Food Allergies & What We Can Eat

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A post from LifeasMOM contributor, Lynn

Food allergies are difficult. At times they can be very overwhelming, especially the first few weeks and months after a diagnosis.

No matter what the food allergy, there is always an adjustment period. It is overwhelming to realize what you can no longer eat.

It is normal to have a grieving period as you realize all the foods that you, or your family member, can no longer have. It is part of the process, and it is okay to feel this way.

Not only is it normal for those newly diagnosed with food allergies, it is normal for everyone with food allergies to go through times where they feel overwhelmed and deprived of the foods that they can longer have. Again, this is normal. We all go through times where we feel this way.

The best thing I have found to do when I feel this way is to step back, take a deep breath, and focus on the positive. I find I do much better if I focus on what I can eat, not complain about what I cannot.

What CAN we eat?

Some in my family eat gluten free, and one of my daughters has tree nut, peanut, and sesame allergies. There are a lot of things we cannot have, and due to the nut allergy there are a lot of things that cannot even enter our house. But, there are still a wide range of things we can have.

We can still have cheese and chocolate, which have always been two of my favorite foods. We can eat a wide variety of Mexican and Asian type foods. We can still eat pudding, ice cream, fruits, and vegetables. We can eat, rice, corn, beans, dairy, and many more foods.

When I finally stopped and made a list of all the food we could still have, I was amazed. Whenever I get discourage I go back to this list. It reminds me of what we can still have.

Yes, our diet is more limited than it used to be, but if I stay focused on the positive side, the negative side seems a lot less overwhelming.

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.

What’s YOUR favorite trick for thriving amidst food allergies?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. We have no food allergies in my family, so I have no tricks or tips, but I just want to say that I love your attitude and perspective, Lynn. I also find myself thinking your gluten-free recipes look yummy even though we’re all fine with gluten! 🙂

  2. We don’t have food allergies, either. I also liked your positive attitude! That can be applied in MANY situations!

  3. My third child has food allergies to wheat, dairy, egg whites and soy. I have tried to think of things in terms of what he “can” eat instead of what he “can’t” eat. Sometimes it is tough because just because something is free of one allergen doesn’t mean it is safe for him.

    I had to put his allergies in terms that he understood as a 4 year old. I would say, “That will make your tummy hurt.” Once he was off of all of the foods that he was allergic to he began to realize that his tummy felt better, so this statement made sense to him when he would ask if he could eat something.

    I started a blog to keep track of recipes that worked for us and that helped me to cope with cooking around his allergies.

    My son is a strong willed child and has handled the dietary changes better than I would have ever imagined. I praise God for that. He is a different child now and I am thankful for the mommy intuition that had me have him tested for food allergies in the first place.

  4. Very interesting post!
    at our house we have allergies to
    Strawberries, kiwi
    all Fish and shellfish(except for Tuna and Salmon)
    Citrus fruit and tomatoes
    the Mexican food spices
    red dye
    Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
    Tree nuts (all kinds)
    and are looking at a possible corn allergy!
    oh, and dairy
    Throw in Gluten when we get together with my brother and his family.

  5. Thankfully most all can be tolerated in small amounts except for the tree nuts and fish allergies. The child that has these watches her own diet now and does pretty good. We do have chocolate on hand for those food emergencies! We have all gotten pretty good at reading labels.
    We tried Gluten free for awhile and the kids loved the oriental bean noodles (they cook up clear and are really cool!) Scratch cooking is the best way to go for almost all of our cooking. I do subscribe to saving dinner for recipe ideas and then do work arounds for the allergy issues. She has non-gluten recipes on site now and I am thinking about subscribing as a gift for my brother’s family .
    Thanks for your upbeat look at food allergies.

