My Gluten-Free Kid

Updated: 02:43 May 31, 2013

Sticking with a Gluten-Free Program

 

My son recently got it into his head that he doesn’t need to be on a gluten-free diet. He mentioned it twice in a short period of time.

I wasn’t sure he really felt that way or just wanted it to be that way. As an adult, I sometimes get tired of having to be careful about what I eat, never mind an 11-year-old dealing with a school cafeteria, the many temptations of childhood celebrations, and just wanting to fit in.

I had a hunch about what caused his shift in attitude.

Kid vs. Food

Recently he brought to our attention that a stir-fry dressing he used caused a red ring and peeling around his lips. For the longest time I thought the peeling was due to dehydration. But he knew he was drinking plenty of water and was able to figure out the cause and effect.

This was a huge realization because even his doctor had overlooked this food reaction, and we had been dealing with it for years. With a little research, we deduced that the offending ingredient was soy. We began limiting this ingredient in his diet, and his lips cleared up.

But adding one more item to his already restricted diet might have been the final straw.

GF Kids Want to Be Kids

After a discussion to find out if my son really felt he didn’t have gluten-intolerance, it turns out his resistance to being gluten-free was really about other things.

He didn’t like the attention at restaurants when ordering from a special menu. He wanted to be able to eat nachos at school and have cookies at lunch like the other kids.

When I committed to making sure he had a gluten-free dessert in his lunch once a week, he was completely satisfied. Also, I was amazed when I talked to the school's cafeteria director, who went out of his way to ensure that my son could have nachos.

Funny, my hasn’t asked to buy them since, he just wanted the option. In that way, I guess kids really aren’t that different than adults!

 

 

Renee Smith* lives with her family in a suburb of Boston. She and her tween son must follow a gluten-free diet while her husband and teenage son do not. As you might imagine, this creates some challenges, but it's also led to some special family moments.

*Renee Smith is a pseudonym created by the author to protect her sons from mortal embarrassment that their mother is blogging about them!

 

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Updated: 10:24 April 10, 2013

Gluten Amnesia

Recently, I was talking with some friends about being gluten-free when my son walks by and says, “I’m not sensitive to gluten,” and then he was gone.

Now, he’s been gluten-free for a couple of years but because he was so young when we put him on a gluten-free diet, I knew this day would come; the day when he would forget why we ate gluten free.

When I was going through the process of being diagnosed, I started to see similarities in symptoms my son and I shared: rashes, brain fog, and food avoidance, to name just a few.

After I was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance and found what a big difference eating gluten free made, my husband and I made the decision—with our son’s support—to put him on a gluten-free diet too.

He’s been proudly gluten-free for a couple of years now. We’ve seen him enjoy a better relationship with food, he doesn’t break out in weird skin eruptions, and he concentrates better.

Even weird things that you wouldn’t think would be related to gluten, seem to be. For example, he doesn’t have as bad of a reaction to poison ivy as he once did. He used to break out in a rash within three hours of contact. If I didn’t put him on a steroid, he’d start throwing up.

Last year he came into contact with poison ivy and didn’t break out for 24 hours. I didn’t have to put him on steroids because the rash was normal and didn’t make him sick.

I had a chat with him to find out why he thinks he’s not sensitive to gluten, and he said he never was.

I asked him why he thought he was on a gluten-free diet then, and he said it was because I was.

Now I wish I’d had him officially diagnosed by a doctor. I think it would carry a little more weight with him.

But unfortunately, amnesia has set in and no matter what I, his father, or older brother say about what he was like in the past when he was “glutened,” he doesn’t remember. In his mind, if he can’t remember, it must not be so.

Now I’m struggling with finding that balance of encouraging him to stay gluten free and not having gluten become the forbidden fruit that he just has to have! 

Has this situation happened to other parents? What are your strategies for keeping kids committed to a gluten-free diet?

