Gluten Sensitivity: Smart Nutrition for Kids
When children are sensitive to gluten, it is important to make sure that the substitutes they are given support a balanced diet containing nutrients that are essential for their growth
Gluten is a general name used to describe proteins found in wheat and other cereal grains. It has been established that certain people are sensitive to these proteins, and their consumption causes symptoms that are usually related to digestive discomfort.
In addition, there are more than a few people who, according to lab tests, are not sensitive to gluten and do not suffer from celiac disease, but the elimination of gluten from their diet has contributed to digestive relief and, for many, is also a way of avoiding foods that cause them to gain weight – dough-based foods, fats and sugars.
When children are sensitive to gluten or adopt their parents’ lifestyle – avoidance of gluten – it is important to make sure that the substitutes they are given support a balanced diet containing nutrients that are essential for their growth and development. For example, if instead of foods containing whole grains they are fed foods that are starch-based, such as cornstarch or potato starch, care must be taken to ensure that the dietary fibers and variety of vitamins and minerals found in whole grains are replaced by other foods rich in these nutrients.
Today, gluten-free products are available in a large number of food categories, so that a child who is gluten sensitive can be just like everyone else and enjoy the variety of foods children like, especially when one considers the additional fact that food categories that were not formerly labeled and whose recipes do not contain gluten are suitably labeled today.
One of the ways to impart the principles of smart nutrition to children, also when it is based on gluten-free foods, is to include the children in the food preparation process. Parents and children can download recipes favored by the child together, even if they do contain gluten, and together, parent and child can plan how to turn them into gluten-free recipes. It is important to communicate to the child that sometimes, recipes of the latter kind are also tastier and richer from the nutrition aspect, and that the gluten-free constraint can sometimes become an advantage.
According to estimates, in addition to 2%-3% of the population who are diagnosed as suffering from celiac disease, a further 8%-12% avoid gluten for other reasons. It should be borne in mind that pursuing a gluten-free diet in the long term may lead to nutritional deficiencies arising not only from the elimination of gluten from the diet, but also from the elimination of many other nutrients found in whole grains. For example, people who choose to substitute foods containing gluten with foods such as white rice, gluten-free pasta, quiches and starch based bakery products in this way forgo a range of dietary fibers, B vitamins and numerous minerals.
In other words, it is important to pay attention not only to what we don’t eat, but mainly to what we do.