The idea of eating only naturally gluten-free foods may be intimidating to you.
Trust me, I know the feeling.
It wasn’t that long ago I was constantly feeling bloated and so uncomfortable that I couldn’t even play with my daughter.
In the spirit of being a good spouse (and undoing some negative brownie points my misery had earned me), I agreed to support and join my wife in her quest to go gluten-free.
Well, that was the moment my life changed.
My gluten-free diet gave me back my energy, my happiness, and my health, and, in turn, brought us closer together as a family.
Isn’t that what we all want, as parents and spouses?
If you want to leap but aren’t sure where to start, this article will guide you through all there is to know about starting a gluten-free diet as a family!
You may be surprised to find out that gluten is actually a protein!
It’s a group of plant proteins found mainly in cereal grain foods.
They’re known as storage proteins because they are little reserves of protein that are being kept in the grain in case they’re needed for biological processes.
Gluten also helps maintain the shape of certain foods, acting as a binder that adds a chewy texture to foods containing it.
It’s important to understand that foods containing gluten aren’t inherently bad.
It won’t affect everybody negatively, and most people can go about their lives eating whatever foods they like without any nasty side effects.
Those of us whose bodies don’t deal well with gluten, however, can suffer some debilitating symptoms when exposed to it through food.
An intolerance of gluten is known as celiac disease.
When people with celiac come into contact with gluten, it kicks off an autoimmune response that attacks the small intestine’s lining to get rid of the problem ingredient—gluten.
The inflammation triggered by the autoimmune response results in bloating, abdominal pain, and impacts the body’s ability to absorb good nutrients.
People with gluten intolerance usually show additional symptoms of anemia and unexpected weight loss.
Only about 1 percent of the US population suffers from celiac disease, but if you’re one of those 1 percent, you’ll understand why gluten gets a bad rap!
Learn more about gluten in this video.
Most kids can eat gluten without any issues.
Their dispositions are tough, and immune systems are strong—sometimes stronger than their parents’ natural defenses.
But there are cases of kids being allergic to gluten, just like any other ingredient allergy.
The symptoms are often less severe than adults, but they can be a contributing factor in a child acting out.
Imagine having constant stomach pain and having to concentrate in class when all you can focus on is the dull ache.
Or struggling with excessive gassiness and being teased for it.
In most cases, it’s not the actual gluten that makes a child misbehave—it’s their way of trying to deal with pains and discomfort that they don’t understand.
Summary: Gluten is the stretchy protein found in most wheat and grain products, which negatively affects people with celiac disease, or the inability to process the protein. Children can also suffer stomach issues from gluten, and the discomfort from the symptoms can cause mild changes in a child’s behavior.
There are some signs and symptoms that could indicate a gluten allergy in your kid:
It’s important not to assume that seeing these signs means your child is definitely gluten intolerant!
If you suspect it based on some parent detective work, you should get it checked by your child’s pediatrician.
Summary: If your child has symptoms of gluten sensitivity, have them evaluated by the family doctor.
Kids’ tummies are resilient, but feeding them a healthy diet should be a top priority.
While there’s nothing wrong with making sure your kid eats a healthy diet and avoids processed foods or an excessive amount of sugar, there’s really no need to switch them over to a gluten-free meal plan.
That is unless they’ve been recommended a gluten-free diet by a healthcare professional.
There are reasons a gluten-free diet isn’t for all children.
Some may not get enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants on a gluten-free diet, as whole grains are an integral part of healthy development.
If your child has been recommended to stick with naturally gluten-free foods by a doctor, then it may be worth putting them on a gluten-free diet.
Alongside gluten-free kids’ meals, just make sure they’re eating a colorful and well-rounded diet of whole, unprocessed foods.
Summary: You should put your child on a gluten-free diet as recommended by a medical professional. Otherwise, there is no need to put your child on a gluten-free diet.
If you do decide to remove gluten foods from your child’s diet, it’s not as hard as you might think!
It will be some work in the beginning, but it will soon become second nature.
It definitely helps if the whole family is in on it together.
Start leading by example by doing the following:
Although foods you buy at the store may say “gluten-free” on the label, you have no idea how it was prepared and if it came into contact with ingredients containing gluten.
Do you even know what’s in that snack you like to buy, or the drink you prefer?
Start reading the fine print and you’ll get a much better idea of what ingredients your child is eating (and what they shouldn’t be eating!).
While most people are okay to give up processed lunch meats, salad dressing, and eating cereal in the mornings, the bigger problems seem to be bread, cake, and cookies.
