A Guide to the Gluten Free Diet for Kids

gluten free diet

So you have the outcome from a few tests, and now you know for sure. Your beautiful child will do better on a gluten free diet. It can be a little overwhelming at first, a gluten free or coeliac disease diet for kids is not something everyone has to deal with. But regardless of the cause, coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, the result is pretty much the same. Gluten free diet here we come. As you move down this unfamiliar pathway just remember the benefits of a gluten free diet will be a happier, healthier child. And luckily, in the last decade, we have come a long way with gluten free foods for kids.

 So what foods do you avoid, what are some great gluten free food choices for kids, what are the dos and don’t now gluten free is the new normal?

Let’s start with what does gluten free mean. In Australia, to be labelled gluten free, the food must have no detectable gluten. Like next to zero. This means the manufacturer ‘should’ perform laboratory tests for the presence of gluten on each batch produced and, once cleared, then claim the food to be gluten free and print gluten free on it’s packaging. Now, not all gluten free food is labelled. Really, it’s processed foods that mostly carry the gluten free labelling. No need to add gluten free to the packaging of say, vegetables, as all veggies, in their unprocessed, natural state, are naturally gluten free.

Just a word here about imported foods. Gluten free means different things in different countries. So when you are grabbing imported specialty items gluten free might mean nearly gluten free.  In some countries allowances are made for small amounts of gluten. This is based on the idea that a small amount of gluten, say 20 parts per million (ppm) is acceptable. This is about 0.01g of gluten in 500g of food. America, Canada, and Europe all have gluten free labelling laws that allow some gluten to be present in foods labelled gluten free.

So just be mindful as some imported food slips through the system and makes its way to the shelves.  It’s always best to question before consuming. Also watch out for low gluten labelling, this is not the same thing as gluten free. Typically you’ll see this labelling in cake cabinets or menus and when questioned cafes will say they cannot guarantee the product is still gluten free due to cross contamination.

There are certain foods to avoid with a child who has coeliac disease or similar.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats, rye and foods sourced or derived from these grains, like malt and brewer’s yeast. So just put them all in the no go zone and remove completely. Let’s start with what your kid can eat on a healthy gluten free diet and then come back to the no list. It’s nearly all good news, as so many nutritious natural foods are gluten free. Mother nature gets it mostly right.


●     All fresh vegetables

●     All fresh fruits

●     Milk, butter, cheese, cream and yogurt (double check yogurt labels)

●     Eggs

●     All unprocessed meats like chicken, beef, lamb and pork

●     All seafood

●     All seeds and nuts, either unflavoured or flavoured with salt, herbs and spices

●     100% nut butters and nut flours like almond flour, flax meal and coconut flour

●     Buckwheat, quinoa, millet and tapioca

●     All herbs and spices and yeast

●     All types of rice – long, short, jasmine, brown, white

●     Oils

●     Soy milk, cheese and tofu

●     Honey & Rice Malt Syrup

●     Sugars are gluten free, but have other dietary and health issues when over consumed


Where reading labels really matters is on processed foods. So foods that are made of more than one ingredient, frozen foods, tinned foods, deli foods, pre-prepared meals and packaged foods. Read the label once, then read it again. Assumptions don’t work here. That innocent looking sausage might be stuffed full of glutenous fillers. This is where the Coeliac Australia Gluten Free Ingredient List App can be very handy.

Pay attention to the ingredients list. Under Australian Food Labelling Standards ingredients must be listed in descending weight order. So if an ingredient is listed near the start of the list, then the food contains more of this ingredient. Allergens are often in bold or specifically listed below the ingredient panel. So you might see WHEAT written like this. It’s important with wheat to identify the source. A common misconception is that Wheat Glucose Syrup is not gluten free however due to processing there is no remaining gluten so it can be safely consumed by a coeliac. This isn’t the case for Wheat Starch.  These are the things you can quickly check via the above apps or request information from Coeliac Australia

Another tricky one is OATS.  Outside of Australia oats are considered gluten free (which is very tricky when travelling and eating out) however within Australia they are not as some people react to the protein avenin which is related to wheat gluten. Coeliac Australia recommends an oat challenge with your specialist before consuming oats.  This involves consuming oats and then colonoscopies to check for damage… no thank you, I’ve had enough of them to last me a lifetime and have recently discovered Forbidden Foods Organic Brown Rice Flakes to get my porridge fix! Not all bolded products are excluded on your kid’s gluten free diet. For example, dairy is fine, so MILK in a product is not a worry for gluten sensitive kids.

gluten free organic brown rice

These days you should be able to find gluten free versions of your kid’s favourite foods. Nowadays all major supermarkets have gluten free food, things like gluten free bread, cereals, cake mixes, crackers, pasta, yogurts and dips. You may even find pre made items like gluten free banana cake, muffins and lamingtons. Just a word from a mum who has been there, done that, just watch the other ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t recognise something, then maybe take a minute to google it and understand what exactly that number or word means. Also watch for excessive amounts of sugars in some treat items. The sugar rush may not be worth the treat factor.

Deli meats can be a minefield. Ask your server for the ingredients list. All products have this. Just ask, most servers won’t bat an eyelid, as a growing number of customers are wanting to know what is in the food they are buying. If the server assures you the item is gluten free, you still might ask for the list. After all, once your child eats the frankfurter, it’s too late.

Another black hole to be mindful of is cereals, salad dressings, premade sauces, gravies, toppings and snack items like chips, popcorn and crackers. While a base ingredient, say corn in popcorn is fine, the flavourings may contain gluten. It’s the add-ins, the flavour enhancers and fillers, with the base ingredient that sometimes contain gluten. If the pack is labelled ‘gluten free’ it should be taken as this product has been tested and is free of gluten. 

Choc Fudge Brownie Mix Melindas Gluten Free Goodies

DO NOT INCLUDE (unless labelled gluten free)

As a usual rule do not include these items in your gluten free child’s diet.

●     Wheat

●     Barley

●     Rye

●     Oats (unless you’ve undertaken a supervised oat challenge)

●     Malt

●     Brewer’s yeast

●     Soy Sauce

●     Bakery items – bread, cakes, biscuits, rolls, buns etc

●     Pasta

●     Pre-made meals with gluten containing ingredients

So, there you have it, you are on your way to sorting the dietary needs of your gluten free child. Be sure to spend some time checking your current pantry contents and weed out the products that will no longer work with your child’s diet.  And remember, when you need it there are a whole variety of options out there for gluten free home baking, from muffins to pancakes and all the way through to birthday cakes. Someone, somewhere has thought how to take the worry out of gluten free baking.


There is everything from gluten free banana bread to gluten free white chocolate custard biscuits for the mum who wants a special treat for her gluten free child’s lunch box. After a few months, it all gets easier and before you know it, it will be second nature to you, with the absolute joy thrown in of seeing your child thrive. 

For a range of recipes check out OUR RECIPES on the Melinda’s website https://www.melindasgfg.com/our-recipes/ and follow our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/MelindasGFG or Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melindasgfg/

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