Kids & Teens
In this section you will find games about gluten-free living, a blog written by teenagers with CD, lots of tips on navigating school and developing a healthy gluten-free lifestyle. There is also a survival guide for college students who are living away from home for the first time.
This section includes word search and crossword puzzles as well as color pages designed to be printed out.
Gluten Free at School
This section includes information about school lunches, art classes and celebrations centered around food.
Tips on packing school lunches
Pick at least one item from each category to make packing lunches a snap. Try to pack the night ahead to reduce stress in the morning rush. If you are super organized prepare all components on Sundays for the week ahead. Using a “bento” style lunch box makes packing your lunch a breeze.
Make sure to read all labels for gluten-free status.
- Canned salmon salad (instead of tuna which is high in mercury)
- Chicken salad
- Cold bean salad
- Hard boiled eggs
- Lunch meat (make sure it is nitrate free)
- Nut or seed butters such as sunflower or peanut butter (lots of schools do not allow nut/peanut butters, but sunflower butter is a great alternative)
- Cheese/cheese sticks
- Cottage cheese
- Lactaid milk for lactose intolerance
- Soy, coconut or almond milk for dairy intolerance/allergies
- Yogurt/Greek yogurt (frozen sticks stay cold longer)
- All types of berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.
- All types of melon – watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew etc.
- Drived fruit
- Dried fruit pounches
- Oranges – clementines and mandarines are easy to peel and eat
Tip: Using whole “mini” versions of veggies eliminates the need to cut them up so they will be crisper and less mushy than cut up veggies. Pick as many as you want from this category.
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fresh or cooked green beans
- Lettuce wraps
- Mini peppers
- Mini cucumbers
- Snow peas/snap peas
Tip: Try to pick GF whole grains, they are more nutritious!
- GF corn tortillas
- GF muffins
- GF pasta
- GF pretzels
- GF whole grain bagel
- GF whole grain bread
- GF whole grain cereal
- GF whole grain crackers
- Sweet corn
Make sure to read all labels for gluten-free status.
Information about art classes and gluten
Arts and craft supplies can contain gluten. Even though gluten cannot penetrate the skin, it is important to know if you will be handling supplies containing gluten. It is always best to work with a gluten-free version of the product. Handwashing carefully after using the product is adequate, unless the product could be dispersed through the air. Some flours and grains used in art supplies present a risk because they could be ingested and make their way to the digestive tract through the mouth, nose and throat.
It is important that you never work with flours and grains containing gluten. Here are some commonly-used art supplies that contain gluten (this is not a complete list):
- Play dough
- Papier mâché
- Pasta and cereals
- Loose flours and grains (also common in sensory tables)
It is important that you and your parents have a discussion with your teacher and art teacher about the probability that art supplies and foods in the curriculum will contain gluten. Your parents should advise them to be notified ahead of time so that an appropriate alternative can be provided for you or preferably the whole class.
If you are at a public or charter school we recommend that your parents initiate a 504 plan that will list special accommodations that covers art supplies and foods in the curriculum.
Tips on navigating school celebrations centered around food
Celebrations and classroom parties at school present challenges for students with celiac disease. It can be hard to be the only one left out at a celebration because it usually involves foods with gluten. There is also a risk that a food containing gluten be mistakenly shared with you, or that you are tempted to eat a food that is off limits because you want to fit in with your peers. Additionally, celebrations can present awkward situations where you might be asked uncomfortable questions.
When it comes to celebrations schools usually fall into one of these three categories:
- Schools that only allow non-food celebrations
- Schools that allow food celebrations, but have requirements in terms of how often and what types of foods
- Schools that allow food celebrations and have no requirements on frequency and what types of foods are brought in
The best alternative for students with celiac disease are schools that only allow non-food celebrations. Many schools have switched to non-food celebrations to protect students with food allergies, as well as to promote healthier lifestyles. Ask your school about their policy. Having a 504-plan with accommodations for celebrations is strongly recommended you attend a school that allows food celebrations.
Suggestions for accommodations
Your school should notify your parents ahead of time (seven days is recommended) if there is going to be a celebration with food or foods used in the curriculum including labels, which will allow you and your parents time to suggest or provide alternatives.
Your parents can help you keep appropriate snacks and treats on hand to plan for unplanned celebrations. However, keep in mind that all snacks and treats need to be stored properly to prevent cross-contamination with gluten. Also, make sure that they are labeled clearly.
Read more about wellness policies here.
Check out ideas for non-food celebrations here.
An active teenager’s social outings often center around food. Once you get in the habit of planning ahead, living a gluten-free lifestyle will become second nature. This section offers a blog and frequently asked questions about celiac disease answered by teenagers.
