How to navigate a party with a Coeliac Child

Parties, how do you navigate a party with a coeliac child? It’s tricky but with a bit of planning it is absolutely possible.

Parties for children are part of growing up.  Fun, noise and goodie bags! 

To get dressed up, play party games, having fun, dancing.  Eating their body weight in sugar!!

But what if you’ve a coeliac child?  How are you going to manage keeping them safe?

You want them included, be involved, have fun but how do you ensure they don’t run the risk of getting glutened?

managing a party with a gluten free child

So how can you manage it?

First, speak to the party host.  It’s not an easy conversation to start, you feel you are causing a fuss, being difficult, but it needs to be done.  And the earlier the better.  People are more likely to be adaptable, make the changes to include your coeliac child if they know early.

Keep it clear and simple.  Your child can’t eat gluten.  It makes them ill.  That you’d be happy to supply their party tea on a separate plate or in a lunch box to keep your child safe.  What are they having so that you can arrange to have the same similar foods.

But what if they are at a venue?  Does the venue cater for your child?  Do they understand about cross contamination?

I had this for one party not long after her diagnosis. It was a roller-skating party.  One she really wanted to go to.  How would I negotiate it?  I chatted to the mum when we got the invite as she had to choose what she’d eat – fish fingers or nuggets & chips.  I said I’d have to send her with a packed lunch as I didn’t know if the venue could cater for her.  But I knew she wouldn’t like sitting there eating a packed lunch when everyone around her was having nuggets & chips.

Contact the party venue

I got the details from the mum & gave the venue a call. I had a surprise.  They knew about the disease.  They understood and catered for various allergies. GF nuggets, fish fingers and chips were on the menu.  They’d need to cook it in the oven as their fryer was used for other gluten items but would serve hers on a separate platter.

They skated their hearts out for an hour or so and then time for tea. Her little face lit up so bright seeing she was having the same as everyone else. Don’t underestimate the difference it makes.  Watching her sit round the table chatting to everyone, whilst munching on her chips was fabulous to watch.

Now obviously they can’t have the cake, something that lots of children look forward to so go prepared.  I often made cupcakes & would supply one in advance to come out with her party bag, or for to have when she came home.

My Top Ten Party Survival Tips

  1. State that you’d love for your child to come but that they have a special gluten free diet.
  2. Keep it simple.  That they can’t eat gluten that’s in wheat/barley in food/drinks (cheap cola)/some sweets/cakes etc.
  3. That they can’t share due to the risk of contamination – fingers that have been holding a gluten sandwich dipping into the crisps/cucumber sticks etc
  4. Is the party at their home or a venue?
  5. If at a venue – give the venue a call so you speak to them direct. 
    • Ask questions: Do they cater for a gluten free diet. 
    • Do they know about the disease, about cross contamination. 
    • Have they a separate fryer for chips, gf nuggets, fish fingers or can they provide oven cooked ones?
    • Do their responses make you feel ok about the venue itself?
  6. Is it at the parents home? Ask what is the theme, what are they planning food wise?  Is it a typical party spread, pizza or a BBQ?  By finding out what they are having, you can plan. 
  7. Can you find similar suitably safe gluten free alternatives?  Or do they offer to supply them? You’ll need to explain to them about cross contamination.  It’s probably easier to send your child to the party with a lunchbag or plate covered in clingfilm & named, to be unwrapped when sat at the table.  If your child understands and gets the risks about not eating gluten, that’s great.  If not, you may have to stay at the party and watch them like a hawk.
  8. Cake – who doesn’t like a slice of birthday cake.  But that’s no longer an option for your coeliac child.  So source an alternative. Either shop bought cupcakes or homemade ones – pop in a bag tied with ribbon or a cupcake box/tuppaware & give it to the party host to give out to your child instead. Then they aren’t left out.
  9. Party bags.  Now they are a mine field.  Most party cones are out, but I’ve had parents make special ones for my child based on the sweets she likes.  Ask them to leave the sweets in wrapping for them.  Easier for you to trust, and you can read the ingredients if needed!  Have a swap box at home too – just in case. Helps avoid disappointment
  10. Always be prepared.  Have snacks in your bag, gf biscuits, gf oat bars etc and ALWAYS send them with a named water bottle.  Something they know is theirs so they can go back to it when needed.  Drinks bottles/cups are always getting muddled up & they always seem to end up all drinking from one cup!! 

