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.

Gluten Free? Double check your labels.

Check, check and check again!

It’s coming up to the crazy time of the year. But you know what is safe. You’ve bought it a hundred times. But why do you or your child have a reaction this time?

Yes, the manufacturers have changed the ingredients. It happens so often, with little or no notice. It’s time to check your labels.

It’s hard work being coeliac or having a coeliac child. We start off well reading the labels, but then as its something you buy on a regular basis, you don’t double check. And we need to especially at this time of the year!

It’s always good to check your habits this time of year, to double check the ingredients on the label, just in case that they have changed. Better to check in advance before eating than find out afterwards and be stuck at home near a bathroom or in bed.

But what are you looking for?

Check your labels. You are looking for anything that contains gluten.

A great acronym to remember is B.R.O.W.S which is for Barley, Rye, Oats* , Wheat or Spelt.

Any of them can be put into ingredients for food or drinks and are to be avoided at all cost by an individual on a gluten free coeliac diet.

For instance, barley can often be found in own brand supermarket colas or wheat can be in soy sauce.

Oats* are safe as long as labelled gluten free. However, even gluten free oats can cause a reaction in some Coeliacs. They contain a protein called Avenin which mimics gluten.

Learn to read labels

You know what you are looking for and you know that you need be able to read labels well. This can save you a fortune, as not everything you eat needs to be labelled Gluten Free.

Reading labels is key to managing this disease.

Here’s a link to a more detailed info on how to read labels. A label is there to tell you what is in the product & what it is made up of. Do remember that whilst you can scan a label, the scanners are normally behind a few days/weeks/months. A label ‘should’ always be accurate, uptodate & says what is on the tin (literally!). For further details see Coeliac UK advice on food shopping.

Some products use ingredients that are made up of other items too. They will always be stated on the label and their ingredients will read after them within brackets. Think of it like a book. There’s a title, a chapter title & the chapter itself to tell the story.

Sushi was being discussed yesterday in a Facebook group. Sushi has a long line of ingredients, with lots of components making up each sushi roll. So how do you read those?

Break it down

The label states everything that is in the product. The ingredients work from the most to the least.

Starting with the Cooked White Sushi Rice. In the brackets afterwards you have ‘water, white rice, rice vinegar’. That is what is in the rice. After anything that has more than one component to make it there will always be brackets showing what is in it. Further down the list shows that the soy sauce bottle is safe as it’s made of ‘water, soya bean, salt & vinegar’. But since the rice has wheat flour in the whole product, it is a big no.

I know that we will all be busy rushing around in the coming weeks, gearing up to get ready for the big day but do get yourself into the habit of stopping, checking and double checking before you put your usual into the basket. Far better to check in advance or before you or your child have eaten something that could ruin the next 24hrs, put you on tender hooks, or see you missing out on something that you were looking forward to.

Keep warm & keep well.

Happy Baking!

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?

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

Has your child just been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease?

What to do when you get that diagnosis

It isn’t easy hearing the news that your child has been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease.

It is heart breaking. But at least you now have a diagnosis as to why they’ve been ill.

What do you do now?

The sense of chaos and overwhelm is undeniable when your child is diagnosed with coeliac disease. But, with a little planning and prep, you can get to grips with it and get your child back on track to the best health possible.

Because that’s all that matters right?

It is the only disease that can be cured by diet alone. Isn’t that just amazing.

But where do you start?

There’s lots to learn, but our free Top Ten Tips will help get you started on your journey ticking off all the little things to know and giving you a good starting guide about Coeliac Disease.

There is so much to think about in the beginning whilst you find your feet; from checking labels, finding foods they like, checking store cupboard essentials and learning how to cook in a different way.

My first E-book – Coeliac Disease – A handy guide to getting started has been launched this month, available in the shop and on Amazon, which helps relieve some of that overwhelm. It’s a general all rounder, my child focused help book is in it’s final stages & will be here soon.

I want to tell you it can all be managed. It takes a little getting used to, remembering to do things differently, but, once you have those processes in place and know what you are looking for and doing, everything will be fine. I promise.

And that is what you want in the first place. To get your child back on their journey to the best of health.

