If your child has a celiac disease or a wheat allergy, you will need to cut all sources of wheat out of his meals. Focus on foods that are naturally wheat or gluten-free and keep an eye out for wheat hiding in common processed foods to prepare the best healthy, wheat-free meals for your family.
Some children have celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder. Children with celiac disease cannot eat gluten, a protein found in wheat. The small intestine treats the gluten as an invader, setting off an immune response that can cause digestive distress, damage to the intestine and can prevent the absorption of nutrients. Some children may be allergic to other proteins in wheat, such as albumin, globulin or gliadin. Some parents of autistic children have also used a wheat-free diet to help control symptoms, although a 2010 study suggested that a wheat-free diet did not help improve autism symptoms.
Fortunately for parents who want to prepare wheat-free meals for their children, a number of foods are naturally wheat-free. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables do not contain wheat. Meat, such as chicken or beef, is wheat-free as long as it not dipped in bread crumbs or batter. A child who sticks to a wheat-free diet has a number of grains to choose from. Rice, both brown and white, is wheat-free as is corn, which is used to make taco shells, tortillas and grits. Beans, milk and other dairy products are also wheat-free.
When you start a child on a wheat-free diet, you’ll have to be diligent in keeping an eye out for sneaky wheat in certain products. Wheat, or in some cases, just gluten, is often added to salad dressings and marinades. It’s commonly found in soy sauce, so look for a wheat-free variety. It can also hide in canned soups, some lunch meats and certain candies. Look for varieties that specifically state that they are wheat or gluten-free.
Although the gluten found in wheat gives bread and other baked goods a certain chewiness and texture, it’s possible to bake treats and breads using a mix of wheat-free flours. You may be able to find a flour mixture designed for gluten-free baking or you can combine several flours to make your own. Wheat-free flours include potato, corn, rice and chickpea flours. You’ll probably need to add xanthan gum to the flour mixture to imitate the chewiness of gluten.
A wheat-free meal plan can be easier than it sounds. For instance, you can prepare a fried or scramble egg for your child in the morning and serve it on a corn tortilla. If you don’t have time to make an egg, several cereals, such as corn flakes or puffed rice, are wheat-free. Easy dinner meals include broiled chicken with a side of rice and mixed vegetables or bean or ground beef tacos on corn tortillas. Make sure the spice mix is gluten-free, though.