I was in a health food store looking to cure my daughter’s eczema when the clerk began to ask about Ky’s gluten in-take. After clarifying herself a few times, I realized that both of my kids’ diets were predominately gluten based. She went on to say that often times eczema is triggered by a food allergy and it could very well be gluten.My family and I adhered to the gluten free diet for roughly one year. One year later, Kylie had a frightening allergic reaction and the diagnosis became not gluten but dust.
The gluten free diet was pretty grueling but it was not an entire waste. It really opened my eyes to this idea of what kids eat. I was in the habit of feeding my kids cereal, waffles, chicken nuggets, pasta, cheese crackers, graham crackers, and sandwiches. If my parents or grandparents are reading this each meal did include a serving of fruit, vegetables, or both I swear. It didn’t seem that bad to me. When you have a gluten free child, nearly all of that goes out the window. Yes, gluten free products have come a long way but I was only able to successfully replace cereal and pasta.
I’m sure you are wondering what I did feed the kids. Breakfasts became Gluten Free Chex Cereal or Rice Krispies. I made oatmeal the old fashioned way. We ate yogurt, made smoothies and boiled eggs. For dinner, I cut the pasta down to once every 2 weeks. Gluten free pasta at that time, was difficult to find and fairly expensive. I could buy regular pasta for 99 cents a box. Gluten free pasta was roughly 5 times that. I began making everything from scratch so I knew exactly what was in our food. Starches became oats, corn, rice and potatoes. Bread was effectively a lost cause and unfortunately, it was everywhere.
Imagine taking your GF child out to dinner. The standard kid’s meal is typically chicken fingers, hot dogs, corn dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwich, mac n’ cheese or spaghetti. I will say some chains now offer healthy options for side dishes but innately, these are pretty unhealthy meals from the get go. For a GF household, it’s a nightmare. Ethnic food became our salvation. With a few minor requests, my kids could eat curry, fajitas, stir fry and sushi. I began to think. No other country regularly feeds their children the highly processed, low nutrient crap that we do. If you google “school lunches around the world” you get several links like this thus proving my point. What you will notice is most countries give as much thought to what they feed their children as they do themselves. The kids eat what their parents eat.
I don’t mean to imply that you should order a meat lover’s pizza for you child. If you’re ordering grilled chicken breast for yourself and fried nuggets for them, there’s a problem. If you’re eating salad and their vegetable is french fries, there’s a problem. Despite this post, if my kids can order chicken nuggets or a hamburger, they will and happily do so. Then a good friend of mine told me about this: Chic fil a New Kid’s Meal. Grilled chicken nuggets? Bravo! A perfect compromise and maybe the next could we switch out french fries for oven fries? Could we push for whole grain pasta for the spaghetti? Or whole grain bread for the grilled cheese? My kids love Sarah Lee’s and Mrs. Baird’s whole grain white. How about low-fat ranch for those nuggets? Can we get kid-sized water bottles for those kids meals?
As I mentioned earlier, Kylie did not actually need to be on the GF diet. If you are on a GF diet and not just replacing carbs for carbs, good for you. You are fighting the good fight. For so long, this diet nearly alienated us but I am grateful to it. I doubt I would have thought about food much past preparing 3 square meals a day and quick and easy. I’m not sure if I would have ever thought to order sushi and miso for my 3 year old and I’m not sure how much longer grilled cheese would have remained the only grilled thing on the menu. I hope this made you think.