On the Edge of Gluten Free

This post is coming in under the wire in Persph-O-Land because instead of writing this afternoon, I was overhauling my pantry and reframing my life. This morning started with a consultation about my child’s newly diagnosed food sensitivities, and ended with me grinding Rice Chex in the food processor. 

Let me back up. For several months, we knew something wasn’t quite right. Her digestion wasn’t functioning as it should, and no amount of traditional medication was correcting the problem for more than a day or two. After some investigating, and testing for 96 foods, a blood test revealed that she’s sensitive to nineteen different foods.

Getting news like this on a Monday morning is a bit mind-blowing. The last thing any parent wants to do is unknowingly harm her child. By being sensitive to so many foods, and ingesting many of them on a daily basis (peanuts! pineapple! gluten!), the theory is that her gut is in agony and manifesting this with digestion issues.

The good news? It’s a food sensitivity that has a GI reaction, not an allergy that can lead to anaphylaxis.

The tricky part? The list is long, she is young, and she is not an adventurous eater. Our doc is recommending the entire house go gluten free, so it’s really going to change the entire family’s diet. She said to start slow, and as things are used up, adjust what we cook and eat to get in line with how our daughter needs to eat.

Which is why I started small tonight by making chicken nuggets out of boneless chicken tenders and Rice Chex.

Here I present to you my first gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, garlic-free, codfish-free kid-friendly recipe:

Rice Chex Chicken Tenders


A few tablespoons of olive oil

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or tenders) cut into bite sized pieces

Several cups of Rice Chex cereal

1 egg (maybe 2)

1. Preheat an electric skillet to 350 degrees. Add a bit of olive oil.

2. Whisk egg in a small bowl wide enough for dipping raw chicken into.

3. Grind Rice Chex in a food processor or blender until ground, pour into a wide, shallow bowl.

4. Dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, and then into Rice Chex.

5. Fry in skillet until golden brown.

I imagine I can bread them, and then freeze them on a baking sheet and then use them another time.

*I* really liked them. Mr. Sally J liked them. The girl child ate them. The boy child wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole, but mostly he eats applesauce & french fries, so I don’t take his opinion seriously.

Raise your hand if you have a food sensitivity or allergy, and tell me your favorite replacement food!

22 replies on “On the Edge of Gluten Free”

Yay recently diagnosed gluten sensitivity in the house! I’m in the same boat and I feel like I’m learning how to feed myself all over again. I’m a law student with no time ever on my hands and so many convenience foods are out due to bad ingredients or expense. Rice crackers are really good. I am loving the Chex varieties. Apparently they make GF Bisquik. There’s a kind of gingersnaps that my grocery store (just regular supermarket) carries that are really good. And I like GF pasta that has a blend of corn and rice flours–get the kind that isn’t all one thing but *does* look more like regular pasta. I can’t really tell a difference. I have noticed that in just over a month, I feel *so* much better. However, I have to warn you, I’ve been accidentally glutened twice now via cross-contamination from Starbucks (iced drink without proper rinsing) and the local Thai place (I think possibly soy sauce? It was supposed to be a GF entree) and I was far more sick than I ever had been before stopping gluten consumption. So, now I’m going to have to be really vociferous about it. Also, one side benefit to all of this is that virtually all processed foods have been cut out of my diet. Unless you want to pay exorbitantly high prices for Frankenfood GF replacement things, it really forces you to eat healthy whole foods.

i have over thirty different food sensitivities, including but not limited to- rice, soy, gluten, diary, casein, peanuts, walnuts, pinto beans, cinnamon, marjoram, egg yolks.. obviously i can go on and on. some of my favourite things are Ian’s Chicken Nuggets and Fish Sticks. I take lactose pills for the dairy because I just have so much trouble letting go of it, but before I did that I used Daiya- free of soy, lactose, casein, gluten, rice and corn and looks the most like cheese that i’ve seen. If your child isn’t allergic to eggs, i would suggest looking into Glutino sandwich bread also. When baking I like to substitute eggs with bananas or applesauce, and fortunately I’m not allergic to almonds so almond milk is my best friend. Also I know the brand So Delicious makes ice cream out of coconut milk, and the Chocolate flavor is absolutely delicious. My favourite substitute for peanut butter is Sunbutter- it’s a butter made of sunflower seeds but it tastes just like peanut butter. I love making cookies out of it! I know Glutino makes gluten free pretzels and other things, and Enjoy Life makes some great mini chocolate chip cookies, but those have rice so I’ve never tried them. Good luck!

oh my- what an overwhelming list! Thank you, thank you, for all of the tips! She can do eggs. I didn’t realize that Ian’s Chicken nuggets were soy-free! (always good to have some ready made food in a pinch). She can’t do yeast, which I think will end up being the challenge in the bread/pizza crust department. I’ll have to find the Daiya- I picked up some rice cheese that did NOT go over well.

