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Feeding a Gluten-Free Toddler

An NFCA exclusive! Get a list of quick and easy gluten-free foods that will please a toddler or preschooler's palate.

By Alice DeLuca of GF-Zing!

Parents of gluten-free toddlers are faced with double trouble: Parents seek to delight and nourish their little ones at the table, yet toddlers can be picky eaters. On top of that, the food has to be gluten-free! What can be done?

For feeding the gluten-free toddler, it is very important to consult with your child’s doctor and ask about seeing a nutritionist. The gluten-free diet can be tricky, and it is not always easy to balance the diet, especially in terms of vitamins.  There is a new book: Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten Free by Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN, and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS, which can point you in the right direction and help with finding resources.

For toddlers, it’s also important to avoid foods that pose a choking hazard. You know the drill – don’t offer grapes, hot dogs, or any other foods that may “go down the wrong way” and get stuck. Also, check with your doctor before offering any of the foods described here, to avoid allergies and health issues.

Gluten-Free Foods for Toddlers:

Consider the possibility of using “naturally mushy” foods, such as bananas, avocadoes, cooked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, etc.  These foods have a lot of curb appeal for the under-5 set. Of course, choose those foods that work for you and your family.

Make a breakfast smoothie in the blender, using frozen orange juice, frozen strawberries, banana, honey or sugar, silken tofu and gluten-free yogurt or gluten-free non-dairy yogurt. Adjust the ingredients to suit your child’s tastes and nutritional needs.

Cream of Rice is your friend at breakfast! Try making this for breakfast, mixing in some raisins or other dried fruit, and serving with maple syrup, or butter and brown sugar.

Silly, animal-shaped gluten-free pancakes are fun for the cook and the eater, too.

Apple sauce is quick to make. Just cook peeled, cored apples in a little water until mushy. Mash and season to taste with sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup. Add just a touch of cinnamon if your toddler likes that flavor. Chill and serve in a separate little dish on the side. Use other winter fruits such as pears, or try summer fruits like apricots and peaches.  All of these fruits can make a “sauce.”

Gluten-free pizza is a favorite. Try cooking a gluten-free pizza, cut it in to smaller pieces and freeze the individual pieces so they can be reheated later.

Eggs can be scrambled, soft-boiled, poached or served as egg salad. You can even beat the eggs up until they are soupy and fry the egg like a pancake.

Gluten-free pumpkin, carrot or zucchini muffins have the added benefit of containing vegetables. These are even more attractive if made in mini-muffin pans with tiny paper liners. A regular recipe for 12 muffins will make at least 24 mini-muffins. Try these pumpkin muffins.

Gluten-free mac and cheese may be pleasing to gluten-free toddlers who eat milk products.  Make your own so it is not over-salted. 

Gluten-free spaghetti with homemade meat sauce is a perennial favorite with children, albeit somewhat messy.

Creamed soup is easy to make. Just make a simple vegetable soup and carefully whir it with a stick blender.

Tomato soup is a popular accompaniment to the best childhood sandwiches. Fry a diced onion in a teaspoon of oil, add a little salt and 14-15 ounces of canned tomatoes, a pinch of dry thyme, a half teaspoon of sugar and a little pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, then blend up. Serve with an egg salad or grilled cheese sandwich made with gluten-free bread (cut off the crusts if that’s what your child prefers.)

For a “sandwich” try making musubi – see the instructions here. Use fillings and accompaniments that your child can eat.

Use one of the fun popsicle making devices – like Zoku – for fast and fun gluten-free treats.  Many of the recipes for these popsicles are gluten-free and they only take 9 minutes to freeze up once you prepare the device. The company even manufactures storage containers to hold extra pops.

Rice pudding is an old-fashioned favorite that is sure to please.  If your toddler is lactose intolerant as well as gluten-free, make the rice pudding using rice milk or coconut milk.

Sticky Rice with Mango is an excellent Thai dessert that appeals to toddlers and adults too!

For children over 3, tiny “mini-mozz shish kebab” made from halved mini-mozzarella balls and halved sweet cherry tomatoes alternated on a toothpick. Easy-peasy, and tasty too! An enterprising pre-schooler can help to assemble these treats. If the child likes salad dressing, you can marinate the cheese and tomatoes before skewering.

Dress up the plate to make the meal fun!  Try making a bento box lunch box with compartments.  You can see how these Japanese lunches are made at this page: Cooking Cute. The author has many recipes for bento box fillers at the recipes link at the top of her page. Most can be easily made gluten-free by using only gluten-free products in the cooking.

Most importantly, make sure that the diet you are feeding your toddler is nutritionally appropriate for a growing child. Consult with your doctor, and ask him/her for a recommendation for a nutritionist as well.


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