Living with Food Allergies
My daughter has had food allergies her entire life. All nine years of it. At first it was just dairy products. Then she became allergic to eggs too. Next it was beef. Feeding her became more and more difficult. Living with food allergies is not fun. The entire family works together to watch out for her though, which makes it easier. I decided for this hub to interview her and find out what she really thinks of living with food allergies.
How is it at school dealing with your food allergies? "Other kids think it is terrible that I am allergic to milk and eggs because I can't eat chocolate. But my teacher buys me special treats that I can have, so that is kind of fun. I can't eat any of the school lunches though."
Is it hard to find things to eat when you are out somewhere? "Yeah, but my parents help me. Sometimes we have to pack special stuff for me to eat."
Do you feel like you are missing out on things because of your food allergies? "Sometimes, because I can't have scrambled eggs or anything like that. They look really good."
Based on these answers, living with food allergies doesn't seem to bother her very much. This is good to know, but I also know it does bother her sometimes as I see the disappointment on her face when she can't have a treat. And it truly affects the whole family. Take tonight for instance. We ate dinner at our church. After the meal (where I had to bring her pizza from home) someone came around with cupcakes. Because she can't have cupcakes, I don't think it is fair for the rest of us to sit there and eat them in front of her so no one had cupcakes. Usually the kids understand this and everyone is fine, but they have to miss out on the treat too in situations like this.
As a mom, having to cook for her has been the biggest adjustment for me. I love cheese! Before I had her I would put cheese on just about everything. I can't do that anymore. I have had to totally change the way I cook and what I cook. My meals have become simpler and I cook almost everything from scratch. A typical dinner might be a piece of meat, rice and lots of vegetables. We can't eat casseroles here and baked goods have to be made from scratch.
When we first started down this journey it was much harder. There wasn't as much information out there on cooking without dairy or eggs and there weren't as many substitutes. Now, just nine years later there seems to be a plethora of information and I can purchase dairy and egg substitutes at almost every store I walk into. They are more expensive than the real stuff, but I am just so glad there are options.
Life with food allergies has gotten easier over the years. My daughter has outgrown the beef allergy for one. She is now old enough to make better choices because she kind of knows the types of food she can and can't have. I don't have to watch her like a hawk anymore. Most other people try to accommodate her when they can. I have figured out safe treats that are normal to other people, so it doesn't seem so strange for her to be allergic to dairy and eggs. Oreos for one are an easy treat for people to bring if they want to accommodate her. I also try to keep a stash of safe snacks and treats in the car for unexpected times when there might not be anything she can eat.
Eating out is still hard, but it is honestly better for the whole family that we don't eat out much. In the past few years, as food allergies have become more prevalent in the population, most restaurants have made their ingredient lists available. It takes some work, but I have been able to figure out restaurants that work for us and the items on the menu that she can have. We can go to Cold Stone Creamery as a family for ice cream and they have some sorbets that she can eat. I just have to request that they clean the board and scoopers before they make her ice cream. Pizza Hut will make her an individual pizza without cheese.
I have to read labels constantly. Even if something was safe for her to eat a month ago, that doesn't mean it is safe anymore. The food companies change their ingredient lists all the time and that can be frustrating, but at this point it is such a habit for me that I don't think twice about it. Grocery shopping takes extra time and concentration. For baked goods, I cook for her separately. I make a big batch of muffins for her and freeze them in individual sized portions. Then I just pull a bag out of the freezer when I need one. I make pizza pockets for her with no cheese and homemade dough. I grab them as I need them if we are going somewhere that is serving pizza.
While I would never choose this path, I have found that once I figured out how to deal with my daughter's food allergies that it just isn't that big of a deal anymore. Cooking without eggs and dairy, reading food labels, bringing food from home, etc is our normal at this point. We make it work and it isn't that bad.