Have you ever gone grocery shopping in a foreign country where you didn’t speak the language very well? I remember my first shopping trip in Germany spending ages trying to figure out what to buy.
Learning to shop for your gluten-free kid is like shopping in a foreign country!
What’s the deal with those allergy warning statements again? Is coconut a nut or not? Can I trust this label? Is it even safe to buy a bag of rice? Why is this so exhausting?
What in the world am I going to feed this kid?
These are some of the questions I muddled through when my son was first diagnosed with food allergies. Armed with a long list of unsafe foods, I proceeded to look for things that didn’t appear on that list. In the end, I defaulted to a whole lot of chicken and broccoli for a few weeks.
Like plenty of other things in life, I eventually got into a routine and now it’s no big deal.
My son has plenty of delicious allergy-friendly things to eat.
I already shared my 13 strategies to feeding 4 hungry boys. Now let’s talk about specifically how to accommodate the gluten-free (and allergy-friendly) side of the equation. By the way, affiliate links are present.
1. Start with whole foods.
This is the easiest (and healthiest) way to feed your child. I don’t have to think twice about tossing broccoli or a whole butternut squash into my cart. Fresh meat is safe. When I’m in the cereal aisle or looking at ice cream containers, it’s a whole different story.
2. Don’t automatically try to replicate the bread.
Wheat bread may have been a big staple for you – it certainly was in my house with this easy 4 ingredient bread recipe! And, yes, Aldi now has gluten-free bread (wow!) but it’s sooo expensive and my son actually can’t eat it because it also contains eggs.
So instead of settling for expensive or mediocre gluten-free bread, we use rice cakes to stand in where bread is typically used.
3. Many snack foods are naturally gluten-free.
Many brands of chips, fresh fruit, popcorn, and many boxed cereals are gluten-free. It’s cheaper and simpler to buy these kinds of foods than it is to buy things like gluten-free pretzels or crackers (although there are some delicious options to choose from!).
Also, I like serving these kinds of snacks so Will is included with the other kids instead of having his own special choices and feeling left out. And since the GF pretzels and crackers are more expensive (like 3-10 times more), I have to keep an eye out to make sure the other kids don’t demolish the gluten-free stash. The online store, Boxed Warehouse, has great deals on gluten free snacks if you want to stock up.
4. Experiment with gluten-free flours
I find it’s best to use recipes specifically created to use gluten-free flour; you can’t automatically take a standard wheat-based recipe and swap out the flour. As you get more familiar with baking and find a flour blend that you like, you’ll be able to create your own recipes and have more leeway in what you cook.
One of my favorite bloggers, Katie Kimball, has an entire book on Gluten Free Snacks!
Also, know that you can use cornstarch as a substitute for flour when thickening sauces and gravies.
5. Be prepared with gluten-free snacks when you’re away from home
Whether you end up out longer than you expected or you’re surprised with donuts at church, you’re going to need a gluten-free option for your kiddo. Although he’s used to not indulging in the goodies that seem to be at every school or church function, I still hate having to tell him I don’t have anything for him to enjoy. So I always try to keep a snack stashed in my purse for those food “emergencies.”
Here’s another list of gluten-free snacks for kids. Most of them are easy to take on the road.
6. Communicate with friends
We have an allergy plan for my son. When he goes on playdates, his friends’ moms are great about asking what he can eat and helping him to keep safe. Our plan includes a short list of easy snacks my son can eat.
Here is a short list of easy gluten-free meal ideas for kids
My list is also free of eggs and nuts since my son is allergic to these things as well. If your child can eat them, your list will be even more diverse.
Gluten free breakfast ideas
Oatmeal (make sure to get a GF brand like GF Harvest)
Leftover plain rice makes a great substitute for oatmeal! Top with brown sugar and milk or butter and salt.
Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
GF waffles (hooray for Aldi!)
GF Lunch Ideas
Soups of all kinds
Rice cake open-faced sandwiches or “pizzas”
All of items from the snack list
GF Snack ideas
No-cook cheater banana pudding
Gluten-free chocolate crinkle cookies
Muffins (we love these GF carrot muffins and these pumpkin ones are perfect every time!)
Carrot sticks and dip
Packaged snacks – GF pretzels and crackers
Corn chips and salsa or hummus
Having a child who requires a gluten-free diet is a big adjustment at first, but eventually you build a routine and a list of favorite foods.