- Belief that their diet will keep them healthy or has the potential to make them feel better
- Knowledge of they need to do to stay safe and stick to the diet
- Control over what, when, and how they eat
- Bonus: Food they like to eat!
If your children have a life threatening allergy or food-related autoimmune condition, it will be much easier to keep them safe if you just get it out of the house. We learned this one the hard way, during my gluten challenge. Even the most careful people sometimes make mistakes.
My personal opinion is that everyone needs to be able to relax and know they are safe at home. Kids who feel safe and don’t have to think about their “diet” at home are much more able to go out into the world and deal with all the comments and hassles that come with a special diet.
If someone in your family must eat foods that aren’t safe for your child follow this simple rule: Isolate the food, not your child! It’s best if the unsafe foods can be eaten outside of the house, but if there are some kept at home, clearly label them! Put bright red duct tape in a big “X” on all packages that are cross-contaminated or contain an unsafe ingredient.
It will be a lot easier for your kids to feel good about their new diet if everyone in the family supports it. There are lots of ways to show support:
- Only offering safe foods to your child.
- Not eating unsafe foods in front of your child, at least at home.
- Saving disagreements with your spouse about the diet for times when the kids can’t hear.
- Running interferance if others start to make a big deal about your children’s diet.
- Going on the diet as a family (after appropriate testing, if necessary)
If you decide to continue to eat things your child can’t have, be honest about it! You can still show your support by not eating those foods in front of your children very often. It’s terrible for a kid to believe their parent is with them, then to find out that they were “cheating” all along. If your children catch you eating unsafe foods in secret, they’ll feel betrayed at the very least. They may even decide that if you can cheat, so can they!
Make a PlanI’ve got to admit I’m not much of a menu planner by nature. But our kids do love to know what to expect. We have a little dry erase board on the fridge that has a list of the snacks for the day. Since our kids are 11 and 12, the are also in charge of making their own breakfast, and sometimes packing their lunches. All those foods are listed on the chart, too.
For kids who don’t read, you can use a picture chart, or have a drawer or container that has the day’s snacks in it. If portion control and recording portions is important, you can portion the snacks ahead of time. (Or better yet, have your child do it!)
Even young children can be involved in helping you decide what goes on the menu. Keep the decisions simple – choosing between two side dishes, choosing the protein for the meal, or a dessert. You can look through recipe books together and choose things to try.
Giving the kids free access to healthy foods they helped choose helps take away the burden of constantly battling the question, “What can I eat?” It also gives the kids a very important sense of control and competence when it comes to food.
People who are full on the good stuff think about the things they can’t have a lot less. Find some new favorites that work with the diet and enjoy them!
Stash SnacksWith a special diet, you can not count on restaurants, school, or friends to have safe foods available. But once you have a special diet, you start to realize how often food is a part of things! You want to be able to accept last minute invitations, so having portable safe food on hand is key. Even if your child is full before you leave the house, always be prepared!
Your child’s classroom needs to have a stash of safe treats. They may have a refrigerator or freezer, or the food you send might have to be shelf stable. Get a list of special occasions and lesson plans that involve food from the teacher, too, so you can send things on the day of birthday parties and the like.
When your children go to friend’s houses or on outings, always send snacks or a meal, and pack extra! While I hate wasting food, I’d always rather my children know that they will have enough to eat. Make sure you remind the other adults in charge that your child has their own food and other food is dangerous for them.
Choose foods that:
- Your kids love – bonus if the other kids will be jealous!
- Don’t need heating up or special prep work – having a good thermos and insulated lunch bag goes a long way!
- Won’t embarrass your child – this is really personal, some kids want their food to look exactly like everyone else’s while other kids don’t care at all!
Of course your child may have different dietary needs than ours, but here are some of the things we send with our children. When other kids are roasting marshmallows, we send our kids coconut macaroons. For puddings, they get lemon curd. Instead of other savory snacks, our kids get homemade beef jerky. If shakes or ice cream come up, we send smoothies. Instead of regular cakes and muffins, they get our GAPS legal coconut flour based cakes or almond bread muffins. Chopped veggies and nut butter, ranch, or blue cheese dressing always look totally normal.
We often don’t know what will be served, and that’s ok. If we send foods we know the kids like, we don’t have to worry about it being a big deal.
Next up we’ll talk about how to help your children stand up for themselves in difficult situations so they can stay safe!
Here’s a list of the posts in this series:
- Empowering Kids On Special Diets
- Empowering Kids Part 2: A Fresh Start
- Empowering Kids Part 3: Make It Easy
- Empowering Kids Part 4: On Their Own
This post is part of Sunday School, Made From Scratch Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Monday Mania, Weekend Gourmet, Seasonal Celebration, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, , Fresh Bites Friday, Allergy Friendly Friday, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food Flicks, Allergy Friendly Friday, Living Well Blog Hop.