Helping your gluten-free kid gain independence

When your g-free kid reaches a certain age (which is different for every child) it becomes time to start easing them into being independently gluten-free. Here are some tips that will help boost your child’s confidence and know-how:

Teach them to read labels:
For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally GF items such as fruit and raisins. If you’d like your little one to be able to refer to the list, include little pictures of acceptable foods to give him a better visual idea of what’s allowed. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten free”, the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. Once they start to read, you can show them more things to watch for on packages, and to also read the bold allergy warnings at the end of the ingredient list, as in “contains wheat.”

labelsWhen older kids begin looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grain” can often be confounding (even for adults) so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. My girls used to think that, until I saw their confusion and explained how corn and rice can be considered multigrain or whole grain, too, yet those are still acceptable grains & flours for g-free kids. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.

Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their own gluten-free products so they can see what is okay.

Guide them through the grocery store:
If your child is old enough and has a long enough attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Be matter-of-fact and show them how entire sections of entire aisles are off-limits, but linger in the areas that are full of safe foods and marvel at all of their choices. Show them how most yogurts and ice creams are GF except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge.

If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together. It may take some time, but it’s very beneficial for your child — and something to be proud of  — for them to be able to show you what he or she knows.

Let them speak up for themselves:
When eating out, kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?” Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them politely inform the waitstaff that their meal needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross contamination) it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat g-free.

menuIf your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Explain why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets, the more he or she needs to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these life-long social lessons.

Can you think of any more ways to help your g-free kid gain independence? Please comment below if you have anything to add…..thanks!

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22 Gluten Free Summer Camps for 2013

I rounded up this list of 22 summer camps which give gluten-free campers the chance to enjoy traditional camp activities without having to worry about what they will eat. It’s the perfect summertime escape from feeling left out or different because they can’t eat what everyone else is having. At these camp sessions, kids’ meals are gluten-free and carefully prepared so that there will be no need for them to ask or to wonder, “Is this safe for me to eat?”

In researching the below list of camps it was interesting to see the various approaches to gluten-free campers. Some camp philosophies celebrate that the kids are gluten-free, while others focus on treating everyone the same except for which meals they receive. Some camps intermingle gluten-free and non-gluten-free kids while other camps have only gluten-free campers and gluten-free food for that particular session. I have heard that a few camps only allow diagnosed-Celiac kids, so make sure you double check that they also allow kids with gluten allergy and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well. (I can’t imagine telling my one daughter she couldn’t attend because her gluten-free condition was not deemed as worthy as her sister’s!)  Learn more at the camp links below…

Regardless of how these camps are set up, they all seem like excellent environments for gluten-free kids. The directors and food staff seem very knowledgeable about food preparation safety, and some can even accommodate other special diets such as nut-free, casein-free, etc. They all seem to understand the importance of making kids feel “normal” and making sure their campers enjoy themselves without having to think about their diet.

I remember going to summer camp a few times, and a lot of my memories revolved around foods that we ate there. If I would have known I was a Celiac when I was a child, I most likely wouldn’t have been able to attend. Now, with these 21 summer camps providing the opportunities that they do, hundreds of gluten-free children are now able to enjoy camp activities — horseback riding, canoeing, archery, swimming and countless other activities — free from worrying about their diet. It is exciting to know that the number of camps like these continues to grow, which means even more choices when the time comes for my own daughters to attend one.

So, why not check out the below links and treat your child to an unforgettable adventure this summer!? Registration has already begun for some of these camps, so sign your child up before it’s too late!  Age, cost and registration requirements will vary. Scholarship opportunities and waiting lists are available at some camps.

U.S. Celiac summer camps  (in no particular order)

#1 & #2:  New Jersey Y Camps: Nah Jee Wah & Cedar Lake
When:  Gluten Free Family Weekend May 31 – June 2, 2013
Where:  Milford, PA (about 2 hrs from NYC)
For more info:  click here
*These mainstream neighboring camps share a dedicated gluten-free kitchen,
and can accommodate campers on gluten-free diets at any of their mainstream sessions.
These camps have partnered with Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

#3:  Camp Fire USA Gluten-Free camp session
When:  July 21 – 27, 2013
Where:  Camp Waluhili on scenic Fort Gibson Lake, 45 min. from Tulsa, OK
For more info:  click here

#4:  “Free To Be” Camp at Camp Westminster
When:  June 16 – 22 , 2013
Where:  Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in Roscommon, MI
For more info: click here
*Can accommodate the avoidance of other food allergens
such as casein, soy, egg and nuts
.

#5:  Summer Camp Weekaneatit
When:  June 23 – 28, 2013
Where:  Camp Twin Lakes Will-A-Way in Winder, GA
For more info:  click here

#6:  Camp Gluten Freedom
When: June 25 – 28, 2013
Where: Camp Jameson, Indianapolis, IN
For more info: click here

#7:  Gluten-Free Camp
When:  June 30 – July 5, 2013
Where:  Camp Manitou-Lin on Ol’ Lake Barlow in Middleville, MI
For more info: click here

#8:  The Great Gluten Escape at Camp Gilmont
When:  June 16 – 21, 2013
Where:  Camp Gilmont in Gilmer, TX
For more info:  click here

#9:  Gluten Detective Day Camp
When: July 23 – 25, 2013  •  9am – 3pm daily
Where: Bloomington, MN
For more info: click here
Celiac and all gluten-intolerant kids welcome, as well as their siblings

#10:  Camp Celiac at Camp Arroyo
When: July 23 – 27; July 27 – 31, 2013
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore, CA
For more info: click here

