5 superfood snacks for g-free kids: healthy ideas from a RD

Here is a real treat for all of you fellow parents of g-free kids:  A guest post from Megan at www.thehappybellyproject.com who is a registered dietitian with a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. I believe all of our children can benefit from her healthy superfood ideas. Enjoy! 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Creating fun, kid-friendly snacks is a great way to get your little one to try new foods. Check out these ideas that all include superfoods—foods that provide a significant health benefit when you add them to your diet. Often as a dietitian I am telling people what not to eat. I love having the opportunity to encourage people to eat more delicious foods!

“Super-Nutritious Trail Mix”

    • Popcorn
    • Dark chocolate chips
    • Almonds
    • Gluten-free pretzels
    • Dried fruit

Mix all together and serve. Think outside the bowl! For a fun and portable snack pull out those plastic Easter eggs or other fun container.

What they know: Kids feel like they are getting a special treat just by getting to pick out which color egg they want their snack to be in!

What you know: Dark chocolate is full of good nutrients and antioxidants that help your brain, heart, and mood! Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. Almonds contain phytosterols, which promote lower cholesterol levels in addition to providing protein—a plus if your child is not a big meat eater.

“Yogurt Face”

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Gluten-free pretzel sticks

Create a circle of yogurt on a plate. Use the fruit to create your own silly face, or a cat face, or even to abandon the face idea altogether and simply spell out numbers and letters for your little learner.

What they know: They won’t get in trouble for playing with their food. They get to create a masterpiece and then eat it.

What you know: Superfoods yogurt and blueberries make this a nutritious and delicious snack. Yogurt provides protein, calcium and probiotics, which are important for keeping young (and old) GI tracts healthy. Blueberries have been touted as one of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat; they’re full of antioxidants protective against many cancers.

“Magic Princess Wands”

  • Skewers
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cheese cubes

Skewer the fruit and cheese. Add a strawberry as the topper. (I think Starfruit would also be a great topper; however, you’ll usually need to wait until it’s in season to find it at your local store.) With a 4-year-old daughter and a trip planned to Disney this year, Princesses are everywhere in our house! If you can relate, why not have them on your table, too?

What they know: Anytime little girls get to play “Princess,” it’s a good thing!

What you know: Cantaloupe is full of vitamin C, folate, and caratenoids, antioxidants that give cantaloupe its yellow-orange color and are important for eye health and immunity. All the fruits provide needed fiber, and you can sneak in a little protein with the cheese.

“Through the Forest

  • Broccoli
  • Cheese
  • Celery
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried cranberries or raisins

Create a forest with trees and logs with ants crawling on them! Let your kids get creative. What other animals can they imagine in the forest?

What they know: Their imaginations will run wild creating a story to go with their forest. Once one of the most feared dinnertime vegetables, suddenly eating broccoli that is a “tree” while pretending to be a giraffe sounds like a great idea!

What you know: Broccoli is a fiber-rich vegetable that has high levels of vitamin C (which helps the body absorb iron) and potassium (which helps ensure the nervous system, including the brain, is functioning optimally), and has even been found to inhibit many cancer cells. Protein found in peanut butter is a great way to keep those little tummies full until the next meal!

“Sweet Potato Power Chips”

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly. (The smaller and thinner you slice them the better! Only the small, thin ones really get the “crunch” like chips.)
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar

Coat thinly sliced potatoes with olive oil and season with cinnamon and sugar. (A large plastic kitchen storage bag works great to ensure all pieces get evenly coated.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Broil for 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Bonus: Baking these makes your house smell wonderful!

What they know: Chips are like junk food, right?

What you know: Sweet potatoes: Like the cantaloupe, the orange color indicates they are full of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A in our body. Carotenoids help boost our immunity, are strong antioxidants, and help protect our eyesight. Olive oil is a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, or “healthy fat” that may help protect our hearts and ward off the “bad cholesterol” LDL. It is also a good source of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.

Fellow parents: Do you have any other healthy snack ideas? If so, please comment below…thanks!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Megan is a registered dietitian and mom to a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, daughter and son where she works with patients with kidney disease. She blogs weekly at www.thehappybellyproject.com on all things related to living, loving and learning about the gluten-free diet and celiac disease.

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

This past weekend 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 almost 5 years now — forming a team for the Buffalo walk and going just as a family to the Rochester walk.

This is the 11th year for “Making Tracks for Celiacs,” which is an annual fundraising event, organized and managed by the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland. 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).

Currently there are annual events held in these states: AL, FL, KY, MD, MI, MO, MN, NY, OH 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 — this 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 this 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 this 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!”

