Sweet ways to surprise a g-free kid this holiday season

Supporters, this one’s for you!

Is there a g-free kid in your life?  Are you this child’s teacher, “Room Mom”, aunt, uncle, neighbor, Sunday School coordinator, friend of the family, or relative?  Well, all it takes is a little bit of effort on your part to make this g-free kid feel welcome, valuable, and loved for that upcoming school, church or family party.

Your event is likely just one of many that he or she will attend this month, and I can almost guarantee that many other party planners will not think ahead to include gluten-free treats. Sure, there may be fruit, veggies and other naturally g-free foods — which is great — but kids are kids, and a sweet, safe, great-tasting treat is always a welcomed sight. Especially when the “other kids” are gushing about how amazing the donut holes, cupcakes and cookies are, while all the g-free kid is allowed to put on his or her plate is the healthy stuff…

This is where you come in — to light up that g-free kid’s eyes, and to see the gratitude come shining through… So take a bit of time and a few dollars and be the one to make that kid’s day!

Most likely, there is a gluten-free section at your local grocery store. If so, check it out. This time of year there are multiple seasonal offerings that you can pick up, such as these ready-to-enjoy treats:

storebought

There are also several brands of peppermint & chocolate-drizzled popcorn available right now, and plenty of other year-’round goodies. These types of ready-made treats are your safest bet, as you can bring in the package for the child or their parent to read, so they can feel secure that they can indulge safely. Make sure you see the words: “certified gluten-free” or “gluten-free” on the label. Whatever you end up buying, please remember to bring the packaging, as many g-free kids are (understandably) wary of eating anything they can’t prove is gluten-free.

If you’d like to add a little something extra to a plain food, just clean your countertop, spread out some wax paper and drizzle chocolate over plain Snyders of Hanover GF pretzels, “Boom-Chicka-Pop” popcorn, or dip marshmallows in chocolate (you don’t need sticks) and decorate with sprinkles, like you see in the next three photos:

pretzels

IMG_0829

IMG_9396

If you’d like to take it to the next level and bake them something, it’s probably best to check with the g-free kid’s parent first to make sure you do it safely. There are things you need to know and certain ways of doing things in order to make the end result a safe bet. And, no, these are not hard things to do…

Things like cleaning your counter work space well of all crumbs before you start the recipe. And using wax paper, aluminum foil or parchment paper on your cookie sheets, so you are not baking where wheat ingredients just were. Believe it or not, even a small amount of cross contamination can really make super-sensitive kids (like one of mine) sick, so please trust in simple measures and go along with it. Use squeaky clean bowls & utensils for mixing, scraping and removing cookies after baking — or better yet: buy and keep separate ones designated only for GF foods.

Here are some more tips on avoiding cross-contamination. Read it over and let the g-free kid’s parents know you understand the importance of following these measures, or whatever additional measures she requests. As one of these parents, I can tell you how uncomfortable and awkward it is to ask other adults to do these things, and how much easier it is when someone shows that they are happy to do whatever it takes for their awesome, generous & thoughtful gesture to work out well in the end.  🙂  I can also tell you how extra awkward it is having to decline something I don’t trust to be safe…

If they give you the go-ahead, here are 3 super-easy, gluten-free cookie recipes:

3cookiesA) Four ingredient cake mix M&M cookies (You just need GF cake mix: Aldi’s Live G-Free brand is good and cheap, eggs, butter and M&Ms)

B) Flourless Fudge Chunk Cookies (Calls for dark cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla extract, egg white and choc. chips)

C) Three ingredient peanut butter cookies (peanut butter, eggs and sugar) (not for school parties, for obvious reasons)

There are many things you can do beyond these ideas to make that g-free kid in your life feel special, and to bring a tear of gratitude to their parents’ eyes. Whenever anyone in our lives does any of these things for my g-free girls, they earn some serious bonus points from all of us, and we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.  🙂

Any more ideas or tips?  Feel free to comment….

