13-year Old Approved Gluten-free Products

We are getting close to our 3-year anniversary of my son being gluten-free.

(You can read our celiac story here).

As I think back over these past few years I realize how far we have come in both our understanding and acceptance of this way of eating. 

And truthfully, we have spent what seems like a ton of money trying things that we ended up throwing away because of poor quality or taste.  There has been a lot of trial and a lot of error in terms of buying stuff my boy will like and will eat.  

I am very thankful that there are so many more certified gluten-free products now available that weren’t even just a few years ago!  Although we live in a small town, we do have stores locally that carry a variety of gluten-free products. 

So I’m sharing the following list- especially for those of you who have kids who are just getting started on a gluten-free diet.  I hope to save you from having to buy lots and lots of different products before you find one you like!  In each category of food shown below, I think we’ve tried at least 3 different brands and this is the one we like best.

(Now I am going to preface my sharing of this list with the following- I know very well that none of these products are all that healthy!  The healthiest gluten-free diet would be full of whole unprocessed foods:  lots of meats, veggies, etc. blah, blah, blah. We get it.  BUT hey, this is real life and everyone (and especially my 13-year old) needs some store-bought products every once in a while whether it’s for convenience or just a treat.  And I’m ok with that!)

Here you go…


And a list with where it’s cheapest locally:

Kashi Gluten Free Cinnamon Waffles (Walmart)

Annie’s Gluten Free Rice Shells and Creamy White Cheddar (Walmart or Target)

Nabisco Good Thins Corn and Sea Salt Crackers, other flavors available (Walmart or Target)

Hungry Jack Complete Gluten Free Funfetti Buttermilk Pancake& Waffle Mix (Walmart)

Annie’s Snickerdoodle Bunny Crackers (Target)

Kinnikinnick Gluten Free S’moreables Graham Style Crackers (Wegmans)

Goldie Girl Cookies Gluten Free Mint Slims (Walmart)

Luna S’mores Bars, other Flavors available (Walmart or Target)

KIND Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars, other flavors available (Walmart or Target)

Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks, other flavors available (Walmart or Target)

Freschetta Gluten Free Frozen Pizza (BJs)

Lance Gluten Free Sandwich Crackers, both Peanut Butter and Cheddar Cheese Flavors (Wegmans)

Live G Free Gluten Free Brownie Mix (Aldi)

Live G Free Gluten Free White Bread (Aldi)
I hope this helps you!  Feel free to share any favorites products that you have!

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Traveling with kids to DC

Mid-August we took a family trip to Washington, D.C..  It is one of the most beautiful cities!  Our kids were, I think, perfect ages for seeing many historic sites, monuments, and museums.  (Oh, and we can’t forget Georgetown Cupcake as my little one is a fan of the show “DC Cupcakes”!)

Some photos from our trip:

 

Pool Time!

Pool Time!

Arlington

Arlington

The White House

The White House

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

There is so much to see in DC that realistically, you cannot do it all in one vacation.  I wanted to see as much as possible but also pace ourselves so we’d still have some down time.  Weeks before the trip I gave the kids the DC tourist guidebook (get a free one here:  https://washington.org/visitor-request-form) and let them each pick five things that they really wanted to see.  I put priority on seeing those things and planned out our days to be most efficient getting around the city – and we were able to see everything on the lists!  Now don’t get me wrong, we were still exhausted from lots and lots of walking – but we were back to the hotel before dinner most nights so we could just hang out and relax!

Although we were turned down for a White House tour (BOO!), we still saw lots of great stuff.  Our favorites were going up into the Washington Monument (yes, it’s worth it!), the Lincoln Memorial, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and my personal favorite, Ford’s Theatre.  So much in DC has free admission – which is good, because lodging and eating out are not cheap!

For us, one of the perks in going to a large city for vacation is the amazing variety of gluten-free restaurant choices.  Traveling with celiac disease can be challenging because you really have to research restaurants ahead of time.  We found some fabulous restaurants with gluten-free menus and so all was good.  I primarily used the following websites to research:  www.findmeglutenfree.com, http://www.tripadvisor.com, and good old google. The best ones we found that had gluten free menus and great food – b DC Penn Quarter and Pi Pizzeria.

I highly recommend finding an affordable hotel downtown as it will cut down on travel time and allow you to do the most sightseeing possible.  (Just a warning that most downtown hotels charge ALOT daily for parking.)  We stayed at Hyatt Place – National Mall and loved it.  I also recommend getting SmarTrip cards from the metro (either when you first get there, or save yourself hassle and order them online ahead of time and have them shipped to you).  These cards give you lower metro fares and can also be used for the DC Circulator bus routes at a rate of $1 per person for 2 hours of hop-on / hop-off rides.  The savings is worth it!

All in all, we loved DC!

Our Celiac Story

So one of the things that has caused so much change in our household over the past year is my son’s health.  Here’s the story – if only to help another family who might be going through the same thing.

