Having a Gluten-Free Child as a Homeschooling Mom

Do any of you love food? When you’re having a bad day, do you want to head for the pantry? When you want to celebrate, do you head for your local ice cream shop? My answers are: yes, yes, yes – How about you?

In the fall of 2015, when my middle daughter was 12, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid condition called, “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis” and began a gluten-free, dairy-limited lifestyle. This year she was diagnosed with autoimmune urticaria (chronic hives). My husband, too, has an autoimmune condition called, “Eosinophilic Esophagitis,” which he chooses to manage with acid reducers and allergy medicine. In May of 2016, I tried a modified diet called “Whole 30,” but have largely returned to regular eating except with less sugar and grains. You can read more about it here: Matthew 4:4 – Not Bread Alone and here: My Whole30 Tips

I hope I can help others with some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past four years of trial and error.

1. Don’t overlook the emotional impact that dietary restrictions have on your child. Food is a big part of our culture, and eating gluten free has consequences deeper than just bringing our own desserts when we go to potlucks. Noelle misses the food that she’s no longer able to eat, but she also hates being “the one” who needs gluten free pizza or who can’t eat Taco Bell tacos.

2. Plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Fresh fruit and fruit cups are great. So are guacamole with tortilla chips. Make extra dinner for leftovers that you can package in individual tupperwares for breakfast or lunch meals. Keep yogurt and deli meat on hand for a quick pick-me-up.

3. Encourage your child to get creative in the kitchen. Noelle has learned to make all kinds of creative dishes for herself. We have a weekly “cooking competition” for lunch. Some of her experiments have turned out GREAT and become regular favorites (crustless peach pie with a chocolate chip granola topping and chocolate dipped bananas to name a few).

4. Let your child make some of their own choices. Honestly, it would probably be better for Noelle if she didn’t eat any dairy or eggs or nuts, but until she’s ready to make that jump for herself, that is one battle that I’m not going to fight. It’s too hard for her, and, frankly, it’s too hard for me. Noelle knows how to add things to my “Walmart Grocery app” and she’ll add a gluten-free cookie that she’s craving or a salad bowl that she’d like to have for lunch. This allows her to have some control over her diet that she can’t have in other ways.

5. Be careful with your substitutions. In my attempts to avoid dairy, I substituted almond or cashew milk. In my attempts to avoid peanut butter, I substituted almond or cashew butter. In my attempts to avoid wheat flour, I substituted almond flour. In my attempts to avoid sugary snacks, I substituted roasted almonds or cashews. Bad idea. 🙁 Noelle developed a sensitivity to almonds and cashews from eating them everyday, several times a day. Rotate your food choices.

6. Pray for understanding friends for your child. Incredibly, God has blessed Noelle with her own little group of “gluten-free friends.” For as much as she hates being different, I’m so thankful that she’s not alone in this. She isn’t the only one at youth group who can’t eat the regular retreat food.

Would you like to see my list of regular dinner meals?

How about my recipes for the BEST chocolate chip cookies (made with almond flour), or DELICIOUS banana chocolate chip muffins (made with Pamela’s baking mix)?