Juggling celiac disease with holiday food temptations

Blending old and new recipes, involving kids can ease gluten-free holidays

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Monday, December 11, 2017
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Healthcheck: Gluten-free holidays: Moni9ca Malpass reports on Action News at 5 p.m.

WAYNE, PA (WPVI) -- It's the time of year to eat, drink and be merry.

That's not so easy when someone in your home, especially a child, has celiac disease.

But those with experience have some helpful advice.

About 8 years ago, Kate Shields and her son Tim discovered they have celiac disease.

And it's a serious matter.

"I was very sick," Kate recalls.

Since then, they've controlled their symptoms by eating gluten-free, even though Kate's other sons DON'T have celiac.

"The older boys definitely have snacks and things that are not gluten-free," she says.

But holidays can be trickier, says Dr. Ritu Verma, a gastroenterologist with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Because now there are so many foods, there are more foods that are traditional that they cannot have," says Dr. Verma.

Like those scrumptious desserts from the neighborhood bakery.

But before turning the holidays upside down, it's important to find out what your child wants -

"So many times we put on children what we think they should do," says Dr. Verma.

Registered Dietitian Janelle Steinhoff says for families doing their first gluten-free holiday, make it a blend of old, but safe, recipes with new ones.

"Incorporating the child into that whether it's mixing and baking, putting decorations on cakes," says Steinhoff.

When visiting others, call ahead to see what's on the menu.

And bring something gluten-free to share with everyone.

But even so -

"Always be prepared. You can't walk into a party or any location without having your secret stash of food and special treats," she says with a knowing smile.

Kate says her family has shifted the focus AWAY from food.

"We try to add games and other things to make it special," she adds.

One final tip: If you're going away, offer to help your host with meals, to make sure there's safe food available, and that there's no cross-contamination in the kitchen or on the table.