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8/8/22blog post

the dos and don’ts of a gluten-free diet

how to navigate the dietary restrictions of a child with celiac disease

in this article:

If your child has celiac disease, their doctor will guide you on which foods your child can eat and which to avoid. These changes will have a big impact on your family’s everyday life and your child’s diet. You may also benefit from meeting with a dietitian for more advice.  

Your child’s diet should have no wheat, barley, rye or related grains. No law requires food manufacturers to list gluten on food labels, so making sure your child avoids it can be hard. In the United States, all food must be clearly labeled if they contain any of the top eight food allergies, including wheat. But wheat-free doesn’t mean gluten-free. Some wheat-free products may have gluten-containing grains like barley and rye in them. 

Carefully read food labels on all items before you buy them or let your child have them. And help your child learn to do it too. According to The Celiac Disease Foundation, these are some of the common foods that contain gluten: 

  • Pastas: raviolis, dumplings, couscous and gnocchi 

  • Noodles: ramen, soba, chow mein and egg noodles 

  • Breads and pastries: croissants, pita, naan, bagels, flatbreads, cornbread, potato bread, muffins, donuts, rolls 

  • Crackers: pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers 

  • Baked goods: cakes, cookies, pie crusts, brownies 

  • Cereal and granola: corn flakes and rice puffs often contain malt extract/flavoring, granola is often made with regular oats, not gluten-free oats 

  • Breakfast foods: pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes and biscuits 

  • Breading and coating mixes: panko breadcrumbs 

  • Croutons: stuffings, dressings 

  • Sauces and gravies: many use wheat flour as a thickener 

  • Flour tortillas 

The good news is many of the food items listed above are now available in gluten-free options as well. Just be sure to read the label! 

other foods that may contain gluten 

These foods must be verified by reading the label or checking with the manufacturer/kitchen staff: 

  • Energy bars/granola bars 

  • French fries 

  • Potato chips 

  • Processed lunch meats 

  • Candy and candy bars 

  • Soup 

  • Multi-grain or “artisan” tortilla chips or tortillas 

  • Salad dressings and marinades 

  • Starch or dextrin 

  • Brown rice syrup 

  • Self-basting poultry 

  • Pre-seasoned meats 

  • Cheesecake filling 

  • Eggs served at restaurants 

finding safe options 

  • Start with the foods your child can eat. Safe foods and ingredients include foods made with flours of corn, rice, buckwheat, sorghum, arrowroot, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), quinoa, tapioca, teff and potato. All plain meats, fish, chicken, legumes, nuts, seeds, oils, milk, cheese, fruits and vegetables are also okay. 

  • Watch for cross-contamination. Sometimes, gluten-free foods can come into contact with foods that contain gluten. For example, crumbs from regular wheat bread can find their way into jams, spreads or condiments if people aren’t careful to use a fresh knife or utensil each time. Keeping condiments in squeezable bottles and using separate butter, jams and spreads for people with celiac disease is a great idea. You might also keep a separate toaster for gluten-free bread. 

  • Clean appliances, utensils and work surfaces before you make gluten-free products, especially after handling foods that contain gluten. Wash your hands well and often when you prepare food. 

  • In restaurants: Tell the server or the kitchen staff about your child’s condition so they know that your child’s food must be free of gluten and related ingredients. 

  • In grocery stores: Most carry some gluten-free bread, cereal, baking mixes, cookies, crackers and other products. Health food stores and natural food markets may have wider selections of these foods. Skip gluten-free products from bulk food bins because of the risk of cross-contamination. 

If your child is a patient in gastroenterology at Dayton Children's and could benefit from more advice on nutrition, contact the clinic to arrange meeting with a licensed dietician at your next appointment.

If your child is not a patient in gastroenterology at Dayton Children's but would benefit from advice from a licensed dietician, schedule an appointment in our nutrition clinic. 

Information adapted from KidsHealth