Gluten-Free Foods That Kids Will Enjoy!

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I see many children that are newly diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, and the normal reaction from parents is feeling overwhelmed. After all, it is an entirely different diet that their kids must follow and many of these kids already have limited preferences. What I do is educate the family on getting their child’s diet and life gluten-free and also monitor growth trends as we make the transition. This diet can also put them at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies, so making sure they are getting what they need is important as well.

Recently, I saw an almost 9 year old boy, Noah, whom his mother, Monica, called a “picky eater.” She was very concerned about how he would transition to totally new food because he loved foods that had gluten. After our initial education, Monica made it her priority to try a large variety of products on Noah and because of her efforts, Noah is still growing normally. She sent me a very detailed e-mail with specific gluten-free products that Noah likes and I thought it would be helpful for other families with children following gluten-free prescriptions. Please note that the following suggestions are not direct suggestions from me, but suggestions from a mother on the front lines of the gluten-free lifestyle. And I think very highly of my moms! Let me tell you, they get all the kudos out there, seen and unseen. As you know, bread products are the most challenging items for this type of diet so they are emphasized here. Add plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy to round out a well-balanced gluten-free diet.

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Noah with his family in Jamaica.
From mom, Monica: I get all the following gluten-free products at either Walmart (W), Kroger (K), Sprouts (S) or in bulk from Amazon.com (A). I think the most important thing to tell the parents of your future patients is that there are good tasting GF products out there BUT that realistically they will never be able to match the exact texture of regular wheat products because gluten is what gives elasticity to dough, helps it to rise and to keep its shape, and gives the final baked product its chewy texture. Noah has had to work through this aspect of GF foods and is getting much better. Chris and I try every product we buy and the rule is that if we think it's good then he has to try it a few times before he can decide whether he likes it or not. Now don't get me wrong, there are some GF products that are so gross in texture (think sawdust or kitchen sponge - yuk!) that I would never make him eat it and I have had to simply throw them away after a couple of bites. Anyone that knows me knows that I hate to waste food BUT some I couldn't even choke down myself to try and save money and not waste:) The good news is that Noah is a very picky, textural eater and if he has been able to find the items below that he enjoys, everybody should be able to find some items they'll enjoy too.

Breakfast

• Chex cereals have five flavors that are GF - Noah likes the chocolate and cinnamon Chex best. (W, K)

• Post makes GF Fruity Pebbles cereal (W, K)

• Van's makes frozen waffles that are really good in Apple Cinnamon and Blueberry flavors. (S, K)

Bisquick makes an amazing GF pancake and baking mix that can be used to make easy pancakes, waffles, biscuits, pizza crusts, breading for homemade chicken fingers and oven baked fried chicken - yum! (W, K)

• Kinnikinnick makes some good GF Donuts and Blueberry Muffins. Noah's favorite donuts are the Chocolate Glazed (S)

• Betty Lou's makes some great cereal/breakfast bar replacements they call fruit bars. You can buy them individually at Sprouts or buy them in bulk (12) on Amazon. Noah like the Blueberry, Strawberry and Cherry but they also have Apricot and Apple Cinnamon. (S, A)

• Udi's White Sandwich Bread to make toast with jelly or GF french toast. Udi's also makes an excellent cranberry granola mix. (S)

Lunch

As I mentioned above, the Udi's brand makes the absolute BEST GF bread, hot dog and hamburger buns. There isn't an other brand we tried that even comes close to Udi's. The bread is quite a bit smaller than regular sized loaves (Noah called it toy bread at first) and the texture is a little bit different than regular bread (as is the case with all baked GF products) but it isn't too different and the taste is the absolute best with no sour aftertaste (which we found in most the other brands we tried - yuck!) The great thing about Udi's is that it is one of the only brands that is SHELF STABLE meaning that as soon as I buy it from the freezer section at Sprouts I leave it out on my counter to thaw and it lasts for the whole week without spoiling. This IS NOT the case with most other GF bread - you buy them frozen and then you have to keep them frozen or they go bad quickly. I found that if I put two slices in the microwave for 10 seconds on each side before I make his sandwich it helps to improve texture and soften the bread a bit. We make sandwiches, grilled cheeses, PB&J's, hot dogs and hamburgers with the Udi's products. (S,K)

Pamela's Products makes the best GF bread mix to make at home in a bread machine. (S, K) I add two teaspoons of honey to the mix in my bread maker and it makes it taste more like the honey wheat bread Noah used to eat. I also love and highly recommend the West Bend Hi-Rise Bread Maker I bought from Walmart.com. It was only $90 and makes beautiful, perfect horizontal loaves - very important as most other bread makers make weird vertical loaves that when sliced make almost comical-looking, super tall and skinny slices of bread. It also has a setting to mix and knead perfect pizza dough also using the Pamela's Products Mix. But bottom line, if your looking for convenience, Udi's is the way to go.

Dinner

• Annie's makes a great rice pasta & cheddar GF macaroni and cheese (W, K, S)

• Ian's makes the best GF chicken nugget or chicken tenders. (S)

• Heartland makes the best GF corn and rice blend spaghetti noodles. (W) It taste and has the exact texture of regular spaghetti.

Desserts

• Betty Crocker now has four affordable GF mixes that are great. The offer chocolate cake, yellow cake, brownie and chocolate chip cookie. Noah loves the Chocolate Cake and Brownies the best. We use Duncan Hines whipped frostings on the cakes. They are all GF. (W, K)

• Kinnikinnick makes great Oreo cookie replacements called Kini-Toos. (S)

This blog post was specifically for children and adults with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. I do not advocate a gluten free lifestyle for general wellness. Seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian before beginning any new diet to avoid nutrient deficiency. The removal of gluten entails more than just food restrictions, so it is important to seek advice from dietitians who specialize in gluten-free education. Do not simply rely on Internet references including this one to go gluten-free.

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