My name is Josephine Taylor and I am living with celiac disease. I started my journey almost four years ago after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and celiac disease. This came with an avalanche of symptoms including swelling, an inability to focus, being tired all the time, headaches and more. I finally decided to see a specialist to get ahold of my symptoms. After finding nodules, I found I had a small chance of thyroid cancer, so they decided on a full thyroidectomy in May 2018. While my surgery was life changing and I feel better each day, this only cured me of my Hashimoto’s and thyroid cancer but not of celiac disease.
For teens diagnosed with celiac disease, daily life changes dramatically. It took a while to come to terms with my disease and that this is a lifetime change not temporary. I found some relatives and friends did not understand my limitations with food. Through my journey with celiac disease, I have realized that there is no availability for hot meals at a lot of schools due to cross-contact in cafeterias. Prepackaged foods are the only option in some schools and those are usually not meals or healthy choices and some schools only have chips that are available to gluten-free students. A lot of schools cannot afford prepackaged food or dedicated kitchen space for students with celiac disease. To go your entire school career and never have a hot lunch can be hard. To not eat a lunch like all of your friends also adds stress to any gluten-free child’s day.
I realized there has to be more students like me and it was time to help them. After my thyroidectomy, I decided to do something different and entered a local pageant with Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, receiving the title Miss Pinal County’s Outstanding Teen. I wanted a change and to do something different. My platform with Miss Arizona has empowered me to talk about celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases with principals, superintendents, and legislators across Arizona. I have advocated to school districts throughout the state of Arizona for accommodations like having a dedicated microwave in a nurse’s office for an easy and cost-effective way for a student with celiac to have a hot meal.
While I do have a 504 plan, it does not cover ‘hot” meals. It is important for students like me to feel comfortable in school and get the same availability as other students. Everyone has been very receptive to the idea of change but without legislation guaranteeing accommodations, there is still a long way to go. I recently went to the Arizona state capital and spoke to representatives and senators to lobby for microwaves in every school in the state. I got some amazing feedback and am working with a few now to get a rider attached to a bill to guarantee a gluten-free microwave in every school. This solution to accommodate students with celiac disease is not only cost- effective but also quick and easy. Schools may be able to apply for grants, fundraise or take out of their budgets.
I have recently been in touch with Senator Synema’s office here in Arizona and am hoping to take this fight to the national level. Parents and teens need to speak with their school nurses and principals to advocate for more change for students with celiac disease. When more parents speak up, the schools will want to help more. I am not alone in my school with celiac disease, there are several more. The benefit for one becomes the benefit for all of us. I don’t want just a microwave in my school, I want one in every school across Arizona and America. I am very hopeful that we can make this a national solution to a national problem. There are 3 million people in the US who have celiac disease and hundreds of thousands of them are kids in school. I want future kids to not have to go through the struggles that I am going through and that’s why I am fighting so hard for change.
Josephine Taylor is a 15-year-old student living with celiac disease in Tucson, Arizona. She is Miss Pinal County’s Outstanding Teen 2019 with the platform “When Organs Attack: Understanding Autoimmune Diseases.” Josephine is competing for the state title of Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen in June. When not lobbying for change for students with celiac disease, Josephine is a varsity cheerleader, International Baccalaureate student, and fundraiser for CMN hospitals. She has four siblings, a dog named Jovie, and her favorite food is still macaroni and cheese.
Kira's helpful tips about living gluten free
- If you are planning to go out to eat somewhere with friends but you don’t know what or how to order, go to that place by yourself or with a parent a few days in advance. Pick one or two things off the menu that you know will be safe for you to order, and stick with those. It won’t be perfect, but you’ll be able to eat with your friends without having to worry. After a few months, you may find you are going to the same places and you’ll feel comfortable eating there.
- If you go out to eat sushi but you’re not sure if there will be gluten-free soy sauce available, bring travel sized gluten-free soy sauce packs with you. They are easy to carry and keep with you.
- Salad bar restaurants are usually good bets, however, watch out for croutons and granola as these may contain gluten. Simply ask to take these items off your order to be safe if you’re not sure. Also ask that they put on new gloves when preparing your order to avoid cross-contact with gluten.
- Be persistent. Just because someone says their restaurant isn’t gluten-free does not mean there aren’t things on the menu you can eat there. Many people do not understand what “gluten-free” means, so they tell you they can’t comply. Don’t give up right away. Find a few things on the menu that don’t contain gluten ingredients and ask them if they are able to prepare them gluten-free, ie, leave off the sauce, don’t bread the chicken before cooking, and cook steak, etc. on a clean grill.
