Getting the news that your child needs a gluten free diet probably sends most parents into panic mode. Luckily, there has never been a better time to be gluten-free for kids than now with the new labeling laws and all of the delicious food items recently created with this special market in mind! Gluten-free products such as bread, flour, crackers and pasta are readily available these days and actually taste good!
Here are four simple hints to help you find gluten free food for kids:
1. Look for the gluten-free (GF) sign on labels
2. Read labels carefully as gluten is sometimes used as a food additive
3. Ask if your grocery store has a list of gluten-free foods they carry
4. Many snacks for kids are rice-based and therefore gluten free
What you CAN include in a gluten free diet for kids:
- Meat (unbreaded)
- Dairy (milk, butter, real cheese, yogurt)
- Beans and legumes
- Rice of all kinds: white, brown, basmati, jasmine, etc. Remember, many kid-friendly and tasty snacks are rice-based!
- The following list of ingredients with less familiar names:
- Oat gum
- Silicon dioxide
- Food starch
- Glucose, dextrose, sucrose and lactose
- Citric, lactic and malic acid
- Guar gum
- Xantham gum
- Tapioca flour or starch
Gluten-free Lunch Box Ideas for kids lunches:
- Cubed roasted chicken and cheese
- Rice and bean burrito made with a gluten-free tortilla
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Hardboiled egg
- Gluten-free deli meat rolled with cheese in the middle
- Tuna or chicken salad
- Hummus with gluten-free crackers and veggies
- Soup or stew in a thermos
- Oatmeal (stir in seed or nut butter for extra protein and flavor) in a thermos
- Homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Fruit – dried, fresh, canned
- Homemade smoothie
- Tortilla chips with ground beef or bean dip
The following list of suspicious foods might contain gluten. Make sure and check the label:
- Spices, seasonings, bouillon (HINT: If there is no ingredient list on the spice, it only contains that spice and no gluten)
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Processed meat or cold cuts
- Salad dressings
- Oats (can be exposed to wheat during the growing or processing phases – look for GF)
- Soy sauce
- Seasoned snack foods
- Play dough
- Foods with these less familiar names of wheat:
- Durham or graham flour
- Cous cous
Use whole wheat pasta over white for more fiber, protein, and phytonutrients in this dish! If you currently use white pasta regularly, and want to try whole wheat, you can do the switch gradually by mixing half whole wheat pasta and half white. Gradually increase your ratio of whole wheat to white, and experiment with different brands to see what appeals most to you and your family.
- ½ pound pasta
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 head broccoli, or two cups frozen broccoli
- ½ cup ranch dressing
- ¼ cup milk or buttermilk
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to directions, however set timer for two minutes less than directions
- Add peas to pasta water, and cook for two more minutes
- Prepare broccoli (if frozen, add to water with peas or if fresh, steam heads in microwave or stove)
- Whisk milk and dressing together
- Combine all ingredients and top with freshly grated parmesan
*Cooked chicken mixed in this dish is also very good!
Kidamentals strives to enable parents to quickly and simply find the information they are looking for. Given the vast amount of information on the internet now, it can be hard to find trustworthy sources with valid and thoroughly researched information. You can find expert advice on nutrition provided by registered dietitians at www.KidsEatRight.org.
Kidamentals is reprinting the following article with the permission of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
With childhood obesity on the rise, making sure kids eat right and get plenty of exercise is vital.
Parents and caregivers can play a big role in children’s nutrition and health, teaching kids about healthy foods, being a good role model and making sure physical activity is incorporated into each day.
August, which is Kids Eat Right Month, is a great time for families to focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging families to take the following steps:
To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.
Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of meals. They will learn about food and may even be enticed to try new foods they helped prepare.
Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Research indicates that those families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school.
You can help kids form great, healthy habits by setting a good example. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose lower-sodium options, and make at least half the grains your family eats whole grains. For beverages, choose water over sugary drinks, and opt for fat-free or low-fat milk.
Aside from being a great way to spend time together, regular physical activity is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.
Getting kids to eat right can sometimes be a challenge, particularly if they are picky eaters. But experts say that a conversation can help.
“Talk to your children. Learn the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal,” says Angela Lemond, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.
It may help to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area to ensure your family is getting the nutrients it needs with a meal plan tailored to your lifestyle and busy schedule.
For more healthful eating tips, recipes, videos and to learn more about Kids Eat Right Month, visit www.KidsEatRight.org.
This August, reevaluate your family’s eating and exercise habits, and take steps to make positive, healthful changes.
With protein to keep the kiddos full for a while, and a fun presentation, this is one of our favorite snacks for kids!
- Ice cream cone (cake cones with flat bottoms work best)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup yogurt
- Sprinkles (just a light dusting for the fun factor!)
- Fill cone with yogurt
- Add sprinkles
These yogurt pops use sweet, fresh berries or fruit to eliminate the need for adding sweetener other than what is already in the yogurt. It also makes them much healthier than most frozen treats from the store that come loaded with sugar. Amuse your kids and make this healthy treat together! It’s so easy that kids can almost make the popsicles themselves!
