Considering Those with Food Allergies

Photo Source: Euro Magic

Once upon a time, salty, peanuts were a fun snack at our house. However, a recent allergy test for FishChick2 has banned the noble peanut from our home. I had suspected a peanut allergy in her, and now it’s been confirmed. Peanuts, many tree nuts, and egg whites have been distinguished as allergens for her, so we are learning a whole new way of life in eliminating those from our household.

As a food allergy newbie, I’m thankful to have my friend Lynn to go to for advice. I’ve called her several times from the grocery store for help! Today she shares with us how we can bless our friends who have food allergies or other food-related sensitivities.

The following is written by LifeasMOM contributor, Lynn.

The world of food allergies brings on many challenges. One of the most challenging things is controlling what food your child with the allergy eats.

When you or someone you love is dealing with a food allergy reading labels and questioning food becomes second nature. You do it without much thought. It becomes part of what you do and who you are.

This is hard for those without food allergies to understand. People often get offended when I won’t let my daughter eat the food they are offering her, or they look at me strange when I want a detailed list of what a certain dish or recipe contains.

It is hard for others to understand that one simple mix up or cross contamination has the potential to threaten my daughter’s life. They think they have been careful, but all too often we just cannot take the risk.

Photo Source: Delicious Magazine

If you don’t have a food allergy, but know someone who does, here are things you can do.

Be patient

Please be patient and understanding with those that have an allergy. Don’t get offended or hurt if we won’t eat the food you are trying to serve us. Please understand that going hungry or passing up a dessert or snack is far better than being sick for days or having an emergency trip to the hospital. Our saying, “No thank you,” is not personal in any way.

Share information

If you will be taking food to an event or function and you know someone with a specific allergy, like nut or peanut, will be there, please label the food accordingly. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this little step. A simple label makes our life so much easier. The label not only warns the person with the allergy to stay away from it, it warns family members too. We have to always be aware of the risk of cross contamination. A label lets us know to also be careful with that item.

Ask

If you are having company over for a meal, ask if there are food allergies in the family. It is often not hard to adapt a meal for a food allergy.

Please don’t be afraid to invite that person with a food allergy over. Most people with food allergies understand how overwhelming it is. We understand it can be a challenge to cook for us, and we don’t mind helping out by bringing a dish or two that we can have.

Include the kids

It is very important to consider kids with food alleries and how they feel when dealing with social events. Kids often feel left out because they have a food allergy. So, invite that child with a food allergy to your house or party and feel free to ask the mom how you can help make it work so that they can come. Often times the mom is more than willing to bring food that her child can eat.

(FishMama here: I’ve known of moms baking up lots of allergy-free cupcakes in advance and stashing them in the freezer so their kids could have birthday cake, too.)

These are just a few of the things that can help make social events easier for those of us with food allergies.

What are YOUR tips for dealing with this issue?

– Lynn loves to cook and try new recipes. She lives in Oklahoma on 43 acres with her husband and three children. She blogs at Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures, sharing recipes, tips, and ideas to help you me blend a love of cooking with a busy life. She also blogs at Lynn’s Recipe Adventures where she writes about the challenges of food allergies.

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Comments

  1. Hey Lynn–great post. My husband is allergic to eggs and DEATHLY allergic to nuts, so any kind of outside baked product is a big no-no in our household. I am notorious for showing up at other people’s houses for birthday parties and get togethers with “husband-friendly” desserts. I also do that freeze thing with cupcakes. Orgjunkie just posted a good looking cake that she swears is not too crumbly–that’s what I find is the biggest issue with some of the allergy-friendly recipes. And yes, you must be patient. Some people get a little offended when they swear there is nothing in the baked product that hubs could get sick from, but we have made far too many trips to the ER to take the chance.

  2. My nephew was born with 22 food allergies, he now has 5 life threatening food allergies. It is very difficult for the one with the allergies and the entire family. For us we had mild food allergies in our family, but not life threatening. This was a major lifestyle change for our whole family. I think the biggest adjustment was not only reading the labels but making sure it was not processed in a factory with the allergens as well. My sister is now an expert on food allergies and our whole family are mini experts I guess! We love the Food Allergy Mama’s website. That seems to be the site that has given us major alternatives to different foods.

