While I do my best to feed my children healthily, I do not consider many things “off limits.” For instance, at home, my children drink water, but on the rare occasion that we go out to dinner, I allow them Sprite. I limit their snacks most days, but if we are at a party or grandma’s house, they are free to indulge. I never wanted to be a mom who was too strict about my children’s diet. Yet, here I am.
Several months ago, we noticed my youngest was slipping off the growth chart for weight. Before long, he was off the chart small. Since my daughter has Autoimmune Hypothyroidism, the pediatrician was sure to order tests to ensure Dylan was okay. After extensive testing (which included a lot of poking and prodding), they found nothing conclusive. However, the specialist we are seeing suggested putting him on a gluten free diet, and I died a little inside. Okay, not really, but this was going to be a challenge. A gluten free diet for him mean a gluten free diet for me since I’m still nursing. Also, all three of my kids eat gluten every single day! How was I going to pull this off?
Truth be told, I am still learning. I am not an expert on living a gluten free life; don’t come to me if you are interested in learning how to make your own gluten free bread, because I am not that person. I am the person trying to live as close to a gluten-filled life as possible. I am sharing this because I know I’m not the only mom out there who doesn’t want to turn her house upside down because of a dietary restriction.
During these last few months, it has been trial and error. Lots of error. Gluten is EVERYWHERE. It is in all of the standard kid fare such as chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and even hot dogs. However, it is quite easy (albeit expensive) to find gluten free substitutes for most of these items. I have also seen changes in my son when either he or I has gluten. I do believe he has some sort of intolerance to it, though we have no official diagnosis at this time. We will continue to monitor his growth and follow up with the specialist, making changes to his diet as needed. During this journey, I have learned several things to do and to avoid in order to help maintain a gluten free lifestyle and my sanity. I even came up with a great gluten free snack!
Gluten free tips from a mom who doesn’t want to be gluten free:
- Inform your child’s caregivers and provide them with gluten-free snacks. It will be so much easier for them to have something on hand, to eliminate the risk of your child having something he/she shouldn’t.
- Find gluten-free alternatives to things your child already eats, at least initially. We are slowly but surely moving toward a plant-based diet, but kids have to eat. If your child is used to eating macaroni and cheese once a week, there are some gluten free options.
- Look for signs of improvement (growth, better bathroom habits, etc.), and be sure to discuss them with your child’s physician.
- Keep gluten out of your house. Even if only one person is gluten free, it is much more difficult to follow the diet when there is a loaf or French bread or a box of cookies in your pantry.
- Prepare for birthday parties or other celebrations by bringing a gluten free cupcake and/or party snacks.
- Research. Like I said, gluten is everywhere and can show up in places you do not expect, like soy sauce. It is important to read labels.
- Talk to the doctor about including a high quality probiotic into your child’s diet. This can often help with digestive issues, which many people who have a gluten intolerance suffer from.
- If you have a bad day, just keep going. We’ve had some days where I’m lazy, or where someone gives him something he shouldn’t have, but we just keep on trucking and doing our best.