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Becoming a Gluten-Free Family

By Rachel Meeks


It was three years ago when I realized my daughter needed to go on a gluten-free diet. No more bread, Cheerios, or goldfish crackers. Pretty much everything my child loved to eat, she couldn’t have anymore. She wasn’t growing, and the diet would help.

Becoming a Gluten-Free Family

It did help, in fact. We figured out that my daughter has Celiac, and these diet changes would be permanent. We also gave up dairy at the same time. It was a big adjustment. Huge.

I cried a lot in those days. Every time I remembered pizza days at school and how much I had loved them and how Lane would be excluded, I felt regret. Every time I saw a blog post about a delicious recipe that I couldn’t fix, I cried fat tears.

I felt foolish sitting there crying over sandwiches and how much more difficult it was to prepare meals when I had to be careful of every single ingredient.

A year later I understood my whole family needed to be on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. I didn’t, I could eat whatever I wanted, but I was outnumbered three to one by loved ones with special diet needs. Since my daughter had just turned three she was noticing more of what I ate, and I didn’t want to keep anything from her. We all needed to be on the same plan for our meals.

I stopped eating bread and drinking chocolate milk. I lost ten pounds, and so I had to buy new pants and new shoes. Every time I went to a social event I noticed the buffet table spread with food we couldn’t have, and I realized what it would feel like to be my daughter and be surrounded by food you couldn’t eat. At Thanksgiving we go and listen to extended family talk about how good the pie tastes, and we have to take their word for it. Every social event is based on food.

One time I took Lane to a friend’s house and at snack time she announced, “I don’t eat that food. Me and Mommy are gluten-free!”

Suddenly it wasn’t about the food any more. We’re in this together.

We even have a theme song. (But I made it up myself so it kind of sounds like the Muppets’ “Mah Nà Mah Nà”.)

When people ask me for advice about going gluten-free or dairy-free, I tell them, yes, it’s hard in the beginning, but it gets easier, and it gets better. For us the dairy and gluten were just the beginning of a long list of foods to avoid. But you adjust, you find food that tastes good, and you learn that the bread you used to love isn’t worth it. The biggest help of all is to have everyone in the family eating the same food instead of preparing separate meals.

When we eat the same food together, then that food becomes what’s normal, even if it’s different from what other families eat.

When we share the same food at the table, it becomes part of our family’s culture, and no one is excluded.

Published February 1, 2011. Last updated June 27, 2018.
About the Author

Rachel Meeks

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to b...

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to be a parent when you’re not surrounded by a ton of stuff.)

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  • April

    February 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Have you tried Udi’s Bread? It’s Gluten, Dairy, soy and nut free and I can’t tell much of a difference between it and “real” bread. They make a mean pizza crust too, but I don’t have one handy to check additional allergens. We can get it at Whole Foods and Smith’s (Krogers). They are based in Denver. There is a really good pie crust available at Whole foods by, I think Glutino but I’m not sure. Check the freezer section. It actually tastes better than “real” crust.

    • Rachel Meeks

      February 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      I don’t think we’ve tried the Udi’s bread or Glutino pie crust yet. We really like the pizza crust from Bob’s Red Mill. There are so much better options now than there used to be.

  • els

    February 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    So cool that you do it together. I think that is a very good point. And indeed there are so many products out there now … It should make things easier…? Good luck!

  • Kat

    February 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    If anyone is looking for gluten-free recipes, I’ve become a fan of ‘A Year of Slow-Cooking’ at The recipes are all done in the crockpot, and are pretty tasty, so the whole family can enjoy them whether they are glutne-free or not.

  • Charmi

    February 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    We need to be soy free, sesame free, peanut free, vegetarians who take it easy on dairy and wheat (not all gluten).

    I ate that way this whole last yet while breastfeeding save for the wheat (that’s an intolerance for my husband not the baby). But he’s little yet.

    I have NO idea how we’ll turn this into a one meal family. I dot want to make 3 different thing every night but the list is getting so long I’ve yet to get a handle on it. I hope the “it gets better” part happens soon!

  • Jocelyn

    February 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I’ve been gluten free for 7 years. Luckily, I love to cook. My favorite cookbooks are the Gluten-Free Gourmet series by Bette Hagman, and Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. The Baking Classics has very easy pie crust recipes that always turn out great. I’m known as the baker among family and friends, and have never had a complaint with any of these recipes. Good luck!

  • Lori

    February 2, 2011 at 9:34 am

    It is so difficult when the whole family is not on board. I have to eat low/no sodium yet my family doesn’t. It’s hard to have different meals, and it’s even harder to find stuff with little to no sodium in it! It’s so great that you got your whole family on board with the meals. I wish I could do that!

  • Lindsay

    February 2, 2011 at 11:08 am

    That story is so touching. Your daughter doesn’t feel alone anymore and I’m sure you don’t either. 