 

 

About Renee Smith

Renee Smith* lives with her family in a suburb of Boston. She and her tween son must follow a gluten-free diet while her husband and teenage son do not. As you might imagine, this creates some challenges, but it's also led to some special family moments.

*Renee Smith is a pseudonym created by the author to protect her sons from mortal embarrassment that their mother is blogging about them!

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Updated: 10:26 April 10, 2013

GF Snack Attack!

 

Gluten-free food choices have come a long way in a relatively short time. Still, many people are reluctant to try gluten-free options. Part of the reason is that you can pay a premium for something that tastes mediocre. Depending on the gluten-free flour used, the product can be dry, crumbly, and have a funky aftertaste.

My gluten-free son is energetic,  athletic, and blessed with a high metabolism. Finding enough healthy, gluten-free brown bag snack and lunch items to keep him fueled on a daylong school field trip can be daunting!

The list of options gets even smaller because his friends have nut allergies. Jelly sandwiches just don’t cut it!

Over time we've come up with a foolproof standard bag lunch that keeps us both happy. We always include three things: a protein and/or a complex carb, fruit and/or veggies, and a sweet, salty, crunchy snack.

Try the following ideas:

Protein and/or complex carb: one or two gluten-free, nut-free oat bars or nut-free granola. Fruit and/or veggies that travel well: apple, grapes, cantelope, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery.

Sweet and salty crunch: GF pretzels, rice cakes, or homemade trail mix (your favorite rice cereal combined with dried fruit and GF granola or pretzels).

Grab & Go Snacks for School . . . or the Office!

If you’re new to GF shopping, you may be interested in knowing some of our family’s favorite brands for grab & go snacks for school or office:

Pretzels

  • Snyder’s of Hanover Gluten-Free Mini Pretzels
  • Glutino Gluten-Free Pretzels (mini, chips, twists, rings, sticks, yogurt covered, chocolate covered)
     

Granola Clusters

  • KIND Gluten-Free Granola
  • Udi’s Gluten-Free Granola
     

Snack Bar

  • LÄRABAR
  • KIND
     

Crackers

  • Blue Diamond Nut-Thins Almond

     

For the Sweet Tooth

  • Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Crème Cookies & Vanilla Crème Cookies
     

DIY Snack Mix

Let each person make their own snack mix with their favorite combinations. (Tip: Include a nut like walnuts; they are a rich source of nutrients—and energy!)

  • Nuts: Cashews, walnuts, pistachios
  • Dried fruit: cranberries, dates, plums, pineapple
  • Rice Chex: Honey Nut
  • Gluten-free pretzel sticks or mini pretzels
  • Gluten-free granola clusters

 

 

About Renee Smith

Renee Smith* lives with her family in a suburb of Boston. She and her tween son must follow a gluten-free diet while her husband and teenage son do not. As you might imagine, this creates some challenges, but it's also led to some special family moments.

*Renee Smith is a pseudonym created by the author to protect her sons from mortal embarrassment that their mother is blogging about them!

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Updated: 07:49 March 1, 2013

Gluten-Free Travel

 

I love to travel with my family, but the experience isn’t enjoyable for anyone if my son and I can’t eat gluten-free (neither of us has celiac, but we are both gluten intolerant).

Sometimes, I slip into my old-school way of thinking and feel like I’m being “fussy” or “demanding” when I’m being proactive about our food choices. Then I remind myself that no one’s going to have a good time if my son gets that tired, cranky, doesn’t-feel-good low-blood sugar because he doesn’t want to eat.

Hotels are usually very accommodating. I request a mini-fridge and microwave in the room. When we arrive, I’ll visit the local grocery store and stock up on gluten-free supplies like yogurt, fresh fruit, sandwich fixings, and some frozen gluten-free burritos.

Once while vacationing in another state, my son and I went on a gluten-free mother/son dinner outing. We broke out our trusty gluten-free restaurant guide only to be led to a place that was closed.

