Updated: Oct 12, 2021

(From The Gluten-Free Parent’s Survival Guide by E. Joy [2020,])

Neither we—nor our children—should live in fear of the great wide world. Aside from its obvious downsides, being gluten-free is also a sort of adventure, an opportunity for personal mastery over one's health (which can translate to other areas of life, too!). One of the most important tasks we face in raising gluten-free kids is that of helping them to help themselves, and ultimately to become the drivers of their own health and destiny.

That said, when you're starting out on this GF venture, you may need to intervene to show them the ropes. You will have to decide how much or how little your child should take over these, or any, steps towards gaining social confidence. Trust your instincts, and teach your child to trust theirs.

In the meantime, let the following helpful (and proven) tips guide you through the seasons of celebration ahead:

  1. If possible, check in with the hosting parent/guardian before an event. Let them know that your child is gluten-free, and ask about food-related plans. That way, you will have the option of preparing items to coordinate with the existing menu. (For instance, if they are serving chocolate birthday cupcakes, you may be able to make or purchase a GF version to bring to the party.)

  2. In our experience, kind hosts may offer to make or serve gluten-free food items. In these cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to mention cross-contamination, and/or to simply decline and say that you’re happy to provide your own snack or meal. If offered a questionable item, guide your child to always be gracious and appreciative; however, if she has celiac disease, she should not partake. SO…

  3. From a safety standpoint, always bring your own something—be it a snack, a dish to share, a dessert—whatever will help make the event a bit more carefree.

  4. Another rule for the celiac child to live by: Avoid going to any event hungry! By eating a little something beforehand, your child will be better able to enjoy the company and the experience--with or without the food. Remember, no social gathering is worth days of illness!

  5. One of our all-time favorite tips for your GF child to take into the future: Take note (either literally or mentally) of any intriguing food items at an event. Keep these ideas in a notebook, and commit to making something similar, but gluten-free! (We did this right after a party during which my daughter was longing for a cake pop. Our next-day version, more like a frosted cake-square on a stick, made a fun activity--and they were yummy, too!) Edyth was thrilled--and every since then, she keeps a list of "Things to make GF" on a little notepad in her purse.

Finally—and perhaps most importantly, remember the mantra, and say it again and again: We go to events for the people and the experiences above all!

And in this sense, being gluten-free is the blessing that reveals the most important gifts in our lives.

Happy Autumn!

For a list of GF candies considered safe for Halloween, or to order The Gluten-Free Parent's Survival Guide, click below:

Elyn Joy is an author living in Denver, Colorado USA. Her health-related books, The Gluten-Free Parent's Survival Guide and The Gluten-Free Teen's Survival Guide, have helped guide children and parents everywhere transition to flourishing gluten-free lifestyles. Elyn has been a featured speaker for Children's Hospital of Colorado; her writings have appeared in several magazines, including Gluten-Free Living, Simply Gluten-Free, Whole Foods Magazine, and Allergic Living, among others.


Updated: Mar 7, 2021

It may be an "off" year, but that doesn't mean you can't continue your child's journey towards a joyful and productive (and hopefully closer to "normal") future. With spring approaching and vaccinations underway, that may become a bit easier—especially with the promise of more outdoor fun just ahead!

This is a great time to try new hobbies, to ride the season of new beginnings into our own new ventures. For kids who are gluten-free, we recommend adding (or mastering) skills that will continue to serve them in years to come. Here are our best suggestions for your GF troopers to keep growing strong:

  1. Practice the Fine Art of Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking. . . Because why not try something new? Here's a challenge to try: The dish must LOOK as great as it tastes. This ups the fun-factor and becomes a feast, both for the eyes and the stomach. A few “pretty” escapades in our kitchen have included sushi, quesadillas, pancake sculptures, chocolate-decorated strawberries and bananas, and triple-layered finger sandwiches.

  2. Try Self-Guided Music Lessons. You can easily find many online courses for helping kids teach themselves how to play an instrument (such as Let's be honest--our kids have all become online pros this year—for better or worse—so let that translate into a lifelong skill! Besides, what better time than now to polish up that old piano, and bring a new song into your home!

  3. Build (or Fix or Revive) Something. Kids who enjoy hands-on activities might enjoy a project they can take indoors or out. Go through your storage room and find an old table or lamp that could be repainted or collaged, or (for older kids) even an old tech item that might be repurposed (we’ve had a speaker become a robot and a VCR become a box full of craft parts). Or visit the hardware store and get inspired for a new build. For any such project, of course we trust you’ll put safety first.

