Cooking meals kids will eat can be a real challenge. As a mom, I can relate to the occasional Google search for “recipes for kids.” It can be especially difficult when you need to factor in food allergies, intolerances, or dietary restrictions like being gluten-free.
Following a gluten free diet means cutting out gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other derivatives of these grains. While gluten is harmless for most people, people with celiac disease or those with a gluten sensitivity need to avoid foods that contain gluten.
As kids head back to school and many of us head into a fall routine, here are a few tips to help master meal planning with gluten free options in mind:
- Read labels diligently. Read ingredient statements, and avoid foods that contain wheat, rye, barley, malt or malted products, triticale (a lesser known hybrid of rye and wheat) and other varieties of wheat, including einkorn, durum, farro, graham, Kamut, semolina, and spelt. While oats do not inherently contain gluten, there is potential for cross contact with wheat at harvest. Choose oats that are labeled gluten free. If you’re unsure about gluten in an item, reach out to the manufacturer.
- Tip: Shop the gluten free section at your local store to find several gluten free items in one area!
- Focus on what you or your kids can have. It may seem that most foods contain gluten, but there are lots of gluten free foods, as well! Look for items that are naturally free of gluten like fruits, vegetables, cheese, nuts, eggs, and any single ingredient protein items. You can also focus on items that are labeled gluten free.
- Tip: If only one person in the family is gluten free, give them their own shelf in the pantry and refrigerator section with “safe” foods for them to eat!
- Simplify Mealtime. Visualize your plate and choose naturally gluten free items to fill half the plate (fruits and vegetables), add a gluten free grain, and a lean protein. Some easy-to-prepare gluten free meals include grilled chicken or sausages with whole grain rice and roasted vegetables or street tacos with corn tortillas, chicken or steak, grilled onions and peppers, sliced avocado, and pico de gallo. Try Tyson’s gluten free breaded chicken breast strips that are certified gluten free, convenient, and can pair easily with a side salad and corn on the cob.
- Tip: Be mindful of cross contact if not all family members need a gluten free diet.
Eating gluten free can be hard, but with the right tools and resources, families can customize and enjoy foods that help meet their dietary needs!