- For french fries, make sure to ask if they are fried in the same oil as breaded foods! To stay safe any fried food has to be fried in clean oil free of cross-contact with gluten. Most restaurants fry battered and breaded foods in their fryolators making it a hazard for those with celiac disease.
- Toaster travel tip: Purchase your own, inexpensive, small toaster so making toast or bagels on vacation is worry-free. You can travel with a gluten-free loaf of bread or bag of bagels in a small box in your suitcase. Alternatively, you can purchase toaster sleeves to use in any gluten-contaminated toaster, whether this is at a friend’s house, hotel, or school.
- Will you be staying in hotels for class trips, sports tournaments, or tours abroad where meals will be provided for you? It helps to call ahead to let them know you eat gluten-free and ask for a menu to be sent ahead of time. Also, let them known you may be bringing outside food to substitute meals you cannot eat on their menu.
Kira Schlieman is a sophomore in high school in Silicon Valley, California. She was diagnosed with celiac disease at three years old, and has navigated the health and social challenges that come with it. Kira does not let celiac disease get in the way of doing the things that she loves, such as surfing, running, and spending time with her friends and family. Kira’s experiences with growing up celiac motivate her share them with others. She is passionate about helping people, and inspiring them to stay positive.
FAQs by and about teenagers
Asked and answered by teens with celiac disease.
As you get older, you may start thinking about how celiac disease will affect you socially. You may be worried about what you’re going to eat or drink on a date or at a party. Below are some common situations that you may have been thinking about.
Whether you’re going to a party in high school or college, there might be alcohol there and other foods you may be unsure about. Beer and many other alcoholic drinks contain gluten and therefore, if you have celiac disease, you will get sick from it. In addition, always remember that it is illegal to drink if you are under 21. You should also be careful eating anything at the party because you can never be sure what is actually gluten-free or if it has had cross-contact with gluten. Always check labels before eating something, and if in doubt abstain. It is not worth risking getting sick. Eat something before you go so you don’t feel hungry, or bring a snack with you if you feel comfortable doing so.
When you start dating, you may go out to a restaurant or other places where food is served. You may feel uncomfortable sharing that you have celiac disease with your date. If you are comfortable discussing celiac disease, that’s great! Feel free to tell them about what you can and cannot eat. If you are not comfortable sharing, that’s totally fine. Eventually, you will get to the point when you can share that information with other people. In the meantime, try to order foods that you know are gluten-free, or suggest a restaurant where you are already comfortable with the menu and have experience ordering from them. If you are going to your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents for a meal, discuss the gluten free diet with them if you want to—you may find they are really interested in any details about the diet! If you don’t want to avoid eating meals at their house until you are comfortable sharing about the glute
You might wonder how celiac disease works with kissing. Can you kiss someone who has just eaten something with gluten in it? What if there are still some crumbs in their mouth or on their lips? Should you just not kiss them to make sure that the gluten will never transfer to your mouth? Good news is—you can kiss someone. They just need to brush their teeth and make sure all gluten is out of their mouth and off their lips before they kiss you. It may seem easy, but it really is important for them to prepare beforehand because if they don’t, the smallest amount of gluten can make its way into your mouth and potentially make you sick.
It’s finally prom-you’ve been waiting so long for this part of high school. Unfortunately, you know you’re going to worry about the food there and any possible cross-contact between foods. It’s definitely a good idea to eat before you leave your house to make sure that you’re already full and won’t feel pressured to find something to eat in the case that all the food there has gluten in it. You don’t want to take any chances, and definitely not on a night as important as this one. Just remember-it’s the memories that matter, people aren’t going to care what you eat or drink. You can also ask the organizer of the prom what foods they will be serving and look at any labels ahead of the event. As long as you feel satisfied and safe, you should have a great time!
For College Students
Moving away from home the first time is an exciting time in your life. Continuing to live a healthy gluten-free lifestyle at college is absolutely doable! It just requires a bit of advance planning and a peak behind the scenes of university food services. This section provides some good tips for gluten-free living at college.
Tips on living gluten-free at college
College students with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity face overwhelming complications in their social and academic lives. People with celiac disease are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means colleges are required to accommodate students on a gluten-free diet. We hope the following resources will help students better manage living with celiac disease at college.
Heading off to college?
For those with celiac disease, your first time away from home can be challenging. Follow these ten steps and your college experience will be a lot easier!
Tell people about your dietary needs
Your resident advisor, academic advisor, the dean of students, and the school nurse are all committed to your academic and social success. They can’t help if they don’t know about your dietary requirements. Don’t be afraid to tell them…they want to help.
