Should our whole family eat gluten free?

Lola O
Our three-year-old was just diagnosed. Should we all eat gluten-free? The diet is just so expensive, we don't know what to do.


When it comes to keeping your child safely gluten-free (GF), it's usually easier if all foods in the household are GF, since you wouldn't need to be concerned about cross-contact with gluten. It is also possible, though, to keep your child safely GF when others in the household are eating gluten; you just need to pay extra attention to avoiding cross-contact.

You'd want to store gluten-free and gluten-containing foods separately, and avoid things like use of shared utensils, and shared cutting boards and cooking surfaces (unless they are thoroughly washed in-between uses). You should also avoid sharing a toaster and other items that are hard to clean like colanders, sifters, and waffle makers. If you do have a shared kitchen, it's a good idea to label or color code the items that are for GF use only. Please check out more tips on sharing a kitchen here and check out this video.

The age of your child may play a role too. Particularly if this question were about an older school-age child or teenager, you might also want to consider how your child would feel about your continuing to eat gluten-containing foods when they can't have them. For a very young child this may not matter much to them. But for older kids, they can feel left out and might feel unsupported if others in the household are continuing to have foods with gluten.

If your entire household will be following a gluten-free diet, it is also important to consider the nutritional adequacy of the diet for all family members, since some gluten-free diets can be lacking in certain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Focusing on a variety of naturally gluten-free foods can provide a good foundation for a nutritionally adequate diet for the whole household.

Whether you decide to keep the household totally GF or not, remember that you can help reduce your GF food budget by focusing on naturally GF foods like vegetables & fruits, dairy products, beans and lentils, nuts & seeds, meat, fish, and poultry, and naturally GF grains including corn, rice and quinoa.

Due to risk of cross-contact with gluten, choose gluten-free grains which are labeled gluten free, except in the case of plain rice. Lentils are also at risk of cross-contact with gluten, so choose those which are labeled gluten free, and  rinse and sort to remove any possible gluten-containing grains. (Always check all grocery items to be sure that no gluten-containing ingredients have been added to the naturally GF food).

It's great that grocery store options like GF pizza and cookies are available, just limit these more processed GF foods to occasional use, and instead focus on naturally GF foods. Focusing on these delicious foods can have a positive impact on not only your budget but on nutrition, too.

Published February 7, 2024

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Lola O'Rourke, MS, RDN. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Lola O'Rourke, MS, RDN by providing this information.

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