10-year well visit update:
Because most of my daughter's care has naturally transferred to her allergist, her well visits at the pediatrician are surprisingly simple these days. Basic vitals, run down of the year, etc.
This year, friends and family all thought she'd grown quite a lot, and we got a happy confirmation of that in the doctor's office: not just on the growth chart but actually on the curve! I don't put 100% confidence in the curves, of course---they're just guides, after all, not individualized predictions. But it's great to see my daughter moving in the right direction as she grows. If she stays on the same curve, she'll end up just about my size. But, who knows?!
Although my oldest had some unusual and somewhat fleeting allergic reactions as a toddler, it was my second daughter whose allergies really shocked our family. From day 1, she struggled with nursing, with formulas. She was losing too much weight to continue nursing and be discharged from the hospital, and she remained small enough to not be on a growth curve even after we found a formula that she mostly tolerated. In fact, she didn’t make it onto a growth chart at all until she was 8 years old.
If you’re like us, your lives have been upended and (I hope) resettled because of severe food allergies, and a surprisingly large challenge---aside from avoiding anaphylaxis!---was keeping a good nutritional balance in a growing child with such strict dietary limitations. The temptation to stick with ground beef, oatmeal, and green beans, for example, every day is strong, especially in those busy early years. And a lot of those boxed allergy-friendly products just don’t fit into a good nutritional diet, especially if you have to rely on them for every meal.
As we have all grown, and as our allergies have changed and our tastes expanded by necessity or interest, we’ve learned a lot about what nutrients bodies really need to feel tip-top, and some creative ways to get those in.
But dinnertime often remains an unending circle of what to make that is
c) safe for everyone
d) affordable on our budget and
e) nutritionally sound in at least one way.
It’s easy to see why that last one drops off when times get busy, money gets tight, kids get picky, parents get too busy to grocery shop for new ingredients when there are hot dogs and tater tots in the freezer.
Anyway. I found all of this daunting even though I write about nutrition and nutrients for a living. Here are some highlights of what we as a family have learned, pulling from research but making options that are live-with-able, too. Every family will have their own favorites, safe foods, and more, and I won't tell you the exact foods you should eat. But these ideas could help you fill your nutritional gaps as you build your family’s safe food world. I've added links to a few free resources I like below each section.
Vegetarians and vegans
Sometimes we tell people that our daughter eats "vegan + meat" to really get the no-dairy point across. It also is a good reminder that she won't get the iron, protein, and B vitamins she needs without some extra attention to her diet---and the converse, that she can rely too much on red meats instead of dairy to fill her up, especially with a nut/tree nut allergy thrown in.
Diets low on traditional Western sources of protein should focus on plant sources of protein instead, as well as pulses and beans. Luckily, this is getting easier every day as food options become more globally available. Plant and bean proteins have a huge extra benefit, too: a ton of fiber that is filling, helps digestion, and helps the body absorb nutrients from other foods. They're often low fat and low sugar, too, so their benefits pretty much extend to everyone: one family meal.
Vegetarian diet: staying healthy
Vegetarian diet: benefits and risks
Useful research from specialists
Getting iron, B vitamins, and protein
Luckily for my family, I have a wheat allergy, not celiac disease. Still, I spent awhile walking around with rice crackers and chocolate chips for snacks while my family ate English muffins or cookies. Making wheat-free versions of favorite foods has been an adventure; I had been eating whole grains with almost every meal, and I didn't anticipate how carefully I would have to watch the replacement items.
Starches, white flours, and gums not only upset my stomach at first but also didn't give me the type of energy or heart protection that my body needed. This effort, for me, is still a huge work in progress, but adding brown rice flour, oat flour, and potato starch have been my early modest improvements. Crushing freeze-dried vegetables like beets into my flours has given my meals a fiber lift, too (and the kids have no idea it's there!).
Boxed, trending, or processed pre-made foods
There are so many off-the-shelf allergy-friendly items now in regular grocery stores, and that's a blessing and a curse. It's great to have instant(ish) meal or treat options. And many of them are made with great nutritional focus, too. But others add extra salt or sugar, rely on refined grains or high-fat oils, or---more often than I expected---at least three nonreplaceable eggs. On top of all of that, the costs compared with "regular" versions can be triple or higher, so they certainly don't fit in everyone's budget.
Anyone with food restrictions has heard the solution before: cook at home, bake from scratch.
I had those both modeled for me when I was growing up, but I get it that "scratch" sounds terrifying, or just not worth the time, for many people. If that's you, then seek out the healthiest prepared items you can, at least for now. Find some favorites [shameless plug here for Bob's Red Mill products!]. For example, one thing I'll never make from scratch is cornbread, so we tried four different brands without gluten before we all agreed on one that met my healthy ingredient standards and everyone's taste. It takes forever. You toss out a lot (don't call it waste---it's an experiment!). But you'll get there...and then everything will change again.
Good luck! ;-)
Linked on Free-From Fridays' Changes and Challenges post. I've certainly learned that, versus a solvable problem, food allergies change and challenge us constantly. Bring on the experimenting!
Hi, I'm Nicole.
ABOUT THE BLOG
An apothecary is a person or a place. Either one implies healing and relates to pharmacy in its truest sense, as a source of treatment and advice.
This blog is my way of uniting my pharmacy training with my efforts to provide a healthy and safe lifestyle for my family. In true apothecary form, I research and prescribe alternative ingredients that work just right in each specific recipe, and I would like to share the results with anyone who needs help making their own family’s kitchen allergy safe and heart healthy.
I made the 2017 Top-40 Food Allergy blogs!
Nicole Van Hoey's books on Goodreads
Bakery Bites: Breads and Treats Without Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, or Soy
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
Kitchen Adventures With Multiple Food Allergies: A Recipe Collection for Celebrations Without Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Seeds, or Soy