Home economics is one of the most enjoyable and practical subjects available to students in secondary school. One of the main reasons for this is cooking classes which are a vital component of the course. Cooking is a practical life skill which is something students can use throughout the rest of their lives. It is also really fun! However, if a child has coeliac disease, there could be a lot of stress and worry around the cooking class in home economics.
Home economics and cooking is useful for someone with coeliac disease because often a coeliac is required to do a lot of dietary self-management and cooking from scratch. Often home economics offers many individuals their first exposure to these life skills so there is no reason coeliacs should miss out. There are ways that home economics classes can be made safer for individuals with coeliac disease and below are some tips on how this can be done.
- Do let the principal know that your child has coeliac disease – the principal runs the school so will be able to implement rules and strategies to protect your child in the school and in specific classes where the child may be at risk. They can inform all necessary teachers and, where needed students, in a respectful and authoritative manor.
- Do talk to the teacher – most importantly let the home economics teacher know you or your child has coeliac disease, what it is and how you manage it. Let them know how you cannot consume any gluten and how cross contamination can also lead to you being glutened. Share the list below on how to avoid cross-contamination or this document explaining coeliac disease to a teacher. Download letter template.
- If you are comfortable, do let your friends and classmates know. Your partner in your home economics class can help keep you safe during cooking. It can be useful to tell your friends if you do have coeliac disease – you don’t have to put it in a T-shirt and tell the whole world – but it can be great to have support from your friends. You may also find that you are not the only student who has coeliac disease or is gluten intolerant. Look to our article on how to explain coeliac disease to family and friends for simple explanations to give to friends.
- Have your ingredients weighed out and ready to go from the night before – this is really important for anyone who has cooking class. It helps you remember all ingredients for class the next day, instead of rushing out the door in the morning! It is especially important for anyone with coeliac disease. Sometimes there can be spare ingredients for students who forget an ingredient or two but this is less likely for gluten-free ingredients. Forgetting or not having gluten-free ingredients may mean you will have to sit that cooking class out so do all you can to remember all ingredients.
- Do buy some gluten free flour, corn flour, caster sugar and icing sugar at the start of the year. This way you will have them to hand if you are prepping the night before a class.
- Have some gluten-free recipes to give to the teacher – maybe you could get the whole class to cook a gluten-free recipe. This will make the person with coeliac disease feel more included. Gluten-free baking is a good skill for the class to learn. When suggesting this idea to the teacher, have some recipes for them to try so it is easy for them to try the idea. Check our website for some great recipes or email us for any recipes you would like to have a gluten free version of and we will work on one for you!
- Make sure your cooking area is thoroughly cleaned and kept only for gluten-free preparation. Make sure all classmates understand that gluten needs to be kept away from this area.
- If a student who has worked with gluten-containing foods comes to your cooking area to help in any way, ask them to wash their hands to prevent carrying crumbs over to your cooking area.
- To make gluten-free toast ask for a separate toaster or use toaster bags for the gluten-free bread.
- Use separate jars of jams, condiments and separate butter/spread for gluten-free foods only. Remember, use different butter knives or dishes and jam spoons to prevent breadcrumbs from mixing between separate gluten-free and gluten-containing condiments
- Do not fry gluten-free foods/chips in fryers used for frying crumbed or coated foods.
- Dedicate cleaning cloths to gluten-free preparation.
- When cooking gluten-free foods in same oven as gluten-containing foods, cook the gluten-free ones on the top level and on separate trays from gluten-containing food.
- If cooking gluten-containing foods it is important not to eat the food. If cooking gluten-free and gluten-containing foods at the same time, segregation is key so that the gluten-free food stays gluten-free and then you can eat it! To do this;
- Do not use same knives, utensils or chopping boards as your classmates between preparation areas.
- Ideally have separate pots and pans to cook gluten-free and gluten-containing foods. If you need to use the same pot/pan to cook gluten-free and gluten-containing food, cook the gluten-free food first with clean pots/pans and utensils. If you cook the glute- containing food first, make sure the pot/pan is washed thoroughly before cooking gluten-free food. Wash thoroughly with hot soapy water.
- Do not carry out gluten-free food preparation without changing gloves, aprons or washing hands.
Of course, the implementation of these tiles will depend on the school and the teacher. It is worth talking to the home economics teacher and the principal to see what can be done. We can also arrange a talk from the Coeliac Society to the staff at the school to help them understand coeliac disease and ask any question. Let us know if your school is interested in having that talk for staff.
No matter what, it is really important that you tell the teacher that you have coeliac disease so they can be aware of, and understand, how this can impact on your participation in the class.