I came home yesterday to find a food pile on our kitchen counter. Larabars, jerky packs, raisins boxes, nut baggies, etc., many covered with lint and dust, some partially squashed, some expired. As it turns out, all were salvaged from the bottom of the teen’s backpack. Sigh.
One of the most important habits when practicing a restricted diet is ensuring the availability of permitted food throughout the day. This entails planning for the unexpected and carrying “emergency food” with you. This habit was a savior for us on many occasions. The kid had to dig into the emergency supply in his backpack when tennis matches lasted much longer than expected, when traffic delays had him stuck on a bus, tired and hungry at the end of a long day, at the airport where no SCD permitted food was available, and even during impromptu social gatherings, when the people were fun but food was not.
To clarify: emergency food is always there in ADDITION to the food we pack and take daily. The daily food the teen packs can include salads, nut muffins, patties and fruits, all of which are meant to be consumed that same day. His emergency food is less healthy, more ‘junky”, but has the benefit of being “nonperishable”. It is not meant to be consumed daily. It is there only to provide a dietary "safety blanket" when needed.
The thing with nonperishable diet food is that, well, it does, eventually, perish. Therefore it must be managed. Which brings me back to the pile on the counter.
Like many of us, the teen lives a very busy life. He commutes daily to his internship at Fred Hutch. He juggles homework, college applications, volunteer activities, Hapkido and archery classes. He packs his daily food and maintains his restricted diet with care. He demonstrates good executive skills. How is it then, that he managed to accumulate the stinky collection at the bottom of his backpack?
When he leaves in the mornings I try to sneak a hug (not easy with busy, sometimes prickly teens) and I repeat my mantra: “Got your phone and license? Got your food? Still have nonperishables? Have a good day. Love you” … I always ask about the nonperishables because, as mentioned before, there have been times when he needed them, and I am compelled to subdue my never ending worries by ensuring that this emergency supply is going to be available for him when he needs it.
Sometimes, to indulge me, he would go to the kitchen cabinet and pop a new nonperishable bar or baggie into his bag, just so I can see he has it. At other times, I place a bar on the counter near his ready-to-pack water bottle, hoping it will remind him to replenish the supply in his bag as needed.
Until the day this week that he finally realized that his bag was too heavy and a bit stinky, and decided to audit the contents. This led to the pile on the kitchen counter.
It represents a very complicated equation, where the variables include things like the worries of a mother, the realistic need for food back-up plans, the necessity of periodical bag audits, and the on-going teaching and learning of diet skills.
- Emergency food is important, and can save a diet.
- Inspecting and updating the emergency diet food stash is also important.
- Always carry emergency food, but you don’t have to carry the weight of your mother’s worries with you in your bag. You can leave those on the kitchen counter at home.
Diet safety net:
- Eat at home and never leave hungry.
- Make, pack and take your daily food with you.
- Keep emergency food in your bag, in your car, in your drawer at work or the classroom cabinet, and refresh it as needed.
- Keep mental notes on safe foods you can get at local stores near your school, workplace or travel destination (fresh fruits, hard cheese, nut butter).