Going gluten-free shouldn’t mean depriving yourself of yummy foods, especially for kids.
Grab some gluten-free flour and get creative—it will benefit your child immensely to know that they can still have a delicious cupcake or a sandwich.
Long-time gluten-free folks will tell you that home-baked gluten-free treats are usually much tastier and less expensive than store-bought.
No need to eliminate snacks or sweets entirely from your kid’s life.
Do some deep-diving into brands that make gluten-free stuff and support them.
It’s not hard to find chocolates, crisps, or other snacks that will suit your kid.
Summary: Having a hands-on approach to your child’s diet will lead to a more positive outcome. Going gluten-free as a family is a great way of leading by example.
Let’s check out what naturally gluten-free foods you will be able to enjoy if you’re making a diet change.
There are plenty of them!
Gluten-free living can be easy for the whole family.
At the end of this list, we’ve included a gluten-free diet plan for beginners, that’s packed with healthy gluten-free recipes for kids and adults alike.
Just about all cuts of meat are safe to eat for celiac sufferers.
You can still enjoy a great steak, chop, chicken wing, or barbecue, as long as you’re mindful of how you season your meat!
Some gluten-free proteins include:
Some foods with gluten to stay away from:
Carbs have a bad reputation that they don’t deserve.
Thankfully, there are plenty of carbs you can (and should) still eat while making the change.
Luckily, all fruits are naturally gluten-free foods! Whichever ones you or your kids enjoy, you can eat all you want without suffering gluten-related effects.
Fruits safe for gluten-free diets:
Fruits unsafe for gluten-free diets:
As with fruits, whole, natural vegetables are perfectly healthy.
They’re amazing sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
They’re naturally gluten-free foods, but in some cases, fruits and vegetables can be contaminated on the farm.
It doesn’t happen often, though.
Gluten-free vegetables include:
Double-check the package for:
Only buy bread that explicitly states its lack of gluten.
This includes foods like sandwich bread, pastries, and tortillas.
If you like to bake, then make sure you’re choosing gluten-free flour.
This all-purpose gluten-free flour is a favorite in our household.
Almond flour is a popular one, as are buckwheat, coconut flour, rice flour, and chickpea flour for a little extra protein.
Some safe gluten-free grains include:
This is where I really struggled with my gluten-free willpower.
I’m a big pasta eater, so I had to dig deep to stop using my comfort-food wheat pasta.
There are alternatives, though.
Pasta made from brown rice, chickpeas, or lentils can be delicious.
There are even low-carb options like shirataki noodles, which may not be for everyone, but a viable option!
Healthy gluten-free pastas include:
Most dairy products are naturally gluten-free foods.
Processed cheeses can be the exception, though.
Avoid these dairy products:
Half the battle is making sure the stuff you season your food with is free from gluten!
There’s no use following a gluten-free diet unless you’re using spices and condiments that are also naturally gluten-free foods.
Seasonings without gluten:
Double check these before buying:
Snacks are an essential part of daily eating.
I don’t know about you, but without my snacks, I end up being hangry and it’s not fun for anyone.
Some of these don’t even need preparing as they’re already naturally gluten-free foods.
The best gluten-free snacks:
Avoid these snacks:
Don’t forget that drinks can contain gluten too!
Alcoholic beverages are usually the culprits here.
Avoid these beverages:
Summary: While there are many foods to avoid when you have a gluten sensitivity, there are even more foods to enjoy that are fresh and good for you.
Preparation is half the battle when feeding kids.
We’ve picked some gluten-free meals that both parents and kids will enjoy.
Simply create your gluten-free grocery list and get cooking!
Try this 7-day gluten-free diet with easy kid-friendly recipes to have you and your kids covered at every meal of the day.
Keep on reading for the full recipes!
You can prep and change these throughout the week, for a morning and afternoon snack each day.
Of course, this depends on how hungry your kid gets and how much activity they do during their day!
All of these are naturally gluten-free foods.
Now for the best part – the gluten-free recipes.
Each of these delicious meals has been tested by us and also evaluated by a registered dietician to ensure they are healthy, gluten-free, and perfect for children.
Beginning with a delicious granola bar recipe that you can even prep ahead of time!
By simply using gluten-free oats, these fabulous granola bars are sugar-free, healthy, and perfect for anyone with gluten sensitivities.
For lunch, chicken burgers are quick, easy, and super filling. Have yours on a gluten-free bun or in a lettuce wrap!