24 Gluten Free Summer Camps for 2014

I rounded up this list of 24 summer camps (the last 4 are new to this list) 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 all campers 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. A few camps only allow diagnosed-Celiac kids, so make sure you double check that they also allow kids with wheat allergy and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well. 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 as a child, and a lot of my memories revolved around foods that we ate there. If I would have known then that I was a Celiac,
I most likely wouldn’t have been able to attend. Now, with these 24 summer camps providing the opportunities that they do, hundreds of
gluten-free children are now
able to enjoy camp activitie
s — 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. gluten-free summer camps  (in no particular order)

 

#1 & #2:  New Jersey Y Camps:
(Nah Jee Wah, Cedar Lake, Teen Camp, and Round Lake)
When:  Gluten Free Family Weekend May 30 – June 1, 2014
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 13 –18, 2014
Where:  Camp Waluhili on scenic Fort Gibson Lake, 45 min. from Tulsa, OK
For more info:  click here and here

#4:  “Free To Be” Camp at Camp Westminster
When:  June 15 – 21, 2014
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:  July 13-18, 2014
Where:  Camp Twin Lakes- Camp Dream in Warm Springs, GA
For more info:  click here

#6:  Gluten-Free Camp
When:  June 29 – July 3, 2014
Where:  Camp Manitou-Lin on Ol’ Lake Barlow in Middleville, MI
For more info: click here and here and here

#7:  The Great Gluten Escape at Camp Gilmont
When:  June 15 – 20, 2014
Where:  Camp Gilmont in Gilmer, TX
For more info:  click here

#8:  Gluten Detective Day Camp
When: July 22 – 24, 2014  •  9am – 3pm daily
Where: Bloomington, MN
For more info: click here
Celiac and all gluten-intolerant kids welcome, as well as their siblings

#9:  Camp Celiac at Camp Arroyo
When: July 21 – 24; July 24 – 27, 2014
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore, CA
For more info: click here

#10: GIG Kids Camp West (at Camp Sealth)
When: August 4 – 9, 2014
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

#11: GIG Kids Camp East (at Camp Kanata)
When:  July 27 – August 2, 2014
Where:  Camp Kanata, Wake Forest, NC
For more info: click here and here and here

#12: Camp Celiac
When:  August 10 – 15, 2014
Where:  Camp Aldersgate, North Scituate, RI
For more info: click here

#13: Gluten-Free Fun Camp
When:  July 20 – 25, 2014
Where:  Camp Courage in Annandale, MN
For more info: click here

#14: Camp Eagle Hill
Where: Elizaville, NY
For more info: click here and here
Dedicated GF kitchen. Meals are GF versions of other campers’ meals

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

#16 and #17: 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)

#18: 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.

#19: 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.

#20: 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.

#21: Celiac Strong Camp
When: August 1 – 3, 2014
Where: Comstock Camp, Ithaca, NY
For more info: Email sabrina40154@yahoo.com or click here 
Worry-free weekend for boys & girls ages 8-15. Accommodates both gluten-free and lactose-free diets.

#22: Emma Kaufmann Camp
Where: Morgantown, WV
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

#23: Camp Schodack
Where: Nassau, NY
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

#24: Camp Wekeela
Where: Hartford, Maine
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

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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!

Book review and giveaway: Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party

IMG_1396Kids love books. Kids who are into dinosaurs or fairies or animals or trucks should have lots of books about those subjects on their bookshelf at home, right? So, alongside other topics of interest, our g-free kids should have children’s books about being gluten-free, too, don’t ya think? The photo above shows about half of a wall of books in my daughters’ room, with 4 of these books in front. Books can be enjoyed over and over, are easily lent to friends & relatives, or brought into school to share with teachers and classmates. What better way for g-free kids to spread awareness and help others understand why they need to be on a special diet than to share their books?

Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party by Michelle L. King is one of an increasingly large number of books that will help children come to terms with the fact that they can still be happy even though they’re on a special diet, work through their feelings on the subject, and help them feel less alone when it comes to watching what they eat…

IMG_1403My 10 year old daughters and I all read this book separately before discussing it together, so here is an honest review of the book from our perspectives…

What this book is like:
Size-wise, this 28-page softcover book is a little under 6″ x 9″ and the computer illustrations are cute and colorful. The story is about a first grader with “celiac sprue” who faces feeling insecure, jealous and angry when friends at school start to question such things as why he had a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake and eats a muffin for lunch instead of a sandwich. When a classmate brings in mouthwatering cupcakes that he can’t have, it upsets him so much that he refuses to go to school the next day. Of course he ends up going, and is happy to meet a confident new friend with a milk allergy. Other kids chime in to say they have asthma, a sister with diabetes, etc. and he realizes being different isn’t so bad. He and his classmates make dairy-free ice cream in class together and by the end he starts to feel less alone, more proud of how he eats, and begins to understand that Celiac is part of what makes him special.

Bonuses:
After the story ends, recipes for Homemade Vanilla-Coconut Ice Cream and Banana Muffins are provided, and a free audio book digital download is also included!

IMG_1406A few minor things:
Overall, my daughters and I liked this book and enjoyed the story. Our biggest qualm is that the back cover reads, “…Barrett learns he has celiac sprue, which means he can’t eat cake and bread or even drink milk.”  Right away my celiac daughter asked why he can’t have milk because he has celiac. I double-checked with the author on this, and the book was supposed to say that he had other food sensitivities besides celiac. Unfortunately her publisher did some last-minute editing that slipped by and they had the final say, so she wasn’t able to make it more clear.  I just felt I should make note of it here because I don’t want newbies to be confused, thinking that milk, eggs and soy (also mentioned once each) aren’t allowed on the gluten-free diet. Please note: These minor issues should not deter anyone with “just” gluten-free kids from buying this book, as there is still a positive message for all kids on special diets, and parents can always clarify. The mention of additional foods might also prove helpful for some kids reading this book…

Our family has always been super positive about being gluten-free, so my girls couldn’t personally relate to the negative emotions the boy showed in the beginning. But, understandably, there are many kids out there who do battle with feelings of jealousy, feeling excluded and just plain mad about not being able to eat like everyone else. I have heard many accounts of this from parents who have gotten in touch with me through this website. If your child has ever felt like this or currently struggles with these emotions, this book will surely be helpful, since it shows how Barrett gets past his negativity and moves on to more productive, healthy feelings about himself and his diet.

To read 13 more reviews on this book from different perspectives, please take a moment to look up Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party on Amazon. Currently it is $8.99 and if you have Amazon Prime, shipping is free!

Now for the giveaway:
The author has generously offered to give away two copies for a giveaway. To win one of these books, please comment below saying why you think your g-free kid would enjoy this book or why it’s important for kids to have books about being gluten-free in their library…

Giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. If any winners don’t respond within 24 hours, new winners will be picked to replace them. Good luck!  -Katie

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[ Disclaimer: The author sent me a free copy of this book and the opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about the book, as well as my daughters’.  ]

Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

The road ahead

The road of parenting is a long one…..and for a parent of a child on a special diet, it may seen endless…

Aside from their diets, I sometimes feel like my daughters’ “phases” are endless, and I’m helping them “work on” certain things for years at a time…. Right now they are both trying to focus on a Fruit of the Spirit: self-control for one and kindness for the other.

This morning I was trying to get some advice from online articles about children and maturity, when I came across a phrase that hit home. It went something like this: “Prepare your child for the road, rather than prepare the road for your child.” Right away I could see how this would apply to so many things in life, and I felt moved to create a graphic reminder for myself. This is what I came up with:

PREPAREroad

How many aspects of life does this simple phrase encompass?

Can we clear the road of bullies — or can we prepare our children with how to deal with them?

Can we eliminate the risk of stranger danger — or can we teach our kids what to do if they are ever approached?

Can we protect our kids from getting their feelings hurt — or can we teach them how to keep everything in perspective and get past it?

Can we get rid of all gluten in our kids’ world — or can we teach them how to be prepared and deal with different food situations?

