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While some parents allow their children the freedom to gorge on holiday meals and treats, some do not have that luxury. Children following the Ketogenic Diet (KD) for the treatment of epilepsy must only eat foods that have been weighed on a gram scale and follow extremely strict guidelines with meal planning. The KD is a high fat and very low carbohydrate diet that often excludes foods from the bread/grain group or sweet treats. One small misstep on the Ketogenic Diet and seizure control can be lost.
Parenting a child who follows a special medical diet, including the KD, can bring on feelings of failure, stress, frustration and embarrassment in a normal setting. But those feelings can multiply when sitting at the family holiday dinner table.
Keep these suggestions in mind when helping your child stay on their medically prescribed diet through the holidays:
1. Maintain your family routine
- Stay on track with timing of meals and snacks, so the eating of food is predictable. This can lead to feelings of security and contentment for your child.
2. Plan ahead
- Talk to your child’s dietitian for any menus or recipes that you may need well before the time you need them.
- Make the recipe in advance to make sure that it tastes good and travels well, if you need it to do so.
3. Prepare your child
- Discuss what will happen at the holiday get-together, and practice what the child will say when offered food that is not on their special diet. This will help your child feel confident when approached by well-intentioned family members.
4. Take the focus off of the food
- While many family traditions are centered around meals, this may be a good time to remind your family about the other joys of the holiday season.
- For example, don’t focus on gifts of candy and sweets, but on the joy we feel when giving homemade cards to our family and friends.
5. Find your ally
- Partner up with another family member or friend that is going to be at the holiday celebration and enlist their help in supporting you in being a shield for any negative talk about your child’s special diet or any well-intentioned sabotage of the diet.
A common hurdle in helping your child follow the Ketogenic Diet during the holidays can be psychological. Put on your game face and “yum” your way through your child’s Keto dinner of turkey, heavy cream based gravy, cauliflower mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin dessert and lots of butter. If your child sees that you think their food is delicious, then maybe they will be convinced, as well. It can’t hurt!
By talking with your child, planning ahead and focusing on the celebration of the holiday, you will be successful in maintaining your child’s special diet through the holidays. Just remember that helping your child follow their special medical diet, or some may say “Magic Diet”, is one of the best gifts you can give
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Senior Clinical Nutritionist at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Robyn Blackford, RD, LDN has worked as the ketogenic dietitian at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago since 2005, and has worked professionally with child and infant nutrition for many years. Robyn follows over 175 patients on the Ketogenic Diet and other modified diet therapies for epilepsy, making Lurie Children’s one of the largest Keto Centers in the country. Follow Robyn on Twitter @KetoQueen and Lurie Children’s Hospital @LurieChildrens.
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