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Transitioning A Young Child To Gluten-Free (Long)

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I feel a little silly posting this, because I should be old hat at the gluten-free thing by now, but I could use and will take any advice anyone can throw my way.

Just over two years ago, my middle son was diagnosed with celiac at the age of 7. It was hard for him to make the transition, but he had been sick for so long and he had a good understanding of what was going on and that changing his diet would help him feel better. It also helped that he wasn't a huge carb eater before and we were able to find decent substitutes for most of the things he really enjoyed. And finally, he's my least picky and most adventurous eater, so being willing to try new things made the transition much easier than it could have been.

We decided from the start to have a mixed household, based in large part on things I read about Danna Korn's experience. I also took into consideration that my son was old enough to understand that there would be things in the house he couldn't have. I approached it from a couple of ways. First, I decided that there would always be an acceptable substitute for him for anything we bought that he couldn't have. Second, I decided that anything I actually cooked would be safe for the entire family to eat. That pretty much meant that the gluten stuff in the house was limited to sandwich bread, the occasional snack or cookie, and quick fix foods like chicken nuggets and stuff for the other boys. So far this approach has worked fairly well, there have been a few bumps in the road, but he has been remarkably good natured about them when they do happen.

So that brings me to today. There is a 99.9% percent certainty that my almost 5 yo (DS3) will be officially diagnosed within the next two weeks. Actually his ped. has already said yup, this child has celiac, but of course we have to wait for the official diagnosis from the GI. His appt. with the GI is next Wednesday, and if they do insist on an endo (which I'm hoping they don't) they'll do that within 5 days or so if past experience is any indicator.

This child is a completely different child. Picky to the nth degree and then some. Carb addict. Only veggie he'll eat is carrots. And because of his age, I predict there is going to be very little comprehension of "I can't have that." So we've made the decision to go entirely gluten-free in the house. The oldest son and husband can get their fixes out of the house since they eat lunch out every day, I can live with gluten-free, and it will just be easier if there isn't anything tempting in the house that DS3 can't have.

Obviously, I know what taking the whole house gluten-free entails on a technical level, so that isn't the problem. I think my biggest problem is going to be DS's pickiness. I can't afford subs for everything he eats now, so I am going to have to steer him away from those foods, but I want to do it as gently as possible.

Another problem is going to be DS1's reluctance, he's a stubborn one who is raging with pre-teen hormones and he is going to feel slighted and resentful.

And then finally, I'm worried about sending DS to kindy in July. Though the schools have been great about working with us and we have a medical plan in place for DS2 and will certainly do one for DS3, by the time DS2 was diagnosed, he could read, he had a good understanding of what he couldn't have, and we had already established good communication with his teachers (he was diagnosed in the middle of the year and I kept his teacher updated throughout the entire process, which for him, took 6 months). DS3 isn't going to have any of those advantages. I'm not going to be able to rely on him even minimally to say "No thank you, I can't have that." I'm going to have to put my entire trust in the teachers and administration in a way I haven't done before, and that makes me nervous. And to add to it all, they are both going to a new school this year, so while I'm hoping that this school will be as accommodating as the previous one was, I'm going to have to start the process from the beginning here, where at his old school the counselors, cafeteria staff, and specials teachers were all familiar with things, all I had to do was educate a new main teacher every year.

I should say that DS3 might surprise me. He has a fair inclination of what DS2 can't have, but I just don't think that he's going to translate that to himself as easily. Does that make sense?

So any advice on any of those issues will be much appreciated, especially from parents of younger kids who have BTDT.

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Hi,

My celiac disease child which was recently diagnosed at 6 1/2 was also a carb addict. Also only ate carrots and 1 tbls of peas or green beans for her veggie. We have recently graduated to mini cuke slices with lots of ranch dressing , this I am sad to say excites me.

I am going to start making different gluten-free muffins and breads to substitute snacks with, by adding banana, berries, carrots, zuchini etc..I will also add in ground Flax seed and fiber supplement for her needs. Also, my friend suggested yogurt & fruit smoothies in a thermos for school lunch/snack time. Even cheese slices with Tostitos are ok.

I do food process veggies of ALL kinds and they go in my meatballs, meatloaf, burgers etc.. Which are always all turkey or half turkey, half Hamburg. It's definitely an adjustment I am still working on, but this is a good start for both of us.

Good luck

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This might help?

My GI's plan for people going on a gluten free diet was to introduce the gluten-free foods with the gluten foods for a while, to get used to, and then slowly phase out the gluten. Over 2-3 weeks or so.

If you make your own muffins, breads, and such, you could start substituting some gluten-free flours for portions of the wheat, at first, or rice pasta mixed in with regular pasta, etc... and slowly phase out the gluten stuff, yeah?

As for schools, I've seen some standard 'letter to teacher' on the web, if you search, that looked like they would be helpful. But it is a scary thing, starting out when they are so young like this!

good luck!

I feel a little silly posting this, because I should be old hat at the gluten-free thing by now, but I could use and will take any advice anyone can throw my way.

Just over two years ago, my middle son was diagnosed with celiac at the age of 7. It was hard for him to make the transition, but he had been sick for so long and he had a good understanding of what was going on and that changing his diet would help him feel better. It also helped that he wasn't a huge carb eater before and we were able to find decent substitutes for most of the things he really enjoyed. And finally, he's my least picky and most adventurous eater, so being willing to try new things made the transition much easier than it could have been.

