Schools nearly out – bring on the snacking

Managing a Coeliac Childs diet

The children will be home all the time (almost)!!  They’ll be constantly hungry, raiding the cupboards and snacking all the time!!  And managing a child’s coeliac diet is a trial at the best of times.

Constantly eating us out of house and home! And never full……

What do you do? How do you manage with a coeliac child?

We have packed lunches for school – whilst I’ve had conversations with the catering staff at the school, I’m just wary. It isn’t worth the risk, but sometimes it would be nice to just not have to prepare a lunch box in the morning.  I’m fed up preparing them, and by now my coeliac child has had enough eating them too. And I wish my lunchboxes looked like the picture below, but they don’t. I’m just a mum doing my best on a daily basis. It’s all we can do. Just like any other mum.

She doesn’t like sandwiches – never did pre diagnosis either

Occasionally has a pasta salad….

She did like sausages in a Schar bun – the frozen ones are just divine – even I eat them too, Found in Morrisons, Sainsburys and Asda. They were down to £2 last week in Sainsburys!!

She prefers to just have bacon pieces – that I must cook in the morning or in advance.

So, her lunch contains a FreeFrom Oat bar from Tesco for her snack, bacon pieces, an Innocent smoothie pouch, fruit, FreeFrom digestive biscuits, yogurt & a FreeFrom chocolate snack bar.

Not the healthiest of lunches as she’s now decided she won’t have yogurts either.  Her calcium intake has severely dropped the past month – more on that later in the week.

So how do you go about feeding your coeliac children for the school holidays, keep them entertained & ‘full’.  Ever noticed how hard it is to keep a coeliac child full!!

So how do you go about keeping them full?

I have no magic answers, as I’ve taken my eye off the ball slightly with life going on in the background, but with the end of school, its time to try new things, however hard that is and sometimes it’s really hard to just get them to try new things.

Obviously, fresh fruit is a good thing for them to snack on, but how hard is it to get kids to eat fruit?  They are drawn to the snacks, the biscuits, colourful packaging, the sugar that pre-teens and teens seem to be drawn to.

10 Snacks options to try:

  1. Yogurt – a great source of calcium & protein to help their growing bones
  2. Popcorn – the plain types (not covered in sugar) are a nutritious snack & full of antioxidants– mind when giving to young children due to choking
  3. Nuts* – a handful of nuts can be beneficial (not salted ones!).  Almonds are actually seeds and have a great source of fibre, protein & contain vitamin E, selenium, zinc, calcium, magnesium & other B vitamins.  *Dependant obviously on age/nut allergies etc.
  4. Raisins – contain iron.  I was told a long time ago that after eating raisins you should eat some cheese which will help neutralise the sugar??  No idea if true – must Google!
  5. Cheese – a piece of good cheese with lunch will boost their protein & calcium too
  6. Carrot/celery sticks and hummus – hummus is made from chickpeas & contains fibre & plenty of antioxidants. 
  7. Energy balls – try making your own?  Not one I’ve tried, but think we need to give it a go.  Normally made from oats (use GF ones), ground nuts, dried fruits & honey.  I had a look online & this one is simple enough by using Gluten Free Oats in the recipe and suitable GF chocolate.  Tesco chocolate chips (80-100g) are suitable.  Check the ingredients for any changes. No Bake Banana Energy Balls
  8. Bell Peppers – naturally sweet.  Dip them in guacamole (make your own by mashing an avocado with a fork, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a little garlic & even a couple of teaspoons of yogurt to soften the texture further).  You get good fats from the guacamole, vitamin c from the lemon and antioxidants from the garlic!
  9. Nut butters & Apples – almond butter, cashew butter.  I’ve come to recently like peanut butter on apples too.
  10. Frozen fruit popsicles.  Pick up some refillable/reusable lolly moulds and make your own ice lollies with fruit.  Puree fruit in a blender, add a little water or fruit juice & freeze. I’ve seen some in Home Bargains & Sainsburys.
  11. Rice Cakes – plain or with nut butter/peanut butter

What are your top snack tips or who do you follow for handy hints for food?

My top one to follow is the The Batch Lady on Facebook – if one of her recipes takes my fancy, I just convert it to a gluten free one.  She has some great ideas to prep for food in advance so you always have something in the freezer and are ready for anything.