We’re already friends with sunbutter, because at some point the kids were in classroom where peanuts were not allowed. She tried coconut milk yogurt (not frozen), but I will look for the frozen version as well! (or you know, freeze a couple of cups)

Well, if you’re willing, you can use Smart Balance margarine (dairy free) and water to use the box.  It’s not as creamy, but it’ll work in a pinch.

If you’re looking for more simple stuff, go to  It’s a General Mills site, but if you’re using Rice Chex already, it can give you some more ideas based around that theme.

Oh, also, if you’re sticking away from dairy, the abbreviation you’ll be seeing a lot is GFCF.  That’s Gluten Free, Casein Free – which should ensure that your products are both gluten and dairy free.

There’s a ton of resources out there, but it can be a challenge to navigate it all at first.  I recommend taking a day, sitting at a bookstore, and pursuing the GF section.  Find the book that appeals to you the most and buy it.  Use it as a base to learn from.  Also, if you have a smart phone, keep it handy.  Grocery shopping is about to get more interesting with you having to look up many different products.

I am wheat and sugar intolerant.  The wheat thing wouldn’t be AS hard, but mother nature also blessed me with a body that for some reason has a hard time with sugar (granulated sugar, honey, sugar alcohol) as well as the foods that turn into sugar during the whole digestion process (rice, potatoes) and I have to limit my fruit intake.  Sugar and me do not get along… eat something with sugar… suddenly I feel drunk….and not the good drunk.  The spins, stomach upset, hot/cold flashes…and tremors.  Basically, my blood sugar plummets and I have to eat like a horse to start to feel better…

It takes 3 or 4 days for my blood sugar to even out… and during that time I am so hung-over it is disgusting.

I have begun baking with higher protein flours, like almond flour – and using a combination of stevia and fruit to sweeten things.  But even then, I have to watch out.  I have gotten really good at getting my carbs from low fat dairy and legumes.  But let me tell you, I miss french fries and cookies something fierce.

I’m gluten free myself, and while I tend to stick to the ‘naturally gluten free’ concept, I have to say my favorite GF replacement is various forms of macaroni and cheese.  If you can’t bear to give up the blue box, the powder itself is GF.  Cook up some GF pasta, and mix in the powder, and it’s blue box style safe pasta.

Good question!

Basically, gluten is so pervasive, her theory was that if we didn’t go gluten-free, my daughter would be eating something special at every turn. The other items are more avoidance, rather than substitution .

She does have a younger brother. They’ve both been on rice milk since toddlerhood (for sinus reasons), so they drink that and the grown ups drink cow’s milk.

What we’ve come up with (two days into it) is this: breakfast and dinner are completely allergen free (except mom & dad get dairy), lunch (which we all eat at our respective places of school/work) is what you like.  On the weekends, I imagine all our meals will be allergen free. I can see us moving away from all of her trigger foods- it’s too hard to keep everything straight!

Hmmm that’s interesting.  I’ve always been a little wary of the whole “The entire family needs to be SUPPORTIVE by going on a diet with the one dieting person!” mentality, just as I’m always skeptical of people who push vegetarianism or veganism too hard.  It all comes from a slightly different place, but for me it just doesn’t work to attach guilt or morals to any food, especially when we’re talking about young girls.

I’d be interested in reading about how you deal with your son wanting to branch out and try pizza and how your daughter manages at, say, birthday parties where pizza and ice cream cake are the norm.  Do you think you’ll eventually have to buy certain foods just for your daughter and just for your son as they get older?  Or are you going to try to raise your son gluten-free?

Food allergies are a very different thing from dieting or vegetarian/veganism. I suspect it’s easier to convert the entire household so Sally or Mr. Sally don’t need to constantly be cooking two meals. And food allergies are common enough in children that parties these days tend not to be an issue. Many parents send their kids with allergy-friendly food and call it a day. As far as Boy Child goes, he’ll have plenty of exposure to food with gluten in it, I’m guessing. This isn’t like Sally J is trying to get her daughter into a pageant dress and forcing the family to eat celery until it happens. She’s trying to avoid severe gastrointestinal problems for her daughter in a way that integrates most easily into the whole family.

I imagine this will evolve, like everything else in parenting does. The doc’s made her house GFCF because she and her son both need it, her husband and daughter don’t seem to mind it. When we were talking, this was her focus because it’s her experience.

It is definitely about managing, but it’s also about having a safe place for my kid- how rude would it be for us to sit down to a pizza in front of her and give her a corn tortilla instead? She’ll be dealing with it all day long, every time she leaves the house. The least I can do as her mom is make our home kitchen a place where she can be free to explore taste a little without having to read labels.

