The Ketogenic Diet at School for Children With Epilepsy

6 Tips to Help Make the Diet Easier

Students eating lunch at school
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

If your doctor has recommended the ketogenic diet to manage your child's epilepsy, you may be wondering how this carefully structured diet can travel to school.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate specialized diet to manage epilepsy without anti-convulsant medications (or at least with as little medication as possible). It has been used for epilepsy since the 1920s. It is not a weight loss scheme or a simple modified Atkins diet.

The portions in this diet must be carefully calculated, and your child will need to be monitored by a doctor who is familiar with the diet in order to have the best results. Here are a few suggestions that may help you and your child maintain a level of sanity while still adhering to this carefully managed diet while at school.

Have a Family Meeting

Take some time to have an open conversation about questions, concerns, frustrations, and anxiety anyone in the family may be having. This will be important to your child who is bringing special food to school for lunch. But it will also be important to the parent preparing the lunch, plus it will provide a good opportunity for any siblings attending the same school to have their say.

It's better for each member of the family to go into this endeavor as a team than as separate entities — that way, everyone feels they have been heard and they are supported.

Talk About the Food

Have a conversation with your child about the importance of sticking to the diet. Take a few minutes (or longer, if necessary) to talk about why trading food is a bad idea. Remind your child why the doctor recommended the diet.​

Finally, be sure to congratulate your child for all the hard work they have put in so far — this isn't easy for anyone in the family.

Plan Ahead

Take some time to gather recipes that will pack easily and travel well. The Charlie Foundation and Clara's Menu offer some great suggestions for recipes and resources to get you through the school year.

Since homework and after-school activities will also be a factor, prepare the meals in advance whenever possible. You may even want to practice a few lunches before it is time to send them to school.

Establish a School-Time Routine

Try to stay on track with the timing of meals and snacks. This will help keep glucose levels in check, and it will make life a little easier. It may minimize anxiety levels surrounding the diet, as well.

By the same token, there is no need to drop everything just to plan your child's school day diet. It is important that your child knows that life doesn't stop just because he or she is on a special diet.

Talk to the Team at School

It is important that the school nurse, your child's teacher, and guidance counselor are aware that your child will be following the ketogenic diet. Plan to alert them and provide them with some education on what the diet entails.

Bring a Friend in the Loop

Thinking about school and not just about providing the special lunches will help. You may even want to talk to your child about telling a friend. Having a trusted friend who is in the know can make your child feel less alone through the process.

Final Thoughts

The two biggest hurdles will be stress and logistics. The tips above will help. The key to success will be open communication between you and your child. Stay positive and you will find the school year is over before you know it.

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