  3. Mary Smith says:

    About 4 years ago I had several adverse reactions to peanut products which led the allergist to ban all nuts for me.This has been really hard for me to accept because I never noticed how many of my favorite foods have nuts,especially seasonal foods like Thanksgiving and Christmas.I can never have fruit cake again but the alternative(a trip to the E.R.)is not acceptable.I never realized how many candy bars were on the list because they are made in the factory where there are nut’s and may contain traces of them.Good luck on your journey of the allergy no no’s and just make sure to keep a epi pen with you at all times.

  4. Thanks so much for this very well written post on what can be a very sensitive subject! We found out the hard way that my toddler is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, blueberries and bananas! In a few years we will be sending him to public school Kindergarten and My hope is that the non-allergy parents will be able to develop compassion for our kids who, with their life threatening allergies, are ruining the classic PB&J lunch option for other kids.

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I’m hoping to post something similar on my own blog soon. The more we can spread the word about food allergies, the safer our food-allergic children will be.

  6. My 9 year old is anaphylactic to milk & peanuts & highly allergic to beef (outgrew egg a couple of years ago- yay!). I deal with it by taking his food everywhere he goes (and yes, I have cupcakes in the freezer!). His allergies are too severe for me to feel ok with letting teachers or other people try to read labels for him & I tell them that he cannot have ANY food that I have not approved. Some people don’t understand this, some think that I am being over-protective & yes, some (my MIL) get offended , but that is the way it is. Just a couple of weeks ago my MIL make him some special “milk protein free” cupcakes & she got offended when we insisted on seeing the recipe she used & even pulled the ingredient containers out of the garbage. But, sure enough, she had overlooked a milk ingredient & those cupcakes would have sent him to the ER. Jessica , I remember the days after we first got the official diagnosis of his allergies 8 years ago & it was overwhelming! Hang in there- it is life changing, but it becomes second nature to you & just a part of life.

  7. We have a food allergy in our troop and our snacks have gotten healthier as a result:-)

  8. My oldest is severely peanut and tree nut allergic, and as a toddler had an intolerance to eggs, which she has outgrown. School has not been an issue, as our school bans nuts/peanuts from the classroom and has a peanut free lunch table, so that she can safely eat her lunch with friends who bring no peanuts/tree nuts.
    I tell the teacher at the beginning of the year that I am willing to bring in treats for the whole classroom for every big party they have, all year long, so I know there will be something there she can eat. She also takes a birthday treat box to keep at school for times students celebrate their birthdays.

    She’s eleven now, and I’ve been teaching her to bake, so she can always bring a treat to share when she goes to visit friends or to parties, and I always have something yummy she can take waiting in the pantry if time is short. even if it’s unhealthy potato chips. We fight so many food battles due to allergy that I’ve made some concessions, because I don’t want food to be an all consuming issue for her, especially as she enters adolescence.

    The biggest, most important thing is to educate your child, teach them to read food labels, and educate your friends. My daughter has had the opportunity to go to sleepovers, camp, and day trips with scouts, all without incident, because we’ve developed great relationships with others who have been very respectful of her needs.
    Best wishes on this journey.

  9. I love that you posted this. I have severe food allergies. I have had several anaphlyactic reactons which required emergency room visits. I was unable to draw breath during 2 of those reactions very scary. When discussing my odd allergies to apples, plums and kiwi with people, I get the look of disbelief from people and comments of I’ve never heard anyone else allergic to those foods. I even had an allergist who seemed to not believe me and wanted me to bring a pum to his office and eat it in fron tof him to see how severe the reaction really was. Needless to say I never returned to him and quickly found a better doctor!
    I hope upon hope my son does not develop these or any food allergies but I will kno how to deal with them if he does.

