Posts tagged ‘parents’
The following guest post is from Chef Janet, a certified culinarian.
So many of my clients are new to a gluten-free diet, most due to celiac disease. They are people who used to eat out or do a lot of take out, so they don’t have a lot of confidence in the kitchen. Many think that cooking from scratch always takes a long time – but that’s not true. Yummy, interesting meals can be quick and easy. The key to easy meals is simply knowing how to plan your cooking. So here are some of my tips to remember.
- If you’re using the oven or the grill turn them on first, so they’re hot when you need them.
- To do your preparation, pick a spot that is as close as you can get to the stove/oven and the sink. If you have a small kitchen this is easy.
- Bring the trash can to that spot. I know some people use a garbage bowl, but that just means more dishes to wash. This will save you time walking around the kitchen.
- Next pull out all the ingredients AND tools you will need to prepare the meal – cutting boards, knives, pans, pots, cooking utensils etc. Take an extra minute to think about it so again, there is no extra time spent walking around the kitchen trying to track down the missing items.
- If there is any chopping or cutting to be done, do it all at once. Cut produce first, meat last so you can use the same cutting board – we like washing less dishes!
- Start with the items that take the longest to cook. Then while they’re cooking you can prepare the rest.
- Always cook more than you’ll eat in that one meal so that there are leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. The only thing that I don’t like the next day is seafood, anything else can be eaten again. Items can always be re-purposed with a new sauce or by adding different ingredients. Throw extra veggies on a salad, make curry chicken salad from leftover plain chicken.
- If you have one day with a little extra time make an extra veggie dish, some extra rice or quinoa, a big green salad to last a couple of meals. All these items will store well in the fridge.
Remember just take a few minutes every week or every few days to think about how you can cook once and have enough for a couple of meals and meal planning will be a breeze!
About Chef Janet
Chef Janet applies her culinary knowledge into creating gluten-free dishes that rival your favorites and will satisfy even the fussiest eaters. She is a Certified Culinarian with the American Culinary Federation and is ServSafe Certified with the National Restaurant Association. Janet has a Master’s Degree in Education from UCLA and more than 20 years of experience as a teacher and trainer. She combines all her skills as a teacher and chef to design customized gluten-free recipes and menus and teaches clients to prepare them for their family and friends. Chef Janet has been gluten-free for 10 years.
Last August, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) hosted a back-to-school webinar with Gabriela Pacheco, RD, LD, SNS, a school nutrition consultant with expertise in specialty diet accommodations. In honor of National School Lunch Week, we decided to circle back with Gabriela and get some more tips on how parents and schools can work together to provide gluten-free school lunches to celiac and gluten sensitive students.
Gabriela Pacheco (GP): All of those challenges happen and are different in every district.
Staff training is certainly the biggest challenge. With or without a diet prescription, the foodservice staff must understand proper label reading and handling of all foods. This is especially challenging when a reaction to cross-contamination can have serious effects on the student.
Cost can be a challenge in some districts because the school cannot pass on the extra expense to the student. In other words, if a student gets free, reduced, or pays full price for school meals, the school cannot charge them for the extra expense to make the special meal.
The demand “should” not be an issue. One child or 100 students should be treated the same. However, some districts may push back if there is only one student or a few students needing the special meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that if a student has a food intolerance or allergy, the school can – but does not have to – modify meals, unless it is a life-threatening reaction such as anaphylaxis. It all lies on the diet prescription from a certified medical authority; if the diet prescription states that meals must be modified, then the district has no choice.
With or without a diet prescription, if the school nutrition staff works with parents of students with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, they demonstrate support of a segment of the community by helping them improve their quality of life and concentrate on school – not stress about food.
NFCA: What are some schools meals that meet the new USDA nutrition guidelines and are gluten-free?
GP: USDA – The National School Breakfast and Lunch Program ensures that your child eats a healthy meal, including meals for children with special dietary needs. Although a gluten-free diet limits some food options, schools can put together kid-friendly school meals. Having a diet different from that of his/her friends may cause your child to feel singled out. Get him/her and yourself involved with cafeteria staff to go over food preferences to make him/her feel more comfortable about school meals.
