Introducing a gluten free lifestyle to your family

Getting children to embrace different food groups into their diet can be a challenge. There are plenty of hints and tips out there usually encouraging vegetables to be disguised in sauces or dressed up as something that would be perceived to be more tasty to eat.

These normal day-to-day challenges can seem a lot harder when one or all of your children, or even a parent, have been diagnosed with celiac disease or a dairy intolerance. This simple but informative guide will provide you with helpful advice around family activities like baking and cooking at home which will encourage your children to learn and embrace a positive gluten-free lifestyle.

A gluten-free diet is confusing for anyone, let alone a young child. That’s why fun, family orientated activities like baking at home is a great method of positively reinforcing healthy eating and helping children learn about what they can and should eat.

Talking more generally around the nutritional values of food whilst baking gluten-free brownies, for example, helps to normalise the cooking and eating process. Learning the basics of nutrition and its value to the body will help little ones to understand gluten-free information a little more easily.

Role-playing is an effective way to incorporate learning into cooking for young children. Playing ‘restaurants’ is great fun but also reinforces gluten-free living in context so your child will know what to do next time he/she is ordering food in a restaurant or having tea at a friend’s house. Take it in turns to be the waiter/chef or customer. You could even go as far as to dress up! When your child is the waiter and you order your meal, ask questions like ‘is the bread gluten free?’ or ‘what can I have on the menu that is gluten free?’. This will encourage them to investigate the label as well as make the link between gluten and certain foods, like bread.

Getting the children involved in the weekly shop is also a great way to introduce good gluten-free living. When you sit down to write your shopping list, encourage them to look through recipe books or search online for meals they would like to eat or help to cook. Going through the list of ingredients with them will help to remind them of safe foods and alternatives, for example using gluten free pasta in lasagne.

It is important to remember that this, like anything else in a child’s life, is a learning process. There will be times when he or she reaches for the chocolate sprinkles for their cake, but with each activity and positive experience comes a better understanding of gluten-free living.

Dr Vivien D’Arcy has recently joined the team at The Cookery School at Braxted Park to host a new one day cookery course to share her passion and knowledge for all things gluten-free. Vivien has been cooking gluten-free and dairy-free cuisine for 5 years, of which 2 years she has been running a successful gluten-free bakery business in Essex.

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