Tips on Maintaining a Gluten-Free Holiday Season for You and Your Family

Having to eat gluten free or having a child in your family who needs to eat this way can be challenging this time of year, when so many festivities center on food. The same recommendations for year-round nutritional and emotional health in tackling gluten-free eating are even more important during the holiday time.

There are some trends that make gluten-free eating more manageable these days. Yes, the word about gluten-free living is spreading. It is apparent that many more people know about and are choosing gluten-free foods for a variety of reasons.

However, many of us and many children in our Mount Sinai Pediatric GI practice who are living with celiac disease, have no other choice than to eat gluten-free, and the holiday season can present many challenges  for these children—and for their parents.

With the growing number of people who are eating gluten-free, there is an increase in the information on the topic as well as a rise in the variety of available gluten-free products. Here are a couple of basic but effective tips for parents to help guide them through a gluten-free holiday season—good reminders when life is busy and family gatherings occur!

Be prepared.

School parties involve food. Offer to bring in a snack or bake for the class. Bake a tried-and-true gluten-free recipe that you know is delicious. Avoid trying something new that might taste like paper or rocks, since you do not want anyone feeling bad for your child that he or she has to eat gluten-free. Have your child help prepare the yummy dessert so they take pride in the food they eat. If pizza is on the menu at school or party, get the gluten-free pizza for your child beforehand, so your child will feel part of the crowd.

Educate yourself on the best gluten-free products out there.

There are some excellent substitute gluten-free foods, and many are child-friendly items. Great gluten-free pasta will become a favorite of all the family and even your child’s friends; “mac and cheese”, too. The tendency sometimes is to buy a product just because the label claims “gluten-free”, and you are so excited to see it on the shelf. Beware . . . not all gluten-free products are the same.

Find a solid support network through your health care team, neighborhood or the many reputable celiac websites and ask for best product recommendations. This can make a big difference in your child feeling satisfied or in your child feeling deprived.

The Pediatric GI practice at Mount Sinai is compiling a best product recommendation list for eating gluten-free in New York City (and we hope to do the same for Westchester and New Jersey). Creating a network for you and your child that understands the issues involved in consistently maintaining gluten-free eating is valuable always, but even more so during the holiday season.

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Bambi Fisher is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked at Mount Sinai for over 25 years. She specializes in chronic illness management, school mental health consultation, and parental guidance. Ms. Fisher is the social worker in the pediatric gastroenterology practice, as well as Mount Sinai’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. (PEHSU)

She was influential in the development of Greening Mount Sinai, a grassroots initiative that promotes environmentally prudent policies at the Icahn School of Medicine.

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