Gluten Free Your Year with Coral – August Challenge
Welcome to month EIGHT of the Gluten Free Your Year challenge! I’m so glad you’re here! (You can find an overview of the challenge HERE)
This month’s theme is Gluten Free Your School & Office. If you have school age children with restricted diet needs, preparation is key! Packing lunches, communicating with school staff, and putting a plan in place can help everyone have the tools they need to have a successful school year. And, the same is true for your work/office. BEING PREPARED is the biggest takeaway from this month!
Start by downloading this month’s “Gluten Free Your Home & Office Checklist,” then scroll down to listen to a series of podcast episodes and read more about the HOW for checking these items off your list! I wish you and your family an incredible school year!
Gluten Free You & Me Podcast:
School and Office Topic Guide
If you have:
- a child just starting out at school,
- a teen that needs a group of friends that understands their gluten free life,
- An older child ready to head off for college,
- or YOU are the one that needs to be prepared when heading to the office,
Listen to the following episodes of my Gluten Free You & Me Podcast that meet your specific needs by clicking the links below:
Help set your child up for success with these specific steps. You can help empower your child and anyone else that works with your child so they can be healthy and safe. I share key details, such as: how to teach your child how to eat in case of an emergency, the importance of educating your children’s teachers and 10 other steps that are critical to success. ***This episode’s show notes go into detail on the process. Great Resource***
Clayton @CollegeAndCeliac, shares some tips that he has learned in his college journey so far. He talks about how to eat safely in the dorms, how to still participate in sports & exercise while having celiac disease, and the importance of choosing the right doctor
Generation GF is a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) that is all about kids, teens, and young adults. They are a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources, including a free membership, magazine subscription, and local support groups with fun events for kids to meet others just like them. Listen in for more info and check out their website and membership option at https://gluten.org/become-a-member/
My three tips relate to: Mindset, planning, and school lunches.
Plan Ahead for Success at School
When my daughter with Celiac Disease was old enough to enter school, I was able to feel peace of mind knowing I had put in the necessary work to keep her safe. It took:
- Research (Yay! you are here learning!)
- Conversations (Teacher meeting and 504 meetings)
- Documentation (Personalized Information Card and 504 documentation)
- Planning (School lunches and emergency snacks)
- Teaching (Spread awareness of gluten free needs, and teach your children to advocate for themselves)
All the effort put in was SO worth it! Staff was informed and knew how to help, and my daughter knew how to advocate for herself. With these systems in place beforehand, we could then enjoy and celebrate all the new experiences school had to offer. You can do the same! My favorite part of going through the hard times in this journey is knowing I can then share my learning with you! So let’s start checking off those boxes on this month’s checklist!
Personalized Information Card
For the beginning of the year, it’s great to have a two page document (or front and back) that is a quick and easy reference for anyone caring for you children. For my kids, I put background information and quick facts about Celiac Disease on one side. Then, on the other side, I put personal information specific to my child- contact information, personal diagnosis history, safe treats and even some pictures! You can create your own version, or you can purchase a pre-made digital template in my shop HERE (it’s available in Word and in PDF). This is such a lifesaver to just print and keep handy
Advocating for Yourself
(or teaching your children to advocate for themselves)
My favorite saying right now is “don’t assume everyone knows how to gluten free.” I know I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what it took to gluten free my life, so don’t assume others know how to keep you safe. Advocating for yourself takes: spreading awareness, asking questions, and standing up for your needs. So when you walk into a new school year, be sure to make your child, the teacher, the school nurse, and anyone else who may need to know AWARE of your health needs. Ask questions to understand what systems they have in place, and then you decide what’s safe and feels right for you and your family.
Role playing is a great way to have your child practice the things they will need to be brave enough to say when navigating school.
Sample Prompts to Practice Advocating for Yourself
When you or a family member has a food restriction, it is so important to learn to speak up for your health and safety. Ask questions! So here are some sample scenarios you can practice. Come up with questions you would ask or responses, and make up even more scenarios so you will feel prepared and confident when the time comes.
- Someone offers you a homemade snack or treat
- Someone invites you out for a meal or to their home for dinner
- You are invited to a party
- Someone asks you what gluten is (“Isn’t gluten just like bread or pasta?”
504 Plan and Process
The show notes for my Gluten Free You & Me podcast Episode 8: Do you need a 504 plan with Celiac Disease and being Gluten Free go into thorough detail about what is a 504 plan, what I learned through the process, and what specific details are included in my children’s 504 plan. The notes also share how to get a 504 plan started and who should be included in the 504 meeting. I hope the information shared HERE will help you feel confident to contact your school and advocate for your family’s needs.
School Lunches and Safe Snacks
With the risk of cross contact, I have it as part of the 504 plan to have my child sit in a designated space that is disinfected prior to her mealtime. I always pack her lunch and snacks, and there is emergency food stored in the classroom or with the school nurse in case she forgets her lunch or some other emergency. I also make sure to have special sweet treats on hand so she won’t be left out for class parties.
Here are some ideas of what I send for my kid’s lunches.
- Applesauce pouches
- Fruit leathers
- Caveman bars
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Simple mills crackers
- Miltons crackers
- Enjoy life chocolate chips
- The Good Crisp chips
- Cheese sticks
- GF Pretzels
- PBJ with Canyon Bakehouse or Schar… (I take off the crusts – without toasting the bread- it can be a little dry on the crusts.)
- Rice cake with peanut butter and jelly
- Rice cake ham and cheese
- Salad in a Jar
At the Office
So many of the same principle work anytime you re away from home, whether going to an event, hanging out with friends, heading to schooling, or working in an office. It’s always great to be prepared and remember to take care of your health and safety.
Safe Snack Stash and Lunches
When setting up a gluten free safe space at work, you’ll want to stock up on your favorite safe snacks. The same gluten free snacks that are recommended for school lunches above can be used for work! There are options that are naturally gluten free and others that are good packaged options for gluten free snacks. Remember to choose a variety to keep your work food interesting!
When and Why to Inform Coworkers
Isn’t it so thoughtful and fun when your workplace celebrated it’s employees–maybe with birthday cakes or special celebrations for successes?! What if they prepare something special just for you and you have to decline because it’s not gluten free? It’s nice to have the conversations in preparation for spending time with your coworkers by just giving them a heads up. Remember to Keep it Simple. They don’t need all the details, but you can mention it when you feel the time is right. If they are interested in asking you questions or make comments that show a misunderstanding, remember to take a breath. They don’t need to understand and approve of your diet, but YOU do have the right to make choices that feel right and safe for your health.
Find Me Gluten Free
Download the Find Me Gluten Free App HERE. This is a great way to look up places you may want to try near your work. You can see ratings for Celiac Friendly and Dedicated Gluten Free. The next time you get invited out to eat, you can be prepared with a restaurant recommendation that you know has safe options so you can focus on having a great time with your friends instead of worrying about what to eat.
Thank you for joining me for another month in the Gluten Free Your Year Challenge. Share about your journey in an Instagram story or post, tag me, and use #glutenfreeyearwithcoral. And if you haven’t already done so:
- Sign up for my newsletter to get emails with extra information and to get updates of podcast episodes and blog posts related to Gluten Free Your Year. I also make recommendations for great resources to help you along the way!
- Make sure you are following me on Instagram @glutenfreewithcoral and join our Facebook group, Gluten Free with Coral Community to join the discussion! I’ll be posting tips, fun mini challenges, and giveaways throughout the year on both, so don’t miss out!