Amy, my daughter is a Freshman in college. She has always had a “touchy” digestive system but lately she has been really sick and losing weight. After much testing, it appears she has Celiac Disease and will need to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Can you help give me ideas of what she should eat/avoid and how I should change my cooking? Thanks.

Wow. I am so sorry your precious daughter is going through this. But it is great that you are reaching out and being proactive. For those that do not know, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Gluten is a general term for the proteins found in wheat. Three of the biggest foods that have gluten include wheat, barley, and rye. I would first recommend that you and your daughter read this article from Today’s Dietitian. It is a great read. And I would also check out two books. One is called The Gluten Free Dietitian by Tricia Thompson and the other called Gluten- Free, Hassle Free by Marlisa Brown. Your daughter should start by jotting down all the foods that she eats on a regular basis. Have her record everything that she eats and drinks and then sit down and review the list with her. Pull up a good list of foods with gluten, foods without gluten, and foods that may contain gluten. The Mayo Clinic has an excellent website for this. Click here to view.

Now I would have her spend some time looking at all the different eating options at her University. There are likely menus online and hopefully they have all gluten-free options listed. If not, she could always contact a registered dietitian on campus and she may be able to help her with this step. In addition, have her look up her favorite places to eat out and check out all the gluten-free (GF) items on the menu. Most places have this info online as well. In my opinion, your daughter needs to be familiar with what she CAN have before she worries about what she can’t have.

Now is the time to discuss food options when she comes home to visit. If I were you, I would look into getting a dedicated GF cookbook. Go to the website: www.celiac.com. There you will find lots of good suggestions for books, many you can check out at the library. Be sure to sit down with your entire family and discuss your daughter’s diagnosis and try to get them all involved in helping make this diet change as easy as possible for her. This does not mean you have to go entirely gluten-free as a family. However, depending on the severity of your daughter’s illness, you all may want to move towards eating a GF diet, just to keep things easy. Finally, remember that following a gluten-free doesn’t necessarily equate to “healthy” in those that do not have celiac disease. One can certainly consume several packages of GF cookies and consume far more calories than one needs in a day. But your care and concern will certainly make this transition much easier for her. Best of luck!

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