Food Allergies and Kids
Making Food Allergies Work While Not Killing the Budget
This past summer we discovered through a blood test (the Alletess IgG comprehensive food panel) that our son is allergic or has an intolerance to 28 foods. Imagine my shock when learning that most of the foods we were packing for his lunches were ones his body was allergic to. His favorite foods: grapes, bread, pasta, cheese, watermelon, etc. were now forbidden; at least until we could pinpoint the main offenders. For about a week I cried and mourned for him. His world was about to be turned upside down (and little did we understand, ours too).
The first part of this season involved me crying over how he would be the “different child” for the rest of his life, i.e., at school, at the lunch table, during snack time, and more.
- I cried that I would now look like the “over-protective” mom everywhere we went. I didn’t want to be labeled as such.
- I worried he would have a severe reaction to a food without me around and no one would know what to do.
- I wondered how he could be allergic to so many foods.
- I blamed myself for feeding him the same foods repeatedly.
- I was overwhelmed.
- I prayed he wouldn’t starve while not eating these “new” foods.
- I hoped my daughter wasn’t going to feel ignored while concentrating on our son’s situation.
There were a lot of I’s in that retrospection looking back and learned quickly it wasn’t about me. So we put together a battle plan and tried to attack this beast head on.
Our first trip to a grocery store was nothing short of depressing. We went to Whole Foods, the Mecca of all great and wonderful food—literally no pre-packaged foods were compatible with his body. Trader Joe’s was a slightly better experience, but we were still overwhelmed and crazy. We had been to two major stores that should have specialty foods, but struck out on nearly all options. I remember us standing in the aisle at Trader Joe’s, allergy paperwork in hand (specifying the foods he “could” eat), looking at the ingredients on every item and thinking, what CAN he eat? And not to mention the prices on the items, oh my! Another customer saw my “deer in the headlights” expression as I was madly scrambling through the book of “no no” foods and came up to encourage us. Her older child had multiple food allergies and she remembered when they first found out. She gave us some pointers and graciously handed us her card if we had any questions in the future. It was meeting people with a similar story and reading blogs that gave us the encouragement that we would be o.k. It was a crushing to go check out literally over 30 books on specialty food cooking, to find maybe a couple recipes that would work for his combination of allergies, so I am going to spend time providing my findings here to offer to the community.
After a few days I started to shake the sadness off and rose to the challenge of starting over with my son’s diet. Prayer and our friend’s support helped big time! The first two months were horrible; I’m not going to lie. We spent hours listening to our son cry over his “new” food, kicking and screaming wanting the “old” food (literally two to three hours to finish an egg, or a small piece of chicken which were new to him as he has been a vegetarian his whole life). We tried our best to follow a rotation diet: rotating the food families every four days. The first few weeks his body was literally going through detox. I began to get anxious around mealtimes not wanting to go through the torture of watching him cry and not eat his food.
We tried every method:
“You must eat your food.”
“Fine, don’t eat your food”, and thinking eventually he would get hungry.
“You only have to eat one part of the meal.”
“Would you rather have this or that?”
“If you eat this then we will give you that.”
Pleading, bargaining, begging, and crying.
For us, “You must eat your food,” is what worked…even though it was the hardest method. And eating out was pretty much out of the question, which meant we spent the first few months stranded at home. Did you know that wheat and soy are in so many foods we eat at restaurants? How about random oils you would have never considered that fall into common allergies?
Our poor little guy’s world was totally rocked when we had to completely change his diet. It was probably one of the hardest times in my parenting life thus far. How do you explain to a toddler that he can’t eat something because it will make him sick? You cannot reason with a toddler.
Fast forward to today. We have made great strides with the new diet. We have all tried new foods and have learned to make new dishes. Many of his symptoms have gone away, like the constant clear runny nose, coughing, rashes, and inability to breathe without breathing treatments. He now eats a wide variety of foods and gosh-darn, we are quite proud of him!! We have even found places we can eat out together.
As parents we have learned to be more flexible and adaptable.
Discovering the following helped with the transition:
- batch cooking- utilizing the freezer
- meal plans
- breakfast options
- snack options
- lunch options
- dinner options
- back to basics: whole food cooking
- eating out options
- grocery shopping with special diets
- bulk items
- school lunches and snacks
- special diets on a budget
Each of these will be covered in more detail to show how they are integral parts of the larger puzzle that may help you overcome food allergy restrictions and not completely kill the budget.