Being Gluten Free – Managing Cross Contamination

Cross Contamination

Managing Cross contamination & being gluten freel. Just the words fill you with dread.  I think it is the scariest part of Coeliac Disease.

But what does it actually mean as a parent of a coeliac child & what happens in your daily life?

Just one crumb can mean the difference between being well and being ‘glutened’ by cross contamination.  Glutened is the term most Coeliacs use when they have accidently consumed gluten.  How your child reacts depends on how long they have been off gluten & on their gluten free diet and what their reactions were before they were diagnosed. 

It’s just a crumb……..

But it’s not just one crumb that’s a visible contaminator.  It’s if someone uses the wrong butter & scrapes their gluten bread with it, dipping their knife into the jam jar, the mayonnaise, mustard, cutting the cheese with a dirty knife on a crummy breadboard.  Sharing bags of crisps, popcorn, sweets are out too as maybe that person or child has just had their regular gluten sandwich, and puts their hand into your child’s crisps…. The risk is too great.

So how do you avoid cross contamination?

Being Gluten Free - Managing Cross Contamination
Managing cross contamination in your kitchen for your coeliac child

Kitchen

Keep your kitchen clean, crumb free and have processes that everyone knows so that any contaminations can be minimised at all times.  Let’s focus on the kitchen and the various risks you may or may not think of.  This is based on how we work our kitchen as I’ve one child with Coeliacs and one without. 

When my daughter was diagnosed, I chose to change pretty much anything that the ‘family’ used as a whole, so that if she grabbed anything, it wouldn’t make her ill.  This included all cereals, crisps & anything I cooked with.

We’ve one corner area in the kitchen that houses the toaster & bread bin. This is the only area that ever has gluten in it.  I stopped baking with gluten flour in 2018 as the potential for contamination was too high.  Flour just goes everywhere & wasn’t worth the risk once diagnosed. See our Top Ten Tips in beginning your gluten free journey.

CHECK EVERYTHING!

Cupboards – Once diagnosed, check everything that you use for family cooking.  If you use packet mixes, stock cubes, spices, frozen meals, chips – check to see if they contain wheat/gluten or are a ‘may contain’. 

Your child will need their own butter, jam, spreads.  Squeezy bottles – honey, jam, ketchup come handy here as they are less likely to get a knife dipped into them.

Managing Cross Contamination

Chopping Boards

You have a lovely wooden chopping board.  You use it for everything.  Cutting bread, vegetables, fruit.  It’s cleaned & scrubbed on a regular basis.

Wood however, can harbour the gluten & contaminants so it is best kept just for bread – gluten bread and not for using to cut/chop other items.  We have several plastic boards that can be used specifically for veg/fruit/gluten free items and they can be popped through the dishwasher.

Oven

You are cooking a multitude of items, both gluten and non gluten in the oven.  Put the GF items on a separate tray and place at the top of the oven to cook.  This ensures that the GF tray doesn’t get any contamination from drips of non GF food cooking at the same time.

Toaster

Either have a completely separate toaster for GF and non GF bread to be toasted, or, make use of toaster bags.  Be mindful how you handle the bags & get the toast out of the bag.  Remember they’ve been in a ‘gluten environment’ if it’s a non GF toaster, the outside of the bag is potentially covered in crumbs etc.  We use a pair of tongs to remove the toast/waffle from within the bag.

Hob

Stirring – ensure you use separate spoons if you have GF & non GF items in pans on the hob.  Ensure that you have disposed of any wooden spoons and change to silicone ones instead.

It’s hard in the beginning managing cross contamination, but with time, knowledge and processes in place that everyone adheres to, it is possible & becomes second nature.  If your child is older they will learn to question what they are eating, could they read the label to double check its safe, ask if it has gluten in it.  Younger ones learn from following what their parents are doing & learn that they don’t feel poorly any longer. 

And when, a few months down the road, you see your child blossoming again, looking well and not pale, feeling ill or sick, or having a sore tummy, spending hours on the loo, then you will be glad of all the hard work you put into it at the beginning and know that the processes you have in place are working, keeping your child safe & well.

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.