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.   

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.