School meals must meet new meal pattern requirements, which include fruits and vegetables at every meal, as well as a meat/meat alternate (protein source), legumes, fluid milk and whole grains. Gluten-free foods include fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, beef, nuts, eggs and more. Schools already have these onsite; however, preparation is the key. Purchasing gluten-free bread, for example, can be the only substitution the student requires to have a lunch which looks the same as his friends. Along with a side salad, a fruit and milk, the meal is complete!
Most schools now have salad bars that contain a wide variety of items such as kidney beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, cottage cheese, and some even have the protein available there to make a complete meal. Add milk and again, a complete meal. The student just has to make sure to watch the salad dressings or anything else which may have been cross-contaminated. If the student is old enough, they learn what to choose. If still young, a teacher or cafeteria staff can help with the salad selection.
There are several manufacturers who make gluten-free items specifically for schools. One good resource is Rich Products. They make pizza dough and other items that will fit into the school meals and meet guidelines.
NFCA: How can schools be more welcoming to special dietary needs? Should they post the information on their website? Ask the foodservice director to speak at parents’ night?
GP: Both of those options are a great start. The first step is to consider the needs of the student. Second, it really takes a lot of teamwork. The school nutrition department, the parents and the student should all be involved. Forming partnerships is key. Many districts already post carbohydrate counts/exchanges, PKU diets, etc. – why not add gluten-free options?
Keep in mind that they are not required to post gluten-free options, which is why communication is important. Asking for the menus so parents can go over it with their child and circle meals they like also helps. The cafeteria staff can then work with the student on proper gluten-free exchanges. This way, the meal is not so “special” and different from other students.
NFCA: What advice do you have for parents who are reluctant to contact the school about their child’s gluten-free needs? How can they approach the conversation with confidence?
GP: The first place to go is the foodservice/nutrition director. The cafeteria staff can refer you to him/her. Parents can discuss options with the director.
If the student has a diet prescription from a medical authority, then it is especially important that the director ensures the cafeteria staff, your child’s first line of defense, is trained and understands gluten-free diet and modifications. Even without a written medical statement, the school may provide the child with special meals, but is not required to.
Form a partnership with the cafeteria staff and offer to help choose your child’s meals. Remember that they have to order foods from approved manufacturers, so it may be that they have to order from outside vendors to provide gluten-free options. They cannot charge the student more for that meal, so they do have to consider the increased cost. A parent should never hesitate approaching the nutrition department about their child’s needs, but keep in mind that there are regulations.
NFCA: What’s one thing parents can do during National School Lunch Week to advocate for gluten-free needs in the lunchroom?
GP: Parents can form a partnership with the food and nutrition department to send out a newsletter or a side note on the month’s menu regarding children with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and how the department can help with modifications. School administrators can also benefit from this, as they don’t always understand regulations.
For more articles on this topic, visit NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resources for National School Lunch Week 2012
Last February, I received a random phone call on my NFCA line. It was a mother, Jenny Tierney, who seemed pretty devastated. Her teenage twin daughters had just been diagnosed with celiac disease. (All of the staff at NFCA answer all kinds of calls from newly diagnosed patients and others in the food industry or healthcare field. It’s a great opportunity to walk them through the resources available at CeliacCentral.org.)
After a review of NFCA’s resources, Jenny felt a bit better and she agreed that she could handle adapting to the gluten-free diet at home and working with the school, but her biggest fear was sending the girls off to camp. The girls had gone every year since they were very young to this amazing camp for most of the summer. The solution was easy. I shared information about GREAT Schools, Colleges, and Camps and suggested she have the camp contact me.
A month later, I received an email from a college girlfriend Sara, who lives near Kansas City. Sara told me about her neighbor, Kathy Dix. Kathy and Sara had been chatting, and the topic of gluten-free foods came up. Sara is always telling people about her gluten-free college pal and my job with NFCA. She thinks it’s amazing how 20 years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac disease, it was considered a rare disease and food availability was scarce. Over the years, Sara has referred me to anyone interested in anything about gluten-free. She also cuts out articles related to celiac disease and gluten-free from newspapers and magazines and sends them with a note saying, “Reminded me of you,” or “Hey isn’t this cool?” or “Wow, this gluten-free stuff is everywhere.” Gotta love her for it.
