It doesn’t matter at what age your child was diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance/sensitivity, whether as an infant or a teenager, it’s never too early to begin teaching them what it means to be gluten-free.  Part of that training includes teaching them how to adopt a gluten-free diet, and adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle and how extremely important it is for their health that they remain gluten-free for their entire life.

Following are 5 tips to  help you in your journey to keep your child gluten-free.

1.       Teach your child how to read labels  

  • Even before your child is old enough to read, they are perceptive enough to learn sight words. Teach them that every food item has a label on it, and that label contains a list of the ingredients and nutrition information.
  • You can teach them how to recognize certain words like “wheat”, “rye”, or “barley”, for example. These are just a few of the many words that would indicate a glutenous food. Here in the United States, the label MUST include the eight known food allergens.
  • As your children get older, you can introduce more glutenous words to them.

2.          Be positive

  • One of the worst things that can happen to a gluten-free child, is for an adult to express frustration or negativity about a gluten-free diagnosis and all that that entails. If you as the parent are feeling frustrated or discouraged, then talk to your spouse or a friend about it. Don’t let your child feel the brunt of your frustration.
  • The last thing you want, is for your child to feel guilty about the extra expense that can come along with the gluten-free diet, or the extra preparation and time that can* be required when you’re planning everyday meals, traveling, or family get-togethers.

3.         Include your child in cooking and baking

  • You can teach your child the difference between regular recipes, and those made for people who cannot eat gluten. Again, be sure to explain that some people, mainly because of their genetics, cannot tolerate gluten-containing foods.
  • In addition, you can teach your child appropriate ways to adapt regular recipes calling for flour by substituting safe alternatives.
  • If your child lives in a home where not everyone needs to eat gluten-free meals, it is important to teach how to cook, bake, and even make snacks without cross-contamination occurring.

4.        Teach your child that it’s okay to say no to adults and other children

  • There are many well meaning children and adults who will unwittingly offer your child glutenous foods and treats. So you need to teach your child that it is perfectly okay to politely say “no thank-you” because these foods will make him sick and cause damage to the inside of his body.

5.          Teach you child the danger of hidden gluten in non-food products

  • Food is not the only thing that you need to teach your child about. Gluten can be found in finger paints, play doh, lip balm, and even candy. Here are two articles I wrote about gluten in art supplies. Here and here.

Just starting out on a gluten-free lifestyle? Feeling overwhelmed, lost or confused about all of this? I can help.