  6. I have allergies to apples & plums. It is amazing how many foods use apples or some form of apple for a cheap sweetener. We are very diligent checking labels and asking about ingredients.
    What amazes me sometimes is the lacking of understanding or acknowledgement of my allergies. I have gone to the hospital for touching an area where an apple was cut yet some family and friends continue to bring desserts or prepackaged foods to our house with apples or plums in them. Their attitude is just don’t go near it! I generally have a positive attitude about it but after 25 years with this allergy you get tired of repeating to the same people the severity of the allergy.
    Thankfully my son & husband have not developed any allergies as bad as mine.
    Thanks for the post!

  7. we don’t have allergies, but there are things we choose not to eat, because they just aren’t real food (processed food, candy, meal helpers). i’m ok with it, but my kids are in a conflicted period right now.

    when they were preschoolers i kept our diet clean at home, and let them indulge in junky stuff when were were at parties/school. The school didn’t offer junk too often, and they were only there part time, so I didn’t fret too much about it.

    now that my kids are in pub school and every holiday, good grade and outstanding behavior, birthday is an excuse for m&ms and giant cupcakes i’ve had to take a different tact.

    i’m reading labels with my kids, talking about all the weird, non-food ingredients and letting them decide what they eat. i can’t be in the classroom with them to offer a real food treat as a trade. they need to decide themselves if they want to eat chemicals. it’s very hard for a seven year old to opt out of rainbow popsicles when all his friends are eating them, so it’s a struggle.

    they know that if they bring a junky treat home from school, I’ll trade them for a real food treat.

    When they ask me if they can have something they get in a goodie bag or at school I tell them “you decide, it’s your body.” I have one child who gets angry and loses impulse control when he eats food dyes and another who sometimes gets painful leg cramps at night (which may or may not be related to a food additive other than artificial food dyes). Sometimes I say “I can give you this red candy that’s colored with natural food and you probably won’t wake up with throbbing legs, or you can eat that one.”

    i notice a change in my behavior when i eat dyes too. i cheated and used a pillsbury pre-made pie shell for a quiche not even thinking there would be two food dyes in a pie dough product. i was loony the whole evening. any tiny thing that went wrong made me insanely mad. i blame the chemicals in the pie dough.

    i think reactions are worse when you’ve been clean and then cheat……

    • @jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal, I agree with you, Jenna, that once you don’t consume the things with all of the dyes, additives, and nonfood, that it seems like you react more.

      I have a teenager who eats junk anytime he can now and often makes fun of me wanting to have real food here at home. I tell him there’s not much I can do about what he eats when he’s at school or with his friends, but at home, we not having xyz. The only thing I have really put my foot on the ground about are those “energy drinks.” He comes home wired and crazy when he one. He has no food allergies.

      • @Cheri, cheri -what’s working for me with my 4 and 6 year old is to explain why the junk is bad. i read labels with them, i point out their strange behavior when they have had junk and ask them if they think the candy had something to do with it. and i talk about my body too, what happens to me when i cheat. the goal is to get them to voluntarily make the right choices instead of banning things. when they beg for junk at the store i tell them I love them and want them healthy so i won’t spend my hard earned cash on something that will hurt their body. i ask them to bring their own money for junk or patiently read labels with them to find something appealing that isn’t all junked up. kids are smart. they want to be smart, and healthy. it just requires a lot of discussion and education to get them to see the link between junk and feeling unwell. i believe my kids are capable of making good decisions and afford them the opportunity to test out their decision making skills. they still choose junk but they often will eat only one piece. at vday, i saw both of them eating only the white m&Ms out of the pink, red, white vday mix. i’m sure the white ones still had some blue dye in them, and the choco is made with other fake ingredients, but it was neat to see them exercise discretion when faced with a bowl of M&Ms.

        • @jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal, I hope your kids will continue to be as easy about it as they are. Dealing with a teenager is a totally different ballgame, though. I didn’t mention in my reply to you that my 12-year-old daughter has multiple food allergies that we work around, and she has a very good attitude and loves to eat healthy. He was fine about it until he got older and started being influenced by others. He gets healthy meals when he’s home, but he does choose to eat junk when he’s with his friends. It’s his choice. It’s a battle I’m not going to fight with him and win right now.

