Gluten-Free Shopping for Kids

Shopping for families who follow gluten-free diet has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. There is growing awareness of celiac disease and what it can affect, so about 30% of American population is trying to avoid gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains. Granted, only 3% of people really have celiac disease, but following such diet became trendy.

Stores and supermarkets are good about following trends, so it didn't take them long to include more gluten-free products and even devote entire sections of stores for this diet. However, when you have kids with celiac disease, it is still challenging to make sure foods really don't contain gluten and still have all other needed nutrients.

Naturally Fish

Tips to make gluten-free shopping easier:

1. Shop the Perimeter

There are foods that naturally have no gluten - fresh meats, fish, fruit, dairy, eggs, and legumes. They are usually situated on the outer sides of the store, so get your supply of these first. Once you get all of those 100% gluten-free ingredients, all you'll have left to worry about will be snacks and breads.

2. Try new things

Play with gluten-free grains like millet, amaranth, and quinoa. You might be surprised not only how good they taste, but how rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber they are. These grains also contain magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, thiamin, and riboflavin.

3. No oats

This might be hard, but keep in mind that oats have protein avenin, which is very similar to gluten. Start your child's gluten-free diet with oat-free diet too. Once the symptoms resolve, typically in 6-18 months, discuss with his or her doctor about slowly introducing gluten-free oats back into the diet. Don't rush with it as the increased fiber might cause constipation.

4. Look for added gluten

Processed and "pre-packaged" foods are made for extended shelf-life, and some of the ingredients for this extension can contain added gluten. Various flavoring, soy sauce, and seasoning can contain gluten. Breakfast or protein bars can have extra gluten for increased protein percentage. Soups are often thickened with the help of gluten containing grains. You have to check all labels carefully.

5. Add nutrients

Most gluten-free foods are unfortified, so vitamin and mineral deficiency is likely to happen in kids following this diet. Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are likely to be in short supply and so are calcium, vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Knowing that will help you find ways to fill in these gaps.

Taking multivitamins can definitely help replenish what is not provided by diet. Most gummy vitamins don't have iron, B1, B2, and a few other nutrients. This is where food comes in to help. Vegetables, fruit, meat and seafood, milk products, nuts and seeds are excellent suppliers of vital vitamins and minerals that your child might be lacking.

Vitamins in fruits

Some examples of vitamins in produce:

  • Vitamin A - orange colored vegetables and fruit, leafy greens, herbs and spices
  • Vitamin D - fatty fish, shrimp, eggs, fortified milk
  • Vitamin E - seeds, nuts, avocado, fatty fish, green leafy vegetables
  • Vitamin K - cauliflower, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, herb spices
  • Calcium - milk products, broccoli, squash, beans, almonds, tofu, oranges
  • Vitamin B12 - meat, crab, eggs, cheese, milk, fish
  • Folic acid - dark leafy greens, broccoli, beans, avocado, asparagus, citrus, nuts, seeds, peas, beans
  • Zinc - meat, pumpkin seeds, milk, potato, mushrooms, yogurt, seafood, rice, spinach, chocolate
  • Magnesium - leafy vegetables, fish, dairy, figs, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, avocado, bananas
  • Iron - clams, dark leafy vegetables, tofu, chocolate, meat, beans, sunflower seeds

6. High Fiber Grains

Constipation is very common with gluten-free diets, because low-fiber substitutes are used instead of gluten. Gluten-free products will often contain rice, corn, tapioca, and potato flour instead of wheat, so those low fiber options might cause constipation in kids and adults.

You should buy high-fiber rice, like whole-grain brown. Consider adding more beans, amaranth, quinoa, chickpeas, and millet products to your child's diet. You should aim for 20-30 grams of fiber per day.

7. Be vigilant

Remember that manufacturers change their production methods often, so it's very likely that something that used to be gluten-free might not be so any longer. You should always check labels carefully and call companies if ever in doubt. You have every right to know what is included in the products you are buying for your family.