#11:  Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) Camp Gluten Free
When: July 15 – 19, 2013
Where: Camp Nawakwa, CA
For more info: click here

#12: GIG Kids Camp West
When: July 31 – Aug. 5 ; Aug. 6 – 9; July 31 – Aug. 9, 2013
Where:  Camp Sealth, Vashon Island, WA
For more info: click here and here
*Can accommodate children with both gluten intolerance & diabetes.
*Camp Sealth is peanut-free

#13: Gluten-free week at Camp Kanata (GIG Kids Camp East)
When:  August 4 – 10, 2013
Where:  Camp Kanata, Wake Forest, NC
For more info: click here and here

#14: Camp Celiac
When:  August 11 – 16, 2013
Where:  Camp Aldersgate, North Scituate, RI
For more info: click here

#15: Gluten-Free Fun Camp
When:  July 14 – 19, 2013
Where:  Camp New Hope in McGregor, MN
For more info: click here

#16: Camp Eagle Hill
Where: Elizaville, NY
For more info: click here and here
New for 2012: dedicated GF kitchen. Meals are GF versions of other campers’ meals

#17: International Sports Training Camp
Where: Stroudsburg, PA
For more info: Call 570-620-2267 or click here
Executive Chef is Celiac and completed Great Kitchens Camps program through NFCA

#18 and #19: Camp Danbee & Camp Taconic
Where: Hinsdale, MA
These two mainstream camps cater to celiac/gluten-intolerant kids during any session.
For more info:  Camp Danbee (girls) or Camp Taconic (boys)

#20: Appel Farm Arts Camp
Where: Elmer, NJ
For more info:  Call 856-358-2472 or click here
Camp chef is certified in gluten-free meal-planning, and gluten-free food is available.

#21: Camp Emerson
Where: Hinsdale, MA
For more info:
  Call 800-782-3395 or click here and here.
Accommodates food-allergic/intolerant and Celiac kids during any session. Separate GF Kitchen Area. Registered Dietician on staff to review menu with each family. Professional Chefs trained in food allergy management and gluten-free meal planning.

#22: Hidden Valley 4-H Camp
Where: Watkins Glen, NY
For more info: http://hiddenvalley4hcamp.org or 607-535-7161
This camp caters to food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

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A special “thank you” goes out to all of the people who work so hard to offer these amazing camping opportunities to kids like ours!

Click here to read how gluten-free camps help improve a Celiac child’s well-being, self-perception and emotional outlook:
(Study Shows Special Camp Improves Self-Perception of Children on Restricted Diets)

Click here to read a great article on camps from Living Without (April/May 2011): Postcards from Allergy-Friendly Camp

(Bloggers: please note: this took quite a while to compile. Please be considerate and link back to my site if you’d like to post this resource, instead of copying & pasting this info. Thank you!)
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Has your child attended any of these gluten-free camps before?  Please feel free to comment below about their experience. Thanks!

Mini peanut butter cups for your gluten-free Valentine!

IMG_6158I was looking for something different — yet easy — to make my g-free girls for Valentine’s Day week….I ended up looking no further than one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes: this one in particular.

To make these perfect, kid-size peanut butter cups, you just preheat your oven to
400 degrees, then use this simple cookie recipe:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Mix 3 ingredients together, and press cookie dough into greased mini cupcake tin openings. Be sure to press it evenly inside each opening — the same thickness on the bottom as it is along the sides—to ensure even baking, leaving the middle hollowed out for filling later on… The dough should come up and around the edges of each opening, which is where you add fork marks. Then you pop them into the oven and bake for about 9 minutes (watching them so they don’t burn around the top edges)  After they are cooled, twist the edges until they loosen and then they should pop right out, nice and sturdy.

IMG_6174For filling, I just used Pillsbury Valentine’s Funfetti frosting, piped through the corner of a plastic bag. Obviously chocolate frosting would be another great combination to go with peanut butter —or Nutella, a Hershey’s kiss, etc. No matter how you fill them or top them, they are the perfect kid-size peanut butter cups!  Try them with Sunbutter, too…

Enjoy!

Gluten-free Valentine’s Day cards plus 3 treat ideas

Valentine’s Day brings plenty of opportunities to make your g-free kid feel extra loved — as well as show love to others — around the clock. Here are a few ways to make things seem “Valentinesy” (as we say) for the weeks surrounding the big day:

IMG_0224G-free V-day cards!

Last year I drew these 4 little Valentine’s Day cards — made especially for all the g-free kids out there. You can download the PDF here: 4VcardsHR, then print out copies of it for your kids to color, glue onto colored construction paper and give out for Valentines — or just hang in their room or on the fridge. (*Please note: the below preview won’t print out large enough — click on the blue link four lines above this for the printable PDF).

V-day G-free treat ideas

1.  For those of you who are “regulars” here, this is no surprise……but, one of our “go-to” treats — for any occasion — is chocolate dipped marshmallow pops. All you have to do is stick a skewer into each marshmallow (or do it without skewers), dip them in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, put on wax paper and set in the freezer. Allergy-friendly and always a hit with school parties!

2.  With your handy-dandy cookie cutter, make heart shaped pizzas. For these we just rolled out part of the dough and cut them out, then topped them individually. Or even easier — just make regular pizzas and use a cookie cutter after it’s cooled. Moms like me are always happy to eat the leftover scraps!

3:  Make simple peanut clusters. Just fill cookie cutters up partway (depending on how thick you want them) with melted chocolate mixed with peanuts, decorate with sprinkles if you’d like, then let them set in the freezer for a while before you pop them right out.

Remember and repeat:  Life is not all about food!

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