Summer often represents freedom ( at least for a while! ) for many kids. Free to romp and play, hang out with pals, but for so many kids who live with with Food Allergies, it can be a bit of a challenge.
[ Yep, even ice cream can contain Gluten! #1 rule Always Read Labels! ]
Kids with serious food allergies and disease; (ex Celiac), must adhere to special diets that differ from many of their friends and 'camp mates'. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains and breads, cereals that give the their 'chew' factor. :() Unfortunately, gluten has made it's way into countless other food products under various names. Packing healthy meals and snacks at home is one way to ensure safe meals are consumed.
[ Well, perhaps this little guy's a bit too young! LOL ]
Another way to help kids along the food allergic trail is to start them young by educating them (according to their age & level of understanding). It's important that they feel empowered through learning about their allergy (or disease) so that they will desire to make choices that won't make them sick.
Allow your child to be a participant in their food preparation and shopping to they have a sense of autonomy and so they don't feel that they're just being made to eat differently without any understanding. It's imperative that kids learn to read food labels when there's no adult to supervise. Make fun colorful cheat sheets or charts with their allergies, ex : go (Green) ingredients and stop (Red) ingredients Use colored snack containers specifically for the child's needs so they always know what to grab.
Teach your child to not be fearful of speaking up and asking questions about their food. Relatives, friends and anyone else who's left to care for your child should be educated on the importance of cross contact and their food limits. There are so many colorful and fun to wear Medical ID bracelets for kids( especially for younger kids who can't yet read ), so there's a visual for others to recognize.
Teach your child to keep a food log, either in a cool notebook or on their tablet so they can get into the healthy habit of tracking what they eat. This will give you a good indication of what they're eating, especially if there's any contaminating happening! Check with summer camps for birthday parties and other celebrations that involve food to ensure there will be safe treats for your child.
Here are some interactive Food Allergy teaching apps/sites for kids:
BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies
Check within your local towns because there may be gluten and allergy free camps available, many are sprouting up around the nation. Also look for camps who've been trained for kids with special food needs that aren't specific food allergy camps. You can even encourage summer camps to become trained prior to when the camp begins, or for following years to come. Camps who are educated on food allergies help to educate the other kids in the camp to encourage sensitivity and help eliminate food bullying. Below is a link for a sites that lists Food Allergy Friendly camps across the U.S. Simply type in the search bar food allergy-friendly camps :)
It's important to prep and educate your child (of any age) on food bullying. It can take just one bout of ridicule or an overheard conversation from adults for a child to abandon their food safety routine. Here are some valuable resources to get started:
Utilizing these strategies will keep your mind rest assured as well as your child so they can continue to participate in fun filled activities without the stress of food exposure. It takes time because training will eventually become new behaviors. But with age related guidance, soon enough these behaviors will become lifelong habits!
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