Going off Gluten: Resources to help the transition with children

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Last summer our family learned that we need to go off gluten. Our young daughter was diagnosed with Celiac, so no barley, rye, oats (unless marked gluten free), or wheat. And no cross-contamination. At first I felt quite overwhelmed. Preschoolers are not exactly known for adaptability and risk taking when it comes to food… so I was a bit worried! The fact that pasta is one of our daughter’s favourite “food groups” made me even more anxious about making the switch to gluten free.

I won’t lie … at first it was a bit tricky. She didn’t really understand why, all of a sudden, she could no longer eat many of her favourite snacks and meals. We tried out many different gluten free pastas, bread products and other snacks, trying to find alternatives that she would enjoy. Some of them were definite no’s – even I couldn’t bring myself to eat some of the pastas and macaronis that we tried! But over the past several months we have found some great options. Our daughter now asks me whether something is gluten free, and ok to eat, and she is no longer upset about avoiding some of her old favourites. Now that we have gone through the hard work of finding some yummy alternatives, I thought I’d share our findings in case anyone else finds themselves in this same position. Possibly save you from some rather unpleasant food testing! :)

Please note: the products listed here are not necessarily chosen due to nutritional value – that’s for you to evaluate and decide based on your needs! And I always recommend checking the box for the Gluten Free label before purchasing or consuming any of these products.

Favourite Grocery Store Finds

Catelli GF pasta: We have tried a lot of pastas, and this one is definitely our favourite! We love the spaghetti and fusilli and recently used the macaroni to make a homemade macaroni! I’ve found this pasta at both Save On and Thrifty Foods.

Annie’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar: If your child is anything like ours, macaroni is a favourite! Annie’s makes a gluten free version that is fairly good, if you aren’t up for making your own from scratch!

GF Bread: Until recently, our favourite GF bread was the Udis whole wheat bread found frozen at Thriftys and Save On. But it wasn’t cheap! Then we discovered Little Northern Bakehouse’s GF Seeds and Grains Loaf at Costco – one package includes 2 loaves, each larger than Udis, for just a little bit more money than 1 loaf of Udis!! And it’s delicious!

GF Cereal: If your child is a fan of cereal for breakfast, there are a few gluten free alternatives that we have come across so far. Kellogs makes a Gluten Free Rice Krispies option, which I have also used for our Christmas Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (yum!). Nature’s Path also makes some yummy GF options including granola, cereals, and their Gorilla Munch Cereal.

Maple Leaf Natural Selections Deli Meat and Hotdogs: If you’re looking for gluten free lunch/deli options, Maple Leaf makes various deli meat (such as oven roasted chicken breast) and hot dogs (pork wieners) that are not only gluten free, but also made with natural ingredients/no preservatives added. Costco even sells packages of the deli meat!

Special K GF Granola Bars: Sometimes you need a quick and easy snack that you can throw in your purse in case of hunger emergencies! Not maybe the healthiest snack, but in a pinch they do the trick (and are quite delicious!). Both Save On and Thrifty Foods usually sell these.

Kirkland Nut Bars: These are a new discovery for us, and they are a hit with both us and our preschooler! They come in a box of 24 at Costco, making them a more cost-effective alternative.

Sensible Portions Veggie Straws: These are a delicious snack, and one that our daughter loves. Costco sells a big bag which seems to be the best deal!

Hot Kid Rice Crisps: We’ve tried a number of gluten free crackers, and these are our daughter’s current favourite. I’ve only been able to find these at Thrifty Foods so far, not Save On.

RW Garcia 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers: these crackers are delicious, and can be purchased in bulk at Costco!

Pamela’s Pancake mix: We like to make our waffles/pancakes from scratch, but discovered this mix when we took it camping. Super easy and quite tasty!

Namaste Muffin & Scone Mix: I’ve been making muffins from scratch lately, but if I need muffins/scones for an event unexpectedly (and don’t have the ingredients in the house to make my own!) these are a great substitute. Throw in a few chocolate chips and they are quite yummy! So far I’ve only seen these mixes at Lifestyle Markets, Country Grocer, and our local health food store.