Easter Treat Ideas: Super Simple and Gluten Free!

Ahh….Easter Sunday in the 70’s. Those were the days…Easter bonnets and dresses bought (or made) just for the big day — my whole family dressed in their finest duds. Even before church, my Dad would take home movies of us getting into our Easter baskets and devouring Peep after Peep, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs & jellybeans galore, without my Mom ever saying “That’s enough candy!” (That’s me on the right.) I can’t imagine letting my own kids get so sugared-up before church (for my own sanity) and I give my daughters a fraction of the candy my parents gave me for Easter, yet I still don’t see a problem with letting kids be kids and enjoying sugary treats once in a while. My family eats quite healthy most of the time, we get plenty of exercise, we take care of our teeth and we aren’t couch potatoes. Therefore, we don’t feel the least bit guilty indulging in making and eating these three yummy Easter treats together. And you shouldn’t either!  🙂 We call our first treat idea “Muddy Bunnies“. We’ve all seen chocolate-dipped Peeps, but we thought we’d take it a little further and have them sit in the middle of a pile of springtime mud (peanut clusters). All you do for this is melt chocolate in the microwave, mix in peanuts and drop clusters onto wax paper over a cookie sheet. Arrange the Peeps bunny in the middle and spoon some more chocolate around his bottom to make him part of the peanut cluster. Then add sprinkles and set the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden. We also thought they looked cute sitting in these cupcake liners: Our second idea we wanted to try was “Chocolate Peeps Eggshells“, which turned out to be our favorite. I originally saw the idea for chocolate ice cream shells here but I have no idea why it took me so long to try it. It was so easy! (Feel free to read that article for more details, but I simplified the process a lot, which I will explain below…)

To make these Chocolate Peeps Eggshells, you will need:
•  Melting chocolate
•  Peeps chicks
•  G-free sprinkles or nonpariels
•  Small balloons
•  Waxed paper

The first thing you do is to blow up & tie your balloons, rinse them with water, dry them and set aside. (We used water balloons without any problems, but I have read that a few other people have had issues with these and recommend small, regular balloons instead. It’s up to you.) Next, clear an area in your freezer to fit a small cookie sheet, then cover that cookie sheet with wax paper and set it back on your counter. In a small-to-medium sized microwaveable bowl (depending on how many of these you’re going to make) melt your chocolate. We aren’t big fans of white chocolate so we used milk chocolate melting disks. Clearly, white chocolate would make a more realistic-looking eggshell, if that is what you are after. We were just after taste! 🙂 Either way, you’ll want the melted chocolate to be a few inches deep so that you can cover your balloons up high enough. Once your chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, just dip each balloon in, tilting it around to cover the sides until you like how it looks. Then you just set it upright on the wax paper and toss some sprinkles on it. After they’re all dipped and sprinkled, just pop the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes until they harden all the way. They will look something like this:

Then you can let your kids have fun popping the balloons! Below is Lindsey (with Morgan covering her ears) just before her needle popped the balloon… After it’s popped, you will find the shriveled up balloon in the bottom of the chocolate shell. Carefully peel the balloon away from the chocolate and you’ll be left with shells like this: Then all you do is pop a Peeps chick inside for your finished product. Another idea is to make these into birds’ nests by adding coconut underneath the chick. The third idea is very simple as well. We call these “Bunny Trail Pops” and we just felt like doing something different than our usual sprinkled chocolate marshmallows. We popped a stick into each marshmallow, dipped the bottom of it in chocolate, set it on waxed paper and stuck bunny candies into it, evenly with one of each color. Again, set it in the freezer to harden. These don’t even need sticks, and you can experiment with any type of g-free Easter candies… After they have all hardened in the freezer, all of these treats can be kept in airtight containers in your fridge til they’re gone — which won’t be long!    🙂  Enjoy!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Psssst:  Have you seen the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page yet? For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

When gluten-free play (and dreams) become reality

“Welcome to the Chalmers Gluten Free Bakery and Restaurant. How can I help you?” was the most popular quote around our back yard playhouse this past fall. My daughters (both gluten-free) had set up their playhouse to play their pretend game, complete with menus, notebook & pen to take orders, and a whole slew of pretend plastic food and kitchenware.

One day I just had to take a break from my yard work to go play. I came to the “drive-thru” window around back, under the pine trees, and I asked, “Is everything here gluten-free?” and the both exclaimed,
“Of course!” like I was crazy or something for even asking.

In their pretend world, every luscious-looking baked good and “Happy Meal” is gluten-free — “where food always tastes good” as they wrote on their menu.

