What’s a parent to do when their child is diagnosed with celiac disease and suddenly those go-to foods are making them so sick! You’re immediately crossing foods off your list: chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese…. Even if you’re trying new products to help satisfy this area of kid-friendly foods your child may HATE them (at the expense of hundreds of dollars in uneaten groceries).
Here are some tried and true ways to ease in gluten-free food and make sure you, your son or your daughter doesn’t feel like they’re missing out on anything. *This post was updated November 2013
1. Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets
My gluten-free and non-gluten free daughters really enjoy the Tyson gluten free chicken nuggets (and the family occasionally will have the gluten free breaded chicken tenders). I can only find these at my local SuperTarget (and sometimes they are out of stock there too). Another option are Bell and Evans Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets. In Minnesota, Whole Foods has them, Costco sometimes does too (in bigger packaging and much cheaper — but it has been pretty iffy). If you’re beyond Minnesota you can find out where to buy their products here.
2. Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese
To what extreme do you need to go to to convince your child that this macaroni and cheese is just as good as the “old stuff”? You have a few options:
1. You could do Annie’s Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese (regular boxed or Deluxe style) and they’re pretty good. Trader Joe’s has a gluten-free boxed version too (for half the cost). These products have rice noodles and they really are not too bad.
2. You could go another route — make your own. Now hear me out and why this may benefit a nay-sayer to the gluten-free diet. First, buy Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta products. They are THE BEST! They are the closest thing to a gluten noodle we’ve found. Recently my 11-year-old gluten-free daughter tried two other brands (when my grocery store was out of Tinkyada) and she wouldn’t finish her meal. I use these noodles for everything. In particular, everyone eats the lasagna I make with this brand and no one can tell the difference.
But I digress, once you get the Tinkyada noodles, then you have two options to make the next best thing to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese — Why? Because it uses the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese topping! Yes, the bag of dried topping inside the ever-so-popular Macaroni and Cheese is gluten free! So you can either buy a box and remove the topping bag and use that or you can buy the shaker cheese. I believe you find it near the Kraft Parmesan Grated Shaker Cheese in your grocery store. This is what we do and it works great. Even one of my daughter’s friends who is a picky eater, eats it with no problem, in part, because she add on more cheese if she wants.
3. Gluten-Free Cereal
There are a ton of tasty gluten-free cereals out there, but as you probably already know, they cost more and give you less. There are some mainstream options to have around the house:
1. Now with General Mills on board with serving the gluten-free community, you can easily find a gluten-free mainstream cereal wherever you go (vacation, work trip). Most of General Mills’ Chex Cereals are gluten-free– This includes Rice, Corn, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Vanilla and HoneyNut.
2. Post Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles are also gluten-free–Newly labeled on the box even! I had always known these were gluten-free (Emma eats them all the time), but up until I received a comment below, I hadn’t seen the new gluten-free label on the side panel.
3. Gluten Free Rice Krispies. You need to look for these because regular Rice Krispies still contain malt. So look for the gluten free ones made from brown rice. Al;so they make a great Rice Krispie Treat!
4. Gluten-Free French Fries
If you’re looking for potatoes you make at home, there are several that do frozen gluten-free hash browns with ingredient lists that simply say: Potatoes. But French fries is clearly a different story. They can be simple– but often the have gluten in them.
1. Ore-Ida has a good product list for you to check out.
2. We make our own by cutting up thin (think McDonald’s sized) french fries, sprinkle with olive oil, precook them a bit in the microwave, then put on a cookie sheet in the oven with a little more olive oil drizzled on top and salt. Cook at about 400 degrees for about 20 minutes and you have some yummy fries!
5. Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies — Gluten-Free
I just made these yesterday and they turned out great! Buy yourself the standard sized bag of Nestle’s Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (yup they’re gluten free) and follow the recipe on the back (or see the recipe here) using gluten-free ingredients. I find this recipe needs more gluten-free flour than the regular flour. Here’s how I have adapted it:
3 cups of gluten-free flour mix*
Plus you need to add about 2 1/2 tsp of Xanthan Gum for the binding qualities it provides.
Otherwise as long as your other ingredients are not contaminated, everything else listed in the recipe is gluten free. Just follow the rest of the instructions.
*I use Bette Hagman’s gluten-free flour mix: 6 cups of white rice flour, 2 cups of potato starch and 1 cup of tapioca starch and mix it together. In this case however, I did the first two cups with the flour mix and the rest was a half/half combo of brown rice flour and sorghum flour for added nutritional value and I think it made the texture a little fluffier perhaps.
I know these foods are not exactly high in nutrition. That honestly is not the point for this post. You will find ways, eventually, to get the nutrition level up. But if you’re just desperate to get some gluten-free food into your child (or husband or wife for that matter) cut yourself some slack, and try these and see what sticks. Good luck! I hope they help you with any food challenges you may have.