Everyone loves pizza! This one is gluten-free and vegan, so it is friendly to all tummies, children, and adults.
When you’re a kid, you never want to skip dessert. Make a healthy dessert and all your kids will hear is that they get dessert, even when eating gluten-free.
This breakfast is nostalgic for some parents, and now you can make a gluten-free iteration at home!
Chicken, gluten-free wraps, and tons of Italian flavors make this lunch a favorite amongst most kids.
Onions, bell peppers, and lean chicken are such classic fajita flavors that do not need “added” carbs to make them delicious.
Nice cream is the perfect alternative to ice cream, and it is so easy to make it fresh with a high-powered blender!
Did you know that you can bake oatmeal for breakfast? It is best-served with lots of fruit, like blueberries and bananas.
Teach your kids to eat healthy and they will love things like kale and quinoa! Both superfoods come together to make the perfect nutritious lunch.
Lasagne is typically pasta layered with cheese and tomato sauce. Check out this updated, vegan version made with tender eggplant.
Creamy and delicious, this dessert takes on intense banana and peanut butter flavors.
Kids love avocadoes, so why not add them to some gluten-free morning toast?
Crudité plates are great for kids. They’re a healthy finger food full of raw vegetables and are usually served with a creamy dip.
Ham is often saved for special occasions, but what better way to show your kids you love them by making a delicious special occasion meal on a Thursday.
Milkshakes are often requested as a dessert. The remedy is a healthy chocolate smoothie made at home.
The breakfast sandwich is something every kid wants. This one is served in a healthy lettuce wrap.
A soup that is so full of veggies, it’ll fill your kids right up!
Fridays always call for a family fish fry, so make this crispy oven-fried fish at the end of the week.
Pecan pie is a classic, but adding coconut is the best thing to ever happen to pecan pie! Check out our favorite gluten-free pie.
Cake for breakfast? Yes, in smoothie form! This healthy smoothie tastes exactly like a slice of vanilla cake.
Gluten-free chicken tenders are possible, and still, end up super crunchy when baked in the oven.
Ground turkey and zucchini come together in this moist and juicy meatball, served with homemade pesto.
When your kids need an old-fashioned dessert, apple pie is a national delicacy.
A high-protein diet keeps you fuller for longer, and these protein pancakes will keep your child full until lunch.
Chicken and veggie noodle soup gets a makeover with Vietnamese-inspired flavors using gluten-free noodles.
Gluten-free pasta dishes are not as daunting as one might think. This one uses a raw tomato sauce that is mouth-watering.
Every kid’s favorite cookie is chocolate chip. Here is the best gluten-free cookie recipe that is perfect for all kids.
Here are some common questions I hear from those wanting to make the switch to only naturally gluten-free foods.
Flip through a gluten-free cookbook and your options are almost endless!
Here are some tips:
It’s simply a matter of being mindful, being aware of naturally gluten-free foods, and planning.
You’ll need to make a point of checking your grocery list and making sure you don’t accidentally get something containing gluten and take a bite without thinking.
The first month or two is much easier if you plan strictly in advance, both shopping and cooking.
It will only take a few months of careful thought and mental work before it starts becoming a habit!
Another important part of living a gluten-free life is letting your friends and family know.
If there’s any chance at all of you having to eat out or at someone else’s house, you’ll need them to be well aware of it in advance.
The awesome thing about this way of eating is that once you know what you can eat, the meal plan is really up to you.
Make sure to eat plenty of proteins, vegetables, and fruits with a few snacks thrown in too.
Choose simple, easy to prepare meals for breakfast and lunch, and experiment with new gluten-free recipes for dinner!
Just make sure you steer clear of anything processed, pre-cooked, or pre-prepared, and be mindful of what sauces and marinades you use.
I learned so many tips, tricks, and new recipes when trying to figure out how to cook using only naturally gluten-free foods.
Some of the cookbooks that I devoured were:
Also, these healthy cream options for ice cream come in handy when substituting heavy cream and other dairy products.
Naturally gluten free foods are everywhere!
It’s just a matter of retraining your mind and body to thrive off of all-natural stuff that isn’t processed or pre-prepared.
It’s not that much hard work to eliminate gluten from your life, and it’s made even easier by the fact that most restaurants these days cater to the gluten-free lifestyle.
Do be mindful though; you never know exactly how things are cooked or what exactly they contain if the food is not cooked by you.
If you can get your whole family involved and commit to it, we recommend giving it a try!
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