By Jenn Gizerian

Any major dietary change, made for any reason can be a major challenge, but with some planning and imagination, removing gluten from your young eater’s diet can be achieved without the child even noticing! Try these three tips to get you and your little one started.

Stick with what you know

As we recommended for anyone switching to a gluten free diet, an easy way to make a seamless transition is to focus on the foods your child already loves that are naturally gluten free: meat, fruit, veggies, nuts and most peanut butters, corn or natural potato chips, hummus and cheeses (just be sure to read the labels).

Be a picky eater…?

When you start experimenting with gluten free alternatives, listen to your child. If she complains that the pasta is mushy or the bread is too crunchy—it probably is. No matter how much research you do, or how many trusted recommendations you get, kids know what they like and every kid is different. Keep in mind that this is an experiment, so have fun and keep notes on what works for your kids and what doesn’t.

Like a Boy Scout—Always be prepared!

Can you imagine being the only kid at the party who can’t have birthday cake or a hot dog on the Fourth of July? No one wants their child to be singled out by their peers, which is why keeping kid approved alternatives on hand for events that are not generally ‘gluten free friendly’ can be a lifesaver! Sometimes this is as easy as bringing a pack of gluten free buns and hot dogs (oh yes, most brands of hot dogs do contain gluten) to the cookout; other times you may need to speak to the host in advance to make them aware of your child’s dietary needs, perhaps even offering to bring foods your child can enjoy, too. Since going gluten free is becoming more and more common, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at how graciously people will accommodate your child’s needs. And with the stress of food out of the way, everyone is free to enjoy the celebration!

Now, on to the food! Here is a fun and simple gluten free treat to start with, created by my ‘gluten- reduced’ 6 year old son, who is a very hungry little caterpillar.

Snack Kabobs

– Skewers (we use a variety of items for this, such as tooth picks or chop sticks)

– Fruit (whatever is in season or your child’s favorite should work perfectly! My son loves strawberries, kiwi, blueberries… but the possibilities really are endless)

– Cheese (again, a variety and this is optional for those avoiding dairy)

– Plain Greek Yogurt (or your favorite dairy free alternative)

– Honey or maple syrup (just a drizzle)

Cut fruit and cheese into slices or bit sized chunks.  Put yogurt in a small, shallow cup and drizzle in a small amount of honey or syrup (or depending on the age of your child, let them do the drizzling). Give yogurt dip, skewers and cut up fruit and cheese to your child so they can build whatever kabob combos they want and let them enjoy!  We also do a breakfast version of this with gluten free pancakes or waffles in addition to the fruit and cheese.  Try letting your child cut their pancakes or waffles into fun shapes with a small cookie cutter!