We live in an area where it’s pretty easy to get a gluten-free meal at a restaurant, so I figured there couldn't be one far away… Two hours later I found a grocery store.

It was not the glamorous mother/son outing I’d imagined, but I’ll never forget the fun of treating ourselves to gluten-free cookies on our ride back to our hotel. It was also the first time my son felt adventurous enough to try his first microwave gluten-free burrito!

Food handling policies for people with food allergies varies from state to state. It’s a good idea to do your homework by asking the hotel to recommend local establishments. You can then call ahead and make sure they have the training to handle the food properly. But just in case, know where the local grocery store is so you can stock that mini-fridge! 

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Updated: 07:24 March 1, 2013

Your Dinner Dilemma—Solved!

If you're like me, you want to serve your family healthy gluten-free dishes but don't have hours to plan, prep, and cook. I've found that meals that can be "built" work best. For example, tacos, soups, pasta dishes, and salad wraps rule in my home. Our favorite is a chicken and arugula salad wrap (see salad recipe below). 

Before I realized that my younger son had gluten issues, I thought he was just an extremely picky eater. The foods that he would eat were limited. Sometimes he'd like something one week, but not the next. I take pride in my cooking and being able to serve healthy, tasty, kid-friendly meals, but planning family meals had become an exercise in frustration. It seems obvious now that the food we were eating was the problem—not the kid or the cook!

When my younger son and I went gluten free, it was a wonderfully adventurous time for us. We couldn't wait to try the gluten-free versions of pancakes, pretzels, and pasta. 

But as we reveled in the options opening up to us, I noticed that my older teenage son was not exactly basking in the glow of our excitement. He saw his options slipping away.

When I told him that his brother and I were switching to a gluten-free diet, he acted as if I'd just told him we were going to make him take knitting lessons with his grandmother (which, by the way, he would do so as not to hurt her feelings). He asked: "Do I have to do this, too?" I said no, but I also explained that I wouldn't be preparing separate meals. 

In the end, I found a way to accommodate both camps by buying both gluten-free and regular versions of staples such as bread and cereal. But when it comes to a dish like pancakes, everyone goes gluten free. 

I know it can be challenging to come up with new dishes that please everyone at the table. Hopefully, your family will enjoy this dish as much as we do! My family loves this dish because it can be eaten as a salad or stuffed into a gluten-free wrap. The kids can help prepare!

Chicken & Arugula Salad

45 minutes prep & cook time|Serves 4-6

You'll need:

  • 4 chicken breasts, grilled or baked
  • 6 c arugula 
  • 3 Tbsp gluten-free barbecue sauce (our favorite is Bone Suckin' Barbecue Sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

* Optional toppings:

  • 1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, chopped 
  • 1/2 c yellow corn kernels (fresh or frozen, thawed and drained)
  • 1/2 c goat cheese, crumbled 
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts 

Directions:

  1. After cooking chicken breasts, allow meat to cool 10 minutes. Shred or chop into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In large serving bowl, add arugula, chicken, and any desired optional toppings.* (Another option is to simply keep toppings on the side so everyone can build their salad the way they like!)
  3. In small bowl, mix together barbecue sauce, vegetable oil, and rice vinegar.
  4. Pour most of dressing over salad, tossing so that dressing coats evenly but does not overly saturate. Save extra dressing for the table in case people want more!
Comments
Updated: 01:16 February 9, 2013

Tips & Strategies for Living Gluten Free

Gluten-free kids want to have their cake and eat it, too. Visit this blog for simple ideas to make the gluten-free journey easier for you and your family!

My Tipping Point

Talk to anyone who has gone gluten-free for good, and they’ll tell you about their tipping point. My moment where everything changed came three years ago. I couldn’t be more grateful. Not only did going gluten-free restore my health, it opened my eyes to struggles my son had been having. But more about that in a minute.

