Argh! Child cheats while on gluten-free diet

By Angela Petrie

Grade 1 brought about a lot of ‘firsts’ in Hannah’s life: going to school all day, sleepovers, new friends, dealing with other personalities on the playground without a parent or teacher at her side to settle the dispute immediately. It is also the first time that an adult is not with her at all times to supervise her choices and make sure she is adhering to her diet.

The first instance was when an excited new friend rushed up to my husband an excitedly told him that she had ‘shared her apple tart with Hannah today!’ Hannah knew she had done wrong and said ‘but Daddy, I only ate some apple, not the rest of it!’ We sat down and had the cross-contamination discussion again and we thought we were in the clear.

Imagine my surprise then when my older daughter told me that Hannah had eaten a cookie given to her by a friend on the playground (for that matter, she may have asked for it – who really knows). My first response was ‘Hannah! What are you doing? We were just getting ready to start putting dairy and eggs in your diet and you purposely gluten yourself!”

My next reaction was one of disbelief – had I not done my job, had I not drilled it into her brain enough about how she cannot cheat? I mean, we expected this at age 13 NOT 6!

I went through a who myriad of other emotions – anger (at celiac disease, this restricting diet, and how could she do this when I work my ass off to make sure she is never left out), defeat (why bother trying so hard if she isn’t going to do her part), worry (cancer, osteoporosis, nutrient deficiency) and finally acceptance (she’s 6 years old, a cookie is offered – what 6 year is not going to take it?)

I was surprised that she did not have her typical response. No complaints of a sore tummy, insomnia, moods, bowel issues. We then began to wonder if she had been playing us the whole time, and thinking ‘wow this girl could win an Oscar’ if it was true. Our naturopathic doctor quickly calmed those fears. Hannah has been working so hard to heal her gut, we started in March, that it didn’t affect her the same way and it may not affect her at all.

Good news and bad we thought. Good news that her stomach lining had actually healed and all this gluten-free, dairy free, egg free thing had been worth it, bad news in that she has had no reaction and probably will try it again.

The sad part about this was the snail’s pace dairy/egg reintroduction was set to start, literally, the next day. Well, the reaction took more than a few days – more like a week really. But the sore tummy has started – she had to sit on the couch for part of a birthday party, is asking for Tums and Tylenol again and is asking to lay on me at the bench at Boston Pizza because ‘it feels like fire is burning my belly’.

Two questions remain – did the reaction happen quickly enough for her to put the cause and effect together? I suspect that she thinks that the cookie was okay and that I am telling her it is a delayed reaction just so she won’t eat another one. Next, how much longer do we keep her on the dairy free, egg free diet?

I have a feeling that these added restrictions, which was only supposed to be for a few months, depending on how things progressed, contributed to the decision to eat that damn cookie!

I usually try to put a positive spin on my posts but unfortunately I can’t do it for this one. I can tell you that Hannah has taught us another life’s lesson… that temptation, no matter how much you know how wrong it is, is virtually impossible to resist.

Angela Petrie is a gluten-free consultant. She can be reached at 250-863-8123 or check out her website at