Here’s our advice and update on the process of switching my 4 year old to a gluten free diet for his celiac disease.
I’m thrilled to report the past 2 months have truly been a wonderful transition for Kyle. Kids adapt to change in a fantastic way and Kyle seriously has been thrilled with his new diet. Never once has he complained. I find it unbelievable that this has been so easy for him and all of us, but it’s true.
Kyle loves his new “gluten free” lifestyle and I think part of the ease has been that he feels very special being gluten free. And when your only 4 years old – or any age really- being made to feel special can be a very helpful catalyst that leads to success and subsequent happiness. I was terrified of making this switch for him and held off from his initial diagnosis in May 2012 until October 1st, 2012 to take the plunge. I did my homework as far learning everything I could about Celiac disease. Asking lots of questions online to friends, reading 3 books – my favorite was The G Free Diet: A Gluten Free Survival Guide by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and of course talking to doctors and “pre” shopping those g-free aisles at the grocery store.
I hear from other parents and our GI doctor that some young children do a wonderful job with the transition as they don’t really know anything different and are happy to eat the food we provide for them, while for other kids it can be a horrible adjustment as their routine and old favorite foods or treats are a thing of the past.
If you have a young child who has recently needs to go on a gluten free diet for celiac disease or other health reasons here are my tips for making it an easy transition.
7 Tips to Help Your Child Eat Gluten Free
1. Involve your child in the Gluten Free shopping experience. Take your child shopping with you and your family the day before going “Gluten Free”. Let them explore the gluten free aisle at your local grocery store and get excited about all the new options. We let Kyle help us pick out all the new food we were planning to buy to stock up our pantry. Luckily for us, our local Wegmans – which is also my favorite grocery store – has tons of Gluten Free options. We also live close to Trader Joe’s another favorite food store that is also very friendly to gluten free foods. So grateful for these stores!
2. Create a dedicated space or shelf in your food pantry for only gluten-free food. If your child is like Kyle they will love browsing their gluten free options and having their very own real estate in the food closet! This will also help siblings, care-takers, visitors to your home or relatives watching your children as they try to seek out the gluten free snacks for the kids.
3. Make your child feel special about this new change. Consider buying your preschooler a bracelet identifying their need to go “gluten free”.
The 1st week Kyle went gluten free, he wore this special bracelet that I ordered for him that identified him as being “Gluten Free”. He thought this rubber orange bracelet was just the bees knees. I ordered it from Allermates for $6.99. He no longer wears this but it was a nice reminder that first week and he felt really cool going to preschool showing off his new bracelet to his buddies.
4. Shop for everything Udi’s as you explore new brands. Udi’s has been a total lifesaver for our family – I’m not exaggerating!!!!! Truly, if not for Udi’s I don’t know how we would have made this transition. Delicious tasting gluten free bread, raisin bread, and best of all chocolate and blueberry muffins. We keep these in the freezer and then individually pull one out for a birthday party. I also keep our freezer at preschool stocked with a box of frozen Udi’s muffins so whenever it is someone’s birthday, Kyle is able to easily participate in any special treats.
Gluten Free granola is a treat on Yogurt too!
5. Continue to eat out at fast food joints with a Gluten Free menu or GFree options. We don’t want Kyle to ever feel excluded or that his dietary concerns a huge deal. So we still go out to eat, and we order him appropriate food. He’s had lots of veggies, fruits, and grilled chicken this Fall. Of course, his favorite, is still his old favorite – Enter Chick-Fil-A – a classic. Their waffle frieds are gluten free, he orders a fruit cup with his kids meal, and he gets the grilled nuggets which are gluten free too. Hooray!
6. Find a Gluten Free Mac n Cheese for your child. Most kids eat a ton of mac n cheese. That was Kyle’s favorite. So now, we buy Annie’s Mac n Cheese. I especially love the small serving microwavable packages. Amy’s Rice Macaroni and Cheese in the frozen section is also great for him too.
7. Be Prepared with Snacks that can double as a meal. My secret is keeping my purse and car stocked with KIND Bars.
If you like to travel or be spontaneous with your kids, you need to be prepared. Kids tastes can be fickle and impromptu play dates are part of our daily routine. So I keep KIND Bars stocked in my purse and glove compartment. They are seriously full of nutrition and are practically a meal in a bar. Kyle thinks they taste delicious and when I pair these with a piece of fruit or yogurt, he is having a pretty balanced meal on the go if we end up somewhere that is not going to have a “gluten free” bread or other meal options for the little guy. The only downside is they are expensive, but trust me they are worth every cent to me. ($14.99 for a dozen at my grocery store!) I don’t mind spending the money on something so healthy – no GMO’s, all natural and lot sof nutrients and fiber. Even better, the company is incredibly socially responsible so it’s money that I can feel good about spending all around.