About four years ago, I developed Lyme disease. Even after a few rounds of antibiotics, I couldn’t bounce back. I went from being an active mom, graphic designer, and avid runner, to barely being able to make it through the day. 

My joints hurt, my brain fogged, my facial muscles twitched, my cuticles bled, and I felt faint. I was 36 going on 60. Finally, a doctor realized I was vitamin deficient and started me on a regimen of supplements to restore my levels. I followed the plan for a year, but still fell short of my old self. I was happy to be better, but frustrated about my plateau. I didn’t know what else to do.

One night I was watching the news, and they did a story on a woman with celiac. I had never heard of the disease, and I couldn’t believe my ears. I could relate to almost all of her symptoms! I immediately booted up my laptop and started researching. I was struck by the match-up of symptoms. Then I read that intestinal cancer can be a side effect of celiac. This worried me because my father’s mother had died of colon cancer. Still nervous about making a self-diagnosis, I decided to think it over for a couple days before changing my diet. 

Two days later, my mother called with the news that she had colon cancer. I now had two immediate family members diagnosed with intestinal cancer. I couldn’t ignore this. I decided to cut gluten from my diet for a week and see if it made a difference.

It took a week before I started seeing improvements, so I committed to another gluten-free week. That’s when the benefits began kicking in. I felt more energy, my thinking sharpened, my ever-present mouth blisters cleared up, and I had less joint and muscle pain. 

I was nervous to report my findings to my doctor. But as I talked through my symptoms and changes since going gluten free, I saw the same expression of recognition come over her face that came over mine when I watched the news show. 

She referred me to a specialist, who scheduled me for a small intestine biopsy to determine if I had celiac. Unfortunately, this meant I had to return gluten to my diet for the next six weeks so they could get an accurate assessment of how my body responded to it. 

As mentally and physically stressful as it was to start eating gluten again and watch my progress unravel, I wanted to know whether I was gluten intolerant or had celiac disease. The treatment is the same—complete avoidance of gluten—but I wanted to know for my kids. I have two sons, and I had started to suspect that my youngest might have gluten issues too. My biopsy came back negative, but I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant.

Which brings me back to my youngest son, who this blog is named for. My eight-year-old was a fussy eater, had problems concentrating in school, and was plagued with skin ailments and joint pain. I was nervous about asking him to change his diet because kids don’t want to be different. When I explained how going gluten-free might help him, to my surprise, he was eager to give it a try. 

Since going gluten-free, his school frustrations, aches and pains, and poor appetite are gone. Still, I knew there would come a day when a slice of birthday cake would test his resolve. I knew I needed to educate myself and others, plan well, and always have a list of gluten-free treats at my fingertips!

And while this blog is called “My Gluten-Free Kid,” it’s really about “our” gluten-free kids. I hope that the tips and strategies I share make life easier for you and your loved ones!

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Updated: 11:12 February 8, 2013

The Greatest Thing Since (Gluten-Free) Sliced Bread!

Run, don't walk, to your favorite natural health store (or natural section at your local market), and buy some Hail Merry macaroons. Can I just say, OMG!?

These gluten-free, vegan treats are small, but you will savor them so much that you will feel satisfied with the serving size of two. 

Here's the idea behind these goodies. Hail Merry's dehydrates them "to protect the organic extra virgin coconut oil and delicate omegas in the almond flour" (I'm quoting directly from the bag here). Imagine those flavors combined with organic shredded coconut, organic maple syrup, pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla, and sea salt. You had me at hello!

Because of their oils, you need to keep these treats in the fridge. The idea is that you then let them sit until they're at room temperature so they melt in your mouth. Well, they're so tasty even cold from the fridge, that waiting long enough for them warm up can be extremely challenging. BUT, the flavor is even more intensified if you can postpone gratification.

What a wonderful, healthy treat. Going gluten free just got easier and better! Only 4 grams of sugar too!

 

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