  10. We are very fortunate not to have any food allergies in our home, but its more and more common for the kids to have classmates who do. I find it very nervewracking so I appreciate the info you shared. What I have found most helpful as a mom with kids sharing classrooms with kids with allergies is to be very upfront – our teachers send a welcome letter and we have gotten letters in that same packet from the mom of the child with allergies explaining the allergy and providing info (foods that are ok, how to contact her prior to parties so she can contribute a similar food for her child). I’ve also had a lot of luck calling ahead and asking for suggestions of items I can purchase that would allow the child to be fully included – as many foods that are no no’s, there are also surprisingly some foods that are fine – Italian Ice, Smart Food, popsicles, just to name a few depending on the allergy (we have had children with celiac, nut allergies etc). A local pizza parlor will make gluten free pizzas unless its super busy (Fri pms for example) so that is an option, and a town over a gluten free bakery has many yummy items that would appeal to ALL kids. I have found the moms of kids with allergies very forthcoming when I’ve called to give a heads up of a birthday snack and asked if I could make any accomodations to be all inclusive and I’ve tried very hard to not take it personally when they explain its safer if they provide their own snacks. Being upfront and educating folks is key – as a mom helping in a classroom, I was informed to serve the child (or children) with allergies first and then others to avoid cross contanimation – something I may not have thought of! Open dialogue, sharing info is really key!

  11. This is such a great post! We have recently been diagnoised with Celiac My sons 6&2 as well as myself. I too take him extra food to keep in the class in the event that there is a treat that he can’t eat. I also shared with his teacher my willingness to bring in alternative items such as cupcakes that are gluten free. His teacher has been wonderful with my requests. The other thing that I do is, I got one of the school lunch menus and On occasion I will duplicate the schools lunch so he can eas the “samething” as everyone else, he loves this, especially when it’s pizza.

  12. I think it’s all in one’s perspective. Too many people, we “need to get over it, it’s just food.” I tell my husband, “Much of our life is bizarrely consumed by food (preparing, ordering, researching).” We must avoid peanuts, nuts, eggs, wheat, peas/green beans/all legumes, bananas, the melon family, corn, dairy, soy, and artificial anything for my son.

    I have had the strong urge to send my son to them to feed for the week so they understand. When taking care of my own nephew, I accidently gave him an allergic food because my eyes were not well-trained to spot his allergies. It’s hard to understand until you’re there.

    People do get offended when food can’t be eaten. Most often, when it’s “just a little bit” in the whole dish. However, remarks like, “Oh, flour has wheat in it? I had no idea!” scare me. And I’ve had parents come at me because our son has a separate snack and “That’s not fair to the other childen. What normal food will you let him have? ” Oh, yes, he loves his plain rice cracker so much more than he’d want that oreo. “How about your kids not eat snack to be fair to him?” I must work a lot on balancing my attitude in the face of thoughtless remarks. Their world is not our world. Our dear friends do always take care of providing him with food. (And we do as much snack matching, providing to the group as possible, but it gets expensive and a hassle and there are no substitutes for some things.)

    So we try to balance kindness, gratefulness, reality, commiseration, expectations, and disappointments. Especially Mama. We talk about people who have a bit of rice three times a day and are thankful for it. We are pleased to see our son is a very compassionate boy.

    I’m am so thankful to God that we live in a country where medical help and special foods are available to us…and epi-pens.

  13. My daughter is milk allergic and thankfully has outgrown peanuts and eggs. I have found the majority of friends to be very caring and helpful in wanting to make sure she is included in activities and meals. I send in a package of Oreos so she can have birthday treats at school and I have cupcakes usually ready in the freezer for parties etc. She is aware of her allergy and is on the lookout but I have to be careful when I send her out to let new friends moms know also. I have never had anyone annoyed or offended, more surprised b/c they forget what things are milk based. It’s all about educating with grace and patience.

  14. My son’s best friend has a life threatening tree nut allergy. The one thing I would caution mom’s of little ones with food allergies is that you need to teach the children that they are in charge of their allergies as they grow up. The boys are 14 now and will be going into high school and then off to college, where my son’s friend’s parents will have little to no control over who-eats-what. My son has been trained on how to use an epi-pen and on what to look for if his BFF has a reaction. Ultimately, my son’s friend needs to know how to keep himself safe and needs to have friends around him that will help him to stay that way.

    • @Jodeen, I have never met a food-allergic mom who did not have this at the forefront of her mind. Food-allergic children are some of the best-trained children, at least in that regard, and know from a very early age what foods they can and cannot eat. It is a life-and-death matter which causes all of us to concentrate a great deal of energy and time in training our children about it. My DS is only two, and already we tell him, “No, you can’t have _________; you’re allergic. It will make you very sick.” and he already understands to a certain extent. When he hears the word “allergic” he doesn’t ask anymore for that particular food.