You get where I’m going with this…

When you first find out your child has to maintain a gluten-free diet for life, your first reaction is to get out there and totally clear the road for him or her….to make sure all bases are covered and everyone in their life knows about every last detail. That is all very necessary for a young child and one who is new at eating gluten-free. There’s a lot that comes with the new territory…

But as they grow, you won’t always be there to plow away the snow, salt the icy spots, and maneuver them around the road hazards. Little by little, you will want them to learn to become self-sufficient. There is no magic age at which this happens — it is just something to keep working towards….

For specifics on how you can prepare your child for living in a gluten-filled world, please read this article on helping your gluten-free kid gain independence.

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter,
and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.

Supporting the Center for Celiac Research through “Making Tracks for Celiacs”

About this time last year, my family and I participated in “Making Tracks for Celiacs” along with extended family and friends, most of whom join us every year for this event which means so much to us. We have been doing this twice a year for 5 years now — forming a team for the Buffalo walk and going just as a family to the Rochester walk.

2013 is the 12th year for “Making Tracks for Celiacs,” which is an annual fundraising event, organized and managed by the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General. These events around the country have raised almost $2,000,000 to date. The money is used to increase awareness and support research (75% of funds) as well as national and local celiac projects (25% of funds).

This year there are events held in these states: AL, MD, MI, MN, NY and VA, and are usually planned by a local gluten-free diet support group such as the one I belong to.  Check out the main website for “Making Tracks for Celiacs” to learn which cities hold events, which locations are walks versus run/walks, and how you can get involved! Some will be happening soon but others aren’t held until Autumn, which leaves you plenty of time to put a team together — or just enter yourself and/or your own family.

We choose to get a local team together because it is a really great way to show support and love to g-free kids, and it’s important for them to see the “regulars” who attend and donate year after year.  It’s cool to show them how the numbers don’t dwindle off, either — last year we collected the most money we ever have, and had more walkers than any other year, including many who join us annually. My girls know they are not forgotten and that they are backed by many friends and loved ones on their gluten-free journey. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Our team last year was called “Team G-Free Kid” and together we raised $545 to donate to the Center for Celiac Research, along with entry fees paid by over 20 team members. Even though that seems like a lot to us, other “go-getters” have already collected thousands of dollars each for their teams! If you’d like to collect donations (it’s not mandatory) you can easily start your own personal donation page or team page through CeliacWalk.org, and email your friends and family about it. Registration is simple as well. Everything you need to know is in the green column on the lefthand side of that site.

For the first few years, Morgan was the star of our team, but now Lindsey shares the spotlight, too, since she’s been gluten-free for over a year now. We also had a newly gluten-free and casein-free friend (below) and his family join our team for the walk last year, plus dozens of other kids in attendance.

At both of the walks we attend, there is always a ton of stuff for kids to do….clowns, balloon artists, face painting, fake tattoos, stickers, bounce houses, games, local mascots in attendance, special kid goodie bags, story time and all kinds of things. Obviously, different locations will have different activities, but from what I hear, most, if not all, are very kid-friendly.

At this year’s walk, the organizers were also selling these awareness bracelets which support the Center for Celiac Research. For more details on these, please read this post.

There are also a good number of local and national gluten-free food vendors at these events as well, giving out free product samples, coupons and learning material… Many thanks to the generous companies who donate goods towards these walks!

And if the other events are anything like the two we attend, rest assured that you will bring home a crazy amount of gluten-free samples, bars and full-sized product packages. And, if your friends and family are anything like ours, much of their food (from their own goodie bags) will be passed back for your family to enjoy.

All in all, we get a lot out of these walks. When you are among so many other gluten-free folks, there is a huge sense of camaraderie, and you know you are supporting a great cause: celiac disease (and non-celiac gluten sensitivity) research and awareness. Our daughters feel special — especially at the walk where we form a team, and they are always excited about all of the samples they get to try and take home, knowing everything is gluten-free and there’s no need (for once) to question anything. The walk itself is good, healthy family time that you can really soak in and enjoy, knowing that you’re making a difference and that your kids are swelling with pride.

