A dear friend asked me for some advice last week about gluten free food for children. It took a little thought, and while pondering my answer, I thought about my gluten free journey so far, and realised how far I'd come.
A bit of history: my 7 year old daughter was diagnosed with coeliac disease 4 years ago. My MIL and SIL already had coeliac disease so I was aware of gluten free food to some extent, and had cooked some things gluten free for family gatherings. However nothing prepared me for the first shopping trip after my daughter's diagnosis. It seemed there was nothing that she could eat. And anything she could eat, was inedible, either because much of the gluten free food available in the shops is gross, or because she was 3 years old, and therefore a picky eater.
I joined the coeliac society, which was a help, spent a fortune on food, threw out every loaf of gluten free bread [read: brick] I made for nearly 6 months, and had to re-learn how to bake and cook. I spent a fortune on tupperware to colour-code my pantry [black lids are 'bad', red are safe for her], and obsessed about every meal.
Then we had to contend with kindy and school, and lunchboxes - SO much harder to find gluten free food that travels well and is still edible by lunch time. And THEN I got gestational diabetes while pregnant with my third daughter. And let me tell you, low-GI food and gluten-free food are almost poles apart. Now there was nothing I could eat. It was back to square one with meals and food obsessing... I typically made two or three different meals every night as anything my daughter could eat [potatoes, rice etc.] I could not. I am thankful the gestational diabetes ended with that pregnancy. And anyone out there who has both coeliac disease AND diabetes [the two illnesses are related] - I take my hat off to you!
I work really hard to make sure my daughter doesn't miss out on too much: I make fish & chips at home [yes I own a deep fryer], I'm always trying a new gluten-free challenge [eg. donuts, pancakes, dumplings] with mixed success. We have cupcakes in the school freezer so when there's a birthday cake she gets a treat too. When there's cooking at school I supply gluten free ingredients [I used to bake oval-shaped biscuits every Friday morning in prep until I found out they froze well!]. Mostly she's content, but occasionally she gets down and wishes she didn't have to eat gluten free food... my SIL said even as an adult she still has the occasional day like this.
Having a child with coeliac disease is difficult, stressful, and worrying. Each time she accidentally ingests gluten [it does happen] it is an ingestion of poison that has short-term issues, and long-term risks. However it is also a disease that is cured with a dietary change. Yes, a strict diet, but hey, it's not leukaemia or some other devastating illness. As a family we eat very little pre-prepared food so we eat a very healthy diet on the whole [though the countless cupcakes on my blog may imply otherwise].
Why am I telling you all of this? I guess I just want to share some of my experiences with others who may be in a similar situation, or who want to understand more about what it's like. Drop me a line sometime if you, too, have to deal with any of these issues... it's always good to share ideas!