In the Spring of 2013, my (then) 9-year-old started complaining of stomach pain, pretty consistently although not daily.  However there were no other symptoms – just pain.  In July he had a check-up in which his pediatrician could find nothing wrong.  In September he had his yearly physical, still with occasional complaints of stomach pain.  The pediatrician suggested we try a dairy-free diet in case he might be lactose intolerant.  We did that and there was no improvement.  Around October, the complaints of stomach pain were nearly daily and a new symptom was added – severe anxiety.  About stuff that was normal for our family – going out to eat, traveling in the car anywhere more than 15 minutes away, going to Grandma’s house.  If we even suggested doing any of these things he would either throw a temper tantrum or just get really upset and cry.  We didn’t know how to handle this and did the best we could.  Because there were no actual physical symptoms, we really thought it was a behavioral issue.  By January, the stomach pain and anxiety were extreme and interfering with our family’s daily life.  I really started to wonder if the pain and anxiety signaled a psychological problem.  However, I also noticed that when he returned to school, his adjustable-waist pants needed to be tightened -which I knew wasn’t a good sign but thought it was just because he’d been picky about eating.

So back to the pediatrician we went.  He had lost 6 pounds since his appointment in July (which is a lot for a 10-year-old who only weighed about 65 pounds anyways!).  The pediatrician ordered some blood tests and we got results a couple of days later that his antibodies were elevated – indicating celiac disease.  The pediatrician recommended we put him on a gluten-free diet and set us up with an appointment to see a gastroenterologist.

We put him on a gluten-free diet right away and saw improvement within a week.  Less pain and the anxiety nearly disappeared.  Amazing!  I was so thankful!  I started to do research online about celiac disease.  As an auto-immune disease, it is closely linked with Type 1 diabetes.  Both Dave and I have extended family with celiac, and as you know we also both have diabetes in our families.  The other interesting thing I found out was that canker sores are a symptom of celiac disease.  My son had had very frequent canker sores for about 2 years prior to this!

It took two months to get in to see the gastroenterologist and my heart just broke when I heard what they said.   They told us that he would need to be on a gluten-containing diet for TWO MONTHS prior to an endoscopy and small intestine biopsy in order to accurately diagnose celiac disease.  Now, I had seen in my research that a gluten-containing diet was necessary (and in fact I had called our pediatrician to ask about this but they said it shouldn’t matter (wrong!!)) but I thought they would say maybe a week or two.  And my son had been doing so well on the diet that I really didn’t want to put him back on gluten until it was necessary, and I thought one or two weeks we could handle.  But TWO MONTHS???

And, not to mention, this is a 10-year-old we were talking about.  He knew enough about what had been happening that he wanted no part of going back on a gluten-containing diet.

So I made a hard choice, that at the time I felt like my only choice – to try to sneak some gluten into his diet.  Because I knew he would just refuse to eat if he thought something had gluten in it.  And let’s face it, you really can’t make someone eat something.  So this is what I did for two months and it was awful.  A new symptom arose – headaches.  Daily.  The canker sores came back.  The stomach pain came back.  Not to mention the guilt I felt for giving my child something that I knew was making him feel sick.  Ugh.

Fast forward to the endoscopy / biopsy – it went smoothly.  However, the results came back with no small intestine damage and so they couldn’t diagnose celiac conclusively.  It was such a disappointment!  We left the gastroenterologist with a recommendation to put him back on a gluten-containing diet for 6 months and then come back and retest.  CRAZINESS!

After a long conversation with our pediatrician (which included my disappointment in his recommendation to immediately go on a gluten-free diet prior to diagnosis), we decided to move forward with treating as though he has celiac.  We also got genetic testing done, which confirmed that he has the gene for celiac – just another part of the puzzle.  I feel that the positive antibody testing at three different times, the genetic testing, the family history, the symptoms, and the improvement we see on a gluten-free diet is enough evidence for me that he has celiac – even though a positive biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosis among the medical community.  He is currently on a gluten-free diet and rarely has stomach pain / headaches / canker sores although anxiety is still a part of his life.

Looking back, although I am definitely disappointed in not having an actual diagnosis (honestly, I am concerned about things like college – without a diagnosis will we be able to require them to provide GF meals??), having that period of having to eat gluten again was probably good for my son because he is super-compliant with the diet now.  At first he was not cooperative – didn’t want to eat GF stuff – as soon as the gastroenterologist told him he HAD to eat it for 2 months, he didn’t want to touch it.  Reverse psychology??  ha!

The lesson we learned that I’d want to share with other parents is this – if celiac is possible – do NOT just “try” a gluten-free diet!  Get the testing done first!

Here is a link to my favorite celiac disease resource if you want more info:  http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/

And an infographic of celiac disease symptoms, thanks to http://www.glutendude.com