Four days left of school for us!!

Yay, I think…..

Labels. Is it Gluten Free?

Reading Labels well....

Reading labels is key to Coeliac Disease.  If you can master those, you have the ability and confidence to make informed decisions.

I see on lots of Facebook groups, “can I have this”, “Is this safe”, “is this gluten free”.  Make life easy and learn to read food labels well & confidently.

Reading is now a key part of your coeliac or gluten free lifestyle.  My top suggestion is join Coeliac UK – you then have access to an online digital membership or receive a handbook. With membership comes access to two apps.  One for scanning labels and one for finding venues to eat at.

As a Coeliac, you need to cut out all items that contain gluten, or ‘may contain’ gluten/wheat. Remember the key word ‘B-R-O-W-S’ to help you recall the items you need to look out for on labels. These all need to be excluded from your diet: 

Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, Spelt. 

Anything with those items in will potentially cause a reaction and make you ill.  Being ‘glutened’ as it is known!  And the longer that you are off gluten your reactions may change/become more severe. 

Oats are an exception as they don’t contain gluten but a protein called Avenin which mimics gluten.  Oats must be processed in a wheat free factory and labelled as Gluten Free to be safe to consume for a Coeliac.  However, there are still a percentage of Coeliacs that react to oats regardless of whether they are Gluten Free or not.   If you have a reaction, you need to speak to your consultant.

Learn to read labels

Reading labels is key.  We have excellent food labelling in the UK which helps in spotting any item a Coeliac can’t eat.

  • Every label has to list every ingredient and component that makes up that ingredient.
  • They are always listed in order of the most to the least. 
  • Each ingredient component will be listed in brackets after it to show what it is made up of
  • If gluten or wheat is within the list of ingredients it should be in bold writing to show it is an allergen

In the example above, the label has percentages of an ingredient to show how much is in it, and if you look carefully after the 3rd ingredient, the Prawn Cocktail Flavour, it has brackets after it so that you can see what the flavour is made up of, what it’s particular components are.

A label will ALWAYS be up-to-date & overide a scanning app.  They are often updated later.

May Contains

Coeliac UK’s advice is to avoid may contains & one I agree with.  It’s like trying to guess which one box in one hundred boxes has a present in by sight alone.  Some packaging – such as Cadburys chocolate bars will state ‘may contain wheat’ or ‘may contain gluten’.   Some Coeliacs eat them, some don’t.   We don’t eat may contains, nor use them in baking or in our boxes.

Gluten Free

When an item says it is gluten free, that itself is a legal term and undergoes rigorous testing to be declared so.  As we are looking out for the key 4 allergens to remove from a Coeliacs diet, when you see Barley listed, it is obviously of concern.  “Ooh, we can’t have that, isnt that bad”.  But it says it is gluten free.  What’s the right answer?

Barley is one of the 14 allergens and is listed on labels to demonstrate that it contains that ingredient.  Some people have a Barley allergy on top of Coeliacs or separate to it. An item that is labelled Gluten Free will always be less than the 20ppm (20 parts per million) of gluten deemed safe for a Coeliac.

So if you are having a gluten free beer/lager, and it states Gluten Free but also states it has Barley in it, then the barley will be less than the specified 20ppm, it will have had the gluten removed though the various stages of fermentation / distillation and be totally suited for a gluten free diet.  BUT if you have a barley allergy, it is there to highlight to those suffering from a barley allergy that its present.

Understand the basics, and you’ll be fine.  But reading labels each and every time is key.  Manufacturers are always changing ingredients.  It’s always best to check.

Family Celebrations

How do you manage yours?

With lockdowns coming to an end, it’s time to start socialising again.  This means eating out again, eating at friends and events.  But how do you manage your child at family events to ensure that they are safe?

If they are older, and aware of the disease that they have, it’s important that they have the confidence to question adults/waitresses etc to ensure that they are eating the right foods and that they are suitable for them.

But if they are younger, you probably have to watch them like a hawk, take a packed lunch and watch what other people unknowingly offer them too.  It can be so tricky and you have to have eyes everywhere.  It can make a family event so utterly stressful for both you and your child.

With a coeliac child, planning in advance is key; always check with a venue before you arrive to ensure they can cater for you, always have a back up snack or two in your bag, a back up packed lunch is always a help at family events especially if its a buffet to ensure your child is kept safe. 

