Are Gluten-Free Foods Healthy for Children?

Are Gluten-Free Foods Healthy for Children?

In a study of 370 gluten-free and non-gluten-free products targeted towards children, it found that gluten-free packaged foods, in some ways, are worse than regular processed foods.

Gluten-free kids' foods have less protein and less fat, which are two essential ingredients needed to fuel a growing child’s body. The same study also found that gluten-free processed foods are full of sugar.

If you think that a gluten-free form of mac and cheese is a healthier choice, stop and think about it.

In a Canadian study, two big Canadian supermarket chains were chosen to study over 374 processed kids’ meals, which included both gluten-free options and regular packaged kids' foods.They compared each packaged food next to their gluten-free counterpart, whether it be oatmeals and warm cereals, or packaged TV dinners and snacks.

What the researchers found was very interesting and a bit distressing.

Gluten-free and regular kids' meals: Which is healthier?

Researchers found that gluten-free packaged foods had little or no added benefits. They had fewer proteins and fat, and included just as much sugar.

Food scientist Joaquim Calvo Lerma headed another study of gluten-free foods, and he had similar results.

"As more and more people are following a gluten-free diet to effectively manage celiac disease, it is imperative that foods marketed as substitutes are reformulated to ensure that they truly do have similar nutritional values," Lerma said in a press release.

He went on to say, "This is especially important for children, as a well-balanced diet is essential to healthy growth and development."

About 1 in 100 kids are born with celiac disease, which is a genetic disorder that causes damage to the small intestines if your child eats gluten. This autoimmune condition produced is a reaction that starts when you eat wheat, rye or barley, and it causes damage to the small finger-like structures, also known as villi, that line your small intestine. The villi are progressively destroyed and cannot move nutrients through your body. This leads to health issues that include poor nutritional uptake, fatigue, anemia, and many other problems.

Signs that your child may have celiac disease include:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stools
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability and behavioral issues
  • Delayed growth and puberty
  • Short statures
  • Failure to thrive