Stay positive, be creative, embrace the challenge and remember it is a case of what you "can eat" not what you "can't eat."
- Relax and develop your creativity in the kitchen, be daring with food and be willing to try out new flavours and recipes. You will soon be creating new habits around food.
- Try modifying recipes you already have at home in your selection of cookbooks.
- Set aside a little time each week to plan your menu. Feeding the whole family on the gluten and lactose free diet need not be too expensive, so long as you prepare and plan in advance and don't run out of the staples like flours.
- A gluten and lactose free kitchen is very important; make sure your store cupboards are stocked with all the alternative ingredients you will need for your recipes and particularly for the children's school packed lunches.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from family, friends, health food shop assistants, trusted online sites, etc. with the view of learning and developing your own, already extensive knowledge base.
- Explain to your children the importance of sticking to the diet and remind them kindly of what happens to their body if they deviate from it. Don't overly worry them though as this can have negative effects.
- Encourage your children to be open and honest about their food intolerances. Teach them how to confidently defend their special diet in front of friends at school.
- Teach everyone in the family how to read food labels so they all feel part of being able to help themselves. Do they know how to spot 'wheat', 'gluten', 'dairy', and 'lactose' ingredients? Knowledge is confidence and power!
- Go eat out every so often, particularly for special occassions - help family members to see they can still eat out and they can still make good and safe choices from a menu. Point out that some menu's even recognise food intolerances by stating if a dish is 'free from' a particular ingredient.
- Before eating out contact the venue in advance to alert them to your family's dietary needs. Increasingly, venue's will cater for special diets if they are given enough advance warning to buy in the necessary ingredients.
- If you want, buy over the internet in bulk to save time and money. Online suppliers do not have the overheads of upkeeping a shop and floor staff so hopefully they can pass the savings on to the customers. I have begun to buy in bulk from my favourite health food shop 'Beanies' and I get a very good deal on the delivery charge.
- Keep a handy stock of bought and ready to eat 'free from' foods like biscuits, crackers, crisps, fruit bar snacks etc just in case you run out of home baked goodies and have to grab and go with the kids somewhere!
- Research the prices of the free from foods you buy in supermarkets as these can sometimes vary greatly in price.
- Build up a concise reference list of those gluten and lactose free ingredients and where you normally buy them from. If you, the main 'chef' are ever not able to create your usual delights in the kitchen, due to ill health or being called away for some other reason, then the rest of the family will not be stuck and will be able to put a meal on the table!
More will follow as I think of them......