A guest post from Nicky from Gluten Free Little Cook sharing her experiences of how to adjust to a child with coeliac disease.
Having a child diagnosed with Coeliac Disease is life-changing. Whilst the disease isn’t life-threatening, it requires changes to your life forever that affect you, your child, and your family life. You don’t know how it is until you are in the middle of it all. But what do you need to do to help your child in their home environment?
Our family story
My daughter was 9yrs old when diagnosed. She’d been in pain on & off for a while and now we finally had an answer to all the ear/eye/stomach pain that she had endured.
Potentially, she’d had it since birth, but she grew normally, hit her development markers, was above average height and was seriously independent!
Other than having terrible constipation when a toddler, there was no outward sign that she was suffering from Coeliac Disease. She didn’t have a distended tummy, wasn’t sick, didn’t have diarrhoea, her hair wasn’t thinning. She was pretty much normal.
During the diagnosis process, she had to keep eating gluten until the consultant said it was confirmed. That was the hardest thing to do. Luckily for us, she was diagnosed on blood tests alone as her results were so high. Some must endure an endoscopy and further blood tests to determine a diagnosis.
But now we could go gluten-free, but what does that mean? Surely that’s easy just cutting out the gluten not a big lifestyle change? But that is where it gets confusing & tricky when you have a child with coeliac disease.
It’s about cutting out gluten that’s in so many food groups including Barley, Rye, Oats* and Wheat (*oats are gluten-free but need to state so to be eaten by a coeliac if they can tolerate them) and about managing cross-contamination in your house, when out visiting friends, family & restaurants.
One tiny crumb or dirty spoon used in a gluten dish could contaminate the food and make your child ill.
Changing your kitchen routines
So, you must plan and prepare all food items with care. It’s hard work but becomes second nature to ensure that your child gets well and remains healthy & strong. And you continually wash your hands – so it’s just like the pandemic!
Kitchen surfaces need to be clean and clear of crumbs & debris. Your cupboard essentials need to be checked for gluten & changed including cordials/fizzy drinks.
Every item and every label must be checked. I chose to adapt to an almost gluten-free lifestyle within the home so she wouldn’t risk getting ill as well as choosing to buy alternatives to anything I’d use so it didn’t contain wheat or gluten e.g., soy sauce & stock cubes.
Other items to change were her own butter and jams/chocolate spreads that are labelled and kept in a plastic box in the fridge, so everyone knows they are hers & not double-dipped with a dirty knife.
She has her own cupboard where I put all the foods and treats that are her’s so she knows they are safe to eat.
And I had to learn to cook a different way too.
Cooking everything differently
Anything cooked on the hob needs to have its own spoon to stir it with. You can’t use the same spoon in different dishes just in case I happened to be making anything with gluten in it.
But what about kitchen equipment? We changed or adapted some items too.
The wooden spoons & wooden chopping boards went as gluten can be absorbed into them so now we have plastic/silicone ones that can go through the dishwasher. They are only ever used for GF food items and fruits/vegetables.
Cooking in the oven? More planning. The tray with the gluten-free food needs to be placed at the top of the oven so that no contamination occurs by other foods spitting/dripping onto it and GF food is always served first to avoid contamination.
Family events and parties
It’s exhausting thinking about it all as nowadays it is second nature. And this only touches the surface, as attending family events, buffets, BBQ’s etc can be a nightmare as you watch people potentially double-dipping, passing bread over open food items. It is easier to take a packed lunch for her, so she is safe & I’m not panicking.
After my first disaster trying to make GF pizzas (who knew it could be so hard) I learnt the hard way how to make foods gluten-free. Then it became second nature. But I never wanted anyone to miss out, my daughter particularly, and then others.
Why I created Gluten Free Little Cook
Seeing her disappointed face, spurred me on to create Gluten Free Little Cook. I began to create and design subscription baking kits to contain fun and normal recipes that are safe for those children with Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerances.
Each box is different, bright, and colourful with fun in mind so that your child doesn’t miss out and they can make tasty normal treats whilst enhancing their learning, developing their reading, following instructions, improving their dexterity, and building lifelong skills.
Parent feedback says that it’s nice to get something that is just for my child, so they can bake together or do it themselves, have fun and get to eat the treats too. That alone makes me happy that a child somewhere is feeling normal and included.
If you’d like to know more, feel free to contact me especially if you are new to the world of Coeliac Disease. It can be quite a shock & I’m happy to chat over a cup of tea with anyone who has any questions.
We’re three years into our Coeliac lifestyle now, and I can pretty much cover & help on most related topics. On the website, there are a variety of blogs including a free Top Ten Tips guide to help you & your child following your diagnosis.
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