I love it. They came up with this game all on their own, which makes me love it even more. It’s so cool to see them having fun with gluten-free, and it’s great to see them taking pride in playing games like this. It is a wonderful sound to overhear your children just having fun imagining, creating, decorating, pretending…and dreaming — totally unplugged.

The first time I really remember them playing “gluten-free bakery” was Christmas 2010 when they received a bunch of pretend play food. The next day they had set up their play closet as a bakery (below) with a centerpiece, tables, menus and ice cream, too.

They invited their cousins over. They invited parents, grandparents and anyone else who visited our house. After a few weeks they moved on to something else, and the closet was transformed into some other kind of fort, but they sure enjoyed this game while it lasted.

Last month we were on vacation in the Orlando area and went, one day, to Downtown Disney, upon recommendations from some of the awesome Moms who have come together on my Facebook page. They had told me about BabyCakes being there — an all gluten-free bakery. (In fact, I believe most everything they offered was gluten-free, plus dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free). You can imagine how excited my girls were to see this place. I’ll admit: I had them expecting a little too much (I had said we’d be walking into a big bakery and they’d be able pick out whatever they wanted) but they were still super excited to even see a small all-gluten-free bakery in the corner of a restaurant.

We each picked out a dessert and took it “to go” to eat after our lunch at T-Rex Restaurant next door. It was hard to wait (and our to-go box was opened repeatedly for sniffing noses and sneaky licking fingers) but we thoroughly enjoyed everything. Morgan chose a lemon-frosted cupcake, Lindsey picked a mint-frosted brownie cupcake and I decided on a cookie sandwich (2 large, thin chocolate chip cookies with frosting in between). Besides the goodies shown below, there was another area with banana breads, donuts, and other sweet treats. They had never seen so many gluten-free goodies together in one place before and you could tell that they thought it was a very cool place.

Since that vacation, their gluten-free bakery has been re-established in the playhouse since we’ve been having an unseasonably warm Spring. It’s much the same except for a new sign, menu and decorations. It’s wonderful how some things just never get old!
Has your g-free kid had any gluten-free dreams become reality? Are you lucky enough to live near one of these all-gluten-free bakeries?  As always, feel free to post a picture on my Facebook page and/or comment below. Thanks!

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

Cupcake templates: a mini giveaway for your gluten-free kid, plus a fun awareness idea!

A few months ago I picked up a handful of “baking templates” which I had found at a local Michael’s store. Since most of us are making gluten-free cupcakes for our g-free kids, I figured we could all use something new to decorate them with…

Does your g-free kid love cupcakes? Are you looking for a way to help spread awareness? Then here is the perfect answer: host a cupcake party!  The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) and Pamela’s Products have collaborated on this idea, so find out more, be inspired and get out there and make a difference!

Decorating cupcakes with these templates is something your g-free kid can definitely help with. She can begin by holding the template flat while you show her how to sprinkle in the sugar (or nonpariels) evenly to fill up the template. Then, once she understands how it works, you can hold the template while she does the sprinkling. Wait until you see her pride and excitement when you take the template off and show her the final shape!

Tips: these templates work best on flat frosted surfaces, so if your cupcake it too rounded on top, slice off some of the cake part to make it flatter. Then put your frosting on as flat as you can, with more around the edges to build a more even surface. Also,
try these on frosted brownies, cookie cakes or regular cakes.

7 lucky winners will receive (for their g-free kids) a set of 3 different cupcake templates as shown in the first photo above, along with a personalized note from a children’s book author and illustrator. (me)  🙂

I like to keep my giveaways simple by just requiring a comment below (instead of making you “like” me on Facebook and twitter for extra entries). However, I would appreciate more followers on social media (this will only help this site get bigger and better) and for you to help me spread the word about gfreekid.com. So, if you like what you see here, please tell people about it. Thanks!  🙂

That being said, this giveaway is still simple:  All you have to do is comment below, answering these questions: What does your family do to help spread awareness, and which cupcake or cake mix/brand/recipe is your favorite?

Giveaway will end Monday, March 19th at midnight. Winners will be randomly chosen and emailed with notification. If I don’t hear back within 48 hours, other winners will be chosen to replace them. GOOD LUCK!  🙂   -Katie

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Psssst:  Have you seen the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page yet?
For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Simple St. Patrick’s Day ideas and coloring page for gluten-free kids

March is always a busy month for our family — especially since my daughters are Irish dancers. So far they are scheduled for 13 shows this month, on top of everything else life brings. Thankfully we all love it and seeing them do their 2-hand reel never ceases to bring tears to my eyes…

Despite the crazy schedule, we like to scatter little St. Patrick’s Day treats and symbols throughout the month, just like we do for Valentine’s Day in February. There are far too many fun things to do with those holidays, than to limit it all to just one day each month.

