Should the Whole Family Eat Gluten Free?

When your child is first diagnosed with celiac disease, one of the biggest questions is ‘Should the whole family go gluten free?’

gluten freeCertainly there are advantages to this option: equally there are disadvantages. It is a question that needs discussing and working through,preferably as a whole family, as everyone is affected, the earlier the better.

The first option is for only the affected family member to go gluten free, and the rest of the family to eat as they always have.

This may be the most popular option if brothers and sisters object to eating gluten free food – especially if they object to giving up certain gluten containing favourites such as cakes and biscuits! As my daughter used to say on occasion, ‘I’m not celiac – why am I not having my favourite food because he is?’ So this option would in some ways maintain family harmony, although it does continually point out the celiac child as being different. It also means that whoever is cooking for the family will often have to make multiple meals which is both time consuming and difficult.

Another argument is that if the rest of the family are eating gluten all the time it is incredibly difficult to avoid cross contamination for the celiac child. The whole family needs to be very aware of contamination
issues but mistakes happen – especially when children or teenagers are in a hurry!

On the other end of the scale, the whole family could go gluten free.

This has the great advantage of eradicating gluten from the kitchen completely, so cross contamination is not an issue at all. The family can eat together, the cook only has to prepare one meal, and the celiac child is not the ‘odd one out’. This can work well in a family where someone does most of the cooking and also bakes gluten free cakes and biscuits on a regular basis.

The big disadvantage of this option, however, is the cost. If pre-prepared meals are a large part of the diet, or if you buy a lot of gluten free gluten freecakes and biscuits, this can be an incredibly expensive option! Gluten free products are generally quite pricey and for the whole family to eat it unnecessarily will cost! You may also get complaints from other family members who neither want nor need to eat a gluten free diet.

We, like many other families I have talked to, have settled for the middle option. We all eat… mainly gluten free while the coeliac family members are, of course, completely gluten free!

Everything I bake is gluten free: the whole family has homemade gluten free cakes and biscuits in their lunchboxes and there have been no complaints about this at all. Family meals are also gluten free: this is very easy as I do not rely on pre-made sauces etc, and there are so many meals that are naturally gluten free that it really doesn’t take much planning.

However, because of the expense (and my complete failure with the bread maker) my son has his own gluten free bread while the rest of us have sliced (to avoid contamination) bread. We also have a separate tub of margarine with a big red cross on it for using on wheat bread, and two toasters. Also because of the expense, my son will have things like gluten free fish fingers while the others have normal, and the normal ones are cooked on a special baking tray.

In fact it is the gluten things that are singled out as being different in our kitchen, because most foods and kitchen areas are completely gluten free. It has worked for us. My son never feels any different, and the ‘gluten things’ are kept separately and carefully.

It is an issue that needs thinking through. But life gets so much easier when the whole family knows where they stand with it. And compromises can be reached to ensure that every member is happy however you tackle the gluten free discussion.