Well, it just so happens that Kathy needed gluten-free training for her camp. She’s the director of a girl’s camp in upper Minnesota called Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe. A conference call was set up to talk to the staff to understand their needs and how NFCA’s GREAT Camps program could help. On the call, I perceived the compassion and love the staff seemed to have for their mission at the camp, and how vested they were in giving all their campers a complete experience. They were ready to sign up and complete the course.
Toward the end of the conversation, they revealed that their interest in learning about gluten-free protocol for the camp staff had to do with twins that returned every year. These twins had been diagnosed with celiac disease recently, and Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe wanted to live up to its “Strong Spirited” name and ease the girls’ mother’s concerns about sending them to camp while they were still learning the gluten-free diet. Kathy’s goal was to ensure that these young women would continue their “growth in self esteem, deep seeded friendships, and memories to last a lifetime,” and the first step in achieving this goal was becoming GREAT trained, allowing the girls to continue their summer tradition of attending Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe.
Small world, isn’t it?
[Your kids have learned the basics of gluten-free, so what's next? Katie Chalmers, author of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? and founder of G-Free Kid, has ideas for helping your little ones become proud and confident gluten-free champions.]
As parents, the best thing we can equip our gluten-free kids with is a positive attitude when it comes to being gluten-free — right from the start. As soon as that optimistic attitude is in place, the next thing to help them cultivate is a budding sense of independence. As our children grow, we can help empower them to start taking the lead. Here are 5 tips that have helped my twin daughters (one with celiac and one with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) start to be ‘g-free’ advocates:
1. Help them champion their own cause.
Show them some ways in which they can help spread the word and raise money for celiac disease awareness. Help them start a team for an upcoming celiac walk and let them help keep track of donations flowing in and asking friends and family to physically be there to walk together as a team. We have been doing two Celiac walks (“Making Tracks for Celiacs”) a year for the past 4 years — one with friends and extended family, and another one further away from home by ourselves. We take group photos, wear team tags and hang out before and after the walk. We usually win a gift basket for the amount of money we raised, and the girls help pick it out. Going home feeling supported by loved ones, with a prize and tons of free gluten-free samples in tow — plus a sense of pride in knowing we helped raise money for a good cause — is always a great boost for self-esteem.
2. Nurture their creativity.
Make your gluten-free kid feel like a champ by helping them design a “Super Celiac” or “Gluten-Free Girl” costume. If your child is still young enough to enjoy dressing up and playing pretend, letting him or her play make-believe Superheroes with a cape and power bracelets is a fun way to “zap gluten” or whatever they want to play.
If your child is old enough, let them have their own cooking show. Have them don an apron and chef’s hat and talk through a cooking demonstration while you videotape them. This will be good public speaking practice, and it will help them organize their thoughts, follow recipes, read aloud and use good eye contact. Have them practice what they plan to say and do on the video until they are comfortable enough for you to start taping. Post it on YouTube to get them excited that they made a “real” video, which the whole world can watch and learn from.
Do your kids enjoy music more than cooking? Together, come up with some new lyrics to go with a familiar tune — all about being gluten-free. Put it to music, videotape it and send it to friends and family.
Or let them start a pretend bakery where everything is gluten-free. Help them set up a place to play with pretend food, aprons, toy cash register, fake money, paper plates, etc. Let them make their own signs, menu and decorations. Be their best customer and encourage the rest of the family to stop by with a smile and place an order.
Being gluten-free becomes natural and fun when you bring all of these types of creative play into your kids’ lives.
3. Teach them to read labels.
For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally gluten-free items, such as fruit and raisins. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten-free,” the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. When looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grains” can often be confusing for little kids (and even for adults!), so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. Corn and rice can still be considered multigrain or whole grain, too. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.
Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their gluten-free products so they can see what is okay. If your child is old enough and has a long attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Show them how many yogurts and ice creams are gluten-free, except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge. If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together.
4. Let them speak up for themselves.
Kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?” Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them inform the wait staff that their food needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross-contamination), it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat gluten-free.
