Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gluten-Free is Child’s Play

For many parents, the phrase “picky eater” is synonymous with "my child". Almost every child goes through a period (a month, a year, a decade...) where they limit what they eat to a few things. What does this mean for a child who has been diagnosed with Celiac? Or perhaps more specifically, what does this mean for a parent of a child who has been diagnosed with Celiac -and- is a picky eater. Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate those I-don't-want-that "discussions".

Some General Tips
  • Most kids don't like to be seen to be "different" from other kids. Try to find GF foods that look the same as what other kids are eating. We've even known parents who have gone as far as to swap (thoroughly cleaned) non-GF packaging. I'm not sure this is the best idea as it may confuse some of the younger GF'ers but it's an idea nonetheless.
  • Most kids don't like to be seen as different from -you-. If you and the other members of your family aren't eating GF, you may be in for a tough time getting your young GF'er to eat well.
  • If you aren't GF, you should at least try everything that you are giving to your GF child. There's lots of great tasting GF food out there these days but there's still lots that isn't. If you don't like it, there's a pretty good chance your child won't either.
  • You must emphasize how important it is not to swap or share food at school. For kids who have been diagnosed from an early age, this probably won't be a problem as they are often very leery of food they don't know. For kids diagnosed at an older age (I'm looking at you, 13 year olds) the temptation to "cheat" can be pretty strong, especially when you add peer pressure and social acceptance into the mix.
  • GF Pancakes and waffles are a breakfast staple. Buy Toaster Waffles where you can for rushed mornings. You can make pancakes ahead of time and freeze them. Just take them out and warm them in the microwave or toaster. Top them with strawberries and 100% pure maple syrup. If you're really rushed, top them with peanut or nut butter, Nutella, cream cheese or jam, roll them up and they can eat in the car.
  • For a healthier start to the day, scramble some eggs and top them with gluten-free salsa (many organic brands are GF) and pair with a side of white toast. A favourite in our house was Egg-in-the-hole. Cut a 2 inch hole in a slice of buttered (or non- both sides GF bread (a juice glass works well), put in a medium hot frying pan, crack an egg in the hole, flip after 2 minutes or so, cook for another 2 minutes or until the yolk is right for your child. Fry up the little disk cut out of the bread as well. That's the best part for some kids.
  • If you’re running late, a gluten-free donut is a constant child favorite however don't fall into the donut = breakfast trap. A donut is a treat and not a meal.
  • A homemade sandwich is usually a lunchtime staple for many families. To put a gluten-free twist on it, use white bread with meat, lettuce, organic ketchup and mustard. All fresh fruits and vegetables including edamame are gluten-free and make for a healthy side. Dips of yogurt for the fruit and dressing for the veggies can be key to getting a picky eater to eat fruits and veggies. Just about everybody likes to dip! Gelatin desserts make for a good end to a satisfying meal, but always check the label before purchasing.
  • Two slices of gluten-free pizza are always appreciated.
  • If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, take a box of gluten-free breadcrumbs and cook up some homemade chicken nuggets for your child to take to school. These can be deep fried or oven baked as a healthier alternative.
  • For a beverage, stick with milk, non-dairy milk alternatives or 100% juice.
  • French fries are a guaranteed way to child proof dinner. There are various recipes online for homemade sweet potato fries - a terrific side dish that can be oven roasted for a healthy alternative to store bought fries.
  • Roasted chicken is seems to be universally liked by young and old (after all, it tastes like chicken). Whether it’s store bought (check for a gluten-free label or ask at the store) or homemade, this can be a healthy, low fat meal for the entire family. 
  • Think ethnic. While it might not fly with all kids, many ethnic foods are easy to make and are often naturally GF.Some fun examples are Thai Lettuce Wraps, (use GF soy sauce and omit the oyster sauce), Indian Chana Masala with papdums (papadums are made from lentils) and Mexican Taco Casserole (use GF salsa). As always, read labels on spices and other ingredients and don't be afraid to contact the manufacturer. Most have websites with the GF status of their products (and if they don't you probably don't want to use their products)
  • Quinoa flakes with dried fruit (and maybe a few chocolate chips). Watch the dried fruit ingredients as they may be coated with flour or starch to prevent sticking.
  • Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds, nuts  
  • Don't forget good old popcorn. This can go in a lunch bag as a high fibre snack. Avoid the microwave stuff and go for hot air popped. Top with butter or non-dairy margarine. Let your kids get creative with the toppings. Garlic salt, Lemon pepper, Cinnamon & Brown Sugar (why not?) This is one area where you may -not- want to try what they come up with. "Yes Jimmy, if you think nutmeg and paprika tastes good together on popcorn, you go right ahead."
Probably the best advice we can give to help with your GF kids, picky eater or not, is to get them involved. Kids will eat almost anything if they are involved in making it. Cook with them. Have them help choose and prepare meals. Have fun. It's more than food, it's family.

Kinnikinnick Foods has been a proud contributor to gluten-free, kid-friendly meals for almost 20 years. With our extensive selection of baked goods, from bread to donuts, pizza to cookies, our products aim to help those with celiac disease live a tasty and wheat free life!


Gluten Free Teacups said...

Thank you for these fantastic ideas. I really appreciate your thoughts which are very helpful. My twins both have celiac and I get into a rut trying to feed these four-year-olds.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm following you on Twitter!

I hope my sweetheart and I will be sharing your wonderful box of gluten free chocolates and goodies on Valentines Day!!!

Best Wishes,

Tina Baker