Food for Thought...Food Allergies and how to deal with them...
I was all set to write today about how much I love making new friends. I've very recently made a new one and I am so excited about her...just one of those people you feel instantly comfortable with. Like the kind that would spill water on you by accident and laugh hysterically....I LOVE that. You know...just real people being real.
But now I'm not going to write any more about that than what I just said because something else has been brought to my attention that I think I just need to share about. This topic will only apply to a small few of you, but chances are decent that you know someone that the following information could help. If you do, then pass this post along...pass my name along. I am ALWAYS open to help people when it comes to the following area...
For most of you this isn't a reality that you deal with in your daily life, and I'm just gonna go ahead and throw out a "Praise the Lord" on behalf of you. It's a scary thing for those of us who do deal with it, but I do want to say, it is totally manageable.
My friend Emily from college just sent me a message because she's worried her 3 month old may have food allergies. You may ask how she'd know that if he's nursing, but the fact is that everything a nursing mother ingests affects her baby. So if baby is allergic to dairy and mommy is eating handfulls of M&M's every day...clearly not gonna help baby too much. Or if like me with Tid Bit, baby is allergic to peanuts and Mommy was surviving on peanut butter graham crackers every day....obviously not doing much to help baby there either.
So here's what I want you to know about food allergies first and foremost.
They are manageable...and you and your child will still have a VERY full life.
Tid Bit was originally diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish at 4 months old. We found out because he first had terrible eczema that we couldn't get to go away, and then he began having blood in his diaper. Clearly, blood anywhere other that just staying inside your body can cause reason for concern. So our amazing pediatricians recommended that we see an allergist. They ran tests for what they called the "big 8"... milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Tid Bit came back allergic to several. So since I was nursing, the options were to either switch him to formula (and find one that wouldn't be problematic) or cut all the stuff out of my diet. So I cut it all out. Which wasn't as bad as you think.
If you find yourself in this place, first let me say, don't be overwhelmed. You can do this and I'm more than happy to come alongside you and help you get started. I just got off the phone with Emily and am happy to do the same for you or anyone else you know dealing with this. It is totally doable!
So let me give a few tips here, and then if you have further questions you can email me at Loganberry7 at hotmail dot com. Sorry for writing it like that, my Hubs said that if I just put my email address readily clickable on here that I'll get spam out the wazoo. Just put in the subject line "food allergy advice" or something like that so I'll get it out of my junkmail if it ends up there.
First, a few things I've done that make all the difference in cooking. Find some good substitutes and then when you read a recipe you'll just use your substitute and not worry about it. So here are a few that I have found that apply to the list of Tid Bit's allergies above. Thankfully we haven't had to deal with allergies to wheat or soy, but there are still things out there that are great for those of you who do deal with those allergies.
Here are my favorite substitutes:
- Butter - Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, and Fleishmans Unsalted Margarine (the earth balance have a more sturdy texture, but the fleishmans taste better. In baking, I recommend using a combination.
- Sour Cream - Tofutti brand Better than Sour Cream
- Cream Cheese - Tofutti brand Better than Cream Cheese
- Milk - Ricemilk (I personally think it tastes better) or soymilk (I avoided things like almond milk because Tid Bit was allergic to nuts. So my personal recommendation if you're cutting out something like dairy would be to be cautious when introducing another of the potential "big 8.")
- cream of anything soups - there's a brand at Whole Foods (although I can't remember the name...I'll get back to you on it) that makes something called "Creamy Chicken Soup" that doesn't have dairy...it's a bit runnier, but it tastes alright if you're dying to make a casserole with cream of something soup.
- chocolate chips - Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips don't contain dairy....glory hallelujah!
- Yogurt - Silk brand makes yogurt, as does a brand called Whole Soy and Company that I really like. you can also get "yogurt" made with coconut milk that is pretty stinking tasty too.
- Cheese - I'm sorry to say that if you're a cheese fanatic like me, you will be very sad to realize that there's just not a good fake thing to even compare to the real thing. But if you're absolutely desperate there is a brand called VeganrellaDaiya cheddar shreds that I think taste a good deal better. Tid Bit likes them both, but he's never had the real deal, so he doesn't know what he's missing.
- Peanut butter - Sunbutter is my personal choice. I think soybutter has a weird aftertaste and while the Sunbutter does taste like ground up sunflower seeds (because it is) I think it's yummier. You can still even make that yummy snack mix (most people I know call it "puppy chow" or "white trash" ...with the crispix or chex,chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar) with sunbutter and ghiradelli chips and it's so good! I'd still personally advise staying away from things like almond butter because often there is cross contamination among nuts in general.
- egg substitute - you CANNOT use things like egg beaters if you have an egg allergic individual on your hands. It's still eggs and just has more whites to yolk ratio. So go ahead and forget about making custard, omelets, etc....no can do. But for baking I always really liked an egg substitute by Bob's Red Mill brand. I substituted up to 5 eggs worth in a cake and it was fine...beyond that you're probably just going to crap up a recipe.
- a few other things that don't contain dairy, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, fish or shellfish that you might be surprised to learn...
- Oreos (brand name ones, the generics often contain dairy,) Ritz Crackers (the reduced fat ones), graham crackers, Teddy Grahams, Pita chips, tortilla chips (barring cheese flavors of course,) fruit Sorbets (sherbets still have dairy), popsicles, Pop Tarts, Girl Scout lemon shortbread cookies, pasta, rice, my recipe for sugar cookies,...I'll think of more later and let you know.
So here's a tip also...learn to read labels. The FDA requires manufacturers to label foods these days thanks to a great group called The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network who lobby on behalf of food allergies at the governmental level. Check out their website HERE. They have TONS of tips, recipes, pamphlets you can order. I'm not kidding...they are amazing. Anyways...I was telling you that to let you know that on food items in the grocery store, the manufacturers are now required by law to list food allergens included in the ingredients list in simple language...milk, eggs, dairy, peanuts, etc. They are usually emboldened at the bottom of the list, or may also be in bold letters in the list itself. So keep an eye out for that and it'll help you. And God bless the vegans out there...anything vegan won't have dairy in it at all, so you can rest assured on that one for dairy and eggs. (They do often contain nuts though.) Anyways, I'm including link to some practical tips for living with food allergies also HERE.
So, that's a lot of information for one post, but information is the key in managing food allergies. I'm thankful we found out with Tid Bit early on because I learned how to cook for the allergies since I was still cooking for myself. Made a big difference. And take heart too early mommies dealing with all of this...when you cut out cheese, peanut butter, and ice cream you'll be amazed to see how fast all that extra baby fat just melts away!
Like I said...any further questions, need for support with all of this...I'm here for you! Ask away!
PS. I should probably write on here somewhere that in no way is this a medical opinion (I'm just a mom with a kid with some allergies.) Also any specific products that I've endorsed above are purely my own opinion as well and I'm sadly not receiving compensation from any of them! Wouldn't that just be dandy though?!