If your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Teach them why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets, the more they need to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these lifelong social lessons.
5. Let it become their “normal.”
Find other gluten-free families that live near you. Get together. Let the kids get to know each other and play together on a regular basis, which might also mean snacking together — gluten-free. Get involved in a kids’ support group and the activities that go along with it. If you can’t find one, be your kid’s hero by starting one and making it happen.
If your child is old enough, let him attend a gluten-free summer camp. There are nearly 20 options in the U.S. alone! How cool would it be for a gluten-free kid to be able to do all the regular camp activities with other children on the same diet, without anyone needing to ask if the food is safe or not?
Lastly, fill his or her bookcase with children’s books about being gluten-free. If your child loves dinosaurs or princesses, count how many books he or she has about them. On the other hand, how many books does your child have about being gluten-free — something your child is going to be for life? There are a bunch of great books out there now about celiac disease and being gluten-free. You can never have too many! As they read the books, they will take pride in knowing that they are “just like” the main characters, which will help them feel understood and cherished. And consider all the people your child can share their books with — teachers, classmates, friends, relatives, etc. What better way to help spread awareness than lending books? For kids, it doesn’t get any easier…
These empowering tips will take our children far by teaching them knowledge and positive social skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. The wonderful thing is that awareness of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is growing rapidly, which in itself is pretty empowering for all of us!
- Katie Chalmers
[Kids spend hours a day at school - including meal times. College students live and eat on campus. How do you ensure their dietary needs are met? Wendy Gregory Kaho of Celiacs in the House shared her tips for navigating the school years with your gluten-free child.]
Whether it is preschool or college, planning ahead is the key to gluten-free school success. Here are my best tips for making you child safe and understood at school. Including your child at every step along the way will build confidence and teach important life skills.
1. Know your rights and advocate for your child.
Find a support group with experienced parents who can offer their insight and advice, and use online resources to educate yourself about your rights. Armed with the facts and good support it will be easier to take a calm, yet firm approach with school staff.
A 504 Plan Guide is on the Resources/Printable Guides page at the NFCA site.
2. Educate the staff.
This includes the school nurse, teacher, cafeteria staff, counselor, and principal. Explain what to expect from your child and how to best meet the child’s needs while sharing the facts about celiac disease and its only treatment, which is a gluten-free diet. Inform the staff of possible reactions to gluten that your child might experience and how they can help your child after accidental gluten exposure.
Look at the sample Teacher Letter on the NFCA site.
3. Plan and prepare for parties, field trips and events that involve food.
Whether you keep a supply of gluten-free treats for your child at school in a freezer or special drawer or plan on events as they occur, staying informed and prepared will help your child feel included. Make the process fun and an opportunity to teach nutrition and the cooking skills that will serve your child for a lifetime.
Take a look at the fun gluten-free kid food ideas on Pinterest.
4. Empower your child.
Include them in the process of choosing foods and planning and packing lunches. Role-play and practice how to explain their dietary needs.
Gluten-free school lunch ideas from Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom will get you started.
5. Stay positive.
Help your child see the opportunities to advocate for themselves and others with special diets or other needs.
Find more resources at NFCA’s website, including resources for all school levels and webinars in the archives with more school tips.
- Wendy Gregory Kaho
[The groundhog saw his shadow. Now what? Our volunteer Annsley Klehr has some ideas for keeping the kids occupied until Spring rolls around. Find more tips from Annsley in NFCA's Parenting Articles.]
By Annsley Klehr
We all know that winter can bring on a feeling of hibernation, but only to a certain degree. After a while, you get that cooped up feeling. You know, like when you were a little kid and were driving your parents nuts because you kept begging them for a playmate? Of course, any activity also has to account for dietary restrictions, but don’t worry! Here is a list of activities that kept me gluten-free and plenty busy with my daughter this winter, even if we have to spend a little extra time indoors.
1. Watch a Movie – Take your family to a movie and stash some bagged popcorn or HalfPops in your bag. You can also make some homemade hot chocolate and popcorn on the stovetop to enjoy with a movie on your comfy couch (a warm blanket is a plus!).
