Finding kid-friendly foods is difficult enough for most parents, but having to put your little one on diet void of wheat and other popular grains can seem downright daunting. The good news: It doesn’t have to be. By learning what’s unsafe to eat, finding yummy alternatives, and keeping the right frame of mind, raising a child on a gluten-free diet can be a lot easier than it might seem.
Start With the Basics
So what is gluten? It’s a protein composite found in wheat, rye, and barley and, in turn, in most breads, cakes, pastas, cracker, and cereals (along with some surprising items, like certain salad dressings). The main reason a child (let alone an adult) would have to avoid these foods is a diagnosis of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition which causes intestinal damage whenever gluten is consumed, explains Peter Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York City and author of Celiac Disease: The Hidden Epidemic. Symptoms of celiac disease in kids under age 2 include diarrhea and failure to thrive; older kids might also have abdominal pain and growth issues. However, some children don’t have any symptoms, which is why you might want to get screened if any first-degree relative has celiac disease. While one in 100 people have celiac disease, those who have a first-degree relative with the disease have one in 10 odds.