Hi. My daughter was diagnosed this week as allergic to wheat. Does that mean she’s gluten free? Could you suggest some substitutions? Thanks!
I’m sorry for the new diagnosis, and the difficult changes coming your way, but I’m so happy you found me and I can share resources with you.
First, the term gluten free is usually used for those who have Celiac Disease. It’s an autoimmune disorder that’s not a food allergy. However, the only treatment is strict avoidance of gluten. Gluten is a special protein structure found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s also found in a long list of other products.
Wheat is a specific plant grown for human and animal consumption. There are a lot of varieties of wheat (like how there are a lot of varieties of apples). Gluten is found in wheat.
A person who is allergic to wheat can still consume rye and barley (assuming they’re not allergic to those as well). Thus, a wheat free person could potentially still consume gluten and be OK.
Gluten Free = Wheat Free, Rye Free, Barley Free (and Oat Free in Some Countries)
Wheat Free = Wheat Free
So in your daughter’s case, she is not gluten free. I hope that clears that up for you. Now for the part that will confuse you for the first several months: so many people use the terms interchangeably.
It has to do with semantics and marketing really, but it makes it harder for the newly diagnosed to really understand what they’re getting into. Just know this: if you see something that says “gluten free” there’s a good chance it’s wheat free. Notice I said good chance. There’s this thing some manufacturers do where they “remove the gluten” and have a product that contains wheat. I know, it’s wild.
In your case, you’re going to want to read labels carefully. The first several times you go grocery shopping, do it when you have TIME and you can be calm. It might overwhelm you, and you’ll have to give yourself some grace.
In terms of substitutions, there are wheat free options available for just about every major item that would normally contain wheat. Bread, crackers, pasta, flour, cookies, and so on.
The kids tell me that Jovial’s Gluten (and wheat) Free Pasta is the closest to wheat pasta and they love it. I like cooking with Cybele’s because it’s rice free, and veg based, so more nutrition bang for the buck.
Kid Two likes Mary’s Gone Crackers. I’ve heard good things about Schäar, but we’re not able to purchase the brand due to the use of corn.
Here’s an article you can read where I share more wheat and gluten free substitutions. It should give you a great idea on where to start. Oh! And this article talks about snacks. You might need some when packing lunches.
Wishing you all the best!
~The Allergy Chef
Wheat Free & Kid Friendly Resources
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