Doctors and young patients cook together

The SCD cooking group meets again


Doctor David Suskind, Naturopath Bethany Waller, and teen leader Sarah Kenny are walking around the work stations in the large professional kitchen, sounded by a group of youngsters . The children are hard at work, mixing batters for cinnamon buns, grating cauliflower for hash browns, chopping veggies for frittata and blending fruits for smoothies. It is a rainy Saturday morning and they are all gathered for the seasonal SCD cooking class to prepare a grain-free weekend brunch. Wonderful smells of cinnamon, bacon and fruits are filling the kitchen.

Kitchen confidence for kids is key to future wellness

One of the best indicators for long term success with dietary therapy is kitchen confidence. When a child learns kitchen skills early on and trust himself in the kitchen he learns the joy and creativity that are embedded in cooking. That child grows up and as a young adult can continue to create wonderful meals that are delicious, healthy, and compliant with his special dietary needs.

With this in mind, Seattle Children’s Hospital created the Specific Carbohydrates Diet Cooking Group. The hospital partners with local food establishments to offer periodical guided cooking classes for pediatric IBD patients. This particular class, the first in 2020, is being held at PCC Natural Market in Burien.

During these classes the children are working in the kitchen under the guidance of professional chefs and volunteers, and their parents usually gather in another space to exchange stories and share advice. This is an unusual break for these parents, who are used to spending many weekly hours in their own kitchens at home, preparing special dietary foods for their children, since everyone in this group adheres to a special diet known as the Specific Carbohydrates Diet (SCD).

SCD is a nutritional therapy that removes grains, dairy, processed foods and sugar. The diet focuses on natural, nutrient rich foods including vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts. It is a healthy and balanced diet, but the many restrictions require families to learn new ways to prepare foods and entails a lot of work in the kitchen to prepare homemade foods.

Practicing this diet requires a lot of dedication and self-discipline, but the results are exceptional. The diet helps many children in reducing inflammation markers, reducing symptoms, and increasing energy levels. It can reduce the need for medications in some cases, and is beneficial also for children who must combine diet with medication to better control the disease.

Professor David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s and a leader in the research and implementation of dietary therapies for IBD, started this project several years ago and actively lead some of the cooking classes. He said: “The cooking classes are one of the ways we use to empower patients and help foster a community for young IBD patients in the pacific northwest. As medical professionals, we hope resources like these will allow patient to become proactive and engaged in their care. We understand the challenges that families face when beginning the diet, and we see that having a community is central in supporting children and their families in using dietary therapy.”

Teen leader Sarah Kenny helps in planning the menus ahead and in guiding the children in the class. She did this all of last year and continues this year. Sarah says she enjoys combining her love of cooking and her skills as a mentor: “My love of cooking helped me, personally, to get used to a grain-free diet. I enjoy finding and preparing recipes that are an SCD version of dishes I loved as a young child. Cooking is a valuable skill that I love teaching to younger kids. When I hear a parent explain how their child begins to show interest in helping in the kitchen after attending the cooking class, I am grateful for this opportunity to show kids how to be comfortable in the kitchen.”

Listening to their body

Some kids are stronger and more resilient than many adults! Can you believe that three of the kids in the class did not taste a bite of the aromatic delicious feast they prepared? These three worked hard with the rest of the group, chopping, mixing, cooking and baking, but gave their plates to their parents to enjoy. Two of the kids have special food sensitivities, and must adhere to an extremely restricted diet so they could not eat the dishes in class. A third kid had a sensitive tummy that day and decided on his own to listen to his body and avoid foods for a few hours.

YET they all showed up to cooking class, worked with all their friends, and gained kitchen skills and confidence that will serve them in their own kitchen and later on in life. You don’t have to feel bad for these kids. They are strong and capable and their self-discipline will lead them to great things throughout life.

Recipes for the class were compiled by teen volunteer Sarah Kenny and approved by the GI dietitians at Seattle Children’s Hospital:

Links to media coverage that have highlighted the SCH cooking classes:

One comment

  1. Hi there! My family just heard of SCD yesterday and we feel very encouraged reading about its success in treating IBD. I was wondering, has anyone in your community ever heard of this diet being useful in treating and healing eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE)?

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