- 1 cup yogurt (any flavor, we like vanilla)
- 1 cup fresh berries or fruit
- ¼ cup milk (this amount will vary depending on the thickness of the yogurt you use)
- Slightly smash berries or fruit in a large bowl to release some of the juice
- Whisk in yogurt and milk until smooth and creamy
- Pour into Popsicle mold, or Dixie cups with sticks
- Freeze and enjoy!
In the summer when berries are cheap and delicious, buy some extra and freeze to enjoy when the sweetness of summer is long gone! Use this method so you don't end up with an unbreakable, giant ball of berries stuck together in your freezer! You can either wash the berries and let them completely dry before freezing, or wash later when they have thawed. I tend to do the second method for convenience (I never allow enough time for the berries to dry), and if the berries are washed first they might not retain their texture and quality as well.
- Fresh berries
- Lay berries on a cookie sheet or large tray in one layer so they are not all touching.
- Freeze for a few hours.
- Transfer berries to a sealed bag or container.
- When ready to use, thaw slowly in the refrigerator.
- No need to thaw when using in pancakes or baking, just throw them right in the batter frozen!
As a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I get my child to eat healthy?”. Here are five of my favorite tips to inspire kids to eat healthy.
Tip # 1 - Enjoy Family Meals Together as Often as Possible!
Family meals can be challenging to do in today’s busy environment, but the payoff for eating together when possible is worth it! Eating together offers a chance for family members to connect, and can set the state for more open communication between parents and kids. Try to make mealtime enjoyable with pleasant conversation (save the lectures for another time!). Also, children feel more secure when they have the predictability of a routine, which promotes their overall wellbeing and development.
Tip # 2 - Be a Positive Role Model
Children often grow up to follow their parents’ eating habits. When they see you regularly eating healthy foods and appropriate portions you are laying out an example of what they will likely do later in life. Additionally, the likelihood of kids trying new and healthy foods increases when they observe someone else eating those foods.
Tip # 3 - Leave the Junk Food in the Store
Or at least keep it out of sight! Sugary drinks and junk food taste good, and if they are easily accessible your kids will ask for them regularly. Eating these low-nutrient foods and beverages can fill kids up, leaving less room for nutritious, nutrient-dense food needed for development and growth. Stock your kitchen with a variety of healthy foods.
Tip # 4 - Let Kids Choose when to Stop Eating
Avoid “the clean plate club” mindset, which teaches kids to ignore their inner signals of satiety. Letting them choose when to stop eating helps them become more in-tune to their inner cues and not overeat.
Tip # 5 - Give Some Control to the Kids
Choosing to give kids age-appropriate tasks can build confidence, skills, and also take a task off of your plate!
One option, since you have already decided how to stock the kitchen and what to serve at meal time, is to try letting kids serve themselves. Let them choose exactly what to put on their plate and just how much.
Another option is to involve kids in the planning and preparation of food. Just ask your kids for help. Kids will enjoy feeling some control if they can occasionally choose the family meal and this can get them excited about healthy eating. They are also more likely to eat a food if they are involved in preparing it.
Back to school means busier schedules and more planning for many families. Breaking down lunch preparation into a standard formula and planning ahead for the week can simplify the process, save money and time!
To make your child’s lunch healthier, a nice goal can be to aim for one food from each of the following categories:
1 - Protein
2 - Whole Grain
3 - Fruit
4 - Vegetable
5 - Milk or Water
Tips for Easy and Healthy Kids School Lunches
- Include your kids in lunch planning (and packing if they are old enough!). Kids are more likely to actually eat their lunch if they pick it out. Take them grocery shopping and let them choose some healthy foods to include.
- Use leftovers to your advantage! Who doesn’t love leftover pizza in their lunch box? When planning weekday meals, make extra of your kids’ favorite dinners that can be eaten cold and send it packed for lunch.
- Use leftover meat in a sandwich or wrap, or cut into bite size pieces and serve with a dip.
- Send hearty soup or oatmeal in a thermos for a warm, filling treat.
- Combine fruit and vegetable such as dried cranberries and carrots for a colorful and tasty dish.
- Increase the fun factor by cutting food into interesting shapes. Use a cookie cutter for soft foods like sandwiches or cheese. Try using a vegetable peeler to make thin slices of carrot, cucumber or zucchini.
- If your kids like to eat the same lunch every day, go for it! If it is something they will eat, it’s better to serve it than have their lunch end up in the garbage!
- Low fat dairy foods such as yogurt or cottage cheese are quick, easy and good sources of protein that kids often enjoy.
- Instead of relying on my often-tired and multitasking brain to come up with fresh meal ideas each week, I find making a list of foods and meals my kids usually accept and referring to it when planning my grocery trip helps make the process easier.
Helpful and Fun Lunch Ideas for Kids that are Bored with the Traditional Sandwich
Try these protein-packed ideas coupled with a side of fruit and vegetable!
- Ham or turkey rolled with a thin slice of cheese in the middle
- Pasta salad with whole wheat pasta, cheese, beans or meat and veggies
- Yogurt parfait
- Cubed tofu with soy sauce
- Tortilla spread with seed or nut butter and banana
- Apple or celery with seed or nut butter
- Pizza with whole wheat crust
- Cheese and crackers
- Stuffed pita
- Bean and cheese burrito
- Whole wheat pancakes
- Hardboiled egg
- Pear and cheese kabob made out of straw