As a parent, having a child with a food allergy can be a stressful situation. You want to make sure your child leads as normal a life as possible while still keeping them safe. Fortunately, parenting a child with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Remember these simple steps and your child can have a happy, healthy childhood.

Do Your Homework.

Gluten can be hidden in surprising places. Always be sure to research products before you buy them. Not only do you have to be aware of what you’re feeding your kids, checking food labels and restaurant nutrition sheets, but you also need to watch their playthings. Some items, such as playdough, may contain wheat starches. And be sure to check food labels for wheat, barley and rye derivatives such as barley malt or modified food starch. Most companies are becoming consistent about labeling all traces of gluten in their products, but when in doubt, better do without.

Be Creative.

As busy parents it’s easy to fall into the habit of relying on pre-made packaged products to help us care for our children. Quick snacks, baked goods, craft materials. However, with a little know-how and some DIY spirit, it doesn’t take much extra time or effort to make these items from scratch. While many companies now produce gluten-free packaged snacks and mixes, the internet is also filled with recipes for home made gluten free cookies, cupcakes, playdough and finger paints. Don’t be afraid to experiment – your child just might like the home made version best of all!

Get The Word Out.

Parents must be advocates for our children as they are learning to manage their food allergies. Don’t be afraid to mention your child’s restrictions to waiters, teachers and parents of friends. The more people watching out for our children, the better. Many Celiac societies even offer printable food-requirement cards on their website for you to hand out to and educate food servers. Don’t worry too much about coming across as high maintenance. Simply send an appropriate gluten-free snack with your child to any event where s/he might feel left out if she cannot eat the treats.

Any diagnosis that requires a change in lifestyle for our children can seem daunting. However, with a little forethought and planning, you will quickly adjust to a new, gluten-free routine.