Families of new celiacs often wonder whether the whole family needs to go gluten-free when one person is diagnosed. The short answer is – it’s really up to you, however many celiac families feel pretty strongly one way or the other. For those who are newly diagnosed, this post is to help you come to your own decision – What will work best for your family?
Pros and Cons of a Gluten-free House
There are definitely advantages to having a gluten-free house. There’s never confusion about what’s safe to eat in the house. If your child has celiac disease, your babysitter will never give your child the wrong food. Plus, there’s no risk for cross contamination; if there are any crumbs on the counter, you will at least know they’re gluten-free crumbs. It is easier to do this now than ever before, because there is so much better food available that everyone will like.
The biggest negative of a gluten-free house, is the cost. As you maybe already know gluten-free food costs about 3 times more than mainstream food. So you will need to make room in your budget for the added cost. In Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies, Danna Korn writes about a very real emotional reaction to forcing the family to be gluten-free when they don’t need to be. She says you can create resentment.
“I’ve had more than a few emails from despairing dads who stop for pizza and beer on their way home from work because they know they’re not allowed to eat gluten at home,” — Danna Korn, Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies.
Two other notable items Korn points out, if you have a gluten-free kitchen, you run the risk that your kids may not “learn how to make the right choices” about their foods plus they may not learn that the “world is not a gluten free place”.
Pros and Cons of a Combination House
This is what we have been doing for years. I am not saying you should do it too, I am just being honest about what we do in our house. We have done this in part because of cost. This may be one of the main reasons people have the combo house. I can buy Creamette’s spaghetti noodles for a buck, yet if I were to feed my family gluten-free noodles the cost would be 2-3 times higher (luckily the price has gone down a little with Trader Joe’s!). The same goes for bread! It all can add up!
The big con here of course is cross-contamination: crumbs on the counter, toasting something gluten-free in a regular toaster, using a cooking utensil in something that has gluten– then putting it in the gluten-free dish…you get the gist. Keeping gluten-free foods safe to eat comes with education and a very deliberate, active sense while you’re cooking. This is what Danna Korn recommends: “…you need to get into the habit of making the gluten-free version first, then making the other…” She also says clean up any crumbs off the counter right away — whether they contain gluten or not.
Another possible con is some other accidental ingestion of gluteny food. The celiac in your house could think something is gluten-free when it’s not. To avoid this — that person needs education on all ingredients: gluten-free, gluten-filled, hidden ingredients, red-flag ingredients… But they should also be active in the decision-making with their foods: help pick foods out at the grocery store, do the research to find out about the gluten-free status of a favorite product (by calling or checking on the internet). In other words, know what’s in your house — that goes for slightly older kids and adults.
Good luck with your decision. I believe it’s very personal because you need to make the best decision for your family.
Note: You can read about this issue and much more in Korn’s book Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies. You can find the book at any major store or online.