Tips and wisdom from a parent of a PKU 7th grader
“I feel like I’m pulled in four different directions all summer!” says Heather Bomar of Brentwood, Tennessee, in describing her busy but fun summer season. Her four children, including 12-year-old Ellis who has classical Phenylketonuria (PKU), do a variety of activities over the summer. This means Heather spends much of the warmer months making sure they get where they need to go.
In thinking about the back-to-school season, Heather reflects that the new year brings a new routine:
“The kids actually love the new schedule and seeing who’s in their classes,” shares Heather. The new routine also helps keep Ellis’ phenylalanine (PHE) levels in check, since the school year means set mealtimes and fewer impromptu gatherings that may or may not have low protein food options.
With Ellis heading into 7th grade, Heather is very familiar with back-to-school planning that works well for both Ellis and the family:
First, Heather meets with Ellis’ new teacher at the beginning of each school year to run through the basics of Ellis’ condition and diet. Second, she recommends co-creating a plan with the teacher, if necessary, to provide the best chance of success for a student with PKU, such as the student sitting in one of the least distracting places in the classroom.
One of the most top-of-mind topics for parents of children with PKU is school lunch. The Bomars send Ellis to school with lunches packed at home. It’s a system that works for Ellis and the family. For her PKU formula, Ellis drinks PhenylAde® GMP Mix-In formula at school. When asked about snacks and lunch items, Heather responds without hesitation that Ellis’ favorite is “anything that she can dip in Ranch dressing!” Examples include celery, carrots, and peppers.
Other lunch favorites of Ellis’ include dried fruit, especially store-bought freeze-dried strawberries and apples. After school or at home on the weekends, Ellis enjoys low protein crackers smeared with butter and salt, a snack that Heather sometimes shares with her daughter as they catch up and talk about Ellis’ middle school, which Heather also attended!
Outside of lunchtime and PKU management, Ellis’ 7th grade year will revolve around establishing her sense of self:
“Ellis loves school and has a good group of friends,” reflects Heather, “and she’s focused on finding her identity in things outside of PKU.”
As advice to other parents raising children with PKU, Heather takes a step beyond day-to-day food prep and considers the full parent-child relationship: “Stick with them through the highs and lows,” says Heather, “Keep up open conversations.”
… And don’t forget the Ranch dressing!
Read on for 10 More Low Protein Lunch Tips for School.
PhenylAde GMP Mix-In is a medical food for the dietary management of proven Phenylketonuria (PKU) and must be used under medical supervision. Always consult your metabolic healthcare professional prior to making any changes to your diet.
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