If you are nowhere near any of these walks, you still have three options…
#1: Get some people together and start one (see “How to start your own walk” on CeliacWalk.org) in a new location; #2: Donate online towards the cause; or #3: Try something different: Join Team Gluten Free for any race around the country. How does it work? Read more about one family’s experience here.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and let everyone else take action…

As we like to say, “Celiac disease isn’t contagious, but awareness is.
Please help spread it!”

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!

Kraft Good Seasons dry mixes are NOT gluten-free anymore

IMG_6115I can’t believe I’m saying this after years of exclusively using Kraft Good Seasonings dry mixes as my family’s go-to salad dressing, but I am…. Kraft Good Seasonings dry mixes are (just as of recently) NOT gluten-free anymore. Unfortunately you won’t find anything about it on the Kraft website or anywhere else online — at least that I could locate!  No wheat warnings or notices from a big company like Kraft — just a stealthy ingredient & label change. The only way I first found out is by the good word of the online gluten-free community…

I felt the need to post this because, basically, there is nothing else out there to warn people. Take me for instance: I was so ingrained in my habit of being devoted to their mixes that I never thought to continue to read their labels since their ingredients have been gluten-free for as long as I have (almost 6 years) and probably longer… Until just recently…

After hearing about this, I went to my cupboard and found 2 unused packets to check for myself. Sure enough, underneath the ingredients, it reads, “contains wheat, soy” in bold letters. It looks to me like the wheat is in the dried soy sauce they are now using because it reads, “soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt)”.

IMG_6117I took the time (5 minutes) to call Kraft to find out more. Unfortunately I apparently know more than their customer service reps do. I said that I had heard their dry mixes now contained wheat. She said that just this month (some people are saying Dec. 2012 but she didn’t know for sure) Kraft reformulated their ingredients and “some of the spices contain wheat.” I notified her that the package said that it’s the soy sauce that contains wheat. Next I asked which dry mixes were involved in the reformulation and she said, “As far as I know, just the Italian.” So I proceeded to tell her that I had 2 packets in my hand (Zesty Italian and Garlic & Herb) which also read, “contains wheat.”  That was news to her. So — so far there are 3 mixes affected: Italian, Zesty Italian and Garlic & Herb. I had to ask to get a case number and lodge a complaint (asking them to go back to their old ingredients) and had to give her some coding from the packets.

Here is more information, which circulated on the Celiac ListServ email network, from someone else who looked into this:

“I spoke with Kraft yesterday and they explained what happened with their Good Seasons Italian — dry packet mix. Seems like one of their major manufacturing facilities had wheat on the production line and it wasn’t cleaned. (Different explanation than the one I received) That’s why thousands of boxes had to be re-packaged and labeled “contains wheat.” The head of dietary services suggested that if calls were received that they might be able to sway the top-brass to move to a safer facility. They suggested that we call 1-800-522-0501 and get a case number and lodge a complaint. (Tip:) Many stores still have the old formulation… I went to several and bought out the stock. Check your local stores, too. PLEASE take a minute to call and strongly suggest that they change facilities and go back to keeping this product all natural and preservative free… as the original box states.”

So, please, take a few minutes and join us in calling Kraft at 1-800-522-0501. Ask for a case number and request their old formulation. Maybe there will be power in numbers on this one. Please share this notification so others aren’t inadvertently consuming gluten through these salad dressing mixes.

And last but not least, please heed this warning as proof that we all (myself included) need to continuously read and re-read packaging labels and be vigilant for things like this to happen again….even to our tried & true, favorite products. We can never be too careful.

School Presentations Help Teach Classmates About Celiac Disease

When a new school year rolls around, how do you make things as easy as possible for your g-free kid? How do you make peers and a new teacher understand why your child has to be on a special diet?  It is helpful for a child if people are understanding and sympathetic (in a positive way) of why he or she is on a restricted diet and not able to eat certain birthday treats that are sent in, etc.  One option is to write and send everyone letters and lists and hope that they read and understand everything you’re alerting them to. A better option is to get right in there yourself — with a simple classroom presentation — and teach them what Celiac and the gluten-free diet are all about. That is what Erin A. did for her daughter, Eilea, and we both hope that her positive experience provides inspiration for more parents to follow suit.

