If a single member of your family must eat gluten-free, should your whole family avoid gluten, or just the individual? This article looks at the pros and cons.
Starting and maintaining a gluten free lifestyle can be challenging for many, especially if a strict and completely gluten-free diet is a must. Celiacs and those with a gluten allergy with intolerable symptoms are strongly advised to avoid 100% of gluten and any risk of gluten contamination, or suffer severe health challenges.
This article takes a closer look at how a gluten-free lifestyle can affect the family.
Gluten Free for the Whole Family Pros
Eating gluten-free can be lonely and frustrating when everyone else is eating something else that looks and smells better than your meal. Having the whole family eat gluten free can be a real boon for the afflicted.
Maintaining a gluten-free household for the whole family is much easier and less risky than following the path of managing separate diets. It makes cooking and shopping far easier. There is no need to think of two meal plans, shop for them, and then make two separate meals for different members of the family.
Gluten free for all greatly reduces the risk of cross-contamination, because there is no gluten in the house to cause a problem. Otherwise crumbs must be kept off the counter, cooking utensils must be kept strictly apart between gluten-free and gluten-containing meals, double dipping has to be religiously avoided, and crumbs in the butter are always a worry in a mixed kitchen. You have to be as vigilant as ever when shopping to avoid gluten-containing foods, but after that there is no further risk of cross-contamination.
One of the biggest challenges with following a strict gluten-free diet is the stress and strain of feeling socially separate. It is nice to have a break from this at home, and it can bring the family closer in rallying around supporting the individual with the special diet, and rather than being special, which is a drag for the person on the diet, it just feels normal. This is an important part of belonging to a family for many.
It can be a fun adventure for the whole family. The person avoiding gluten may not be the most creative cook – they are luck if they are; having the support of other creative cooks to come up with new comfort foods and a nice variety of tasty and enjoyable gluten free options is a real boon. This is a great way of supporting the gluten-free member of the family, especially if this person is a child.
Downside of Gluten Free for All
Gluten free can be a lot more expensive, depending on how you cook. For example, wheat-free bread can easily be five times the cost of the regular kind; multiply that and the costs of other specialized foods by the number of people in your family and this can add up to a much bigger grocery bill.
Resentment can also be a challenge. There are lots of great foods that have to be cut out on a gluten free diet, and some may feel unfair to those who don’t have to.
Gluten Free for the Whole Family Conclusion
Gluten free for the whole family is easier but it can be more expensive. If you choose to spend more time cooking and use basic ingredients there won’t be much of a difference for most types of food but for busy families depending on more prepared foods, costs can be much higher. One thing you can try is to keep the prepared foods separate but cook gluten free only when using basic ingredients, and try to do this more often to keep costs down and the whole family feeling united.
Handling resentment can be a teachable parenting moment, which is more work but has the advantage of good results in the long run if done in a way that keeps everyone on side.
Personally, I’ve lived both ways and have found that the family graduates to all gluten-free because it is just easier, and other members of my immediate family found that they too feel better on a gluten free diet. I have also found some foods easier to keep separate than others so living gluten free in a mixed kitchen is possible without too much stress if everyone compromises in a smart way and watches out for each other.
What is your experience with gluten-free in the family? Did the whole family go gluten free or did you mix and match? How did it work out and did the gluten free arrangement change over time? Please leave a comment.