Namaste Perfect Flour Blend: I’ve tried a couple different gluten free flours, and this is currently our favourite. One thing we missed when we switched to gluten free was waffles on a special weekend morning! I tried at least 3 different gluten free recipes off Pinterest, and each time the waffles came out paper thin, and just not what we were used to. Then I tried substituting the Namaste flour cup for cup in my regular waffle recipe and they came out fluffy and delicious!!

Nature’s Path Homestyle Gluten Free Frozen Waffles: Sometimes you just don’t have time to make waffles from scratch – in that case, these are a good substitute!

GF Pizza: Dan’s Farm & Country Market in Saanichton has delicious gluten free pizza crusts! You can find them in the freezer in packs of 2 or 4. They are a great size, and the yummiest we’ve had so far! Costco also has a pretty tasty GF cheese pizza (Sabatasso’s Gluten Free Four-Cheese Pizza) – we just throw on a few extra toppings of our own!

Glutino GF Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies: These cookies remind me of eating Oreos as a child; our daughter loves them for a treat!

Island Farms Ice Cream: If you are looking for gluten free ice cream, Island Farms has a huge selection of gluten free choices (although please see the note about possible cross-contamination at the top of the website linked above).

M&M Food Market: If you’re looking for quick meal/snack alternatives, M&M Food Market also has a selection of gluten free choices. We have yet to try any of these, but there seem to be a number of options available!

Baked goods from Origins Bakery: Origin Bakery in Victoria is 100% gluten free. We have tried the white sourdough bread, banana muffins, and 6″ round personal pizza – all were delicious!

Other Thriftys products: Instead of having a dedicated GF aisle (like Save On Foods), Thrifty Foods includes their GF items throughout the store. Each item is marked with a GF label on the shelf. Next time you’re there, swing by Customer Service and they will give you a list of all of the GF products they carry. A great way to find some new alternatives you may have otherwise missed!

Favourite Restaurants

Olive Grove: if you love pasta or pizza, Olive Grove is the place to go! They have a large Celiac menu. You also might want to try their homemade roasted almond and chocolate icecream for dessert … so delicious!

Red Robin: Red Robin takes their Celiac orders very seriously, with a Manager typically delivering the meal to your table. They will even bring out an iPad to walk you through the various options available for different allergies. Their delicious french fries can be made gluten free, and our daughter loves the “Chicken Stickens” (chicken pieces on a stick!)

Rockn’ Rolls Modern Sushi: Our 4-year old daughter loves sushi. I mean, really loves sushi. For her last birthday, we asked what she’d like to have for dinner and guess what she picked?! So when we found out she had to eat gluten free, one of our first orders of business was to find a gluten free sushi option! We found it at Fisherman’s Wharf. Any of the rolls at Rockn’ Rolls can be made gluten free, and they are careful to make it on a separate working space. Plus, what a great place to go for sushi!

Other options: If you’re looking for other gluten free options, the Celiac Scene website is an incredible resource. You can search for restaurants with gluten free items all over Victoria and the island. I would recommend calling ahead to confirm the availability of gluten free options if possible (we took our daughter to Famoso for gluten free pizza, only to arrive and discover they had been out of gluten free flour for a couple months!)

Other Celiac/Gluten Free Resources

For any other families that might be overwhelmed with the prospect of going gluten free, there are many other useful resources that can really help with the transition:

VGH Celiac Workshops: The Victoria General Hospital offers a series of Celiac workshops which I found incredibly useful. Your doctor can provide you with more information about this great resource.

Elana’s Pantry GF recipes: There are numerous gluten free recipes available online, and through Pinterest, but Elana’s Pantry is one of my favourites. Elana herself is Celiac, and offers many delicious gluten free recipes. Some of our current favourites (for treats or birthdays) are Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies and Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes.

The Celiac Scene: As mentioned above, if you’re looking for other gluten free options, The Celiac Scene is an incredible resource. You can search for restaurants with gluten free items all over Victoria and the island. I would recommend calling ahead to confirm the availability of gluten free options if possible (we took our daughter to Famoso for gluten free pizza, only to arrive and discover they had been out of gluten free flour for a couple months!)

Canadian Celiac Association: This is another great resource, with information such as Getting Started on the Gluten Free Diet, Resources for Children, and much more.

If your family has someone with Celiac, or eating gluten free, do you have any other gluten free finds to share?

 

Note: new gluten free options added to this post on March 17 2017.

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