Over the last few years, the gluten-free diet has gained a lot of followers and the trend continues to grow. There are those who need it for medical reasons, such as celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, which affect only a small part of the population, and others who are just following the latest fad diet. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder and gluten sensitivity is a stress response by the body to gluten.
As a dietitian, I believe the gluten-free diet is 100 percent necessary and effective for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but it does not provide a benefit for others.
So what does this mean for your children?
If you think your child may be unable to tolerate gluten, don’t rush to cut gluten out of their diet without talking to your doctor. In order to be tested for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, your child has to be eating gluten. The initial test for celiac disease is a blood test that can be done by your primary care doctor. If this test comes back positive, your child will need to be seen by a gastroenterologist for further testing.
Getting started with a gluten-free diet
Gluten is a protein that can be found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Starting a gluten-free diet is a big change and definitely takes some time getting used to. There are many naturally gluten-free foods that are healthy and delicious that can be incorporated into one’s diet, including eggs, most dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, fish, and poultry (not breaded, battered, or marinated), beans, seeds, and nuts (in their natural unprocessed form).
For those with celiac disease, it is really important to avoid cross-contamination of your naturally gluten free foods by not letting them come into contact with foods that do contain gluten.
If you are starting your child on a gluten-free diet for a medical reason, it is very important that you meet with a dietitian who specializes in that area. Prior to meeting with a dietitian the following are some ideas to get you started with the gluten free diet.
- Eggs (scrambled, poached, omelet, etc.)
- Fresh fruit
- Fruit smoothies
- Oatmeal with certified gluten-free oats
- Naturally gluten-free cereal such as Rice Chex
- Breakfast wrap on corn tortilla with scrambled eggs, fresh vegetables, salsa, etc.
- Breakfast meats such bacon, sausage, ham, etc.
- Fresh salad with naturally gluten-free dressing
- Sliced avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, peppers with naturally gluten-free dressing or hummus
- Eggs (egg salad, hard boiled)
- Apple slices with peanut butter or almond butter
- Lettuce wraps with naturally gluten-free lunchmeat, tuna, or chicken salad and fresh vegetables
- Wrap on corn tortilla with naturally gluten-free lunch meat and fresh vegetables
- Open-face sandwich on a rice cake with peanut butter and jelly
- Naturally gluten-free soup
- Beef or chicken tacos on corn tortilla served with vegetables, cheese, salsa, rice, beans, etc.
- Grilled or baked chicken with steamed or roasted fresh vegetables and quinoa
- Fresh salad with salmon, chicken, tuna, steak, etc and naturally gluten-free dressing
- Roasted spaghetti squash with pesto or marinara sauce and steamed or roasted fresh vegetables
- Stir-fry with chicken or beef and vegetables served over rice
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, mixed nuts)
- Rice cakes
- Fresh fruit
- String or cottage cheese
- Fresh vegetables with dip
- Homemade trail mix: nuts, raisins, chocolate pieces, etc
- Edamame (soy beans)
To learn more about celiac disease and the gluten free diet, I encourage you to visit the following websites:
– Lauren Graber, RD, CD, clinical dietitian specialist, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Clinical dietitians at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin are specially trained to provide the best nutritional care for children.