Be specific! Gluten free means different things to different people. Some think it’s a fad diet, (most) others don’t understand the issue of cross contamination. Few people know how serious it is. For some celiacs, “just a little” gluten will result in several days of gastric distress. Explain to your RA, the dean, and the head of the food service that “gluten free” means 100 percent gluten free.
Partner with the head of the campus food service
In our experience, establishing a solid gluten-free environment for yourself on campus will require ongoing diligence. While the school and food service administration will want to help you, they need regular reminders and feedback on how the process is going. They may have great intent; however, they will not be there to oversee the process every time a meal gets served. Work to ensure that they define and maintain a good process…and that the food service line workers are also aware of your needs and handle your food properly.
If you have a good experience, let the food service know. If you think you’ve been glutened, let the food service know. If you’ve gotten the same chicken over rice meal for six days in a row, let the food service know.
Document your experience in a journal – if you were glutened, record what you ate, when you ate it, where you got it, and the impact on you. How long were you sick? Did you miss classes? With this documentation, the school administration and food service will be more likely to make the necessary changes. You are paying good money for your meal plan and you deserve the same healthy, well-rounded diet that others are receiving.
When in doubt, ask
If you’re not sure that a food item is gluten free, ask. If you’re not sure that an item has not been cross-contaminated, ask. It’s your health at stake. Be nice. Explain why it’s important that you’re asking, and that your food be 100 percent gluten free.
Make friends with the food service staff
The food service staff, particularly those who prepare and deliver food, can be your strong allies. If you treat them nicely, and let them know what you need, they may go out of their way to find gluten-free options and to verify that your food has not been cross contaminated.
Explain celiac disease to your new friends
No, you’re not weird because you have celiac. No, they can’t catch it. Your meals may take longer to prepare or you may need to do some research on a local restaurant before you go out. Yes, it’s important. If they are good friends, even though you may have just met them, they will understand and stick around while you wait for your meal. You’d do the same for them, right?
Find other celiacs on campus
Even at a small school, others with celiac or gluten intolerance are facing similar
issues. Post a message, ask around, get a group together to discuss your experiences and to meet with the food service. Make sure that others are documenting their experiences. There is strength in numbers!
You will miss an occasional meal due to academic, social, or sports activities. Keep a small supply of gluten-free food in your dorm room – healthy snacks or frozen meals that can be heated in your microwave, etc.
And remind your coach that pizzas on the bus after the game won’t work for you. He or she will make other plans for you… if they know that you need something different!
Enjoy the experience
College is a time for personal, social and academic growth. Look at this as an opportunity to build your advocacy, social, organizational and negotiation skills. You must be your own advocate…building these skills will help you to be successful both on campus and after you graduate!
When all else fails, call in the troops
The law is on your side. In 2012 the Department of Justice ruled that colleges must provide gluten-free and allergen-free food options. If your school is failing to provide you with a healthy diet, escalate the conversation. Go to the dean of students. Call a meeting with the president of the school. Go see the head of the food service. Stage a sit-in in front of the cafeteria!
Remember, you are the customer, it’s their job to serve you, and it’s their legal requirement to provide “safe” meal options. Again…be nice and learn how you can influence people to “do the right thing.” Identify and engage the individuals at school who can make a difference, and keep advocating for yourself (and your fellow celiacs) until you get what you are entitled to!
Additional college resources
College survey results
The National Celiac Association conducted a survey in Spring 2016 of 415 college students with CD or NCGS. Click here for the full survey results.
Rider University settlement
Click here for information on the settlement between The Department of Justice and Rider University.
Gluten Free Away from Home
There are ways to navigate a safe, gluten-free trip no matter how you are traveling and where you are going. Finding gluten-free shopping and dining options away from home is as easy as searching the internet and contacting local NCA celiac support groups. If you plan to travel internationally, finding restaurant cards in just about every language is easy on the web.
Staying safe while dining out requires a little homework ahead of time. The bedrock of this is your knowledge of the gluten-free diet and how food is prepared. For a list of gluten-free and gluten-friendly restaurants, click here. Many smartphone apps are available to help you find suitable restaurants.
Tips for dining out gluten-free:
- Review menus in advance to get an idea of which items are likely to be safe and which are to be avoided.
- Call the restaurant at a quiet time to inquire about gluten-free options.
- Always bring a gluten-free dining card that explains the diet.
- Let the staff know that you have CD, NCGS, or DH; this diet is medically necessary, not a choice.
- Tell the staff that you must avoid food, sauces, soy sauce, marinades, and salad dressings that contain or come into contact with wheat, rye, and barley, even in tiny amounts.