2. Play a Game – Remember your good ole deck of cards or a board game that could entertain you for hours? Dust them off and put them to use! There’s bound to be some good laughs. Even if your child is young, he/she can still find matches or pairs in a simplified version of Go Fish. When that gets old, make up your own game.
3. Read a Book – Cuddle up on the couch with your kid(s) and share a quiet moment either reading together or separately. Sometimes it’s fun to read something like Where’s Waldo? together where everyone is a part of the book.
4. Put Together a Puzzle – Puzzles are a great calming way to help develop spatial skills. Doing them together helps to reinforce communication skills and teaches how to negotiate with others.
5. Make a Gift – The art of making something for someone you care about, whether it be a card, birthday present, housewarming gift or just something small to show someone you care often gets overlooked. It is quite a special way to share joy with your child and teach them other ways to show love and appreciation. Out of ideas? Try checking About.com for inspiration.
6. Take a Hike – Check out the trails around you and enjoy the respite from the hubbub of daily life. Point out trees and plants budding, animals that live in the woods, sounds of nature, etc. We take time to use many of our senses to describe what we see, smell, hear and touch. Don’t forget to make yourself some gluten-free GORP (good old-fashioned raisins and peanuts) for using your sense of taste! We like to make it using peanuts, gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate chips, dried fruit, assorted seeds and nuts from the grocery store, raisins, and gluten-free O’s cereal, to name a few.
7. Pop Popcorn – Make popcorn from organic corn kernels over the stovetop and watch them pop, Pop, POP. Then add your favorite toppings: butter, cheese, salt, chocolate, etc.
8. Create an Indoor Scavenger Hunt – What’s more fun than reading simple clues and finding what might normally be a boring object in your house? It will provide hours of entertainment.
For Example (from simple to complex):
- A purple crayon
- Something blue and white?
- Something long?
- Something that can get wet?
- It’s hiding in a room of red, behind a heap and used for bed.
Not ready to create your own? Fantasy, Jr. has printable ones for you.
Then you have your more traditional poems like the one from Scavenger Hunt Fun, in which a clue is left and you have to solve it to get to your next clue. The final location usually has a surprise waiting for you.
9. Ride a Train – Too cold to go outside, but need something to get you out of the house? Pack a few snacks and get on the train for a quick tour of your city. Looking out the window of a moving train can be incredibly thrilling. If that’s not enough, bring travel bingo cards with you. Make them yourself, use online printables, or buy them here.
10. Roast S’mores – Thought you couldn’t have them anymore? Make a fire over your grill, your gas burner or a fire pit and then bring along a box of gluten-free graham crackers or bread, marshmallows and gluten-free chocolate for melt-in-your-mouth s’mores. If you want to try something a bit more original, after roasting your marshmallow, sprinkle some gluten-free chocolate chips into the middle for a different mouth-watering sensation!
Please add your own ideas to this list to share!
Annsley Klehr is a classroom teacher and owner of Gluten Freedoms, LLC, a gluten-free coaching and consulting business.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a rousing “Thank You!” to our Awareness All-Stars, the volunteers and fundraisers who help us make everyday tasks and gargantuan goals possible. This year, they hosted Cupcake Parties, manned tables, organized events, wrote articles, lent expertise, distributed resources and scaled a mountain, among other contributions. Because of their work, we have more people coming to us for information on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet than ever before.
One of my favorite things about working at NFCA is talking to our passionate volunteers. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and their personal stories always remind me that what we do really does make a difference. I’m sure I’ve learned more from them than they have from me, but all that knowledge helps NFCA better serve the community, so let’s consider it a good trade.
In particular this year, I’ve been blown away by the efforts of our youngest volunteers, who have proven that you’re never too young to be empowered. The kids participating in our Awareness All-Stars Fundraiser have been doing incredible work, and I’m thrilled that we’re more than halfway to our fundraising goal. We also have teens contributing to Kids Central, and still others finding their own ways to support NFCA. These kids are driven and ambitious, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Alice Bast were among them.
I encourage everyone to read some of our volunteer stories on NFCA’s Awareness All-Stars blog, and make sure to visit our Awareness All-Stars fundraising page. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, consider making a random donation to one of the stellar kids who have joined our mission. They have been working hard to meet their fundraising goals, and an unexpected boost from the community is a great way to say thanks.
