It’s not easy being a parent. We all want what’s best for our children. Which is why I feel it is important to address what seems to be a growing trend. Parents are increasingly putting their small children on gluten-free diets, because they think it is healthier. Let me explain why this can be dangerous.
Some children are diagnosed with food allergies or celiac disease, and this is the only time you should be cutting any food group out of a growing child’s diet. Ignorance is no excuse here. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t put your child on a gluten-free diet unless your doctor tells you to. You can read more about these reasons here.
Whole grains that contain gluten have lots of crucial nutrients — including B vitamins, antioxidants, iron, selenium, and magnesium. They have fiber, too, which is important for good digestion. While it’s possible to get these nutrients and fiber without eating gluten, it takes some work.
It can be too low in calories for growing children. Kids need healthy calories to grow, and when you cut out foods made with wheat or that otherwise contain gluten, it can be harder to get those calories.
It can be high in arsenic. A staple of a gluten-free diet is rice — and many rice products are high in arsenic. The rice plant is particularly good at pulling arsenic out of the soil, and there is a fair amount of it left from prior pesticide use. Arsenic in large amounts can be lethal, but even smaller amounts can lead over time to not only cancer and other health problems, but to learning problems when infants and children are exposed. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration have been cautioning parents about limiting rice and rice products in their children’s diet.
If you suspect your child has problems with gluten, get them tested for celiac. You might also want to have them tested for milk allergies or dairy intolerance.
Gluten free is not healthy and it is really hard to maintain. Why would you want to deprive your child unless you absolutely had to? It is not an easy lifestyle for anyone.
If you are unsure, always consult your doctor before putting yourself, or your child on any restrictive diet.