Mom helping daughter cut food.

Does The Whole Family Have To Eat Gluten Free?

Mom helping daughter cut food.

When someone is gluten intolerant, it affects everyone in the family.  The big question becomes whether the whole family should follow the gluten free lifestyle.  Some people say they should for the primary reason it’s a healthy lifestyle if properly designed.  You will eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat meat and poultry, plenty of fish and very little sugar.  Anyone can achieve better health by following such a dietary plan.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants to take the step of going gluten free when it’s not required, or they are like my husband.  He eats what I cook to be supportive which means he eats gluten free at home.  But at work and out in the “real world”, he doesn’t worry about gluten.    Let’s face it, sticking with a gluten free diet in the “real world” requires constant attention to everything you put in your mouth.  Now I can make a case why you should worry about all food in the interest of good health, whether you’re gluten free or not, but you have to be practical too.  I can’t force my husband to eat right or eat gluten free.

The problem can get a little trickier when you have a child who’s gluten intolerant though.  People with kids who have celiac disease are constantly talking about how to teach their kids how to stay gluten free in a gluten filled world.  As an adult, I’m able to happily eat fresh fruit with a gluten free glaze for dessert while everyone else in my family eats cake.   I tried to put myself in a kid’s shoes and the whole picture changes.  It almost seems cruel when you shift the picture and it’s the kid eating the fruit and everyone else eating cake.

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But kids are very adaptable and don’t like being sick any more than an adult.  There are some distinct advantages to having a completely gluten free house.  You don’t have to worry about your gluten intolerant child being inadvertently exposed to gluten in the house.  The cook won’t have to cook different meals for different family members.  Also, your child won’t feel as if he or she is being treated unfairly, especially when there are other kids in the house.  Children also learn behavior through positive reinforcement, and a whole family accepting the gluten free lifestyle is about as positive as it can get!

Of course, there are some opposing viewpoints about the whole family going gluten free.  Some people believe it makes it harder for the child to adhere to the gluten free lifestyle in the real world.  Your child needs to learn how to say “no” to food with gluten, and if he or she doesn’t learn it at home, then how will the lesson be taught?  It can get confusing to a young child.  It seems better to teach your kid about making the right choices at home between safe and unsafe foods so the lesson can be carried into the world.

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After talking to many parents of gluten intolerant children, I’ve discovered each family comes up with a plan that fits the family dynamics. One lady I know uses all gluten free flours, thickeners, sauces and dressings for cooking, but doesn’t ban all unsafe food in the house.  The family eats gluten free meals so she doesn’t have to cook separate meals, but the non-intolerant kids also have a bottom pantry shelf with snacks they can eat.

I realize how much easier it is on me that “mommy” has the intolerance and not one of her babies.  But if you have a celiac child, the gluten free lifestyle offers something for everyone in the family.   So don’t be discouraged or think life has to be overcomplicated.  It doesn’t!   Your child has to learn to have the right attitude about living gluten free just like any adult.

Note:  One important point to keep in mind is that if you are in the middle of being diagnosed or you think that someone in your household may potentially have Celiac’s Disease, don’t go on a gluten free diet until you are finished being diagnosed.  The reason for this is, if you go on a gluten free diet before having a blood test or biopsy you could potentially test negative when actually you should have tested positive for Celiac’s disease.

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