About a week ago, Cam was sick. Not the full-blown flu but plenty of congestion and a pretty nasty cough. He normally is not one who misses school but this cold was bad enough that we kept him home for a day and needed to stock up with extra boxes of tissues from the store. Fortunately, my schedule allowed for me to be available to stay at home and watch after him as his body tried to recover. I’ll admit, I’m not the best caregiver but in the past I have been able to make sure that the kids had their blankets, a book or a movie to entertain them and I was always quick to refill their cups with juice or water (Need to keep the fluids up!). I felt that I was up to the task…and then lunch happened.
Think about it. What do you feed your kid when they’re sick? Crackers, toast, a nice bowl of soup? Well, with Cam’s Celiac, the need to be creative presented itself. We did have Nut Thin crackers but a quick glance at the labels state that they are manufactured in a location that uses wheat. Great for a gluten-free lifestyle, maybe not the best choice for a newly diagnosed Celiac. (Note: He has had Nut Thins in the past and we don’t think that they caused any issues but cross-contamination has been our biggest challenge this first six months so we’ve tried to be safe). As for toast, I could have done this but we like to conserve the homemade sandwich bread for his lunches and I honestly think that it doesn’t toast as well as other breads. So, it was down to the nice bowl of soup.
I headed to the pantry, feeling good that the answer to the lunch question was about to be solved. Digging past the six flour mixes on the shelf, I found a can of Campbell’s Chicken n’ Noodles hiding near the back. Six months of gluten-free learning set off bells and whistles in my mind; processed noodles = bad. I picked up the next can; Chicken n’ Stars. Two thoughts came to mind. First was they’ll put chicken with just about anything in a can of soup. Second, the stars are the same as the noodles so Cam couldn’t have this either. We were obviously unprepared for him being sick (like I said, it doesn’t happen often) as these were the only two soups that we had available. The next thought was that I could make him some soup using beef broth (though this is way beyond my area of expertise in the kitchen but my wife was a quick phone call away and I was confident that she could probably walk me through it). Grabbing the beef bouillon cubes, I quickly discovered that this was not going to be an option either. Did you know that beef broth contains hydrolyzed wheat gluten? Yeah, me neither.
It got me thinking about hidden ingredients and how important it has been for all of us to learn how to properly read the food labels. Cam’s become a champ at doing this. If someone offers him something, like a snack after a basketball game or a drink at a friend’s house, his first move is to find the ingredients and check if it’s something that is safe for him to consume. The FDA mandates that if wheat has been used, there has to be a bold notification stating “Contains Wheat” (same with dairy, nuts, etc.) but it’s not always that easy. Some items, such as malt (another no-no for us), can be included under the header of “flavorings” and hidden in the product. A good example is with cream soda. Look on a can or bottle of this and you won’t find the “Contains Wheat” label but it can turn a Celiac’s stomach right quick. Education is so important for us as a Celiac family. We know what the main triggers are but we are continuing to learn about these hidden things and how to keep them out of our house. We hope that continued regulations and warnings are maintained and researched by the food industry to make it easier for Cam as he gets older and more independent. It’s always his safety first.
Oh, as for the soup, I know that there are many recipes out there that provide gluten free options. They all look delicious and we are sure to try them as we continue on our journey (he has at least six more years under our roof and him getting a cold is bound to happen again). It turns out though that, on this day, Cam wasn’t hungry.