    There’s a book about how to garner a more wholesome connection with our food and recipes that focus on special diets including lots of gluten free ones. It’s called Restorative Recipes,

  • Natalie

    February 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I understand the emotional side but I also wish you had included some of the technical side of this issue because we would think we need to go gluten free in my house but I am struggling with the hows and whens and whats.

  • Sid

    February 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I guess because I grew up with severe food allergies, I don’t understand people who get so upset over having to change their diet for health reasons. I’d rather be feel good than have the “freedom” of unlimited food choice any day. In fact, I’ve found that having a “restricted” diet (we’re paleo with a bit of dairy) makes me more inspired and interested in being creative with my cooking. There’s a ton of amazing cooking blogs and websites devoted to whatever your diet is.

  • Charmi

    February 4, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Sid – it’s not really that simple, IMO. In our house we were soy free, sesame free, peanut free vegans until we realized the baby could have milk after all. It was really hard to figure out what to make everyday. To not feel deprived when everyone else was eating at a party and I could only have the grapes.

    My husband is allergic to milk though AND wheat so soon we’ll be back to soy free. Dairy free, sesame free, peanut free, and wheat free with no meat/seafood. We’ve created a few really good meals but it’s hard to come up with new stuff and not get bored of the three we keep recycling. I have yet to find a single blog that really helps with more than snack type of food. I love cooking with fresh foods but even there I’m not experienced and feel at a loss.

    I’m taking a few classes at the natural gourmet institute this summer. I hope that’ll help.

  • Ya Chun

    February 6, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Having the whole family on the same diet really helps. With our food allergies, I take the attitude that it’s a choice (we all feel better!), just like people choose to be vegetarian or vegan or eat organic.

    Charmi- try paleo or raw food blogs. I was vegetarian, but with avoiding wheat, dairy and staying low soy and salt, it was too restrictive. DH has a bunch of allergy to special ingredients, like peaches and peanuts. Sometimes you have to compromise. Elayna’s Pantry has good recipes, including entrees, but she is not veg. Also, The Heatlhy Cooking Coach. I think that is veg, but maybe not. I never have trouble with a variety of recipes, so I don’t pay attention to entree that much. Also Delightfully Gluten Free; she just reviewed Flying Apron, a GF vegan cookbook. I hope this helps – it all takes so much time!

  • Becky

    February 7, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Great blog. My hubby is gluten intolerant, not me. Now we’re expecting a baby & I’m considering having our entire family go GF to make life easier. We found that Udi’s bread is the best. So Good Gluten Free Foods makes the best burger buns, and their pizza crust is a tie w/ Udi’s. They’re out of So Cal, and I buy their food online.

  • Sid

    February 8, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Charmi, I second Ya Chun’s advice. And, although I imagine you are no meat/seafood for ethical reasons, I personally would be EXTREMELY concerned about getting sufficient nutrients on the diet you’ve described. There are alternatives, look for ethically-sourced meat in your area (grass-fed, etc.) and do check out the paleo (no legumes/beans, no soy, no grains, no dairy) cooking sites like for ideas.

  • Charmi

    February 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks Ya Chun and Sid! I’ll take a look at the places you guys recommended. I’m actually a vegetarian because I was raised one in a Hindu household. So I’ve never even tried meat…and now the few times I’ve thought about it, I just can’t go through with it. This post made the husband and I discuss it before and I think we’ve decided that with this many restrictions, we’re going to do a lot of prep work and just deal with being a two meals (or more) for dinner type of family. We’ll see how it goes. I appreciate the info!

  • Abby

    February 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I have a question, in case anyone sees this and wants to respond. I’ve thought for a few years now that my husband might have dairy and gluten intolerances, if not Celiac… What kind of testing can we get for that? Does insurance cover it? Are there questions we should ask our family doctor that you would be helpful for us?

    Thanks so much for the post. I’ve been wanting to change our diet because of the things I’ve noticed, and it’s good to know we’re not alone!

  • amanda

    February 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Did your daughter have any other symptoms than just not growing? My daughter is 17 months and barely 20 lbs.

    • Isabel


      February 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      Amanda, Rachel no longer writes for us. I would definitely bring up your growth concerns with your daughter’s pediatrician.

  • Dana Suggs

    March 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    This is very new to me and our family. We are foster parents that adopted our sibling group of 3 foster children. One of them has extreme allergies to just about everything…and it’s only getting worse.

    Reading how you cried fat tears over lost food really hit close to home for me. It is VERY difficult to change all of our habits for one child, but we have to do it…he is only 3 and doesn’t understand.

    I just needed this today, as I am sitting here trying to find recipes for our large family. We are only 2 weeks into gluten-free….only 3 weeks into our adoption.

  • Feed My Baby

    March 27, 2015 at 4:20 am

    I have been gluten free for 3 years now! I do agree that when your whole family is doing it with you its much easier 🙂