A school lunch room can be a nightmare for any kid – where to sit, who to sit with, and is it pizza day yet? But kids with celiac disease have a unique challenge navigating the cafeteria in a different way.Celiac disease
is a genetic, autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. About one in 100 children has celiac disease, making it one of the most common conditions in children.
Children who have celiac disease are permanently intolerant to gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley.
Wheat is tough to avoid in a school cafeteria and if parents aren’t able to pack a gluten-free lunch, what’s a kid to do? We asked Children’s National Health System dietician, Angela Boadu, RD, LDN/LD, for some advice.
"First and foremost, be your own advocate," Boadu said.Cafeteria Tips for Celiac:
- Talk to whoever is in charge of the cafeteria, or your child’s teacher, let them know ahead of time about your child’s condition before they even get into the school
- Emphasize the risk cross-contamination
- Be prepared to educate the school and peers
- Encourage kids to choose simple items like meat, veggies, and fruit, but avoid anything breaded
- Avoid pasta, hamburgers, and meatloaf
- When in doubt, don’t try it, go with what you know
If you or your child is not sure what they can eat, make sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician about healthy options. This guide to dining out with celiac
will help you figure out foods your child can eat. You can also sign up for the Celiac Disease Digest
for the most up to date information about celiac disease.