Gluten-Free Shopping Tips for Parents

By: Anthony Porto, MD, MPH, FAAP

For parents of children who follow a gluten-free diet, grocery shopping is a little easier than it used to be. There’s growing awareness about celiac disease and other conditions aggravated by gluten, a protein found in many common foods containing contain wheat, rye, barley and other grains.

Nearly 30% of Americans try to avoid gluten for health reasons, and some stores have entire sections dedicated to gluten-free products. But making sure the foods you select don’t contain gluten—and do contain the nutrients children following gluten-free diets need—can still be a challenge.

Here are some tips to make following a gluten-free diet a little easier: Shop the perimeter of your grocery store first.

Fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, eggs, and legumes are always kept along the outer areas of the grocery store. These items are also 100% naturally gluten-free. When planning your meals, start with these items. Then all you should worry about are seasonings and snacks.

Noodle around with new staples.

Experiment with gluten-free grains like millet, amaranth, and quinoa. In addition to being high in protein and fiber, these grains contain micronutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, zinc, iron, folate, thiamin, copper, and riboflavin.

Avoid oats (at first).

Oats contain a protein called avenin which is structurally like gluten and in some patients. Once your child has been following a gluten and oat-free diet and his or her symptoms have resolved—typically between 6-18 months—talk with your child’s doctor about gradually reintroducing gluten-free oats into your child’s diet. Note this must be done gradually as the increased fiber may cause constipation.

Look for added gluten in processed foods.

Pre-packaged and “ready-made” items often contain additives to increase shelf life, and these additives can contain gluten. Flavoring, sauces (including soy sauce, which is made from wheat) and seasonings can all contain gluten. Gluten also may be added to some products such as breakfast bars to boost protein content. Even soups can have gluten from thickening ingredients. You just need to know the words to look for on the label.

Fill the nutrient gap.

Since most gluten-free grains are unfortified, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are more common in children following a gluten-free diet. Some potential deficiencies include fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), calcium, vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, iron.

Here’s how to boost needed nutrients in your child’s diet:

 

  • Consider a multivitamin. A daily children’s multivitamin can help, because it has calcium, vitamin D, and iron in it—nutrients not provided by the fortification of gluten-free grains. Note also that gummy vitamins do not contain the iron, B1, or B2 that children on a gluten-free diet may be missing. Check the brand’s content at www.glutenfreedrugs.org.Recommended Daily Amount of Calcium in Children - HealthyChildren.org Table
  • Stock up on nutrient-rich foods. Many vegetables and fruits, meats and seafood, dairy foods and nuts and seeds are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals to help ensure children on a gluten-free diet get the nutrients they need. See table below for ideas.Nutrients and Foods Kids Eating Gluten-Free Need - HealthyChildren.org Table

Choose high-fiber gluten-free grains.

 

A common side effect of the gluten-free diet is constipation. Many gluten-free products use low-fiber substitutes like rice, corn, tapioca, and potato flour instead of wheat, and their lower fiber content may not be enough to keep a child regular.

If you buy rice, make sure it’s higher fiber, whole-grain brown rice. Look for other high-fiber, gluten-free alternatives such as beans, amaranth, quinoa, chickpea, and millet. Note that kids should aim for 20-30 grams fiber per day depending on age.

Remember:

Manufacturers change ingredients and production methods frequently. This means a product that may have been gluten-free in the past no longer is. If you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer with specific questions. As a consumer, you have every right to know exactly what’s in your food.

Tips for holiday toy shopping

Cinnamon Boffa, right, from Bensalem, Pa., checks out a “Chubby Puppies” toy for her daughter Serenity, left, at a Toys R Us, in New York. With some holiday toys already in stores, shoppers may want to start planning their strategy. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

By The Associated Press Updated October 4, 2017, 4:43 PM

Want the holiday season’s hottest toys? Or maybe you want a retro game. Whatever the goal, with some holiday toys already in stores, shoppers may want to start planning their strategy.

That may mean buying the most popular toys whenever you can and focusing on deals afterward. After its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Toys R Us has promised business as usual, though there could be some wrinkles if nervous suppliers hold back on shipments.

“If you are looking at the top 100 toys, you need to buy it earlier than later,” said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TTPM, an online toy review site. “If you are looking for a classic board game, you can shop later.” The site offers shoppers information on the inventory of particular toys by store and also offers a price comparison of toys.

Silver says that several toys like Spin Master’s Luvabella, an interactive baby doll, and BB-8, a toy droid inspired by the “Star Wars” movie series, are hard to get right now.

The good news: A wider variety of stores are expanding their toy offerings. For example, J.C. Penney has opened toy sections this fall in all 875 stores that will be open year-round. And while some hot holiday toys run close to $200, there is plenty that is affordable like WowWee’s Fingerlings, interactive monkey figures that sell for $14.99.

And shoppers are also starting to see better service. Target has been ramping up customer service, and it’s showing up in the toy area, says Marc Rosenberg, a top marketing executive. Meanwhile, Toys R Us is adding demonstrators for the holiday season to show people how toys work and are opening Play Labs at 42 stores, areas where children can play with different items.

Some tips for toy shopping this year:

GET THE HOT TOYS EARLY: Try shopping online because in a few clicks you can search such sites as Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Amazon to find out quickly if the item is available, Silver says. Also, it’s good to follow retailers on Twitter, where some post when they get in their next order of certain hot toys in the final weeks before Christmas.

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KNOW WHEN THE SALES ARE: If you can afford to wait, stores offer toy discounts of up to 50 percent and also bundle toy deals during the Black Friday weekend. But the best time to get deals on basic toys is two weeks before Christmas when toys are discounted up to 70 percent, according to DealNews.com, a deal comparison website. Take advantage of deal trackers. With CamelCamelCamel.com, shoppers can set up alerts when the price of an item falls to a certain level. It also offers a price history of all products sold on Amazon.

Overall, Amazon.com offers the lowest toy prices, with Walmart a close second, according to Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for the DealNews site, which combed deals during last year’s holiday season. Target, Kohl’s and Toys R Us were ranked third to fifth.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LAYAWAY: Walmart kicked off its layaway service in September and customers have until Dec. 11 to pay off their account. As in past years, there’s no opening fee to start a layaway account but customers need to put down 10 percent or $10, whichever is greater. Shoppers can put items as low as $10 on layaway with a $50 minimum basket.

At Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart, members of the Shop Your Way loyalty program get special perks for the holiday season. They have a $1 down payment for in-store and online layaway contracts. For non-members, it’s a $10 down payment. For Sears, there’s no difference between members and non-members — they don’t have to put any money down on layaway in the store and can put just one penny down online at all times.

EMBRACE SERVICES: Walmart offers store-curb pickup for online shoppers at 1,000 stores — mostly for grocery items but also some seasonal general merchandise like toys. Walmart, Target, and Sears also have pickup services inside the store for online shoppers. Many are trying to improve the speed of service.

By The Associated Press