        • @jenna Food WIth Kid Appeal, i suspect my kids will backslide as teenagers and young adults as I did. my mom went thru a food co-op, stems and stalks, no corn syrup phase when i was in high school. it drove me nuts. but as a parent with my own children to nourish, i thank my lucky stars she laid the foundation for me to think critically about food. i suspect your son will come around as he matures. it may take a decade or more, but since you are showing him through love that his health matters and is impacted by his diet, he will eventually come around.
          i can only imagine how difficult it is to stand by and witness his less than idea food choices, I do not look forward to that!

  8. Heather says

    I was diagnosed with food allergies as a teenager (soy, tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes) and I thought I had a handle of life and food until very suddenly as an adult I could no longer eat milk products. I become violently ill.

    My favorite tip that I have discovered is that coconut milk can be used in place of milk/cream. I use straight coconut milk for cream and half coconut milk/chicken broth for milk. I freeze coconut milk in ice cube trays to have small portions for whatever I need. It satisfies my desire for creamy.

  9. Thank you for this post!
    My older son has had food allergies almost since birth. We also try to focus on what he can eat.
    He doesn’t remember ever eating the foods he’s allergic too, and he remembers a couple of his bad allergic reactions, so he doesn’t take much convincing to stay away from those foods. Now that he’s four we’re really getting into the nitty-gritty of teaching him about his allergies. What he is allergic to, the rules for eating when he/we leave our house, etc.
    Best tip right now that’s working for us – when he gets something as a reward (from school, parties, etc.) that he can’t eat we let him swap it out for something he can eat. And he gets to pick it out his swap out reward at the grocery store. He’s never complained about what he can’t have when there’s a substitute available.

  10. Mary E.S. says

    I was diagnosed with a nut allergy about 4 years ago and have gotten really good at switching ingredients in recipes so I can eat them too. Peanut butter is a big no no but sunflower butter is a good alternative.Fruitcake is the number one thing I miss but I plan to make my own this year without nuts.

  11. Great article, Lynn! It’s so important to focus on what we *can* eat. I can’t eat gluten – but there is SO much that I can eat!

    It is so important for you to control the food allergies or intolerances – don’t let them control you!

  12. Thanks! This was good. I feel blessed that our allergies aren’t anaphilcatic. I focus on that. My daughter’s allergies are pretty mild and I look forward to the fact that she’ll grow out of them. However, it’s a little different for my husband and son. They have something called Eosinophilic Esophagitis. This has affected our finances greatly. My husband’s EE is due to environmental allergies. Not so easy on a landscaper who as it turns out is allergic to every plant Heavenly Father has created. My son’s is due to food allergies. Unfortunately, he can’t be tested with IgE tests so we do food trials. He has 7 foods he can eat now. Neocate Jr and EO28 Splash is how he gets his nutrients. Overall their health is good and their symptoms are mild. We don’t have to worry about asthma or other issues and we haven’t needed feeding tubes. So life is good!

  13. Lynn,

    Great post. My 12-year-old daughter has had food allergies her whole life, starting immediately. We started out with milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, strawberries, citrus. She also has environmental allergies that give her terrible eczema during spring, summer, and fall. When she was 6, she began to develop autoimmune and gut issues. We added wheat and rice, of all things, to that list and a probably celiac diagnosis.

    I’ve also found it best to focus on the things she can eat. She is the healthiest kid I know and a competitive gymnast. She doesn’t cheat because she knows what happens. We actually had a conversation about this the other day. She said she’s actually happy she has allergies because she’s not tempted to eat the junk the other kids eat and she has an “excuse” not to. We also talked about how it was a positive thing for our family because it forced me to read labels and decide to avoid the nonfood things for the rest of us.

    She is now able to tolerate some straight soy protein, not hydrolyzed, and also egg, if baked in something. We are trialing milk right now. It will be nice to be able to cook with it.

    In addition to all of the foods, I’ve made a choice for the rest of us not to eat any MSG, dyes, or anything hydrolyzed.

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