What is gluten free means? Is a gluten free diet advisable for kids? Before answering this question let us understand the meaning of gluten and gluten free diet. Gluten is a protein found naturally in certain grains including wheat, barley, spelt and rye. There are two main proteins in gluten: glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for the adverse health effects of gluten. The name gluten is derived from the glue-like property of this protein. When the flour mixes with water, the gluten protein forms a sticky texture that has glue like consistency. A gluten free diet is an eating plan that excludes foods containing gluten.
Why a Gluten free diet for kids?
Gluten is not harmful and unhealthy. Avoiding or cutting gluten from your kid’s diet would not make your child feel better, however kids with certain health conditions are advised to avoid gluten or have a gluten free diet.
If the child is suffering from Celiac Diseases or gluten intolerance, should stick to a gluten free diet. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine’s lining due to eating gluten. People suffering from this disorder experience unpleasant symptoms after eating gluten rich foods like bread or pasta. Whereas gluten intolerance is the body’s inability to digest or break down gluten. Some people have gluten intolerance with mild sensitivity to gluten while others may have celiac disease.
Symptoms of celiac disease
Children with celiac disease may have the symptoms like weight loss, vomiting, abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea or constipation and in some cases delayed puberty(How to deal with puberty in girls?). Kids with a family history of celiac disease are at higher risk. If you feel your child has any symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance, call your doctor and go for the test he/ she suggests.
Currently the only way to treat celiac disease is to avoid gluten. A lifelong strict gluten-free diet is the only available treatment for celiac disease. Parents should take extra care of kids with this disorder, as it is very difficult for kids to understand and follow the restricted diet. Make everybody around them aware of the fact like their teachers, school staff and friends.
Some foods are naturally gluten-free and some made gluten-free through a process of purification. There are several foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as rice, corn, potatoes and a number of different grains, seeds and legumes. Historically, rice, corn and potatoes have been the first natural substitutes for gluten-containing grains.
Gluten containing cereals:
Some foods that naturally contains gluten and should be avoided by a person or child suffering from celiac disease or have gluten intolerance are:
Gluten free foods:
Gluten free foods are often low nutrients, as opposed to their gluten containing equivalents. Kids with celiac disease need to avoid gluten, they cannot eat many foods which are often good sources of minerals and vitamins. So, in order to make sure that your child gets all the nutrients despite the gluten free diet, meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist. A dietitian can work with you and your child to develop a gluten-free, balanced eating plan. Here are some naturally gluten free foods with their benefits.(Nutrients a child require?)
Veggies like carrots, tomatoes, beetroot, broccoli, peas and other leafy greens are mostly gluten free. These veggies are a great source of vitamin A, C, E, fiber, iron and antioxidants. Vegetables are often a good source of prebiotic fiber that supports a healthy gut and immune system by becoming the food of the good bacteria living in the gut. Encourage your child to eat a variety of vegetables so that they do not face any mineral or vitamin deficiency due to a such diet. (Power foods for kids)
Fruits are one of the gluten free foods. Fruit provides vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and many phytonutrients (nutrients naturally present in plants), which helps kids’ bodies to stay healthy. Fruits being rich in antioxidants boost a child’s immunity and give sustainable energy which is specially required when the child is on a special diet. It also ensures kids healthy growth and development. High in fiber contents it aids in proper functioning of the digestive system and thus prevents constipation. Fruits also provide a wide range of health- boosting antioxidants, including flavonoids.(fruits for teens and kids)
Nuts and seeds:
Apart from being gluten free foods, Nuts and seeds are among the best foods with protein to meet the daily requirement of the body. They are packed with antioxidants, protein, calcium, fiber, potassium, healthy fats like omega 3 and 6 (Why Omega 3 is important?). They are considered super healthy for brain development in children, nuts also help keep their immune system strong. (Why to include nut and seeds daily to a kid’s diet?)
Except for a few whole grains which contain gluten, rest are naturally gluten free. However when you are purchasing gluten free whole grains, always check the labels, because even gluten free gains can be contaminated with gluten, if they are processed in the same facility as gluten containing foods. Some of the gluten free whole grains are: quinoa, rice, brown rice, sorghum, millet, amaranth, teff, arrowroot, oats and buckwheat. Whole grains are nutritious foods for kids as they are powerhouse of energy and rich in carbohydrates, protein, iron, fiber, iodine, magnesium, zinc, folate, riboflavin and vitamin E. All these nutrients help in overall growth and development of kids.
Gluten free source of Protein:
Protein is considered the body’s building block and repair agent. It’s also integral in forming enzymes and hormones in the body. From digestion to immunity, from hair to nails, everything requires protein. Some such sources of protein are: legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, and peas), fresh fish, tofu, red meat, fresh chicken and egg. (Some easy sources of protein)
Gluten free dairy products:
Most of the dairy products are naturally gluten free, but if they are flavored and contain preservatives or additives, do check the labels before buying, as they can include thickeners, malt and modified food starch. Some of the dairy products are: milk, yogurt, butter, paneer, cottage cheese, ghee etc.
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