My son doesn’t seem to have the same intestinal issues, but who knows? My thought is that we’ll all eat mostly safe at home, and he can have what he pleases out in public.

As for parties and social events, she’ll have to bring her own food (at least for the time being) or not eat. Again, she’s 6, so I just want her to feel a part of the group.

Next week is her girl scout meeting, so I emailed the leaders asking what the snack was going to be. If it’s something she can have, great, if not, I’ll send something for her.

This Friday is a  party at school. They were asking for fruit and veggie trays. I volunteered to supply the fruit so that there will be no pineapples or bananas on the tray.

It’s things like that I’ll be doing!

Dieting and veganism can be real sources of stress for family members living in the same house, depending on how evangelical the person in question is.  Even though it’s not a matter of physical life or death, marking certain foods as off-limits when they’re not actually harmful to most people in the household has the potential to be triggering if the whole thing isn’t handled really delicately.  It could lead to sneaking food and secret eating, at the very least.

I’m not saying that the author of this post sounds like she’s doing that.  I’m saying that treating a child without health problems as if he has those problems and working the whole house around said health problems doesn’t always work out to create a family full of perfect empathy, and the cut-and-dry doctor’s advice to just switch the whole house over doesn’t account for the other children.  Living with a sibling with health problems isn’t easy.  In my case, it meant I wasn’t home very much because nothing ever got to be about me.

It’s true that a forced diet change can cause a lot of resentment. My parents decided to become vegan when I was 12 and the years before I was old enough to buy my own food were pretty miserable. I’ve also known families who have had to go gluten-free when they had older children, and it sucks because habits and food vices are hard to let go of. However, in this case the boy child is young enough that he will probably have very few memories of life before gluten-free. His diet at home is going to be dictated by his parents, his sister’s allergies or no. When Sally J said that she doesn’t take his opinions seriously, I’m pretty sure she was referring to the fact that he is a little boy and would probably try to live on nothing but gummy bears if he could.

You bring up some good points. No family is truly happy if everything is all about one person, but at some point we have to trust that she is making the best decisions she can with the information she’s got.

And, the great thing about cooking for allergies and sensitivities these days is that there are SO many substitutes, resources, recipes, and alternative ingredients out there, that you’re never doing a MASSIVE overhaul of your eating habits so much as you are substituting out harmful ingredients for similar, but safe, ones. Having the whole family eat GF in the house doesn’t mean that Sally’s little guy will like, never get sandwiches or cake again. They’ll just be sandwiches and cake without gluten. It’s harder, but it’s not like the kid’s being deprived, or like every family decision will revolve around something that has nothing to do with him.

I think maybe part of the reason (one of my best friends is celiac but I am not an expert by any means) is that gluten is physically extremely sticky, in that it sticks to bowls, utensils, etc long after they are washed.It is, after all, the sticky binding agent in wheat flour.  The gal I know has to keep separate dishes and baking pans from her room-mates. I imagine Sally Jr. might end up accidentally still ingesting a lot of gluten if her whole family was still eating it, even if she was avoiding it.

You’re right- there is the whole issue of cookware and what not- I haven’t even delved into that yet. It’s all a matter of figuring out if it’s celiac or “just” a sensitivity- if it is full blow celiac, then yes, I believe we will have to actually get new plate and such. Huh.

4/5 members of a friend’s household have celiac. Their entire house is GF. Dad, who can tolerate it, is welcome to eat what he likes out of the house, and keeps his gluten in the trunk of his car.

I think your doc would have already tested for Celiac. If it’s just intolerance (as opposed to Celiac) your life is easier. My boyfriend is GF and dairy free because of intolerance, and it’s not a crisis. He has burgers on corn tortillas instead of a bun, and I like that too because I prefer the ratio of meat to “bun” better. I keep some yogurt at his house and otherwise we pretty much eat the same.

When I was 2 my mom discovered that I was lactose intolerant. She switched me from dairy milk to Lactaid brand milk, which I hated and stopped drinking completely in high school. I’ve already had to deal with some side effects of calcium deficiency and I’m sure there’s more to come. When I finally moved out on my own I discovered soy milk, which I do like and use when I make scrambled eggs or mac and cheese. Thankfully, it really is just the lactose that I can’t digest, so I’m able to take a lactase supplement whenever I’m really craving cheese or ice cream.

Thank you for commenting! Thankfully, there are more non-dairy alternatives that are fully fortified available these days than in days past. In doing research, I read that it’s estimated that some 80% of all adults are somewhat lactose intolerant!

Glad you’ve found solutions to getting your calcium (and dairy fix) :)

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