Erin is one of those stand-out Moms I have met online — through g-free kid’s website, Facebook page and by email. Erin first got in touch with me when she sent in her daughter’s photo for the g-free kids’ online photo album, and one of the things she mentioned was a classroom presentation she was putting together. I could already tell she was an amazing advocate for her gluten-free kid, so I asked her to let me know how it went. I hope you enjoy her summary and photos below. She writes:

“My daughter and I were first inspired by the “Super Celiac costume that you created for your daughter, Morgan, last Halloween. I made a similar costume for my daughter, Eilea, who enjoyed choosing her favorite colors of material and gemstones to decorate the costume with. She also wore one of the Tribandz awareness bracelets to complete her ensemble.

I then took it a step further and decided to make a presentation to my daughter’s first grade class, to let them know a little about Celiac and being gluten free. As I was thinking about what to do, I realized that most of the information that Eilea and I wanted to share with the kids was included in the children’s book, “Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?” so I decided to make it the focus of our presentation.

I first got in touch with my daughter’s teacher to arrange the presentation date and time. (A presentation like this might take all of 15 minutes, give or take, so it should be easy enough to fit it in).  When it came time to make the presentation, Eilea was excused from class for a few minutes so I could help her put her costume on over her school uniform.  Eilea then waited in the hall until I gave her the signal to come in.

I went back into the classroom and helped the teacher gather the kids around for the presentation.  I pretended to wonder where Eilea was, then decided to start without her, welcoming the kids and thanking them for letting us share this information.  Eilea came in the room then and I said, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SUPER CELIAC GIRL!!”

Eilea came to sit next to me and we proceeded to read, “Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?” together to the class.  (The book is written with a dialogue so that a parent can read their lines and a child can read theirs, too, if you wish to read it aloud together.)

When we finished the book, we answered any questions the kids had and helped explain some of the things in the book.  Everyone particularly liked the part where the grass being flattened down is like the villi in her intestines.

Super Celiac Girl then served some gluten-free snacks to her classmates and teacher.  Everyone was able to enjoy a small Dixie cup full of Snyder’s GF Pretzels, Annie’s GF Snickerdoodle Bunny Snacks and Annie’s GF Chocolate and Vanilla Bunny Snacks.  The snacks got rave reviews, especially the Snyder’s pretzels.

I also created a handout for the kids to read over and bring home to share with their parents about Celiac disease and being gluten free, which Eilea proudly handed out to her classmates.

The presentation was a hit, Eilea felt so special being the center of attention, and her peers and teacher learned a lot about Celiac and the gluten-free diet through the book, our Q&A session and the handout. It was totally worthwhile.

We hope that we’ve been able to help spread awareness about Celiac and the gluten-free diet. This year I also plan to give all of her teachers a letter explaining her diet and the need for diligence in keeping her snacks safe.  She’s very good about not eating something questionable but we can use all the help we can get.  I’m planning on leaving a box of non-refrigerated GF snacks that can be left in the classroom for those unexpected treat days.  I also plan to communicate with the teacher in order to get a list of birthdays and planned celebrations so that we can be ready with treats when they’re needed.”

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Many thanks to Erin for sharing her experience. Please comment below if you have done something similar for/with your g-free kid — or if this gives you just the push you needed to get out there for the first time and do it yourself!  🙂  You can do it, and your child will thank you for it!

As we like to say,
“Celiac disease isn’t contagious, but awareness is. Please help spread it!”

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Please note:  As a mom of a daughter with Celiac and another daughter with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) I also believe that helping spread awareness of the latter condition is equally as important as Celiac. Just because your g-free kid is GF for reasons other than Celiac doesn’t mean you couldn’t hold a presentation like the one above. There are a number of other children’s books (that don’t focus on Celiac disease) that you could use instead. The most important thing is that you are helping those around your g-free kid to better understand why he or she is on a special diet. I will continue to try to fill this website with helpful resources that will allow you to do just that. Thanks for the support.

