Importance of Teaching Kids Kitchen Skills
If your child has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, one way to help them learn to live gluten-free in a positive and healthy way is to teach them kitchen skills. There are many different skills they can learn that will help them stay safe – and provide them with ways they can “take charge” of the food they eat.
Teaching your child new skills in the kitchen can help build:
Giving a child knowledge can alleviate fears or the stress of changing their eating habits and having to look out for gluten.
Skill #1 – Teaching your child to cook
Cooking is a creative, enjoyable activity that can enhance mood and reduce stress. Cooking can also be a fun social activity for them to do with friends as they get older. Studies show that when kids help prepare meals, they are more likely to include more healthy fruits and vegetables in their diet. Cooking also involves reading, math and science, meaning even more skill-building! Looking further ahead, having the ability to cook at home generally leads to a healthier diet, too. For more ideas, see our article: Age-Appropriate Cooking Tasks for Gluten-Free Kids
Skill #2 – Identifying gluten sources.
Even when your kids are very young, start teaching them about which grains and foods contain gluten – wheat, barley, and rye, and any food that has derivatives of these grains. Instead of only teaching them what foods to avoid, let them know about all the great foods that are safe to eat. Start with foods that are naturally gluten-free*:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Plain dairy products – milk, eggs, cheese
- Plain (unseasoned) nuts and seeds
- Plain meat, chicken, fish (broiled, baked, grilled)
- Grains like corn and rice
*Note that many flavored and seasoned versions of these foods can also be gluten-free, but if there are added ingredients, always double-check the item is gluten-free.
When in doubt, do your homework! A quick search of gluten.org could point you in the right direction. If your child is computer savvy, teach them how to use gluten.org, and other reputable sources of nutrition information, for helpful gluten-free tips.
Skill #3 – Reading labels.
If your child can read, start getting them in the habit of checking packaged food labels and reading the ingredients list. While label-reading to identify gluten ingredients can be complicated, even for adults, kids can get started looking for the basic things to avoid:
- Wheat, including wheat starch** and wheat protein, and types of wheat such as spelt
- Malt (a derivative of barley)
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Oats, unless they are certified or labeled gluten-free
** If it is sufficiently processed, wheat starch could be gluten-free, since the gluten in wheat is a protein and not a starch. The only wheat starch that is safe to consume when avoiding gluten is in products that are labeled or certified gluten-free.
If your child can’t read, show them the GFCO mark (old one and new one) so they recognize food that is certified to be safely gluten-free.
Products that aren’t certified but are labeled “gluten-free” according to the FDA definition, should also be safe to consume.
Find more information on label reading here: https://gluten.org/2021/01/10/3-tips-for-gluten-free-label-reading/
Skill #4 – Storing gluten-free food.
If your kitchen contains both food with gluten and gluten-free fare, you can teach your child how to keep the different foods safely apart to avoid cross-contact.
Label a shelf in your fridge and in your pantry or cupboards specifically for gluten-free foods. Keep the gluten-containing foods below the gluten-free ones, so any crumbs that could escape won’t fall on to the gluten-free items.
Purchase and label extra condiment jars that are specifically for your gluten-free eaters to avoid getting gluten crumbs into them. Better yet, buy condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise in squeeze bottles to make it easier to keep them clean.
Make sure everyone in the household knows about the plan so they can help keep everything safely gluten-free.
Skill #5 – Cleaning surfaces and utensils.
Did you know the best way to clean gluten particles off kitchen surfaces and utensils is plain soap and water? Harsh chemicals or bleach will not help.
Equip your child with a clean sponge or dish towel and a basic dish soap diluted with water and let them help wipe down any surfaces that may have had gluten-containing foods on them. Be sure to wash used sponges or dish towels well after use.
Skill #6 – Making easy gluten-free snacks.
Depending on your child’s age, providing them with the ingredients to make their own snacks is a great way to empower them with knowledge – and good nutrition. Some fast and easy ideas include:
- Veggies and gluten-free ranch dressing or hummus – For younger kids, pre-cut the veggies plus baby carrots and let them arrange them on the plate and add the ranch dressing or hummus. For older kids, give a lesson on how to safely cut celery stalks, bell pepper, cucumber, or any of their favorite veggies.
- Apples and bananas with nut butter, or hazelnut spread – Pre-cut fruit for the younger ones. Decorate with raisins or sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
- DIY Trail Mix – Find out what your child’s favorite dried fruits and nuts are and purchase a selection. Avoid bulk bins, since items there may be exposed to gluten from nearby items or shared scoops. Let your child mix up their own trail mix. Store in a baggie or non-breakable airtight container.
- Popcorn with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top or go for something sweet and sprinkle a mix of cinnamon and sugar instead.
As you can see, there are many ways to provide your child with activities that build skills and can help set their mind at ease as they learn to live gluten-free. More than anything, make it fun and enjoyable so they are more willing to learn.
EXCLUSIVE!! This year’s Teen Summit will be held at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California on June 30 and July 1. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that gluten-free teens should not miss! There’s a strict 50 teen limit so be sure to secure a spot soon. Learn all about it and register your teen TODAY: https://gluten.org/teen-summit-2022/
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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