We’ll continue to showcase our volunteers and their efforts throughout the holiday season and 2012. Watch for photos of our volunteers on our Facebook page, and check the Awareness All-Stars blog for more volunteer success stories.
Want to volunteer for NFCA? See how you can help.
[The response to Annsley's first guest post, 5 Rules for Healthy Gluten-Free Living, was so positive that I invited her back to share more of her gluten-free experiences. Here, she explains how to help your child stay gluten-free at preschool.]
As the school year rolls around, kids’ lunches are being made, and lunchboxes are being packed. It can be a stressful time for a parent of a child who is gluten-free and for the child. Here is how I decided to keep my child gluten-free and how that played out in school:
Having celiac myself and then having a child gave me one more person to worry about. Before I put a drop of food in her mouth, I sought genetic testing. If she didn’t have HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 (the main genes associated with celiac disease) then I wasn’t going to worry. . . But wait!
She came up negative for the celiac genes, but the tests also indicated she was prone to gluten sensitivity. That got a bit confusing. I decided that in my house (and in her lunchbox, too, for that matter), we were going to have a gluten-free household. I felt reassured by my decision and decided that when she got older, and if she wanted to experiment, she could try eating gluten and see what her body told her. That seemed simple enough, until I sent her to school for the first time, and I wasn’t there to monitor what went in her mouth.
Preschool Day 1
In my head: I’m so excited to be dropping off my 1 ½-year-old daughter. I’ll get a whole morning to myself – Yippee! I have nothing to worry about. I have packed her own snack and lunch.
Reality: I bring her to the table to sit down and have a snack with her friend. The snack gets put in front of them on the table. There are gluten crumbs everywhere. She just reached her hand out to grab someone else’s food. (Can you sense my panic?) My day and life just got very difficult. I will make sure her snack comes from her lunchbox, I vowed.
I quickly learned that in a typical day in preschool, the kids eat their lunches on a shared table. Then the teachers collect the lunches when the kids are done and puts leftovers back in their appropriate containers. It seems organized, but for someone with celiac disease, it would be quite a challenge to get through one day of preschool feeling good or even functioning.
In addition, the lunch containers are now contaminated, and so is everything else my daughter eats. This was a good experience for me, as it alerted me to cross-contamination risks and helped me educate the school. (Mostly, I have to worry about me. Gluten may be on my daughter’s hands and in her food containers. I have learned never to eat her leftovers!)
Preschool Day 2
In my head: Day 1 was a test, so Day 2 will have to be better since I have informed the teachers that she must eat her own snack, from her own lunchbox, on her own plate. All problems solved.
Reality: I come to pick her up and the teacher informs me that she was handed her own snack and plate. It was all going swimmingly until . . . “Your daughter is a food poacher,” the teacher said. I asked if the other kids minded that she grabbed their snack. “Well, when the kids began to leave the table, your daughter would go over to their spot without them seeing.” Oh great, my daughter is smart, conniving AND patient; she must get that from her dad. I asked the teacher if we could figure out a better solution. She was very agreeable. At least communication seemed to be going well.
To ease other parents/caretakers into the gluten-free rhythms of preschool, I have listed a few life-saving tips:
Tip #1: Come Lunchbox Prepared – Make sure you pack your child his/her own plate, utensils, drink, and napkin. Make sure these are labeled with your child’s name on them. If you need to, ask the teacher to set aside a special table so your child can have plenty of room between his/her plate and the next child’s.
Tip #2: Don’t Forget to Educate – Make sure you explain (a handwritten note is best) that your child cannot eat gluten, what that means, and specifically that NO other food can touch your child’s food. If the teachers are helping to serve the food, make sure they either wash their hands or put on new gloves when handling your child’s food. [See NFCA's Gluten-Free School Resources and 504 Roadmap]
Tip #3: Inform Your Child – No matter how young your child is, he/she is never too young to learn about gluten-free safety. I explain to my daughter that when she eats bread, it can make her sick. (I even go as far as to show her what normal and abnormal bowel movements look like after she has eaten. At 2 she will now tell me what she can and can’t eat.)