Need more help?

Need more help? I’d to find my way, just like you. I didn’t want other parents to struggle at the beginning. I’m just a regular mum like you who happens to have a coeliac child. It is overwhelming in the beginning. It’s hard I won’t lie and it’s lonely. Friends and family don’t get it. I do as I’ve been there & it will be part of our life forever. It’s second nature now, and it will be for you too in a short while. If you need extra info, help and a gentle guide to getting it right from the beginning, here’s a link to the ebook download I wrote to get you on the right path – Coeliac Disease & What you need to know. It’s coming soon in printed form…. so exciting.

How to survive a Halloween Party with a Gluten Free Child

How will you help your gluten free child survive a Halloween party? It’s time for Halloween, parties & trick or treating.

Just when you think it’s sorted, another challenge comes along.

It was easier when my GF child was slightly younger. As a parent you can control most things. But heading to teenage years, they want to be like their friends, join in, go out.

It starts getting tricky.

This year it’s about Trick or Treating and Halloween parties. Trick or Treating I’ve got covered for next week. Today it’s about parties. Halloween or otherwise.

Gluten Free Little Cook – Spooky Spectacular Baking Kit

Parties

If it’s a party, you’ll need to talk to the hosting parent (see our ebook with handy hints & a printout for hosts). We’ve always had good friends who have gone out of their way to accommodate my GF child. It’s probably easier to supply food for your child to take, so find out what they are planning & send the GF equivalent. Hot dogs (highly recommend the Promise hotdog rolls). We seem to go through a fair few of these nowadays and keep a pack in the freezer.

If they are having oven chips then if they could use normal chips without a wheat coating & if they are mindful of cross contamination, those would be suitable for your child. Ideally they need to be served first – especially if they chips are out on a buffet table where everyone helps themselves.

They need to check what they are drinking too. They mustn’t share a drink, can’t drink shop own cola (often contains barley) so a cup that is labelled or different may help minimise cross contamination.

Surviving Halloween – Gluten Free Cupcakes

Gluten Free Cupcakes & Treats

And for a treat, for the Halloween party my GF child is attending, it’s going to be cupcakes galore. Spooky monsters, with Halloween sprinkles & some cake picks that I’ve got stored away. They’ll go with her to the party. The party host has enough going on, so I’ve offered rather than them have a practice on making GF items when they are baking everything else.

Our few remaining baking kits are in the Shop for some Halloween family fun. All you need in one box; simply add 2 eggs & butter to get your mini monsters making their own.

The cupcakes can be kept in a sealed box until everyone is ready to have one. The GF child should go first before any other potentially gluten fingers get in there. Then, at least, my GF child knows that she can have one if she wants

Then hopefully, there won’t be any accidents or glutening. It’s a daily challenge, & a party raises that challenge, but it’s one we have to embrace & work out so that she can be like her friends and join in.

How will you help your gluten free child survive a Halloween party?

Your Gluten Free Coeliac Child has a Playdate Invitation

Oh yay! Your child, your coeliac child has a playdate invitation. They are being treated normally, being included. Yay!

And then the dread & fear sets in…. or it always does for me.

Maybe your child has just started the school, joined the class, you don’t know the parents. But your child is excited & looking forward to going to play at their new friends house.

Maybe your child has just be diagnosed as having Coeliac Disease. And you have yet to explain to your friends, your child’s friends what they can and can’t have going forward.

