Eleven Years Old and Suddenly Gluten-Free
Purely Elizabeth Ambassador and children’s feeding specialist, Melanie Potock introduces us to Ella, an 11 year old who recently discovered that her favorite foods were turning against her and making her sick. Here Ella gives us some insight into what it’s like to be gluten-free at such a young age.
I have a new friend, Ella, and she’s 11. She’s wise beyond her years, funny (really funny) and willing to hang out with a much older me. We bond over our love for card games (she always beats me) and our mutual disdain for gluten. After her Dad was diagnosed with Celiac disease, Ella’s household went gluten-free and Ella began to feel better, too. Previously, Ella had “an angry stomach” that churned and rebelled whenever she ate her favorite foods – mostly gluten-filled carbohydrates.
Ella and I have been brainstorming about new foods that she can take to school for lunch or make for her family. On her own, she picked the South of the Border Bowl recipe for us to make together from the new cookbook, Cooking with Trader Joe’s… Easy Lunch Boxes. Secretly, I think it might be because she knew it was one of my original recipes. Ella’s just that kind of friend – always thinking of what might make others feel special.
While whipping up our South of the Border Bowl, simply a mixture of grilled corn kernels, brown rice, black beans , grated cheese, lime and cilantro, Ella chatted with me about the pros and cons of having to suddenly go gluten-free at age 11. Actually, Ella told me she was “ten and three quarters” when she had her last bite of gluten.
Ella told me that “The best part of being gluten free is not being sick all the time.” The worst part? “I miss my Dad’s awesome chocolate chip cookies. He used to add red and green M&Ms™ in them for Christmas and pink ones for Valentine’s Day. He even put green ones in for St. Patrick’s Day!”
Family traditions are important to kids. Holidays are about traditions that in turn, create memories. Ella tells me she plans to try purely elizabeth™’s chocolate chip cookie mix soon and hopefully, create a new tradition. Ella was quick to add, “I love purely elizabeth™ granola – AMAZING!”
“What do you miss most, Ella?”
“Doughnuts. The birthday celebrations at school often include doughnuts, but I can’t have those. I bring my own cookies, but it’s not the same.”
“Are your friends understanding about your food choices?” I asked.
“By the time kids are 10 or 11, they understand about food allergies. It’s just a food allergy. It’s not a big deal to them. I have a friend who is vegetarian and another friend who is also gluten-free. I am careful not to eat meat in front of my friend who is vegetarian though. “
“What advice do you have for kids who have to give up foods with gluten?” I wondered.
“Start with foods that you are used to eating. For me, it was carbs.” Finding gluten-free alternatives wasn’t easy and required testing many different brands. Gluten-free pizza crusts were one of the easiest for Ella to adjust to. Ella then explained,“Try other foods too, like fruits and vegetables, so you have more things to eat than just carbs, like me. I wasn’t big on fruits or veggies – at all! But, I’m starting to like them.” Today, Ella also eats salad, jicama, apples, carrots and proteins like eggs and Greek yogurt.
Once our South of the Border Bowl was complete, Ella picked out a colorful serving bowl and added the finishing touches, decorating her masterpiece with lime wedges and cilantro. Just being in the kitchen, creating a new dish for the family and learning the art of presenting a beautiful dish for all to enjoy is often the first step to trying a new food.
“Ella, what’s the BEST advice you can give to kids going gluten-free?”
“Read the label! I live by that rule!”
Smart kid, that Ella.
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP is a certified speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding young children. She is a national speaker on the topic of “adventurous eating in kids”, the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids and the executive producer of the Grammy submitted children’s CD: Dancing in the Kitchen. Raising an adventurous eater is meant to be fun: Enjoy the journey!