This month celebrates National Celiac Awareness Month; a condition that due to the reaction of eating gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, preventing it from absorbing certain parts of foods the body needs to stay healthy. As the disease is more and more talked about more and more people are wondering if gluten-free eating is a healthier option for everyone. To help debunk some common myths, we asked Tricia Thompson, MS, RD on behalf of Kellogg’s to give us the scoop on gluten-free diets and how to manage your meals if you can eat gluten, but your kids can’t.
Myths of a gluten-free diet:
- The gluten-free diet is a low carbohydrate diet. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending upon how you look at it), there is a gluten-free version of practically every wheat-based carbohydrate-rich food. Examples include cookies, cakes, donuts, pizza, pasta, muffins, rolls, etc. The list literally goes on and on.
- All gluten-free food is healthy. Just because a food label says “gluten-free” does not mean it is healthy. Many gluten-free foods are made using white rice, milled corn and various starches. These refined grains are not very nutritious. You want to look for gluten-free cereals, breads, and pastas that are made with gluten-free whole grains or have been fortified or enriched—meaning vitamins and minerals have been added to the food.
- The gluten-free diet is a weight-loss plan. The gluten-free diet is a medically prescribed diet for people who have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and dermatitis herpetiformis (the skin form of celiac disease). Anyone can lose weight by eating fewer calories than their body needs but you do not need to follow a gluten-free diet to do this.
Tricks for feeding a gluten-free kid:
- Serve gluten-free food that looks the same as gluten-full food. Kids with celiac disease do not want to feel different. For example, they want their box of cereal to come from the same store as everyone else’s and they want the box to look like the other cereal boxes too. Manufacturers like Kellogg’s are providing this option for families by developing products like Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Gluten Free cereal.
- Boost the nutrient content of the gluten-free breads, pastas and cereals your kids eat. Try to avoid foods made with refined gluten-free grains and flours especially if they are not enriched or fortified. Food made with gluten-free whole grains is a source of iron and B vitamins, which may be lacking in gluten-free diets.
- Increase the fiber content of the breakfast cereal your kids eat. Top your kids’ breakfast cereal with freeze-dried sliced bananas. Kids love them! Fruit is a great source of fiber, another nutrient that may be eaten in low amounts on gluten-free diets.
Easy ways to turn family favorites into gluten-free dishes:
There are gluten-free versions of just about every wheat-based food. For favorites like spaghetti, use gluten-free spaghetti. Macaroni and cheese can be made with gluten-free macaroni and gluten-free bread crumbs. To whip up chicken fingers, coat the chicken with crushed gluten-free cereal. They won’t even taste the difference!
Tip: If your household includes family members who eat gluten, designate a cupboard as the gluten-free area. Store all your gluten-free foods there. If you don’t have the space, store gluten-free food items above gluten-containing food items. This way, the gluten-free crumbs will sprinkle down on the gluten-containing food, not the other way around.