As your children head back to school, we hope you can use these tips by ketogenic dietitian Lindsey Thompson, MS, RD, CSP, LD. Thanks, Lindsey!
Starting the new school year can be a mix of emotions from both excitement to apprehension, especially for families with a child on the ketogenic diet. Here are some tips to help get you through these upcoming weeks as school approaches.
Meet with the teacher and staff at the school
It is important, particularly if your child will be at a new school this year, to make sure all of the staff members who are in contact with your child are aware of his or her special diet and restrictions. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you likely already have a meeting scheduled. Be sure to discuss:
- Dietary restrictions- Many parents I have worked with find it helpful to compare the ketogenic diet to a food allergy (“my son has an allergy to carbohydrates or sugar”). Although this is an oversimplification of the diet, sometimes using the comparison helps staff understand the scope of the ketogenic diet when applied to epilepsy management.
- Classroom items to avoid – In addition to the dietary restrictions, make sure staff are aware that classroom items containing carbohydrates could be harmful for a child on the ketogenic diet to use (for example, modeling clay/play dough, which contains flour). I tell classroom staff that when in doubt, have the child wear gloves when using a product in question.
- Parties & Special Events – It is also important to review with the teacher the schedule of class parties or events that may contain food. Have the teacher let you know in advance when there will be a party or food so that you can send an appropriate ketogenic alternative for your child.
Ease into the school routine
Switching from the summer schedule to school schedule can be stressful. Kids with epilepsy may especially need additional time to adjust their sleep schedules in preparation for school. Practice your family’s school routine a few weeks in advance, perhaps in preparation for a day at the zoo or another activity. Set the alarms, have your children get up and ready, and pack that keto lunch for your child. You may even practice getting to the bus stop or driving to school to estimate the correct time needed. Practicing beforehand will make the first day of school go more smoothly.
As any keto parent knows, meal prepping for the ketogenic diet is very time consuming. Schedule a day or time to prepare ketogenic meals and snacks for school ahead of time. Many parents like to choose a day when a spouse or other caregiver is available to help keep the kids occupied, like a weekend day.
Try to keep school lunches simple. If your child likes to drink KetoCal®, your school can provide a serving of KetoCal for the same cost as a school lunch, which may save you time in having to meal prep. See this link for more information about the KetoCal and National School Lunch Program: https://www.myketocal.com/schoollunch/.
Helpful supplies for school lunches
Supplies that are helpful on the ketogenic diet lunches include:
- An insulated lunch bag with an ice pack (to keep cream and other fats cold)
- Small containers for holding the smaller portions of food required on the ketogenic diet
- Some families like a bento-style lunch box and kids find that can be fun as well
Having a child on the ketogenic diet is a lot of work and preparation, but it is worth the effort. All of you keto parents and caregivers are doing great! I hope these tips will help ease you and your child on the ketogenic diet into a safe and happy school year!
I was paid by Nutricia for my time to write this post, however, my opinions are my own.
KetoCal is a trademark of SHS International LTD.
KetoCal is a medical food for use under medical supervision.