gluten free before feeding it to your child.
When feeding a gluten free toddler, it’s important to consult with your child’s doctor and a nutritionist that specialises in the gluten free diet.
Gluten-Free Toddler Food Ideas:
Just remember, for toddlers, it’s important to avoid foods that pose a choking hazard, such as uncut grapes or hot dogs.
The gluten free diet is confusing for anyone of any age. So it’s tempting to spare your child the details. Instead, you choose their food. You talk to their teachers. You grill the server. While the precautions are both necessary and reassuring, keeping your child on a “need-to-know” basis won’t help in the long run. From grocery games to toy food parties and tending the garden, nurture your child’s gluten-free awareness from a young age to keep them involved and help them become an advocate for themselves.
Packing a Gluten Free Lunch
Many parents opt to pack a lunch for their child instead of the school cafeteria. This can help to alleviate many concerns surrounding ingredients and preparation practices of the cafeteria. Most parents say they get stuck in a rut when packing lunches – gluten free or not. Use these tips to keep your child’s lunch both gluten-free and delicious.
Gluten-Free Lunch Packing Tips:
When the focus turns to one child’s coeliac diagnosis, brothers and sisters can suffer feelings of neglect
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats and any hybrid grains of these. These grains (and any ingredients derived from them) must be avoided when following a gluten-free diet. The obvious products to avoid are regular baked goods such as bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, pastry, pasta, couscous, battered or crumbed foods. The good news is there are gluten-free alternatives for many of these products available in supermarkets and specialty stores. When eating a gluten-free product, you may find it has a different texture or shape to a product that contains gluten. This difference in texture is due to the elastic nature of gluten, which allows bread to rise and maintain shape while providing a chewy texture or crunch.
Before commencing testing, gluten must still be consumed to ensure that tests can measure the body’s reaction to the protein. Firstly, a blood test will measure for antibodies that are usually higher in people with coeliac disease who are eating gluten. If the blood test is positive, a small bowel biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis. If the tests are negative but gastrointestinal symptoms are experienced it could be due to other food intolerances. It would be recommended that you visit an Accredited Practising Dietitian for appropriate diagnosis.
People with coeliac disease can eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese and some yoghurts, eggs, nuts, certain grains, legumes, fats and oils without experiencing any gastrointestinal discomfort. The grains that are safe for consumption include rice, corn, buckwheat, tapioca, quinoa and amaranth.
If a product has a gluten-free label, it means there is no detectable gluten in the product. A gluten-free label overrides the ingredient list. For example, if a product is labelled gluten free but lists Maltodextrin (which could be from wheat) as an ingredient, the product will still be suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. This is because the maltodextrin is from a non-gluten source. If a product is labelled with ‘May contain gluten’ or ‘Manufactured on the same line as gluten-containing products’ they are NOT suitable for those on a gluten-free diet.
This logo is endorsed by Coeliac Australia and products that use this logo are safe for consumption by people who have coeliac disease. These products are tested annually and meet the standards for those on a gluten-free diet.
For more information on the logo and endorsed products, visit Coeliac Australia.
If you have coeliac disease, it’s always advised to check the ingredients list to ensure that the product does not contain wheat.
The ingestion of even a small amount of gluten can cause damage to the small bowel for someone with coeliac disease. Therefore, it is vital to AVOID inadvertent contamination of gluten-free foods with gluten.
Here are some tips on how to do so:
• Thoroughly clean breadboards, knives and other cooking utensils used in food preparation
• Ensure appliances including toasters, sandwich makers and grills are clean before preparing gluten-free foods. If this isn’t possible, visit the Coeliac society website to purchase a toastabag
• Use separate spreads to prevent crumb contamination
• Clean pots and pans used for making gluten-free foods, separately to other utensils
• Store gluten-free products and ingredients in separate sealed containers
• Clearly label all appropriate foods in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer as ‘Gluten-free’
• Do not use the same deep fryer that has had gluten containing foods cooked in them
In recent years, gluten has been under the spotlight with many non-coeliac disease sufferers opting for a gluten-free diet. These people may have an intolerance to gluten, which is a reaction that does not involve the immune system. If you don’t have coeliac disease or an intolerance, removing gluten from your diet will not provide any health benefits or help with weight loss. It can in fact do the opposite because gluten-containing grains provide essential nutrients including fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, leading to nutrient deficiencies if avoided.
For more information, or for state/territory specific guidance and advice, head to Coeliac Australia.