With this first idea (which is nothing original, I’m sure) I just arranged green, white and orange veggies in the shape and color order of the Irish flag. I used snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, orange peppers and baby carrots. The subtlety of this idea may be lost on little ones, so a mini Irish flag (we made this one w/ markers, paper and a toothpick) helps make the connection.

Another simple idea just involves cutting already-baked, g-free pizza (we use Chebe for the crust) into shamrock shapes with a cookie cutter… what could be easier?

For the pizza below, I arranged Hormel mini pepperoni in the shapes of shamrocks all over the top of the (Chebe crust) pizza. Just watch that your cheese doesn’t get too over-cooked and dark, or your shamrocks won’t stand out enough.

Next I’ve created a gluten-free coloring page for your g-free kid to enjoy. Please fee free to post a picture of your child with his or her finished coloring page on my Facebook wall!

Here are some other crafty, fun things to do for St. Patrick’s Day:

And to close, here is an Irish blessing — heavily modified, by me, from one found here

“May you have gluten-free bread to do you good,
Gluten-free bread to sweeten your blood,
Gluten-free bread to do you no harm
And gluten-free bread to strengthen your arm.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
More sweet, green ideas coming very soon!

In case you missed it, check out these sweet & salty treats for St. Patty’s Day,
and be sure you see the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies: Variations on a Theme

Here it is…the original recipe — given to me over five years ago by my friend, Lori — named as such because you need “a cuppa peanut butter and a cuppa sugar.” (plus an egg!)  🙂 This recipe makes (what many think are) the best peanut butter cookies ever — whether you can eat gluten or not!  I was hooked on these even before I had to go gluten-free, and I’ve never bothered to try a new recipe since then…

Whenever someone eats these cookies, they inevitably ask for the recipe, and are baffled to hear how easy they are to make, and that an egg can actually hold the peanut butter and sugar together. They are always amazed at how moist these cookies are, how well they hold up and just how good they taste!

The photos below will give you an idea of how versatile this recipe is…I usually double or triple the recipe, and freeze some afterwards. Yes, they even freeze well!

As shown here, I often add m&m’s or peanut m&m’s into the mix before baking…

Candy corns and Hershey’s Kisses work well, too!  Just press candy on top of the cookies immediately after they have finished baking.

Below you will see the amount of cookies you can make when you triple the recipe. For most of these cookies, I pressed 3 m&m’s onto the tops before they baked. Just make sure you watch them — if they’re in too long the m&m’s might crack. Others I left plain and others had m&m’s mixed in with the dough.

And I bet you’re wondering about those peanut butter cups in the back row… These are my latest creation, and one which I will make again for sure. I pressed some of the dough into 8 greased mini cupcake openings (it was a trial so I only made a few) and forked the edges a little. Then after they were baked (for 8 minutes) I spooned Nutella into the openings. After they had cooled for a while, they twisted out of the cupcake tin very nicely — all except one. That one, I discovered, had too-thick dough at the bottom which hadn’t cooked all the way through like the other ones. That being said, make sure your bottom is just as thick as your sides, and you’ll be all set. Instead of Nutella, you can also try filling the opening with melting chocolate, chocolate chips, a Hershey’s Kiss — or better yet: chocolate frosting as another friend just suggested. No matter how you fill them, they are the perfect kid-size peanut butter cups!  🙂

Some final tips:  (1) Let your kids help! You couldn’t find an easier recipe and the dough is very workable and isn’t sticky at all. (2) As I wrote in pencil on the recipe above, I don’t recommend forking them. Whenever I do this, they turn out too flat. Keeping your dough balls as round and high as possible when you put them on the cookie sheet to bake will give them the best shape. (3) Keep an eye on the bottom of your cookies so they don’t burn (mine are usually done in 7-8 minutes), and (4) let them cool on the cookie sheet before you try to move them. This helps solidify them so they won’t break apart. If you follow these tips, you should have excellent results!

Really — you must try these — even if you just do a single batch. You will be blown away by how good they are…  And, if you try any other variations with this recipe, let me know!

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

School holiday parties: will your gluten-free kid feel like one of the gang?

