Your child has been diagnosed with Celiac disease. Now what?
For people without food allergies or experience living with someone who does, what to do after this diagnosis may be foreign. If you follow these steps and precautions, you will be well on your way to transitioning both your child and your household to “gluten-free mode”!
First, you must rearrange your kitchen to create a separate area where all gluten-free foods are stored to avoid any potential cross contamination. In my kitchen, we designated some cabinets for gluten-free foods only, and other cabinets for foods containing gluten only.
Some people choose to make their kitchen a completely gluten-free space, but unless the majority of your family has Celiac, this is not necessary. If you eat a regular sandwich across the kitchen table from your child who is eating a gluten-free one, there won’t be any problems unless the sandwiches were to make contact with each other. Some people also buy all new utensils that are dedicated gluten-free to eliminate the risk of traces of gluten being present on old utensils. However, if utensils such as spoons, forks, and knives are washed thoroughly in a dishwasher, that should not be a problem. But, you must buy certain separate appliances (such as a toaster), otherwise there will be cross-contamination. For items in your kitchen that cannot go in the dishwasher, it is necessary to have two sets, one for gluten-free foods and one for gluten containing foods. For example, you should have two pasta strainers if you are going to be cooking gluten-free and regular pasta.
When preparing food in the kitchen, be sure that any gluten-free food being prepared has NO contact with foods containing gluten. If this occurs, either cut off the part of the food contaminated by gluten, or throw the food out. To avoid this from happening, try to prepare gluten free food in a separate area from all other food. For example, you could have a “gluten-free corner” where only gluten-free food is prepared.
One of the most difficult parts of transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle is actually figuring out what foods are and aren’t gluten-free. Gluten is present in wheat, rye, malt, barley, and some oats. All fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free, so unless they are modified somehow to contain gluten, they are all safe to eat. Since oats can be contaminated, it is important to only buy certified gluten-free oats. You should consult with a nutritionist or other expert before eating gluten-free oatmeal as some people with Celiac can't tolerate this.
Obviously, any food consisting of bread/flour—pizza, buns/rolls, pasta, cakes, etc.-- is not gluten-free, but gluten-free alternatives do exist for the vast majority of these foods! Do not assume that a food is gluten-free unless it explicitly says so on the packaging. Products can not be labeled gluten-free in the USA unless it meets FDA regulations and has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. When you are unsure about whether or not a food is gluten-free, the saying “better safe than sorry” applies perfectly, and you should always investigate said food before having your child eat something that could potentially harm them. Look online, call the company that made it, and/or ask an expert for help so you can be sure that what your child puts in their body is gluten-free.
Some foods may appear to be gluten-free but actually contain gluten, such as your child’s favorite cereal (note: just because a food doesn’t contain wheat does not automatically mean that it is gluten-free!). However, the number of gluten-free foods that do exist might surprise you (and there are many common snacks, like chips, that you probably never noticed were gluten-free). In addition, you can always look for new gluten-free foods in your local supermarket, since the number of gluten-free foods on the market increases every year.
What is written on this page may not be everything that you need to do in your home to ensure that it is a safe gluten-free friendly environment.