Pre-Covid I would ensure that a packed lunch or several back up snacks were available in case the venue or the family member wasn’t 100% aware.  If it was to be held at a venue, there would always be several calls and clarification that they could cater for her and that they understood the cross contamination requirements.

It makes planning family celebrations a little hard when venturing out but it can be done. 

For my birthday celebration, I wanted to go to one of my favourite local restaurants, The Black Horse.  I made the reservation online, and left a message so that I could discuss our dietary requirements.  Having never taken my daughter to this restaurant post her diagnosis, I wasn’t sure what they could offer. 

I needn’t have worried, as ever their customer service is second to none and they had great knowledge with regards to her requirements as well as having a separate fryer specifically for GF items & chips (always her first option) along with their menu marked up clearly stating what is gluten free / dairy free requirements.  We could have a great family lunch out with fantastic food and know that I’d done everything I could to ensure that she could have a meal with the family, be included and more importantly be safe.  

More venues are beginning to understand the importance of having gluten free options that are safe for Coeliac’s.  Let’s hope that it continues as it makes life so much easier for us parents.

Have you got a favourite venue that caters for you and your child?  If so, shout about them in the comments below.   

Who, Why & What

Who are you to know about gluten free?

The GFLC Team

Well, I’m sure you would want to know who is behind a business before you subscribe to it in the first place.  Plus, given it is such a specialism & a level of trust, you’d need to know that I actually know what I’m talking about.  So here you go.  Here’s all about us! 

Who

Who 

I’m Nicky, I’m a single mum to two amazing girls Olivia & Grace.  They are now respectively a teen and a pre-teen but part of the team behind Gluten Free Little Cook.  I run a gluten free cake business specialising in bespoke birthday cakes and postal/delivery cream teas consisting of GF fruit & plain scones, cakes and brownies.  I did say I’d never make brownies as they are the one thing that a coeliac is offered.  “ooh we have brownies” Yay said no one ever!  But, with the creation of the teas, they needed an extra hit of chocolate, so I make them too (and I’m reliably informed by a friend’s daughter “they are the best brownies in the world ever”.  The aim was to always ensure that any item ever tasted gluten free.  If my mum can’t guess, then no one else should either! 

I’m not a trained baker by any means, I’m more than happy in the kitchen and like many of you, will have just practised what I learnt from when I was a child baking with either my grandmother or mother.  Nowadays, lots of people haven’t had those experiences and are frightened of baking anything, getting it wrong, or just don’t know how to do it.  It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t turn out like in a picture, as long as it tastes good, a little extra icing in strategic places can be just what you need! 

I was however, a trained nanny & worked with many families over the years, organising parties, activities etc & my kids too always had a themed birthday event be it Dalmations, Princesses or Frozen.  I’m used to keeping children busy & baking is a great form of fun, learning and determination.  Prior to having my children, I worked with a number of corporate organisations, managing teams and back office admin.  I do much prefer being behind the scenes organising, but, when it’s your own business and livelihood, you need to step up and out.  I am an avid networker, I always know someone who is the right person for the job & I help other women start their businesses and provide advice from starting, to tech to social media. 

I’m also heading to a BIG birthday so it’s time to do something different, something for me – at the end of this very week I turn 50.  It’s either go big or go home, so it’s best to just do it big.  Which is why I started Gluten Free Little Cook, as I like a challenge & didn’t want to see anyone miss out.  All cakes/bakes are tested before any recipe is put into a box, either ones I’ve adapted from regular cookery books, or borrow from gluten free ones.   

And as it is National Selfie Day, I’ll even be putting up a picture up on Instagram/Facebook today, Monday 21st June. 

Life begins at 50 or so I’m told.  Let’s see.

If you want to see what else I do, head over to Nic’s GF Bakes – I’m on Instagram, Facebook & there’s a website too.  https://linktr.ee/nicsgfbakes

Why

My why is my youngest child Grace.  For years she was plagued with ear and eye infections, lethargic and forever having a sore tummy.  It’s tummy tonsilitis they’d say, a continuation from her ear/eye infection & her lymph glands are swollen.  By the end of 2017, I was at breaking point with her being ill again, having seen an ENT specialised who dismissed my suggestion at an allergy of some sort.  But by December, my child was grey.  Washed out & not right. In early Jan 2018 at the age of 9, I took her to the doctors again.  A new locum GP listened & agreed she was an odd colour & ordered blood tests.  Very comprehensive ones covering everything & filling at least 7 vials.  Grace wasn’t impressed. Yet, 3 days later I had a call that changed our world and by the beginning of Feb, we had a diagnosis and began our gluten free journey.   