Tip #4: Always Pack a Small Treat – Always come with some small treat for your child, so when the other kids are munching away on some mouth-watering gluten-containing treat, you have a perfect substitute. A treat can be anything from raisins to pretzels to homemade breads/muffins. I often have my daughter choose what she wants her special treat to be, that way she doesn’t go grabbing from other children. (I often brief her on any gluten risks that I know of ahead of time.)
Tip #5: Mastering Snack Time – A few options: 1) Work with the teacher to plan a gluten-free alternative for every snack. So, if the school gives out Cheerios, you give a box of gluten-free O’s to the teachers to hand out at snack so your child doesn’t know the difference. 2) Request that snacks come from the kids’ lunches instead of from the school.
Preschool Day 3
In my head: Oh, good. This is going to have to be a better day, because we have come up with a better solution. Every child will get snacks from his/her own lunchbox so my child does not stand out.
Reality: What a great day! My child ate her own snack and her own food on her own plate. She did not feel the need to take from others, because all the snacks were different and didn’t come from the teacher. No cross-contamination today! I feel lucky to have such wonderful teachers who will work with me.
Just remember, communication is the key to being gluten-free.
- Annsley Klehr
Gluten Freedoms, LLC
- NFCA Webinar: The Importance of School Nurse Education & How-To Strategies for Parents of Gluten-Free Kids
- Kids Central: Parenting Guides
I will never forget the day my husband, youngest daughter and I drove to Boston to drop my eldest daughter off at college 7 years ago; the day we sat with hundreds of parents at her graduation 3 years ago; or the day we put her on a plane as she headed off to Indonesia to work in Borneo 2 years ago.
Now, I’ll never forget driving to West Philadelphia for her medical school orientation. After all these adventures, I thought I was prepared for this event. It was only around the corner, right?
Yes, around the corner physically, but emotionally it was a monumental occasion. I knew that attending her White Coat Ceremony (a tradition in medical school orientation) would be memorable, but I had no idea how much it would mean to hear my child recite the Hippocratic Oath with her peers. Every day, I work hard to educate physicians around the country about the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and ask them to be our partners in diagnosis and treatment. Now, my own daughter is now going to be one of them. Wow!
What was this day like? It started off with a session that explained how grueling the first year of medical school can be, yet reassured parents that all of our kids will strike a balance.
I also got a chance to speak with the dean of the medical school (any chance to hand out my card and spread the word). She turned her head toward me and simply said, “Celiac disease; this disease certainly is receiving a lot of attention lately.”
We were then invited to spend some time as a medical school student. This was fun! We watched standardized patient actors simulate different patient/physician scenarios, which was fascinating. In one situation, the actor kept insisting that the physician give her a prescription. ”I want medicine,” she pleaded, even though she only had a virus! It truly hit home. In our case, there is no pill…at least not yet. So, we make ourselves better through diet and dedication.
After that, we checked out the robotic patient. They asked for a couple of volunteers to assist with “surgery.” Of course, I jumped right up (I am a learner at heart). My patient had a heart attack and I had to use the defibrillator. No worries, he made it through.
Next, we headed to a room where we worked with partners on a project. It was truly interesting because it taught us all about teamwork. Statistically, patients fare better in medical situations if they have a communicative team caring for them. Lunch was next (gluten-free for me, of course).
Finally, after a number of speeches, we all had the chance to watch our sons and daughters receive their white coat and stethoscope. (Did you know that the length of the coat depicts your level of schooling?) I must say that watching my “baby” up on stage was a bit overwhelming. My mother died of pancreatic cancer before I graduated from college. It changed my life. I too was headed to medical school, but changed my mind as I couldn’t bare the pain of spending time in the hospital. Looking back, I was always passionate about medicine, and now I’ve turned that passion into preventive medicine and raising awareness for celiac disease.
I can’t express how proud I was when Elizabeth took her oath. And, thanks to getting properly diagnosed, I was there watching her.
Want your doctor to be more informed about celiac disease? Learn how you can talk to them about NFCA’s free online course for physicians.