      And kudos to your son for being educated about his friend’s allergies. That is priceless, and I’m sure makes his mom feel more secure! I hope and pray my son will have such a caring friend in the future:)

      • @Anne, Anne, I agree completely. I have seen my friend struggle with her son becoming a teenager and not being able to control 100% of his environment. It is such a scary thing for her. The boys play tackle football, have sleep overs, and are going to try wrestling this year. He has matured so much with regard to his allergies. This is because of the training that she did when he was young.

  15. As a former teacher THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to those moms who educate and provide alternatives. One of my most frustrating things was sending home an information sheet at the beginning of the year, the parent telling me of a food allergy, and then it ended there. I know I appreciated as a teacher when a parent would send in alternatives so that child wasn’t left out. Please don’t leave it up to the teacher to try and figure out if something qualifies or not and to provide the alternative. I realize all these moms seem excellent so I’m posting this with the hope that others will think to do the same thing. Thanks! :)

  16. For awhile my kids could not eat any grains, dairy, nuts, legumes, and a few other things. We brought food with us everywhere. Most people were very understanding because there are a LOT of people in our area that have allergies. I would find safe substitutes when we were out if possible (and still do, as regular whole grains are still out). Many people were very willing to provide me an ingredients list and even to offer me whatever else they might have around that could be safe, which was very nice!

    We did find that both our “dairy allergic” children can handle raw milk products, after several months off dairy. They can also handle sprouted grains fine (you do NOT want to see my daughter if she eats regular whole grains…screaming, crying, out of control). White flour is an acceptable substitute in a pinch. Our allergies are not the life-threatening kind, more the behavior-stomach-eczema kind. When we started preparing our food according to traditional methods, these allergies all but disappeared. We still have to be careful about preparation (as pasteurized dairy and the regular whole grains, as well as regular nuts can still make the kids, and sometimes my husband, sick) but generally it’s a LOT easier to bring something that looks just like what the other kids are having and say “Here, this is safe.”

  17. When we discovered that our 2nd son had a peanut allergy and a suspected egg allergy {not confirmed} it really turned my whole world upside down. I love to bake and would often bake with peanut butter. My husband LOVES chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and I LOVE Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

    My son is almost 2 and we still forget to check all labels {my husband brought home some cookies that had been made in a facility that manufacturer’s peanut products} and it can sometimes be hard for other family members to remember {at my mother-in-laws birthday party the cake had peanut butter frosting–thank you for the cupcake idea!} It is getting easier but as he gets older and is eating more foods and has more friends, I wonder what kind of challenges we will run into.

    Thanks for the post!

  18. Very well written post!!
    My 11-year-old daughter also has multiple food allergies and possibly has celiac disease. I’m very proud of how responsible and self-sufficient she has become. She entered middle school this year and it’s been a whole new ballgame from the safe elementary school where everyone watched over her and the elementary teacher carried the Epi-pen. She now carries her own medication and knows to move from the lunch table if she feels unsafe. We take her food everywhere. I really have never trusted any other parent to prepare food for her. Just this weekend, I had to make her gluten-free pasta and bread, salad, fruit for lunch with the gymastics team, and then make her dinner and treat for a birthday party that night. It’s routine and has become part of our life.

    To the moms with little ones, it does become easier as they get older and there isn’t so many parties and food events. I thought I would pull my hair out during preschool and kindergarten. It also gets easier as you prepare your child step by step and they get older. My daughter is learning to bake and cook her food.

  19. I have a peanut allergy, and have for most of my life. As such, growing up in a time where there were no “nut free facilities”, there was a definite room for error.
    I’ve become pretty masterful at determining peanuts in baked goods from smell alone, and it’s been years since I had an accidental incident.
    But it took a lot of “learning the hard way”.

    The biggest thing, I guess, is to stress just HOW big a deal it is for your kids to be aware of it. A med alert bracelet is also a pretty good idea.
    Mine are relatively minor, but these things get worse the more you’re exposed sometimes. It can be a concern!