Coeliac Disease, an auto-immune disease, not an allergy, is becoming more well known, but we are well behind Europe in catering for it.  And it is still very much misunderstood, as you will know if you are a parent of a coeliac, it’s a challenge as it is not just about cutting out the gluten/wheat.  The acronym BROW is handy to remember (Barley, Rye, Oats & Wheat) to remove all those items from your diet, that in itself is easy enough.  However, it is about removing all forms of cross contamination that could make them ill as well as any items with ‘may contain’ on them.   

Separate butters, jams, toasters (or toaster bags), food cooked at the top of an oven on separate trays, constant label reading and ensuring that everything is safe to eat.  No double dipping, no sharing bags of sweets, crisps etc.  Eating out is a challenge, the constant questions, queries, do you have a separate fryer for chips? (her staple diet along with ketchup!).  When you get asked or told “it’s got milk in it, is that ok” or my other favourite “don’t worry, it’s hot, the gluten will get killed”.  Umm, it wasn’t alive in the first place.  Thanks, we’ll eat elsewhere.  

The disease, whilst hard, is remarkable in the fact that it can be treated by diet alone.  Remove the gluten, and given time, the body responds.  Grace has thrived the past 2 years, her numbers have dropped, and whilst she hasn’t been seen during Covid for her usual tests, seeing her grown in height the past year, I know that she is doing well. 

What & How

Our what is ‘what can we do to help you, how can I help solve your problem’.   

Firstly, I never wanted a child to miss out especially not my daughter.  I have seen how she was affected in the beginning of our gluten free journey when she’d attend a party with her packed lunch and miss out on the treats, the cake & half the party bag too as it was either not suitable or would potentially be contaminated in some way.  It couldn’t be trusted.  And trust is important.  Her face, downhearted & teary, is enough to break anyone let alone her parent.  I decided then and there that she wouldn’t miss out.  Being different is hard enough when you are an adult.   When you just want to be like your peers and fit in, especially when young, its hard to adjust.  Luckily, Grace is rather resilient.  At school, for her birthday, she’d just take in gluten free cupcakes for her treat.  No one knew and no one should.  The important thing is that no one missed out. 

Being different is hard.  It’s nice when your child is invited and included to a party; that the parent takes a big decision to make everything suitable for your child to be included.  I’m lucky to have friends like that. I hope you are too. 

Ingredients are important to us too and what goes in our boxes.  I only use high quality items and what I would use in my own cake business & at home too.  I use Doves Freee From flours, Belgian chocolate & sugars from Tate & Lyle or Silver Spoon.  Gluten Free sprinkles are sourced from my own supplier and are safe for coeliacs.  I don’t use ‘may contain’ wheat but some items are may contain for peanuts/nuts. 

Each and every box will always have more.  I don’t know how to do ‘less’.  It’s not in my nature.  There will be themes to tie a box together, seasonal, UK holidays including Halloween, Christmas & Easter.  I’m sure there will be a healthy January option……to tie in with the New Year! 

Each box contains: 

  • all the dry ingredients needed to make the recipe.  Simply add the butter, egg, milk as required. 
  • the full recipe so you can make it again with a reuseable wipeable recipe card. 
  • a theme to tie in with the seasonal nature of food.  Surely July has to be about strawberries!!  And August for corn and September for apples.  An additional recipe suggestion, hints & tips on other items to try. 
  • a ‘made by me’ card for your child to put alongside their bakes & send us a picture so we can share it 

If a box contains fairy cakes or cupcakes – we’ve fantastic fun wrappers, gluten free sprinkles and cupcake picks to decorate them with and make them look awesome.  For biscuits we’ll have sprinkles, icing even a chocolate dip depending on what we are helping you create. 

 Above all, it’s important that it’s fun, ‘normal’ and exciting.  The tasty part is just what it should be!   They will adapt & evolve in the coming months ensuring that we provide the best quality and fun that keeps you and your child happy.

