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Helping your Teen Follow a Gluten Free Diet

Whether it is for nutritional or allergy-related reasons, parents around the world are attempting to take gluten out of their family’s diet, but many teens are hesitant to comply. This is entirely understandable because the availability of junk food paired with this generation’s preference for rich foods makes it hard to completely eradicate flour from an adolescent’s diet. Hard, but not impossible, mind you. Reducing the amount of flour and gluten products in any diet can create a healthier individual, and while it is not necessary for most people, it’s a good step to take. If the idea of living without flour can be instilled in a teen early, they can be set up for a healthier life in the long run.

One of the best ways to help your teen is to make them understand why they can’t have gluten. They may not listen at first, but just giving them a reason and explaining why you’re taking away certain foods can ease the transition between gluten and gluten-free foods. It will be a tough switch, but creating that understanding and assuring the teen that you understand the struggle may make them more willing to follow along with the change. Explain how gluten can create inflammation, diarrhea, and mental illness in people with an intolerance. Some people, granted, don’t have any reaction to this ingredient; however up to 40% of Americans have some form of a negative reaction to it.

Also, it is best to make sure that your teen fully understands what gluten is. They may be willing to avoid gluten, but they may not physically understand what it is. Gluten is a compound in many “cereal grains” such as wheat and barley and can be found in most processed foods. This protein compound can also be found in cosmetics and soaps, so if your are aware of a severe gluten intolerance, make sure you check all labels on all products before completing a purchase. Snack foods, cosmetics, pasta, and just about everything else can house a place for gluten, so chose your groceries carefully.

When putting a teen on a gluten diet, especially if it is sudden, alternative sources for regular food items should be found. Gluten-free brands make gluten-free pizza, cookies, crackers, and bread for your convenience. Brands commonly found in local food stores include Enjoy Life Foods, Glutino, and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery, but hundreds of options are available. Health food stores always provide a good selection of organic and gluten-free foods. If pasta is what you crave, quinoa makes a good replacement. What’s more, the recent world-wide health food push has led to the creation of websites, magazines, and groups of people devoted to creating recipes designed for people who love to cook.

Finally, if it is not detrimental to your teen’s health, give them a “cheat day” for the first couple months. One day a week or one every two weeks should be set aside where your teen can have a normal food item with gluten in it. You don’t necessarily have to buy food to put in the house because this can encourage cheating, but consider taking them out to a restaurant and buy a pasta or pizza to satisfy your teen.