We decided from the start to have a mixed household, based in large part on things I read about Danna Korn's experience. I also took into consideration that my son was old enough to understand that there would be things in the house he couldn't have. I approached it from a couple of ways. First, I decided that there would always be an acceptable substitute for him for anything we bought that he couldn't have. Second, I decided that anything I actually cooked would be safe for the entire family to eat. That pretty much meant that the gluten stuff in the house was limited to sandwich bread, the occasional snack or cookie, and quick fix foods like chicken nuggets and stuff for the other boys. So far this approach has worked fairly well, there have been a few bumps in the road, but he has been remarkably good natured about them when they do happen.

So that brings me to today. There is a 99.9% percent certainty that my almost 5 yo (DS3) will be officially diagnosed within the next two weeks. Actually his ped. has already said yup, this child has celiac, but of course we have to wait for the official diagnosis from the GI. His appt. with the GI is next Wednesday, and if they do insist on an endo (which I'm hoping they don't) they'll do that within 5 days or so if past experience is any indicator.

This child is a completely different child. Picky to the nth degree and then some. Carb addict. Only veggie he'll eat is carrots. And because of his age, I predict there is going to be very little comprehension of "I can't have that." So we've made the decision to go entirely gluten-free in the house. The oldest son and husband can get their fixes out of the house since they eat lunch out every day, I can live with gluten-free, and it will just be easier if there isn't anything tempting in the house that DS3 can't have.

Obviously, I know what taking the whole house gluten-free entails on a technical level, so that isn't the problem. I think my biggest problem is going to be DS's pickiness. I can't afford subs for everything he eats now, so I am going to have to steer him away from those foods, but I want to do it as gently as possible.

Another problem is going to be DS1's reluctance, he's a stubborn one who is raging with pre-teen hormones and he is going to feel slighted and resentful.

And then finally, I'm worried about sending DS to kindy in July. Though the schools have been great about working with us and we have a medical plan in place for DS2 and will certainly do one for DS3, by the time DS2 was diagnosed, he could read, he had a good understanding of what he couldn't have, and we had already established good communication with his teachers (he was diagnosed in the middle of the year and I kept his teacher updated throughout the entire process, which for him, took 6 months). DS3 isn't going to have any of those advantages. I'm not going to be able to rely on him even minimally to say "No thank you, I can't have that." I'm going to have to put my entire trust in the teachers and administration in a way I haven't done before, and that makes me nervous. And to add to it all, they are both going to a new school this year, so while I'm hoping that this school will be as accommodating as the previous one was, I'm going to have to start the process from the beginning here, where at his old school the counselors, cafeteria staff, and specials teachers were all familiar with things, all I had to do was educate a new main teacher every year.

I should say that DS3 might surprise me. He has a fair inclination of what DS2 can't have, but I just don't think that he's going to translate that to himself as easily. Does that make sense?

So any advice on any of those issues will be much appreciated, especially from parents of younger kids who have BTDT.

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A thought, as this is what we've done concerning other issues with kids (because really, the dynamics of your situation play out into other things that come up between families and siblings). I'm assuming your 5 year old has severe symptoms that are uncomfortable? If he has negative consequences, then this should be fairly simple. At home, he has no choice. When he does have choices -- like eating out of a friend's lunch box or a snack at school that is out of the teacher's control, he's going to learn really fast that if he chooses the wrong foods, he will have a price to pay. But here's the kicker: you have to let him pay that price. No days off school because he has the runs, no sympathy when he gets home, none. If he gets sick because he "chose" to eat those foods (different than a boo-boo or cross-contamination!), then he has to live with it. He's young to learn this, but it isn't a bad thing to learn at a young age. He learns choice and consequence. It's going to be tough, in the beginning, but here's what it will give him: self-control. Autonomy. It's not teacher and mom making all the choices: he gets to make them too. And if he chooses to be sick, so be it. There's only so much YOU can do to prevent that. Chances are, sometimes he's going to choose to be sick. And as long as he owns the consequences and you don't pamper him, he'll pick up quickly.

As for what to feed...I have a VERY picky eater in the house. It doesn't matter. You make a meal for the family and he has to eat it (within reason obviously). I used to make two meals, and that got old fast. So what is made is your dinner, and if you don't eat your dinner, you can have it for breakfast or lunch the next day. BUT I make dessert really yummy. I'm not part of the "clean your plate club" but I expect them to finish small portions of foods they don't care for, and then they can have any dessert they want. It took a year or two, but now, we have no issues at the table. We all eat, wash off our plates, and if the picky eater is still sitting there, we all leave the room and he has to finish his food by himself (he's very social, so he doesn't like this). Usually, he'll join us in chowing down so he can have dessert. :) We are gluten-free, so I assure you, it can be done very easily. It just takes some time and commitment to get used to it.

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Just want to throw in there that you might want to be a little considerate of "pickiness" in terms of alternate food. I discovered when I went to college that my aversion to citrus or tomatoes was actually probably based in fairly severe GERD, made worse with those foods. Not something I was able to put into words, but valid discomfort that is pretty easy to work around. And yeah, I ate my fair share of non-tomato leftovers and cereal when tomato-based foods were dinner. Kids sometimes have intuition that we should let them act on.

So, mandatory you must eat this for your dinner or else is not a technique I support at all. Especially with kids that young. Require regular tastes of new foods, sure. Have an unexciting, healthy, no-labor alternative available. Carrots & hummus? Non-sugary cereal with a banana? Peanut butter and apple? Baked potato (blessed microwaves) and ham?

For vegetables, make sure you try different forms. For example, raw green beans vs. barely steamed green beans vs. well-cooked green beans with dressing. Sometimes that makes a difference too. Soups and beans may be good options for vegetables, carbs, and fiber too. Roasted sweet potato makes good "fries." Lacking all else, lots of fruit for a few more years and hopefully he'll come around as he gets older.

If you have time, try to get him to grow some lettuce or something in a pot or outside. He might eat it. Or not.

Good luck.

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