Gluten Free Cooking and Your Family

Family eating a meal. Image provided by National Cancer Institute.Living a gluten-free lifestyle is becoming a more attractive option because countless people are finding relief from pain. In fact, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has declared May Celiac Awareness Month. Not only is this diet used to relieve celiac disease sufferers, but it’s also recognized as a potential way to promote health. If you’ve read the benefits of a gluten free diet, you’ll probably want to make sure your loved ones receive these advantages too.

One of the best ways to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle is to get the family involved. Making such a major adjustment can be tricky as questions arise. Should all of your family members participate? How do you go about this new way of eating? To help with this transition, we’ve listed some key practices that will help you adjust to gluten free cooking.

Cleaning out the Cupboards

First things first: eliminate the harmful grains. By “harmful” we mean any grains that contain gluten. These include rye, wheat and barley.

Go through your cupboards and make sure you don’t have any products with these ingredients. Here’s a hint: inspect the processed foods first. For example, look at your cereals, pastas, breads, muffins, granola bars, etc..

You also want to beware of any packaged goods, such as ketchup, salad dressing, and sodas. These items commonly have gluten-containing additives including emulsifiers, flavorings, starch and stabilizers.

If you’re getting overwhelmed because your kitchen is now bare, don’t worry. Many mainstream grocery stores now carry gluten-free options for almost anything.

Bread is usually one of the hardest things to let go of. Here’s a handy gluten free bread page for your reference.

(For an even larger selection of gluten free pantry items, check out Thrive Market.)

Substituting Gluten-Friendly Ingredients

Rice is a staple in gluten free cooking.
Rice is a staple in gluten free cooking.

We identified the bad grains, so now let’s talk about the good ones. Two common grains, corn and rice, don’t have any gluten. The caveat is that these products must not be contaminated with other grains that contain gluten.

In addition, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, amaranth and teff are also amongst the safe grains. These grains offer gluten-friendly alternatives to products such as cereals, breads and pastas.

Be sure to keep your kitchen stocked with organic meats, fish, fruit, veggies, legumes and dairy products. These unprocessed foods are naturally gluten free.

After you’re done reading this article, check out the gluten free foods list so you can reference it before your next trip to the market.

Weaning or taking the plunge?

To make the transition voluntarily for all members of your family, I’d suggest a weaning approach. It works by gradually reducing the gluten-based meals and increasing the gluten-free meals.

So for example, make one day a week “gluten free day,” and then 2 days the following week and so on. This will be less of a “shock” to the body, and it gives time for each person to adjust to the new and slightly different tastes and textures that they may experience.

Trying to just go 100% gluten free may be too much of a change for many people, and it’s best to have a consultation with your doctor beforehand.

Working as a team

Getting everyone on board with this new way of eating is important for a few reasons:

  • An eating transition as a family unit is far easier because you can support each other in this endeavor.
  • If not all family members eat a gluten free diet, the chances of cross contamination in the family home is significantly increased.
  • Having a family eat the same types of food helps everyone feel included, and the chances of having someone feel isolated is less likely to happen.
  • You only have to make one version of a meal for everyone, which saves lots of time!

I’d like to point out that cross contamination (2nd bullet) is an important concern. Contamination can happen very easily. For instance, you use a pizza cutter to slice a gluten-filled pizza, forget to wash it and then use this same utensil on a gluten-free food. Even the tiniest smidgen of gluten can ruin a perfectly good dish, and then all those nasty symptoms occur.

If you can pull together as a family and eat the same diet, the transition will be much easier to manage on all levels. Of course, it’s possible that not all family members will be able to adapt the same or at the same pace. Have a contingency plan just in case.

Transitioning children to gluten free cooking

In some cases, children can adapt better than adults if they are open to new ideas and not very resistant to change. This transition for children can be aided by adding sweet treats (gluten-free treats of course) so their taste buds can get used to the new diet.

Snacks including fruit, peanut butter and veggies, gluten-free cereals, hardboiled eggs and popcorn are commonly popular options. You can also opt for gluten-free chocolate bars, brownies, rice crispie treats, muffins and more for something extra special.

Test these choices out with your children to see what they like best. Having lots of yummy food options can help keep kids happy.

For a practical guide on raising your kids in a gluten-free world, check out How to Raise Kids Gluten Free by Melanie Wilson.

Whether you have a family member that suffers with celiac disease or are just opting for healthier lifestyle, making food changes can be successful by working as a team. Talk openly with each other about these new experiences, and help each other understand the amazing benefits that gluten free cooking brings to your home.

Please note this post was written under the assumption that a family is simply considering this diet change, and that it’s not due to gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Obviously, if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, then all gluten-based products need to be removed from the home on the advice of your doctor.

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