Starting a new school is a time of excitement and nerves for children with metabolic conditions and their parents. However, with careful preparation and good communication your child should easily settle into school life. Below are some tips that you may find useful.
Let your child’s school and teacher know about his or her metabolic condition as soon as possible. Explain the importance for teachers and other staff to understand why your child needs a special low protein diet, and why careful supervision is needed. Involve your dietitian or specialist nurse as they may be able to visit the school with you.
Include simple and easy to read lists of what your child can and cannot eat or drink. Your specialist team will also be able to provide you with written information describing your child’s condition, or you can download our teacher’s guides.
It is important that your child’s friends know about their metabolic condition so that they understand or can help offer support in social situations. If your child doesn't want to tell friends, you can discuss the idea of inviting friends over so that you can help explain their metabolic condition. Some parents also provide a presentation to their child's class, offering classmates the chance to ask questions and see the 'tools' for living on a low protein diet.
Before your child’s first day at school, think about whether you would prefer to send them with a packed lunch, or for them to have school dinners.
You may find that it’s easier to pack lunches. Choosing options with your child can make him or her happier with their lunchbox.
- Think about how many exchanges need to be included
- Write down a list of possible combinations and then make a shopping list. Doing a weekly shop and having all the food you need indoors means that you won’t be caught short in the mornings
- Make sure that you have plenty of low protein prescription foods ordered through your home delivery company or GP
- Using lower protein supermarket foods alongside low protein prescription foods and fruits/vegetables can make a lunchbox appear more like the other children at school
- Ask teachers (or your child if they are older) to leave any uneaten lunch in the lunchbox so that you can determine how much was eaten and make up exchanges later on if necessary
Ideas for low protein packed lunches
- Sandwiches made with low protein bread, bread rolls or homemade low protein flatbreads. The following combinations work well: Salad vegetables with salad cream*; sliced banana and raspberry jam; cold left over roasted vegetables with chutney*; tapenade* with salad; cold low protein sausage with a sauce e.g. HP, ketchup or BBQ*; low protein cheese* with chutney or pickle*
- A low protein salad. For example: Homemade coleslaw (shred cabbage, carrot and onion and add a suitable mayonnaise* - apples also work well); low protein pasta or couscous with roasted vegetables (add olive oil, and garlic); low protein rice or pasta mixed with vegetables and dressings* (use normal pasta or rice if needing to include exchanges)
- Cold low protein pizza: Top with tomato, onion, peppers and any of your other favourite low protein toppings. Low protein cheese* can also be a great addition
The lunchbox can be made more interesting by adding sides such as fruit, sticks of vegetables (carrot, pepper and cucumber) with flavoured mayonnaise or other dip*, crisps with an appropriate number of exchanges*, or low protein biscuits.
* Look for suitable brands in the supermarket, and ask your dietitian for more information.
Check out the Recipes section of the website for further recipes and ideas.
Some parents and children prefer school dinners. Check with your school about what they provide in terms of meals. It may help to:
- Get to know the dinner ladies and staff, and encourage them to contact you with questions about your child’s diet. Limit the staff trained to prepare food for your child to a small number; this will help ensure that they gain the necessary experience and there is always someone available in case someone is away
- Ask for copies of menus in advance so you can choose suitable foods and decide if you need to supplement the menu with any foods from home
- Ask what facilities and equipment are available, and then make sure you provide any extras. Electronic kitchen scales, measuring cups, and a folder to place lists of appropriate foods are likely to be essential.
Plan for illnesses
Discuss with your school and teacher what they should do if your child becomes unwell. If your child has an Emergency Regimen, make sure that school knows how to prepare it and to contact you straight away if they are needing to use it.
Your child should be able to participate in after school activities just like every other child. You just need to plan ahead. Speak to your child’s after school activity leader or coach about your child’s metabolic condition and let them know that they may need to take a break to have a snack provided from home. Ensure that your child has extra snacks that are appropriate for the length and physical intensity of the activity, and extra protein substitute if needed.