    And watch thai food. :)

  20. I have had food allergies since I was 4 years old. Although I didn’t know that is what it was called until I was 14. What I would want people to know is that those of us with food allergies really don’t care if we can’t eat what you have. I hate when people feel sorry for me (that is when they actually believe me). I don’t want to eat it because it hurts me. I can usually pick and choose at a party what to eat. I’ll bring snacks for our daughter who also has food allergies (different from mine). When you deal with this issue all day, every day it just becomes a way of life.

  21. Thank you so much for this post!!! My 5 year old daughter has had severe allergies since she was an infant. She is allergic to milk, soy, and rice. Thankfully she has outgrown several others. We have definantly gotten the “you are so controling over her food” comments and why can’t she have that. I think those questions should be obvious but sometimes I just feel so judged. I really need to be alot more gracious with moms who don’t have to deal with allergies. I am pretty sure if God didn’t place us here then I too would act the same way. Thanks again!

  22. We discovered our 17yo son to be allergic to tree nuts and peanuts when he was 3yo when he had a severe reaction (stopped breathing). We began teaching him to read food labels immediately. I followed him around like a shadow for the longest time for fear that he would pick something up a forbidden food product off the floor and eat it (please tell me that I’m not the only mom who had kids that put anything and everything in their mouth!).

    We soon discovered soynut butter and sunbutter (from sunflower seeds) to use as peanut butter substitutes. You can even use the soynut butter in baking. Rice Krispies and crushed pretzels will add crunch to homemade fudge.

    Constant vigilance and education were our main tools. Now that my son is 17 I have fewer fears as he has followed “the rules” for many years now. I must say that the preteen years (11-13) were the worst for compliance–it’s hard for them to be different.

    All the best,

    Rhonda

  23. I bake separately for my daughter who is allergic to dairy and eggs. I make a batch of cupcakes, muffins, cookies, pizza pockets, etc just for her and freeze it all. then when I make those items for the whole family I can just pull hers out. This saves money because the ingredient substitutes I have to use for her are much more expensive and if I were cooking like that for the whole family it would add a lot to my grocery budget.

  24. Thank you for this post! My daughter shares the exact same allergies as your daughter. It really opened up my eyes to reading food labels and being more aware of what we are eating. We’ve found that her egg allergy is ‘less severe’. She can eat most baked goods and we’ve started to use applesauce as an egg replacement in a lot of recipes. We’ve also found that once we find a brand of any item that works for us, we stick with it – no matter if it’s not the ‘cheapest’ one on the market. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with what you know works, then to risk the alternative. I look forward to reading more about your journey!

  25. I have multiple food intolerances and have to recommend my favorite allergy cookbook: The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook by Cybele Pascal. Not only are these recipes not weird, they are tasty and easy (and ALL completely free of the 6 most common food allergens). Even if I didn’t use it for my own family, I would have a copy on my shelf to use when cooking for company with allergies.

  26. Thank you for posting this! My daughter has a peanut allergy, and education about allergies is one of the main keys to controlling them!

  27. I appreciate this post! Just a few months ago, we found out my 2-year-old son has the same allergies as your daughter (except his is both egg yolks and whites). I actually suspect he has another allergy that we have not yet identified.

    It is extremely overwhelming at first!! I am still learning the best way to do things, and how to alter some of our favorite things to eat. The best advice I was given early on was to make a list of the things the allergy kiddo can have. Not only is it helpful to others (ie. grandparents, teachers, family and friends) but it helps you when you are so overwhelmed to focus on what is not forbidden!

  28. We recently found out that our son is allergic to shell fish. I don’t think he is as at risk as someone with a nut allergy for exposure.

    We invited a friend with nut, eggs, and milk allergies to a birthday party. I did not want her pregnant and tired mom to have to bring anything and I wanted the child to feel as included as we could make her. She could have oreos! The white stuff in the middle has no dairy at all (You don’t really want to know what it is!) and her mom thought she would feel special to be attending a party and having oreos. It ended up that all the kids had oreos on their plates, in addition to cake and ice cream.

    We also have a friend with a severe gluten allergy. The aforementioned mom turned me on to making popcorn with a Whirly Pop popper. You only use oil (no butter), popcorn, and salt, so it is a great allergy-free snack and most everyone enjoys! Sometimes she adds sugar and she gave me the idea to use food coloring for holidays.

    Because of the number and severity of allergies, our church nursery has switched to allergy-free snacks, mostly Rice Chex.

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