How to Keep Your Gluten-Sensitive Kids Healthy and Feeling Like Everyone Else
By Jessa McClure
Approximately one percent of Americans suffer from celiac disease and 18 million more suffer from a gluten sensitivity, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. While it is difficult for anyone to deal with these irritating conditions, it is even more difficult when it affects a child who doesn't understand why they're not like everyone else.
Here are a few tips from some parents who have found ways to keep their gluten-sensitive children healthy and feeling normal:
1. Check food labels
Sometimes foods can seem like they are gluten-free, but actually contain modified starches that could potentially make your child sick. Dana Price, of Crawford, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2001. She suggests looking for the certified gluten free stamp on food labels.
JoAnn Cheek, of Moody, is the mother of two gluten-sensitive children and says the first thing she does with a product in the grocery store is flip it over and read its ingredients.
"Label reading has actually been good for [the whole family] because we are more aware of the sugar content and high fructose corn syrup that none of us need to be eating," she said.
2. Be careful when you're eating out
Meg Watwood, of Waco, who also has gluten-sensitive children, says it is a good idea to research gluten-free restaurants if you're dining away from home or when you're traveling.
"Find GF places to stop along the way if you are driving, and if you're flying, pack a cooler with GF food," Watwood said. "Once you get to your destination, find a local grocery store to stock up on some more GF foods."
Cheek said that a lot of fast food restaurants have become friendly to gluten-sensitive diners.
"Fast food restaurants have become used to people asking for a low-carb burger, so it is not that difficult to drive through and order a burger without a bun."
3. Have a list of go-to dinner ideas
Price said gluten-free pasta is easy to find in the grocery store, and is usually reasonably priced. Adding meat sauce to the pasta is a kid-friendly meal that will satisfy both GF and non-GF eaters.
Tacos served with corn tortillas are a dinner staple for the Cheek family, but the mother of five cautions parents to read the labels on taco seasoning packets before using them to season ground meat.
"They often have gluten or wheat in them as a thickening agent," Cheek said. "I just use my own seasoning mixture which includes: chili powder, onion powder, garlic and salt."
She also makes her own cream of chicken soup for use in casseroles. The recipe is easy to find online and you can use gluten-free flour in place of wheat flour to thicken the mixture.
4. Help them feel like everybody else
Birthday parties are synonymous with childhood, and for a gluten-sensitive child, it can be difficult to feel like part of the crowd. Cheek said she often makes a batch of gluten-free cupcakes ahead of time and freezes them un-iced to keep on hand.
"The day of the party, I pull a couple out to thaw, put icing on them and take them with us so my boys can enjoy cake, too," she said. "Honestly though, their favorite part of cake is the icing anyway, so they are happy with a big blob of icing on a plate with a spoon. Sometimes I even buy a jar of icing while I'm picking up the birthday gift for the party."
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