 Our first recipe cards head off to the printers this week to be made.  Bright, fun and colourful. 

 Have you got yours ordered so you don’t miss out?  

Top Ten Tips for going gluten free

Top Ten Tips

Here are my Top Ten Tips for going gluten free, ONCE, your child’s diagnosis is officially confirmed by a consultant (not your GP) following blood tests and potentially an endoscopy.  Most children are diagnosed on blood tests alone if their results are high (10x the normal range). Note that Coeliac Disease is an auto-immune disease and not an allergy. 

STEP 1 - Remove all gluten from their diet.

Removing gluten means changing their whole diet and cutting out gluten containing items from their food intake with anything that includes Barley, Rye, Oats*, Wheat, Spelt.  A useful acronym is ‘BROWS’ which will help you remember what to look for.

*Oats – can be eaten as part of a gluten free diet but must be marked as ‘gluten free oats’ so they are not contaminated.

STEP 2 - JOIN COELIAC UK. 

Coeliac UK is the UK charity which has lots of advice & help for any questions you have.  It’s open to all with a member only access to additional information / apps and help.  

STEP 3  - READ & LEARN.

There are lots of places for information but be mindful that there is mis-information out there & one person’s view may be out of date.  For up to date information check on Coeliac UK first.  Be mindful that you look at UK websites regarding Coeliac Disease.  Coeliac is the UK spelling and Celiac is the USA spelling. 

Learn to read labels well.  There are apps to help you double check, but a label will always be most up to date.

Grab a copy of my new updated book now available on Amazon, Coeliac Disease & your Child – What you need to knowwritten especially to help parents when your child has just been diagnosed. It’s overwhelming in the beginning.  What do you need to know, where do you start, how are you going to manage.  The right information at the start helps your journey into the coeliac world much easier.  I’ve been there, done that & all you need is there ready to get you started.

It’s what I learnt and what I wished I’d have known when my child was diagnosed. It would have made life so much easier.

STEP 4  - CHECK EVERYTHING.

Yes, check everything.  Even the strangest things have gluten that you wouldn’t expect.  And always double check a label of something you regularly buy.

Check your kitchen ingredients for those you currently use including; stock cubes, packet sauces, anything pre-packaged, soups, tinned items, freezer & fridge food, drinks including cordials, fizzy drinks.  Some supermarket own brands have barley in them such as cola.

Anything that can be double dipped or have a knife dipped in it, it will need to be replaced if used by the Coeliac to avoid cross contamination

And not everything has to be labelled gluten free to be gluten free.  You’ll save yourself a fortune if you learn to read labels well.

STEP 5  - SAFE SPACE / PLACE.

Sort a shelf or a cupboard in your kitchen for gluten free food items.  You will need new suitable breakfast cereals, gluten free bread, pasta & snacks.

STEP 6 - OWN ITEMS.

The Coeliac in the house will need their own labelled butter, jam, condiments that can’t be double dipped.  They will need toaster bags to toast their gluten free bread and/or their own new toaster.  Label items or place them in a suitable fridge type container so everyone knows not to use them.

STEP 7 - CROSS CONTAMINATION

This is the biggest hurdle.  Prepare their food first; use washable plastic or a new wooden board to be used only by the Coeliac for preparing food.  Use silicone spoons instead of wooden ones.  Cook food on the top shelf of the oven above the regular food so it doesn’t get dripped on.

For further information see Coeliac UK & this blog

STEP 8 - BE PREPARED

Always have a snack with you in case you are somewhere that doesn’t cater for Coeliacs.  Research venues if you are going out.  Plan ahead.

STEP 9 - EATING OUT

It can be done.  You need to find out what restaurants cater for you and understand the disease. 

Fish & Chips; they need to have a separate fryer to cook any items to be gluten free – so chips & gluten free fish or sausages need to be cooked there.  Some provide gluten free battered fish but fry it in the same oil as regular fish.  Heat does not kill gluten!  This is definitely cross contamination and could/will make a Coeliac ill.

STEP 10 - THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

It’s about adapting everything that you already cook or use.  Making lasagne, use gluten free pasta sheets, substitute the stock cubes, cooking sauces etc.  For Yorkshire puddings, use cornflour (best option).  Baking a cake, use gluten free flour.