Trying to control the teenage coelic diet
When we first discovered that Tamsin was coeliac, I was more concerned about her being vegetarian than anything else – as I say, when we *first* discovered. Since then all sorts of things have taken over as my main concern, in fact they’ve been competing for top place. Any teenager can be hard to feed healthily, but the teenage coeliac diet is another order of magnitude of tricky.
I went in to the dietitian feeling quite smug that I was a decent cook with a good understanding of nutrition. I feed my family varied meals with vegetables and mixed protein sources. Well that’s all well and good, but a coeliac has ground to make up after anything from a few years to a lifetime of nutrient malabsorption, so we came away from the hospital with a list of ‘musts’ as well as a loo roll length list of don’ts. I realised that I was going to have to be quite vigilant to make sure that Tamsin was getting everything she needed. I’m just so relieved that Tamsin and I pull together quite well on these things; trying to do all this with a teenager you find yourself at loggerheads with would be hell.
Vitamin C and dairy
One of the main points I’ve kept front and centre (horrible phrase but accurate) is ensuring Tamsin has enough vitamin C, and keeping up her calcium levels. Tamsin herself has come up with the answer to one of these. She likes PLJ, the pure lemon juice drink, and Morrisons thoughtfully has it on special offer just now so I’ve stocked up. Tamsin has it with fizzy water and gets a good vitamin C hit that way.
Bumping up her calcium isn’t proving too tricky either. Tamsin likes dairy and her breakfast usually includes either natural yoghurt or milk, and our meals often include cheese sauce or cheese as an element, eg cheese soufflé, baked potato with cheese & beans. I’m also making more of an effort than usual to include leafy green vegetables in our meals (rainbow chard, kale and cavolo nero are all hits). In the evening I go over with Tamsin how much dairy she’s had during the day and if it’s been a bit light I make her a hot chocolate. We get full fat milk from the milkman but I keep a couple of pints of UHT to hand too so that we’re never too low that Tamsin can’t get as much as she needs. In these respects the teenage coeliac diet has been pretty easy, but they’re only a small element of what she eats.
Until this September, Tamsin was the only one having a packed lunch and she was pretty easygoing, so I could use up all sorts of odds and ends (nice things, I don’t mean scraps!) in her lunch. Now of course I can’t do that and her brother takes packed lunches too, so I’ve had to be much more organised.
Our first hurdle has been rolls. We’re still waiting for the roll element of Tamsin’s prescription. She received two packs of rolls in her coeliac samples, but one is part bake and the other is very heavy to eat. She’s taken sandwiches instead which has been fine. She has salad in her roll and takes a piece of fruit, sometimes raisins as well, and now and then a few Aldi chilli rice crackers as a treat. I discovered in the freezer some gluten free madeleines we bought on holiday, so she can have those as a treat too. She has crackers and crispbread from her sample boxes but they’re trickier to prepare in advance as they go soggy with spread. We’re still working on lunches. I’ve suggested Tamsin makes a low-sugar banana loaf but so far she hasn’t got round to it.
Eating at home
At home Tamsin eats well. Like all teenagers she’d cheerfully live on pizza and chocolate fingers but I have to say that the pizzas she creates are works of art. She likes to slice a whole mozzarella onto a pizza so that really helps with her dairy intake. She’s always liked peanut butter, especially with banana, and has taken a shine to Whole Earth peanut butter with sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds. This morning she made herself gluten free pancakes (sadly she put syrup on them but you can’t have everything).
I’ve realised that convenience is a big thing for Tamsin. All teenagers like easy quick food they can disappear up the stairs with and though the teenage coeliac diet requires a little more planning, she can still do this. Most teenagers dislike feeling different from their friends so I do everything I can to give Tamsin a normal experience, especially when she’s with friends. With that in mind I’m going to see if we can get crackers and crispbreads on prescription, as she’s loved being able to eat those just with butter or peanut butter.
Together Tamsin and I have made up a jar of stuff she can sprinkle on her cereal. At the moment it contains dessicated coconut, sesame seeds, linseeds, flaked almonds and pecans. Tamsin loves nuts and I’m delighted to supply her with them. I’ve always tried to make sure the food we eat packs as much of a nutritional punch as possible, and now that feels more important than ever – I can’t miss a trick.