You have to explain it all over again…. what they can and can’t have. You have to trust someone to not ‘gluten’ your child. But the smile on their face at being invited to a friends house has lit them up.

Well, you’re in the right place. I’ve already negotiated those hurdles with my daughter who was diagnosed in 2018 with the disease. We’ve found the basics that you need to cover for a playdate, a sleepover and parties. At a best guess, you will receive at least 15+ party invitations in a year based on an average class of 30.

Coeliac Child has a playdate invitation

So how do you manage it all?

It’s so exciting when your coeliac child has a playdate invitation. In the first instance, meet the parent of the other child . Say hi, get the intros done. Then let them know that your child has Coeliac Disease & briefly let them know that they need special foods excluding gluten & wheat & that your happy to chat with them about your child’s needs to make it as easy as possible for them.

See, it’s easy! They don’t need to know straight off that it’s key to minimise all cross contamination. You can let them know gently.

My Top Tips

Inform the host parent of the requirements needed to keep your child safe. Discuss foods, snacks and drinks.

Give them a guideline on labels – what they are looking out for.

Suggest some suitable snacks – offer to supply ones for your child if that will help

Suggest that the children all have the same GF foods for tea & dessert so that will minimise any cross contamination issues, and at the same time keep them the same as everyone else. Fitting in is so important at a young age.

To make your life easier, I’ve put all of this information & more into an eBook covering Playdates, Parties, BBQs & Sleepovers with a two page handout to give to the host parent. They’ve then a handy guide to refer to whilst your child is in their care so that they have some guidance as to what to do & how to manage keeping your child safe.

It shouldn’t be hard to let your child be normal, have friends over or go over to their houses. With this guide, both you and your host parent can manage it all together safely.

Have questions? Feel free to drop me a message or send an email to help@glutenfreelittlecook.com

Life with a Coeliac Child

Like any other illness in life, you don’t choose to have it, be ill or have a member of your family be sick. At least with Coeliac Disease you can manage it by diet alone. You can help your body heal and watch the person in front of you turn from being a poorly individual to one that is full of health.

Seeing the difference in my daughter took a while; in fact 3-6 months before there were real signs she was improving. Her system had to go through what felt like a detox. She craved the very foods that made her ill. Her taste buds had to adapt to new flavours. Yes, there is a different taste to some gluten free foods – especially bread. If you’ve been eating normally for a long time, then you and your body adapt & accept those tastes and textures. Going gluten free means that you have to get used to new tastes.

Gluten Free Bread

She was never big on bread, but I tried to find something that she could have as an alternative if she wanted something. Her diagnosis had just come when she finally liked having a homemade hamburger… typical! So we tried various gluten free buns and sandwich slices. Warburtons GF squares won her over for a short time, but they were soon discarded. We tried other types in other supermarkets, some were liked, some were given a quick “no, I’m not eating that”.

Schar have been our go to for the longest. Their hamburger buns (McDonalds use them in Europe – I won’t go into the why can’t we have them over here debate…. yet..) and they are a top favourite in our house. They are hard to find, but well worth it. Asda seem to have them in the most. Their other bread rolls in the freezer are worth a look too. They remind me of continental rolls. Morrisons & Sainsburys stock them regularly & I actually prefer them now to regular bread rolls if we are having burgers. That way, I don’t have to worry about cross contamination, constantly washing my hands, remembering what I have & haven’t touched. It makes life easier!

Getting ahead – make your own garlic bread

Our latest bread that she likes is garlic bread to serve alongside her regular gluten free pasta and homemade chicken soup. I buy Schar ciabatta rolls, slice & fill them with garlic butter made from softened butter, crushed garlic & chopped parsley, maybe a little salt to bring out the flavour. Wrap each individual one up in silver foil, pop in a bag & freeze. Then when she does have pasta & requests a garlic bread, I can grab one straight from the freezer, pop into the oven & 10-15m later, one warm garlic bread to go. Simple & easy.