 

Be honest: does the thought of an upcoming school holiday party conjure up images of your g-free kid having Charlie Brown’s typical luck: being left out of all the fun and feeling like the odd man out? With a little planning and a pre-party attitude check, this certainly doesn’t have to be the case — in fact, it can be quite the opposite…

Most preschool and elementary school classes in the U.S. will be having a Valentine’s Day party next Tuesday (like it or not) complete with snacks, drinks and valentine card/candy exchanges. How you view your child’s party will probably reflect the way your child sees it, so it’s a good idea to think about how you’re going to approach it beforehand…

Pre-party list check
To kids, Valentine’s Day is mostly about the candy. The list of gluten-free candy is as long as that zigzag thing around Charlie Brown’s waist….it just keeps going and going. Sure, there is definitely candy that your child needs [to know] to avoid — like licorice or anything containing cookie pieces or “crisps” — to name the obvious. But with so many great lists of gluten-free candy out there, you really can’t go wrong, as long as you teach your child the differences between them.

My favorite, go-to list is from Celiac Family — I love how it’s organized by color and level of safety. It starts with candy (listed in green) that is safe, no question. The middle portion of this list (the type in orange) indicates label warnings about production lines, etc. Personally, I will buy candy in packages that read “manufactured in a facility that produces wheat…” but I will not buy candy that reads “may contain wheat” even if the ingredients appear g-free. But that’s just me. If that’s not strict enough for your family, then stick with the list at the top in green type. As far as the red list at the bottom goes, (if your child is old enough) bring him to the grocery store with you, (or look online) show him what all of those candies look like and explain why he can’t eat them. Then, of course, be sure to remind him that there is plenty of candy he can still enjoy.

Here are a few ways you can handle holiday parties, depending on the level of your desired involvement and your child’s personality:

“Sally”:  Some parents will print off a list to notify parents and teachers of the huge assortment of GF candy they can buy to accommodate all students, as well as a list of gluten-free party treat and snack ideas. They might send along a nice note saying how much they and their child would appreciate everyone making sure food is safe for the entire class. If parents really want to get involved with the party planning, they’ll call the teacher or room parents to coordinate what will be served. This might be a good option if you have a very young child who doesn’t yet understand what he can or cannot eat, needs a lot of direction, or has difficulty speaking for himself. This will also help to ease a new-at-gluten-free parent’s fears of the unknown, until they settle into the new routine.

“Peppermint Patty”:  At the other end of the spectrum are parents who just want to know when the party is so they can send their own food in. These parents choose to just prep their g-free kid to not eat anything he’s not absolutely sure about, and will send him in with any type of treat and a few pieces of candy. This way he has his own stuff to enjoy, regardless of whether or not there is anything served that is safe for him to eat. This will work fine for more independent kids, and those who are very comfortable eating their own food and don’t care that what they have might be different.This also works well for parents who don’t want to feel like they are rocking the boat but still want their kids to be safe.

“Lucy”:  A middle-of-the-road option is parents who check to see when a party is and ask what’s being sent in for it — making it clear that they are not trying to control anything, but that they just want to send in something comparable for their child. Other parents/teachers who are involved will be reminded of a child’s needs, but not feel like this parent is trying to dictate the plans. This works well for parents who are used to parties like this, knowing that there may or may not be some things their child can eat. It works for kids who are confident enough to know they can only eat certain things but who also don’t want to feel like they stick out with what they are eating, or feel left out with what they’re not. (Hence, sending in a comparable treat.)

*With any of these options, parents can also volunteer to send in a sweet, g-free treat for the whole class, like fruit skewers or chocolate-dipped marshmallows with sprinkles.

Pre-party reality check
Clearly, what works for your family may be a combination of these, or something entirely different. And you may find yourself moving from one extreme to the other as your child’s needs change. There’s no right or wrong. Every family must find their most comfortable way of handling things like this, and sometimes it takes a certain amount of adaptation to see what works best.

While we can’t expect the world to conform to our kids’ needs, you may find that, in time, as you and your child help spread awareness about gluten-free foods, that you might gain some new supporters. I personally believe that a lot of it depends on your family’s attitude and how demanding you are that other people accommodate your child’s diet. From my experience, politeness and sincerity go a long way to work in your favor, as well as gratitude for even the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness that is shown along the way.

Pre-party attitude check
As a parent, however you decide to handle school holiday parties, please remember to put on a happy face when discussing it with your child. G-free kids of all ages may already be a bit uneasy, especially if they are new at the diet. Show them that you are excited that they get to go to a party, remind them about what’s okay for them to eat, and let them know what they’ll be bringing in for it. Tell them you hope they have fun and that you can’t wait to hear all about it. Remind them that holiday parties are about a lot more than just food — and to just relax and enjoy their friendships, the decorations, music, games, Valentine cards and loot. Kids are much more resilient, adaptable and flexible than some people might think.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Do you have any more thoughts on the topic that might help other parents?
Feel free to comment below with any additional advice. Thanks!