- Emphasize the need to avoid cross-contact.
- If you are ordering fried food, make sure it is prepared in a dedicated fryer (one not used to fry anything with gluten).
- Always confirm that your food is gluten-free when you receive it. If something doesn’t look right, do not hesitate to question it.
- Never take a chance with the food. If your salad arrives with croutons or your hamburger with a bun (not gluten-free), insist that this dish needs to be re-made from scratch because of the cross-contact.
- If you have any doubts about the restaurant’s ability to feed you, order as plainly as possible (plain broiled fish, chicken or steak, plain steamed vegetables and a baked potato).
- If the restaurant staff makes a genuine effort to respect your diet, make sure to show your appreciation by thanking them sincerely and by tipping generously.
- Soups are rarely gluten-free.
- Au jus almost always contains gluten.
- Believe it or not, some restaurants add flour to mashed potatoes or eggs; double check this.
- Rice dishes are often enhanced by spices, broth, or other hidden gluten, such as orzo (wheat). Make sure yours is gluten-free.
If you are looking for a summer camp appropriate for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, please check out our list of camps. Some have dedicated gluten-free weeks while others are able to accommodate gluten-free campers.
Parties and celebrations
Holidays and celebrations can be a challenge for those with celiac disease. You definitely need to plan ahead. It is hard to just do things at the spur of the moment. Here are some tips to make it easier at celebrations:
- Find out in advance what will be served and prepare ahead of time
- Pick out special treats to bring
- Talk about what foods will be served
- Offer to help the host with cooking or providing the food
- Potlucks are great!
- Bring an appetizer, entrée and dessert so you are sure there will be a complete meal for you!
- Be the host! Invite people to your home and let them try gluten-free foods
- Gluten-free can be delicious and you do not need “special” foods to eat gluten-free
- Make the whole party gluten free!
- Parties are more fun if everyone can participate and eat everything, it is not always possible for all types of situations, but it is definitely appreciated when it happens
- Beware of cross-contact when eating away from home
- Buffets may seem like a good idea, but there can be cross-contact between foods
- Make sure there are separate serving spatulas for each dish
- Make sure foods containing gluten are not next to gluten-free foods
- Beware of double dippers! Ask to be the first to serve yourself from a buffet to decrease the risk of cross-contact
- Practice asking to be served first at events to prevent cross-contact
Click here to view a step-by-step list for successful birthday parties:
The key with birthday parties is to communicate early with the host and discuss your needs. Ask what foods and drinks will be served and if any activities will involve food. Give suggestions on foods that are gluten free that everyone can eat.
Get foods that are similar to the ones that are served at the party. Gluten-free cupcakes are usually good to bring, and can be frozen and stored in advance for special occasions. Make sure the food is packed in a sealed leak-proof container and labeled with your name.
Educate and prepare yourself ahead of the party. Practice explaining about the gluten-free diet and how to watch out for cross-contact. Reassure yourself that it is ok to be different. You might feel apprehensive about going to a party or have negative thoughts about it. Your feelings are valid.
When you arrive, talk to the host and explain again about your dietary needs. Make sure the foods you bring are put somewhere where they will not be in cross-contact with foods that contain gluten. Also check about seating and serving arrangements so that your food stays free of cross-contact.
Most cities have stores that carry gluten-free foods. For convenience and comfort, you might want to carry GF cereals, snacks, breads, pastas, energy bars, and crackers.
Good snacks to carry when traveling
- Cheese sticks
- Fruit and GF nut bars
- GF sandwiches
- GF crackers/rice cakes
- GF beef jerky
- Rolled up ham and cheese sticks
- Whole fruits
*Note that some foods may not be allowed to be brought to certain destinations. Make sure to check before traveling.
A few additional tips:
- For car travel, fill a cooler with gluten-free goodies. GF snacks, breads, bagels, frozen waffles, energy bars, sandwiches, and cookies will ensure that you won’t go hungry.
- Some international airlines offer gluten-free meals. Ask and arrange for one when you reserve your flight (and identify yourself as soon as you get on the plane so someone else doesn’t get your meal!). Bring some GF staples in your carry-on in case you are delayed.
- At hotels/motels, ask for a room with a refrigerator and microwave. Some places may let you store your gluten-free items in their kitchen refrigerators.
- Contact your tour company or travel agent before booking a trip to find out how gluten-free needs will be accommodated.
- Look for travel companies that cater to gluten-free clients.
- Contact local NCA celiac support groups for restaurant and shopping recommendations or look over the restaurant list on NCA’s website.
- If renting a house, consider bringing your own toaster bags (they can be found on-line) and a few utensils, pots, and pans that you know will be safe.