When Your Child Has a Food Allergy: Wheat
When a child has a wheat allergy, even a small amount of wheat can cause a life-threatening reaction. For that reason, your child must avoid all foods that contain wheat. This sheet tells you more about your child’s wheat allergy. You’ll learn what foods to avoid, what to look for on labels, and how to prepare wheat-free meals.
Foods to avoid
Wheat is everywhere—sometimes in foods you don’t expect:
All breads, cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, donuts, rolls, bagels, and breakfast cereals made with whole wheat, enriched, or white wheat flour
All breaded or floured meats, chicken, and fish; meats that contain fillers such as meatloaf and meatballs; hot dogs, sausage, luncheon meats, bologna, and meat patties
All types of pasta, including spaghetti and macaroni, unless labeled wheat-free
Chocolates and other candy containing malt
Commercial mixes for breads, cookies, cakes, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and rolls, unless labeled wheat-free
Corn bread, corn muffins, rye bread, and specialty breads unless labeled wheat-free
Cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy foods that contain modified food starch
Imitation seafood such as crab or shrimp (often used in Asian cooking)
Malted milk and other milk drinks containing wheat products
Pancakes, waffles, French toast, dumplings, bread stuffing, biscuits, and popovers made with wheat flour
Pretzels, crackers, graham crackers, pizza dough, crostini, and snack foods made from wheat flour
Salad dressings, soups, sauces, and gravies thickened with wheat flour or containing wheat noodles
Seitan (wheat gluten, wheat meat), a wheat-based meat substitute
Wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat gluten, cracked wheat, bulgur (a type of cracked wheat), wheat berries, wheat sprouts, couscous
Worcestershire sauce, some mustards, soy sauce (unless labeled wheat-free), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and prepared foods seasoned with MSG
Some children with wheat allergies also react to tree nuts and peanuts. Ask your child’s healthcare provider if nuts are safe for your child.
What to look for on labels
Wheat can go by different names. Watch for these terms:
Durum (a variety of wheat)
Farina (finely ground wheat)
Gluten (the protein part of wheat)
Graham flour (a type of whole-wheat flour)
High-gluten or high-protein flour
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Malt (a sprouted grain, which may be wheat)
Modified food starch, modified starch, wheat starch, gelatinized starch
Natural flavoring (may contain a wheat protein)
Phosphated or bromated flour
Spelt and kamut (ancient varieties of wheat)
Vegetable gum, vegetable starch
Keep in mind that food labels may not always show if a food product contains wheat. This is because the manufacturing process may accidentally contaminate a food with allergens. Different foods are often processed on the same production lines. Equipment may have traces of a food allergen. This can then contaminate another food processed on that same equipment. This is called cross contamination. Federal law requires food makers to note on the label if a food contains a major food allergen, such as wheat. But the law does not require a list of cross contamination ingredients. Many food makers voluntarily include this information.
Children with wheat allergies can safely eat these foods:
All fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables
Baked, broiled, or roasted beef, pork, poultry, and fish without breading
Breads, rolls, and baked goods made only with flour from corn, rice, barley, oats, arrowroot, millet, or potato starch
Corn or rice pastas
Corn tacos and tortillas made without wheat flour
Custard, tapioca, rice pudding, sherbet
Eggs prepared any way
Milk, cheese, cream, half-and-half; yogurt and cottage cheese without modified food starch
Oatmeal, cream of rice, puffed rice, puffed corn, puffed millet, or any other cereals with no added wheat
Pancakes, waffles, and French toast made with non-wheat flours
Rye crackers, rice cakes and rice crackers, pure arrowroot biscuits with no added wheat
Soups made without wheat
Wheat-free soy sauce (tamari)
White and sweet potatoes; white, brown, and wild rice; grits
Wheat-free meal planning
Eliminating wheat from your child’s diet can be a challenge. Fortunately, wheat-free cookbooks and products can make meal planning easier. You’ll find wheat-free diet books in the library and on the Internet. Check natural food stores, grocery stores, specialty shops, and the Internet for products made without wheat.
When cooking from scratch, you may need to experiment. A combination of flours usually works best. Keep in mind that most flours don’t rise as well as wheat flour does. Add baking powder or extra egg whites for a lighter texture in baked goods. In your regular recipes, for each cup of wheat flour, substitute one of the following:
7/8 cup rice flour
5/8 cup rice flour plus 1/3 cup rye flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour plus 1/2 cup tapioca flour
5/8 cup potato starch
1 cup corn flour
1-1/4 cups rye flour
1-1/8 cups oat flour
Be careful of cross contamination when preparing food. If you use flour or other wheat products for other family members, be sure to carefully clean utensils, bowls, pans, and work surfaces before making wheat-free food for your child.
How does celiac disease differ from wheat allergy?
Some children who are sensitive to wheat may have celiac disease, not wheat allergy. Here are some differences between the two:
Is a sensitivity to the protein gluten in grains, including wheat, barley, rye, and other grains.
Usually causes digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and gas.
Lasts throughout life.
Is a sensitivity to the gluten in wheat only (children with wheat allergy can usually eat other grains).
May cause symptoms throughout the body.
Often goes away as children get older.
If your child has ANY of the symptoms listed below, act quickly!
If one has been prescribed, use an injectable epinephrine (such as EpiPen, Adrenaclick, Twinject) right away. Then call 911 or emergency services.
Trouble breathing or cough that won’t stop
Swelling of the mouth or face
Dizziness or fainting
Vomiting or severe diarrhea