Back to School Tips for Families on the Ketogenic Diet

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.

Meal prep

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!

-Lindsey

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.

 

Back to School: Tips for Packing Keto Lunches

We are excited to welcome back Dana Haddox-Wright, keto mom and guest blogger extraordinaire! Dana lives in Connecticut with her husband and two adorable daughters. Her 9-year-old daughter has Dravet Syndrome and has been on the ketogenic diet for over 5 years. As you prepare for your children to head back to school, we hope you will find Dana’s tips for packing a keto lunch box useful and timely. 

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Preparing food for children can be a daunting task, particularly when they are on the ketogenic diet. Kids on the diet are not always predictable. What they absolutely love one day, they may not want to touch the next. The struggle is real for us. Just when we narrow down several “favorites” the kids love, we are then confronted with another challenge….SCHOOL.

Work Around School Policies

School policies on food vary by district, but most do not allow tree nut products. No macadamia nut, almond, or peanut-based foods are allowed much of the time. This significantly limits our fat options. If your child’s school cafeteria does allow nuts at designated tables, then you are ok. Other parents will need to get creative. Coconut is a useful substitute, but you may need to convince your school administrators that it is ok. When my daughter’s school told me that I would not be able to send in coconut based foods, I was confused. I contacted the keto dietitian, and she told me that though coconuts grow on trees they are technically not “tree nuts,” and it is very rare for individuals with tree nut allergies to have a reaction to them. She wrote the school a letter that was shared with the school nurses, and problem solved. Once you know what you CANNOT send to school, you can experiment with alternate recipes. Try using coconut flour or flaxmeal in exchange for nut flours.

Keep It Simple

Another helpful hint is to keep things simple. You can make delicious meals that do not require a lot of components or ingredients. A few of my daughter’s favorites that are not messy or complex include the bake and freeze pizzas (using flaxmeal instead of macadamia nuts), cheesecake, hotdogs with “awesome sauce” (low sugar ketchup and mayonnaise with cut up cooked hot dog mixed in) and a side of cream (made into whipped cream). Last, but not least, a nice water bottle with a keto-safe flavoring and some liquid stevia is a great alternative to the juice boxes that kids often have.

Remember the Social Aspect

Lunch period is time that kids socialize. Something to remember is that kids pay attention to what their peers pack in their lunches. Knowing this, I try to make my daughter’s lunches tasty and fun while meeting all the keto requirements. You may also want use the school lunch calendar as a guide. Attempt to mimic what the school cafeteria will be serving.

Listen to Your Child

Take time to listen to your children. If they say they want carrots or apple, attempt to work them into new recipes (assuming you have time in your busy schedule). In the end, it is all about making things easier while keeping our little ones safe.

Put On Your Advertising Hat

As the head keto-chef in my house, I try to prepare things that even I would want to eat. Think like an advertiser. Market to your child, and everyone wins. Find keto-friendly food coloring for cookies or cakes, or even for their water to add to visual appeal. On a diet that is so restrictive, there are ways to turn limits into opportunities.

Know That It’s All Worth It

Know that the time you spend being a keto mad scientist, is time well spent. Your kids, whether they can verbalize it or not, will appreciate your effort. They will know that you put your love for them into everything including their school meals.

-Dana

I was paid by Nutricia for my time to write this post, however, my opinions are my own. 

The ketogenic diet for epilepsy should be used under medical supervision.