Kids can be picky eaters, so the task of finding foods they’ll love is tough enough. When medical conditions like Celiac Disease are also involved, preparing suitable snacks and meals can be downright intimidating. There’s no need to worry though, because with a little bit of careful planning, you can ensure all the childhood favorites are gluten-free and suitable for those with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance.
Ants on a Log
Speaking of childhood classics, I immediately think back to one of my own favorites: ants on a log! This kid-friendly snack is easy to make, and generally speaking the ingredients are naturally gluten free. Just cut up some celery stalks in to hand-held sizes, spread some peanut butter inside of them, and top the peanut butter with some raisins.
There’s just one thing to keep in mind: a jar of peanut butter can easily get contaminated with gluten when crumbs are introduced, say, from a knife that has been making PB&J sandwhiches. While an easily-overlooked detail, it is one that can turn a fun snack in to some rather unpleasant symptoms. So to ensure it is a completely gluten free food, start off with a fresh jar when you’re hosting someone with a known intolerance.
Jello Fruit Salad
Gelatin is another food kids like to snack on, and the good news for the gluten intolerant is that most Kraft brands are gluten-free – and the ones that aren’t are clearly labeled. The Jell-O line of gelatin is naturally free of all wheat derivatives, and it makes a nice sweet snack when mixed with a bit of chopped fruit. Cherries, pineapples, and strawberries are all a great addition to the gelatin, and all you have to do is stir them in to the mix before the jello sets.
But what about the Chicken Nuggets?
The bad news is that the ultimate go-to in child-friendly foods, the chicken nugget, isn’t usually gluten-free. The good news is that there are a few brands that do make gluten-free chicken nuggets. Golden Platter Foods makes a great selection of nuggets and tenders at a very reasonable price, and they taste so good that no one will even notice the wheat breading has been replaced by corn.
However, gluten-free nuggets aren’t available in all places, so you might have to make your own. Don’t worry, while it can get a bit messy, it isn’t actually that hard!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Chicken tenderloins
- 1-2 eggs
- Gluten-free flour – Bisquik makes a great version, but there are many all-purpose gluten-free flours around these days
- Seasonings – I personally like paprika, oregano, garlic, and lots of black pepper, but many kids will prefer bland tastes so this is completely optional
- Crumbs – Crushed up Rice Chex or gluten-free Brown Rice Crispies can give your wheat-free chicken tenders a great crunch
Mix the gluten free flour with your seasonings and set them aside for a moment. Take your chicken tenderloins and dunk them in to a bowl of stirred up eggs. Once they’re covered, sprinkle a bit of the flour and seasoning mix on top – just enough to create a thin, complete layer!
After you’ve coated all of the tenders, simply repeat the process: dunk a coated tender in the egg mixture, then cover them with more flour, your crumb mixture, or a combination of the two. Once they’ve got a couple layers of breading on top, just drop them in a slightly greased pan and bake at 450 for about 15 minutes on each side.
And there’s no reason to stop there!
Almost any food that is made with gluten can be converted in to a gluten-free version as well. The main thing to keep in mind is to read labels carefully, and be mindful of containers like peanut butter, mayonnaise, and jelly that can easily come in contact with crumbs. With a little bit of patience and some creativity, there’s no reason why the restrictions of such a diet has to mean missing out on all of your kids’ favorite foods!
John is a writer and publisher who refuses to let Celiac Disease get in the way of his love for food. At his site, GlutenBlog.com, he posts recipes for great gluten-free foods as well as any interesting medical & scientific research he comes across.
Photo credit: Mitchell Bartlett