If only everything in life was as easy as that. There’s a ‘How to’ post on our Instagram account under Top Tips which (I think) is about to be renamed Hints & Tips…. something tips anyway!

Head on over & follow us there to see what we get up to, what I’m making next and what is in our next box.

The October box countdown begins at the end of the week. It’s all about having spooky fun, making chocolate spider cupcakes complete with googly eyes, legs and crunchy bodies. All totally gluten free and edible! Head over to our website to subscribe.

Don’t be afraid to ask “is that gluten free” when eating

Sometimes it’s embarrassing to ask the question “is that gluten free” when you know you’ve already ordered a dish that is supposed to be just that. 

But what if you have doubts about the safety of the food that has just been put in front of you?

  • You don’t want to seem pushy
  • You don’t want to be dramatic
  • You don’t want to be that problem person in the restaurant, have people looking at you like your fussy.

Well, sometimes, you have to do that just that, you have to be that person that asks lots of questions as you don’t want your child to be ill.

I don’t mind asking questions, but, in normal fashion, I tend to blush and go bright red when doing so, it’s just one of those things.  I didn’t like asking questions as a child because of it, but as an adult I tend not to worry, especially if it involves the safety of one of my children.  But if I doubt a dish is safe as I did this weekend, I know I have to. 

And worse still if I’m lunching in a well known restaurant that is particularly good at catering for Coeliacs.  A place that I trusted & had specifically booked for being so.

Why would I question a dish that I’ve specifically ordered to be gluten free so that my child is fed safely?

But I had to as despite constantly stating my child was coeliac & required gluten free food, she’d been served a regular burger & chips. 

What if I hadn’t questioned it?  The family afternoon would’ve been ruined & my child would have been in pain and ill.  And more worryingly, as she hasn’t had gluten in such a long period, would her symptoms have been stronger, different, worse?

It was only by chance as I looked at the dishes in front of us that an alarm bell went off in my head.  I’d read on the menu that the regular burgers came in brioche buns.  I’d forgotten, as we haven’t eaten out in so long, that any GF foods coming out of the kitchen normally have little flags in them.  But I was definitely staring straight at a brioche burger bun on a plate sat in front of my hungry coeliac child.

Gluten Free Burger & chips with a GF flag

As the waitress looked at me, I know for a fact that my face changed.  I’ve an expressive face and a look can convey a thousand words as most mums can. 

“Is that gluten free?” came shooting out of my mouth as I was about to say “tuck in” instead.  The look on the waitress’s face told me all I needed to know.  “I’ll check” she said.  She was back in seconds & the plate was taken away.

How in the ordering process and me stating several times that my child was coeliac and needed gluten free food that it got missed I don’t know.  Everything is automated once the order is taken & put through at the front desk and sent to the kitchen.  One plain (very plain) gluten free burger & chips.  No thorough explanation was offered as to the oversight.  The meal was replaced with a suitable gluten free offering, but there was no reason as to why it was not as ordered in the first place.  Even the waitress at the end apologised and said it shouldn’t have happened. 

I understand human errors occur, but eating something that isn’t gluten free could cause your child much pain and damage it’s an error that shouldn’t occur, specifically when orders are taken electronically and checked again before going out.  When it is your child you must question any food item that you don’t prepare yourself.

  • Do question your server that they have the right gluten free dish
  • Does the restaurant use a specific way to highlight gluten free dishes?
  • Does it come with a flag showing its gluten free?
  • Is it on a different coloured plate?
  • Is it uncut to avoid contamination?

As I’ve learnt this weekend, it is always best to double check.  I wasn’t being rude, fussy or awkward.  I was being a mum, protecting my child, so that she didn’t miss out on the family event that afternoon by being made ill from a simple mistake. 

So whether you are fine asking questions, or blush bright red like me, don’t ever think you’re silly for questioning anything, even if you are in a fully GF restaurant. 

It’s always best to be safe & not sorry. It’s not worth the risk

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…..