Gluten Free and Coeliac Disease Advice
So you’re probably feeling pretty overwhelmed right now? Yep, we get that. It is pretty daunting to understand that family life as you know it, has irrevocably changed forever. And as wonderful as our NHS is, I’m afraid the only help you are going to get is an appointment with the dietician who can assist in recommending the new diet your child will need to follow and a suggestion to go the Coeliac UK website and google the web for further info. That’s all well and good, but it can take up a lot of time, and when you’re a busy parent, time is precious. That’s where the idea for Freya’s Gluten Free World originated. Why not document all the stuff we’ve found out along the way and share with others?
Just to be clear, we’re not experts. Not a medic or nutritionist between us. Just a regular family with a coeliac child. At the start, we were probably a bit like you - wondering how you’re going to cope with creating new meals and protecting your child both inside and outside the home. And we haven’t fully cracked it yet, but we’re getting there...
The good news is that whilst coeliac disease is life changing, it is absolutely manageable by sticking to a gluten free diet.
It’s important for you to get to grips with what that means for your child, so that you can communicate how their gluten free diet is going to need to change and how their health will be affected if they don’t stick to it. Do your research, learn as much as you can and talk to as many people as you can. You’ll soon become an expert on what works best for your child. Be prepared to explain the situation over and over again to a variety of people including family, friends, teachers, restaurants and many more! Don’t worry about being a bit pushy; it’s vital to make people aware that it is a medical requirement, not some ‘food fad’.
Get brothers and sisters involved in the learning by coming up with activities and games, perhaps quizzes around the subject that will pique their interest and help everyone involved to learn how to support their sibling. We also find it useful to put stickers on the products that need to remain gluten free such as jam, butter and condiments.
We won’t lie to you, it’s not going to be easy to begin with. But just remember that you’re not alone as coeliac (celiac) disease affects around 1 in 100 people in the UK, Europe and USA. Plus there are some fantastic resources out there (like us for example!) and Coeliac UK, who also have local support groups, so why not join up and go along and chat to others in the same situation?
Our website covers yummy easy family recipes, and articles that cover topics relating to everyday life and the occasional. Here are some quick links to get you started;
- Explaining what coeliac means to your child
- What can my child eat?
- Talking to school
- Safeguarding your kitchen
- Store cupboard essentials
- What to do if your child has been glutened
There is also lots more articles which we hope you find useful and we add to these weekly as we document new situations we find ourselves in. Come back and check regularly or sign up to our newsletter and we will send our latest articles and recipes direct to your inbox.
As we are coming up to our first year since Freya was diagnosed, these are some things we learnt as we navigated our new lifestyle. We hope these help you too...
Stay strong and be brave - you can do this! You will see an improvement in your child’s health soon after removing gluten from their diet. It’s wonderful seeing your child who used to be so lethargic and grumpy return to their usual self. And also be prepared to be a little more assertive than usual by continually explaining the importance of your child needing to eat gluten free, whether you’re at a family member's house, in a restaurant or talking to school. Be pushy, but polite!
Join a support network - Coeliac UK has a great network of support, offering advice and tips. Upon joining their membership (not too expensive at £24 per year), they will send you a copy of their ‘bible’ which includes lists of Coeliac UK approved foods and restaurants.
Prepare your kitchen - Make some space in your cupboards and safeguard your kitchen from gluten contamination. It’s important that everyone in the family remembers to keep gluten free products separate and that certain utensils and chopping boards can only be used for gluten free cooking.
Make a list - It’s a good idea to make a list of meals that you’re planning on cooking, then which ingredients you’ll need to make those meals. From that, you can work out which of these would need to be gluten free. When you tackle the supermarket, which will undoubtedly take a lot longer than usual, make sure you read every single label, or better still download the Coeliac UK barcode scanner app. Its super useful for checking if a product contains gluten. Though do remember that manufacturers do have a habit of changing the ingredients from time to time, so always best to double check. Remember, this includes drinks too; both alcoholic and soft drinks, so keep in mind if you’re planning on making a dessert that involves a little tipple.
Plan, Plan, Plan!- Be prepared for trips in the car and days out. Gluten free snacks and meals can be hard to come by at short notice, so it’s best to be prepared by taking your own snacks. This will help to avoid any meltdowns by either you or your child!