Friday, March 7, 2014

How to bring your Celiac child to a weekend hockey tournament

Kids’ lives are so different today than they were when we were growing up. I certainly don’t remember being as active and as involved as my kids are. Every kid I know plays sports or is active in boy scouts/girl scouts or other activities that keep them busy—and often require overnight stays.

My family’s sport is ice hockey.
Kids getting ready to take the ice
You could insert your child’s sport/activity into this blog. Tournament weekends all follow a similar pattern whether it’s gymnastics, karate, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, boy scout/girl scout camping trips, etc.

These events have always been a source of excitement for our family. It’s a blast getting together with teammates and their families for a whole weekend. Typically there are 3 or 4 games in a weekend, lots of time together at the hotel pool, many meals shared together at restaurants, and pizza parties.



Yes I said restaurants and pizza parties.

So, how does a Celiac Mom pull off this challenge? Well, our family recently participated in an ice hockey tournament weekend, our first since the Celiac diagnosis. I had to put some thought and planning into it ahead of time, but I assure you, it went out without a hitch.

So if you have an upcoming tournament weekend with your Celiac child, here are 5 tips to help it run smoothly:

  1. Plan ahead. If you are new to Celiac, I’m sure you are quickly realizing that there is really no such thing as winging it anymore. Any event including birthday/holiday parties, sporting events, day outings, and vacations require careful planning. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you really do need to prepare a meal itinerary and make sure that your Celiac child will have what he/she needs for the weekend.
  2. Play Team Manager. Our ice hockey teams tend to have at least one pizza party (typically
    Image credit:
    around the hotel pool or in the hotel lounge) during tournament weekends. This allows the team to get together in a more relaxed environment with no formal restrictions (like worrying about good manners at a restaurant—always hard to pull off with 13 boys running around!) Offer to make the arrangements for the pizza party. Research pizza joints in the area, and see if you can find one that makes a
    true gluten free pizza (ensure that they use best practices to cook the pizza, and don’t just offer a gluten free dough). Collect the money from the families and order the pizza yourself. I did this for our recent hockey tournament, and learned that 6 people in our party were gluten free!
  3. Upgrade to a room with a mini kitchen.
    Image credit: Holiday Inn Express
    I know this can be pricey, but you may be surprised to hear that it doesn’t have to break the bank. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express,
    and the suite with a mini kitchen only cost us $14 more than the double room. This room had a mini refrigerator, a sink, and a microwave. If the price is astronomically higher, call and explain your situation to the reservations manager. They may be willing to supply you with a mini fridge and a microwave at no extra charge.
  4. Cook meals ahead of time. My Celiac son has an appetite. He doesn’t just eat 3 meals a day and little snacks. After a hockey game, he is looking for a meal. It doesn’t matter if it’s 9 in the morning or 9 at night, a snack isn’t going to cut it. I made a full sized pan of baked ziti (gluten free of course!) ahead of time, brought 6 portioned microwaveable containers, and heated them up whenever hunger struck. I also brought him sliced ham, which he likes to eat cold with a little bit of mustard for dipping. These were great protein fillers that tasted great and got him through to his next meal. Of course, I also brought lots of fruits and veggies and other snack options, but those mini meals really got him through.
  5. Research area restaurants and find gluten free options. Tournament weekends typically take place in cities with lots of chain restaurants. Call ahead and make sure that you are comfortable with the restaurant’s best practices regarding the management of gluten free foods. The 99 Restaurant, OutbackSteakhouse, and Pizzeria Uno are three chains that we have had luck with.

Not allowing this disease to change Celiac son’s quality of life is at the top of my priority list. He had a great weekend and didn’t feel singled out at all. Sure, it was more work for me, but a wise man once told me “anything worth doing is worth over-doing.” He sure is worth over-doing!

How about you? Do you have any great tips you can share regarding preparing ahead of time for a weekend away with Celiac? I'd love to hear from you!

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