Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What do you eat?

When you tell someone you avoid certain foods due to an allergy or an intolerance, about half the time, they respond with, "What do you eat?" The smartass in me wants to respond with "Food."

People find it hard to believe that we can eat a lot of the same foods and be gluten/dairy/corn free. The catch is, I have to make a LOT from scratch. I don't buy cake mix or muffin mix. I make hamburger buns, salad dressing, dairy free yogurt, etc. I had to make Felix's dairy free margarine, because even the dairy free ones on the market contain corn. But, most of it is easy.

There are thousands of recipes for salad dressing on the internet. I even found one for dairy free ranch dressing that uses homemade mayo (you can buy regular mayo if you aren't avoiding corn or eggs but can't have dairy) and Felix loves it for dipping veggies. It maybe takes me about 15 minutes to whip up, and most of that time is waiting for my food processor to whip up the mayo. If you avoid several foods, click on that link and surf around, her blog is amazing, and she even posts meal plans so you can get ideas.

There are tons of things on the market these days that are gluten and dairy free. Most of them, we can't use because of the corn issue, but don't let that stop you! One thing to remember, though, is that all whole foods (fruit, veggies, meat) are gluten free, as long as they are fresh and not prepackaged. (The jury is still out on baby carrots) Many companies are jumping on the option to label their products gluten free, especially the ones that have always been gluten free. Many types of chips, sauces, or even hot dogs now are labeled gluten free. And, if its not, be wary. The reason is, it may not actually contain gluten, but if it is manufactured in a plant where they also make something containing wheat or other glutenous grains, there could be trace amounts of gluten in them. Some people can eat these foods and be completely fine, but some, like Felix, eat it and react just as badly as if they had eaten something made from wheat. If you are starting out on this gluten free journey, avoiding them is your best bet. That way, once you see how good you feel without it, you can try it and see the difference.

Everyone has different tastes, but after trying many different products, we've gotten pretty set on brands for certain foods that are gluten free. Its no longer a challenge for me to go to the store, and I don't spend hours reading labels while I'm there. If you are just starting, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It gets better and once you get your bearings, you can handle just about anything. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blame the food

This house has been through a very drastic change in the past year when it comes to foods. My son has food allergies/intolerances and it makes every day just a little bit harder when it comes to preparing meals and packing lunches. Grocery shopping has turned into some sort of scavenger hunt, reading every label, knowing words to look for since one of the foods we need to avoid is NOT a top 8 allergen.  All of this pales in comparison to social events.

First, let me say that I am not writing this in an attempt to gain sympathy or pat myself on the back. Even if you don't have a child with food allergies, its likely that you know someone with them. What does that mean for you? Well, it can mean that if you want to have this person visit your house, you may have to hide all of your peanut filled products, or it could mean asking them to bring food that doesn't contain dairy. It shouldn't mean that you hesitate to invite them over or just pretend that the food allergy doesn't exist since they are probably used to dealing with it.

As a parent of a child with food allergies and intolerances, I can tell you that I've felt guilty for probably causing his food issues, I've felt envy of families that don't have to read labels when they go grocery shopping, I've felt anger that I have to tell my son that he can't have what everyone else is eating when someone sends in treats for a birthday at school, and I've had my heart break when he mentions how he wishes he could eat like everyone else. What you have to understand is that I don't feel these emotions at you for not knowing how to handle my child's dietary restrictions, I feel them towards food.

Weird? Maybe. Justified? I think so.

So, what I ask of you as a parent, friend, relative, neighbor, or acquaintance is this:

Talk to me about it.

  • Tell me what you're having for a birthday party, so I can make the same kinds of things for my child, so he feels included. I have cupcakes in my freezer that I just have to frost so I can bring them to parties and keep him from feeling left out. I can whip up "safe" pizza that he can eat and he's perfectly happy with eating that while everyone else eats their "normal" food. 

  • Let me bring a dish to a family get together. You can even tell me what you would like me to bring, and as long as I can find a good recipe, I'm in! Sure, it may not have dairy or gluten or corn, but guess what? I bust my ass to make sure that what I make tastes pretty darn close to the stuff we used to eat. You might like it just as much, and then I know there is at least one food there that is ok for my child to eat. 

  • Offer to make something. Now, I'm going to be honest. 99.99% of the time, I'll say I've got it covered, but you have NO idea how much it means to me that you asked. Some days I feel just as isolated as my son must feel, and hearing someone say, "Is there something I can make for him?" may just bring me back from a meltdown. If you do it in person or over the phone, be prepared. I might tear up a little.
 But, one of the most important things I can ask of you if you don't understand food allergies or intolerances, is this: Please remember its not a lifestyle choice, its a necessity. I'm not forcing my child to eat this way just because I think its better, I can tell you what kind of reaction he has to every single food we avoid. There are days when I dream of going back to eating the same foods as everyone else, just so I don't dread Thanksgiving or a birthday party or Christmas. But, I wouldn't trade my child's well-being for the world, and that means I accept the social awkwardness that comes with not letting my child eat your food or bringing our own to a catered party. Don't hold it against me or take it personally.

Don't blame me, blame the food.