5 tips to empower g-free kids

As parents, the best thing we can equip our g-free kids with is a positive attitude when it  comes to being gluten-free — right from the start.  As soon as that optimistic attitude is in place, the next thing to help them cultivate is a budding sense of independence. As our children grow, we can help empower them to start taking the lead. Here are 5 tips that have helped my twin daughters (one with celiac and one with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) start to be g-free advocates:

Help them champion their own cause:
Show them some ways in which they can help spread the word and raise money for celiac disease awareness. Help them start a team for an upcoming celiac walk and let them help keep track of donations flowing in and asking friends and family to physically be there to walk together as a team. We have been doing two Celiac walks (“Making Tracks for Celiacs”) a year for the past 4 years — one with friends and extended family, and another one further away from home by ourselves. We take group photos, wear team tags and hang out before and after the walk. We usually win a gift basket for the amount of money we raised and the girls help pick it out. Going home feeling supported by loved ones, with a prize and tons of free gluten-free samples in tow — plus a sense of pride in knowing we helped raise money for a good cause — is always a great boost for self-esteem.

If you don’t have one of these annual walks in your area, learn how you can raise money through Team Gluten Free or NFCA instead.

Nurture their creativity:
Make your g-free kid feel like a champ by helping them design a “Super Celiac” or “Gluten Free Girl” costume. If your child is still young enough to enjoy dressing up and playing pretend, letting him or her play make-believe Superheroes with a cape and power bracelets (see photo) is a fun way to “zap gluten” or whatever they want to play.

If your child is old enough, let them have their own cooking show. Have them don an apron and chef’s hat and talk through a cooking demonstration while you videotape them. This will be good public speaking practice, and it will help them organize their thoughts, follow recipes, read aloud and use good eye contact. Have them practice what they plan to say and do on the video until they are comfortable enough for you to start taping. Post it on YouTube to get them excited that they made a “real” video, which the whole world can watch and learn from.

Do your kids enjoy music more than cooking? Together, come up with some new lyrics to go with a familiar tune — all about being gluten-free. Put it to music, videotape it and send it to friends and family.

Or let them start a pretend bakery where everything is gluten-free. Help them set up a place to play with pretend food, aprons, toy cash register, fake money, paper plates, etc.  Let them make their own signs, menu and decorations. Be their best customer and encourage the rest of the family to stop by with a smile and place an order.

Being gluten-free becomes natural and fun when you bring all of these types of creative play into your g-free kids’ lives.

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. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten free”, the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. When looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grains” can often be confusing for little kids (and 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. Corn and rice can still be considered multigrain or whole grain, too. 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 gluten-free products so they can see what is okay. If your child is old enough and has a long 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. Show them how many 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.

Let them speak up for themselves:
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 inform the waitstaff that their food 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.

If your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Teach them 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 they need 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.

Let it become their “normal”:
Find other gluten-free families that live near you. Get together. Let the kids get to know each other and play together on a regular basis, which might also mean snacking together — gluten-free. Get involved in a kids’ support group and the activities that go along with it. If you can’t find one, be your kid’s hero by starting one and making it happen.

If your child is old enough, let him attend a gluten-free summer camp. There are nearly 20 options in the U.S. alone!  How cool would it be for a g-free kid to be able to do all the regular camp activities with other children on the same diet, without anyone needing to ask if the food is safe or not?

Lastly, fill his or her bookcase with children’s books about being gluten-free. If your child loves dinosaurs or princesses, count how many books he or she has about them. On the other hand, how many books does your child have about being gluten-free — something your child is going to be for life? There are a bunch of great books out there now about celiac disease and being gluten-free. You can never have too many!  As they read the books, they will take pride in knowing that they are “just like” the main characters, which will help them feel understood and cherished. And consider all the people your child can share their books with — teachers, classmates, friends, relatives, etc.  What better way to help spread awareness than lending books? For kids, it doesn’t get any easier…

These empowering tips will take our children far by teaching them knowledge and positive social skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. The wonderful thing is that awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance is growing rapidly, which in itself is pretty empowering for all of us!

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This post was originally part of NFCA’s 2012 KISS campaign for Celiac Awareness Month.