Sadly, celiac disease and gluten intolerance are becoming more common. Gluten is a protein that is found mostly in wheat, barley, and rye. When ingested by those with sensitivities, it can cause bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. In this article, we will talk about one food to potentially avoid, and four safe substitutes when feeding a gluten-sensitive child.
1. Cheerios – Are They Really Gluten-Free?
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The snack to consider avoiding may surprise you, but since Cheerios proudly advertise to be gluten-free, it is worth mentioning their history so that you can make an educated decision on whether this food is safe for your child. First, we must dive into the burning question: are Cheerios gluten free? While the company has implemented measures to prevent cross-contamination, they recently recalled thousands of cereal boxes after wheat flour contaminated their gluten-free oat supply during production.
The company was quick to apologize and recall the contaminated boxes, stating that this was an isolated accident and that they run regular tests on the food to maintain the FDA standard to be gluten-free. This is not meant to make you throw out all your breakfast cereal. Instead, be mindful of this potential hazard and offer a variety of other breakfast or snack options to your children. With manufactured products, there is always a chance of cross-contamination in the factory with gluten-containing grains.
2. Fruit – Nature’s Candy
You can never go wrong with fruit. All fresh fruit is naturally gluten-free. Dried fruit or fruits that have been processed are generally gluten-free, but it is worth reading the label to ensure this before you buy as contamination during production potentially poses a threat. Fruits are fantastic for the picky eater as the range in tastes and texture varies greatly between the different fruits. From sweet to tart, bitter to sour, it is possible to find a fruit that your child will love. Fruits are arguably one of the safest and healthiest foods to feed a gluten-sensitive child.
3. Yogurt – Calcium-Rich
Next, yogurt is another widely loved and somewhat healthy snack void of gluten. From sour plain yogurt to classic vanilla to mixed fruit, yogurt has a range of flavors, making it possible to find a taste that your child will enjoy. Yogurt serves as a refresher on a hot day and is packed with important nutrients like calcium and the B12 vitamin. However, if your child is both gluten sensitive and lactose intolerant, this will narrow your options. While lactose-free yogurt does exist, the range of flavors is not as large as regular yogurts. It is still possible to find gluten and lactose-free yogurt but be mindful of this as you shop the store shelves.
4. Vegetables – Whether Raw or Cooked
For a more filling snack, vegetable sticks are a nutritious option. These are not high in calories but can satisfy hunger in between meals for your growing child. Again, if the vegetables are fresh and not processed in any way, you can be confident that they are gluten-free. Carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes are some of the top favorite vegetables in America. Potatoes are best when cooked, so just be sure that you cook them with ingredients that are void of gluten and your child will be safe.
5. Eggs – Protein-rich
Lastly, eggs are packed with protein, zinc, and an assortment of B vitamins. Since they are protected inside a shell until you are prepared to cook them, eggs are naturally gluten-free. Whether cooked scrambled, in the form of an omelet or boiled, they can be seasoned and combined with other ingredients or eaten alone. Boiled eggs are popular with kids due to how easy they are to eat. It is also fun to incorporate your child into the peeling process, making them feel included, independent, and accomplished.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Every child is different—different tastes and different needs. If your child is sensitive to gluten, avoid preparing food with gluten products and read all food labels for any chance of cross-contamination. Incorporate these foods into your child’s diet in a healthy way and your child will be well on the way to leading a balanced and safe lifestyle.