Eating well with juvenile arthritis
Around 15,000 children in the UK live with some form of arthritis; dealing with fatigue, stiff and painful joints and the side effects of medication. Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition, so eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help relieve symptoms and reduce flare ups.
Parents provide good role models. Eat together as often as possible and getting children involved in shopping or cooking can be a good way to get them interested.
Sugar, white flour and processed foods are inflammatory foods and should only be a small part of a child’s diet, rather than the main part of their meals.
Make some gradual steps:
Start off with half white and half whole grain sandwiches, or move to oatcakes, wholegrain crackers or pitta pockets.
Replace half the white flour in baking with whole wheat, buckwheat, quinoa, oats or coconut flour.
Try pasta and spaghetti made with vegetables or whole grains. Get a spiraliser and try courgetty spaghetti.
Blend cauliflower and carrot until riced and steam. Add to cooked couscous.
Cauliflower and sweet potato instead of mashed potato – or do half and half.
Add grated veg to any savoury dish and put a bowl of mixed vegetables on the table.
Drinks: Fruit juice, diluted juice and fizzy drinks contain hidden sugars or artificial sweeteners. Offer plain water or add natural flavours, milk or nut milks. A whole piece of fruit is better than fruit juice.
Protein: Lean meat, low fat dairy, nuts, nut butters, fish, eggs, and tofu are good sources of protein. Add lentils to vegetable soup or beans to a casserole and try hummus or bean dips with carrot sticks.
Healthy fats: Use olive oil for cooking and serve fish a couple of times a week. Avocados make a good dip or spread. Grind nuts and seeds to sprinkle on cereal, soups and savoury dishes.
Get outside for Vitamin D. It's essential for healthy bones and joints.
Children with arthritis may be sensitive to dairy or gluten. Get advice before removing these from their diet to ensure they are getting enough nutrients.
If medication reduces appetite or makes your child nauseous, offer small regular meals and avoid food with strong flavours.
When young people with arthritis leave home:
There is equipment to help with food preparation including special knives, electric jar openers and all sorts of choppers and slicers.
Buy ready prepared fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, cooked whole grains, crushed garlic etc. They are great if you are too fatigued or sore to cook.
When friends or relatives come over get them to help prepare meals.
Cook in bulk and freeze portions for days when cooking seems daunting.