  4. Pre-Game Your Favorite Warm-Weather Activities. Break out that bat and ball, play a game at the park, dust off those bicycles, and make the most of those somewhere-in-between chilly and balmy days. Fresh air makes for rosy cheeks and happy kids!

  5. Plant Seedlings. A love for gardening is a life-long gift, and this is the perfect time to plant for later spring & summer. Best of all, giving your kids something to care for builds empathy and responsibility--not bad for a crafty spring venture!

Most of all, enjoy the changing of the seasons, and remember: It’s always the PEOPLE, PLACES, and EXPERIENCES in our lives that matter most.

Happy Spring!

Elyn Joy has written two books to help gluten-free parents and kids: The Gluten-Free Parent's Survival Guide and The Gluten-Free Teen's Survival Guide (just released). Her articles have appeared in Gluten-Free Living Magazine, Whole Foods Magazine, The Gluten-Free Resource Guide, and several GF-related sites and blogs. She has presented educational programs for the Colorado Children’s Hospital, Natural Grocers, and other GF educational forums. For more information, visit


For those of you who plan to continue your education in college, we're here to provide some perspective on what to expect. Naturally, for those of us looking beyond the academics to consider the safety aspects as well, one of the most important considerations in choosing a school is the food situation. For us and our graduating daughter Edyth, that meant asking some key questions right off the bat: Which school had accommodations for food allergies and celiac disease? Which offered the most options for enjoying a “normal” experience with a sense of freedom around eating? And ultimately, which offered options to help Edyth feel safe and good on a daily basis?

The good news is this: MANY colleges are now celiac disease and allergen-friendly! In fact, out of all the colleges we visited, only one fell a bit short—and that was only due to the fact that they had fewer gluten-free/vegetarian options (Edyth is also a vegetarian, which made things doubly tricky), plus the labeling was less than ideal.

Here are some initial questions to consider when visiting or inquiring about a college:

  • Are ingredients listed on all foods in the cafeteria?

  • Is there a chef on site to take special orders? (Not necessary, nice to know!)

  • What types of allergen-friendly meals are served regularly? (See if you can get a list of menus for, say, a typical week)

  • Has the school gone through any gluten-free certification programs, and/or do they educate their kitchen staff in gluten-free protocols?

While these answers will get you started, learning even more will bring clarity to your decision. Here are a few more tips that may help you further narrow your list:

  • Make touring the dining facilities a priority on any college visit. Check the arrangement of foods in the cafeteria—are gluten-free items separate from other foods? This is also a great time to do some hands-on research around the existence (or not) of proper labeling.

  • If possible, meet or speak with someone in food services. Make a list of questions—ask about things like kitchen protocols, staff education, and cross-contamination. See whether the school offers staples at every meal—such as gluten-free bread, cereal, yogurt, etc. In our case, Edyth is happiest to know she can always stick to her gluten-free-vegetarian diet by making a quick peanut butter sandwich on gluten-free bread from the separate cooler loaded with gluten-free staples. The other sure thing for her is the safely-organized salad bar, which is available at lunch and dinner every day.

  • We strongly recommend that you request a small refrigerator for your dorm room if that’s an option. That way, you can store snacks or easy “to-go” meals at times when a meal or event falls short on the gluten-free front—or for late nights when restaurants and dining halls are closed. Make a point to visit a grocery or natural foods store now and then to keep your supply stocked, fridge or no fridge (there are plenty of non-perishable snacks you can keep on hand, too).

  • Find out whether or not the dorms have kitchens. In Edyth’s dorm, there’s a small kitchenette with a microwave, sink, and larger refrigerator on every floor—and then one larger kitchen with an oven in the basement. After a thorough cleaning, she and her friends spent a day doing some gluten-free baking, after which they shared the cookies and cupcakes with everyone on their floor.

  • Aside from the on-campus facilities, take time to scope out the campus surroundings for gluten-friendly restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee shops. Having access to off-campus options makes weekends or off-campus time a little less daunting.

Remember the importance of SELF-ADVOCACY! Now is the time to advocate not just for what you want, but for what you need. By doing so, you are paving the way towards your best possible future--both at college and beyond.

Excerpted from The Gluten-Free Teen's Survival Guide: The definitive guide for gluten-free teens living their best lives!

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