When my oldest son was 5 years old he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We had no idea that it was coming and honestly didn't know much about the disease. To say we were overwhelmed feels like a major understatement. As a parent, everything fell to me to figure out how to make the transition to being completely gluten free for my son. He just had to eat it. I put together some tips for going gluten free after your child is diagnosed with celiac disease in hopes that they will be helpful for those newly diagnosed.
Start with what feels easiest for you. For me that meant only using certified gluten free packaged products along with naturally gluten free foods for the first couple of months. There were so many tears from both me and my son. I was so scared of making him sick and he was so frustrated that all of his favorite foods were suddenly different. It's hard!! Don't be hard on yourself. I was reminded by my own doctor that this will likely be harder on me than my son because he is so young. I am in charge of grocery shopping, cooking the meals, researching restaurants, making sure he is safe - he just has to eat it.
Make it fun! Pizza is a family favorite in our house and something I really wanted to make sure we could find a good alternative to. We spent months trying every single gluten free pizza we could find! It became like a game on Friday nights when we would have a taste test. It was something we looked forward to instead of being sad that our usual was no longer an option. I also bought a lot of snack foods that I didn't used to buy! This was because I wanted to make sure he knew that there was a swap for every food he was missing.
Find what works for your family. We decided to not have our house completely gluten free because my one son was the only one with celiac. Financially, eating gluten free costs more and it didn't fit in our budget to always serve it. Our family meals are gluten free so everyone can eat the same thing but for bread and chicken nuggets we have two options. We also have two toasters, different plates and cups for the kids, and this works for us but that doesn't mean it has to work for you! If having a completely gluten free home works for you then do what makes you comfortable.
Reach out to others in the celiac community. Having a support system was incredibly helpful for me. I was lucky to have a local allergy friendly baker with celiac disease as a friend already and I immediately reached out to her with my endless questions. I found other celiacs on Instagram that were sharing recipes and favorite products. There are also local groups and Facebook groups that you can find.
Communicate with family, friends, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who is a part of your child's life. Many people don't much about celiac disease so explaining what it is and what that means for your child is very important. If they will be feeding your child at any point, make sure to explain the necessary precautions that need to be taken. If they don't want to take it seriously then it may not be a good option for your child to be left in their care.
Teach your child to advocate for themselves! Your child will be on their own in many situations and teaching them how to handle it can make them more confident and less chances for getting glutened. Learning to ask questions and how to say no is a very important skill for them to learn. We also make sure to let my son know that he never has to eat anything he isn't comfortable eating, even if it's something we know is safe! Speaking up when they are in a situation that could make them sick is crucial for staying well.
Do you have anything you would add or any questions about going gluten free? Feel free to contact me personally if you are newly diagnosed and needing help navigating it all!
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